For CGS Imaging, productivity was a primary consideration when searching for a new wide format printer. Founded in 2003, the shop is a premier supplier of vehicle wraps, banners, displays, and event graphics. “We’ve been involved with vehicle wraps from the beginning,” says Chuck Stranc, president, CGS Imaging. The Maumee, OH-based PSP runs everything from roll-to-roll and flatbed to solvent and UV printers. Its equipment list is largely made up of Hewlett-Packard (HP) Scitex equipment. “We’ve recently added the HP Designjet L65500 with latex ink,” says Stranc. The eco-friendly device now produces most of the shop’s vehicle wrap business.
Stranc’s experience in vehicle wraps helps him appreciate the latest products. “The technology for digital wraps has evolved over a short lifespan. It’s almost measured in dog years,” he jokes.
When shopping for a new press, CGS was on the market for a high-speed, roll-to-roll printer to replace some if its smaller UV and solvent devices. The company was introduced to HP Latex Ink technology and immediately jumped on board. To CGS, the technology incorporated all of the benefits of solvent, but without the drawbacks. “It hadn’t really been tested in the marketplace at the time, but we thought it would be a good move for us,” explains Stranc.
Business owners are concerned with productivity; CGS is no exception. The company is tasked with churning out vehicle wraps for its racing customers in one to two days. “With latex we can turn around the product without failing,” he adds.
Maverick Innovations/Extreme Graphics of Tampa, FL celebrated its tenth anniversary in 2010. Evolving from a marketing strategy that primarily serviced point of purchase (POP) graphics; they now offer exterior signage, wide format printing, dimensional routing, and vehicle wraps. “With over ten years of evolution and experimentation, Extreme Graphics has morphed into a wide format boutique sign shop specializing in wraps,” says Mike Postill, VP, Maverick Innovations Dba. Extreme Graphics.
Seven years ago, a client requested a wrap and the shop complied, producing it with a Gerber Scientific Products, Inc. EDGE. “It was slow, painful, and a money loser, but in the end it looked awesome for our first try. We immediately purchased an Encad VinylJet 36 and were in the wrap business,” shares Postill.
Within six months, the shop outgrew the printer and purchased its first Mimaki. The company needed a significant boost in throughput capacity, specifically to help with the production of its wrap and POP applications. Today, among its lineup of equipment, Extreme Graphics utilizes a Mimaki JV3-160SP, 130SP2, and 130SO2 for vehicle wrap production. Products are finished using the GBC Falcon 3064WF laminator.
Making the most out of printer investment correlates to its versatility. For Sunrise Signs, this trait was high on the priority list when it selected a Roland DGA Corporation VersaCAMM VP-540 eco-solvent printer. Founded in 2007 by Adam Sokoloff and partner Elspeth Misiaszek, the shop is based in West Deptford, NJ. 80 percent of the PSP’s business is wide format, 50 to 60 represents vehicle wraps. Misiaszek says they ventured into vehicle wraps due to customer demand. They offer all aspects of the service, including design, printing, and installation.
Since versatility was important to the decision, the Roland was not specifically selected to create vehicle wraps, but for its ability to produce a range of applications, such as posters, banners, murals, and trade show displays.
The Perfect Storm
Quality, reliability, and productivity are important for many PSPs in the market for a new digital printer to produce vehicle graphics and other wide format applications. The right match lies in the preference of the shop and its customers.
Sign-A-Rama Redding, a PSP based in Redding, CA, balances a mix of service offerings. When shopping for printers, they look for the right combination of quality, reliability, speed, and versatility. Originally established in 2003; current owners John and Ashly Robbins purchased the shop in 2005. Since then, it formed a stellar reputation and continues to grow and gain local market share. Most of its business is concentrated to wide format with a little under 20 percent of it dedicated to vehicle wraps.
The shop employs an HP Designjet L25500 printer with latex inks. The printer is dedicated to the creation of wraps, fabric, digital vinyl, and backlit films. John Robbins, owner, Sign-A-Rama Redding, says they needed a device for all of its print purposes. “We knew a purchase of this kind would bring diversity and profitability to our business,” he explains, stating that quality, reliability, and speed were top priorities in the decision.
The shop also utilizes a Roland SOLJET PRO II SC-545EX printer/cutter, a Roland SOLJET PRO III XJ-640, and a Colorspan 72UVX.
Cowan also offers a number of applications, from fleet graphics to POP, outdoor advertising, billboards, banners, and building wraps. Headquartered in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, the PSP has three additional locations throughout the country in Saskatoon, Calgary, and Toronto. Established in 1945, the company took on digital services in 2003, and has produced vehicle wraps since the late 1990s.
With vast experience and a number of offerings, Cowan depends on a variety of devices. The shop relies heavily on HP and Agfa Graphics digital wide format printers for its vehicle wrap business. “We don’t have all of our eggs in one basket. The choice is really about the ability to rely on the machines. That’s why we house an array of them. Each manufacturer has its strengths in different areas, and we want to recognize those and employ the correct machines and give our customers the best product,” says MacMillan.
The Cost Equation
When choosing any piece of equipment, the total cost of ownership is top of mind. To generate a faster return on investment, a printer must be able to operate for multiple shifts, supporting a range of applications.
The price of consumables make up a large part of the operational cost. Postill says it only uses exclusive OEM inks for its Mimaki devices. “It is in our experience that the savings from using non-OEM products is offset by increased maintenance costs on the equipment.”
He notes that proper and frequent cleaning with the combination of OEM products has greatly extended the life of Extreme Graphics’ printers. “I can’t express how important selecting a quality distributor with properly trained technicians can greatly decrease printer operating expenses,” adds Postill.
CGS is satisfied with the cost/quality ratio of the HP Designjet L65500 latex printer. “With solvent, there are a couple of different technologies, including industrial high-speed equipment and eco-solvent devices. We find this product falls in between,” explains Stranc. “It is more cost effective than the standard eco-solvent printers and the print quality is much higher than high-speed industrial solvent output.”
Choices, Choices, Choices
When in the market for a new device, the first rule of thumb is to consider client needs. Shops with a high demand for vehicle wraps have a set list of considerations, which often include quality and turnaround capability.
Those with a mix of service offerings may opt for versatility over production speeds in order to provide a broader range of services. Width is important, but the scope is broad. Anything over 54 inches enables efficient vehicle graphic creation in many cases.
The search for hardware often requires a balance of priorities. The deciding factors change based on the needs and preferences of a shop.