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Finishing Touches

Suit Every Large Format Print Provider's Needs

By Gretchen A. Peck

The print industry is well accustomed to technological innovation—and not just innovation for the sake of new, but truly revolutionary innovation that makes the business of print profoundly better. Consider the great evolution of the past two decades. Film was abolished in favor of all digital and highly automated workflows. In large format graphics, leaps and bounds were made in inkjet technology—ink sets, printheads, speed, dimensions, ease of use, and compatibility with a wide array of media options.

 

Innovation isn’t restricted to prepress and print engine technologies. Great accomplishments abound in the realm of finishing including cutting, routing and print-to-cut solutions. “To stay relevant and keep up with competition, it is important to purchase a cutting plotter with a printer,” suggests Michelle Pugh, marketing coordinator, Mutoh America, Inc.

 

“I think most people are sold on technology. We’re not facing a culture that’s afraid of change or innovation. In the past few years, print businesses didn’t invest—particularly in high-ticket items—because financing wasn’t available,” recalls Fran Gardino, business development manager, Mimaki USA, Inc.

 

Convinced that technology can transform a business for the better, the challenge for print service providers (PSPs) becomes one of determining the best solution from compelling options in the finishing arena.

 

Modular solutions help a PSP excel at existing volumes of finishing work and upgrade on an as-needed basis. Randy Paar, marketing manager, Océ North America, advises PSPs to consider future growth, and keep an eye on that prize.

 

“If a PSP’s turnaround time is becoming an issue due to finishing, a digital cutting system certainly should be considered rather than hiring additional staff,” he continues. “In some cases, adding a digital cutting system even allows for a staffing reduction, or permits reallocation of those resources in other areas of the shop. The capability the cutter provides attracts new business, offers a competitive edge, and can even transform into an entirely new profit center.”

 

Proven Finishing

To get a feel for what’s hot in the digital finishing space, Digital Output queried equipment manufacturers and distributors about solutions for large format cutting, routing, and print-to-cut processes.

 

Dana Curtis, product manager, Roland DGA Corporation, cites several of the company’s cutting and print-to-cut solutions. “We offer both eco-solvent and UV LED printer/cutters, and our top sellers include the SOLJET PRO III XC-540, VersaCAMM VS-640, and VersaUV LEC-540. Our flagship cutter is the 64-inch CAMM-1 PRO GX-640.”

 

Roland recently introduced its new VersaStudio BN-20—the first Roland inkjet printer/cutter to feature a cutting carriage that glides across the media at the exact cutting force required for the substrate.

 

Nashville, TN-based The Imagery Group, Inc. recently complemented two existing Roland VersaCAMM digital printer/cutters with a Roland VersaCAMM VS-420 42-inch digital printer/cutter with white and metallic ink.

 

“We’ve lost opportunities in the past because we didn’t have metallic capability,” notes Gregory Johnson, president, The Imagery Group. It isn’t just the ink set that proves valuable to the print supplier. The VersaCAMM VS-420’s print-to-cut capability is invaluable as well.

 

A customer recently approached the shop to create an eye-catching graphic for a presentation. Johnson suggested using Promo Blocks—a popular promotional tool—to construct a 27-inch image. The new VersaCAMM was deployed to print a large decal featuring the company logo and related text. It was trimmed using the technology’s print-to-cut feature and applied to the blocks.

 

“Doing a one-off job like this with screenprinters would’ve been cost prohibitive,” says Johnson.

 

Gardino cites the Mimaki CJV30 series as the company’s best-selling print-to-cut solution. “We used to sell our combinations—one machine to print, one to cut. These are efficient when dealing with large volumes. So we paired the JV33 with our CG and FX series cutters. That was the preferred combination for production companies. Those sold steadily for four or five years before we added the printer/cutters to our product line.”

 

“In the latest model, we added silver ink and white, and that seems to be going over well,” adds Gardino. “For a small investment—in the $20,000 range—PSPs increase efficiency and add capabilities.”

 

Mutoh—which recently debuted the ValueJet 1324 and 1624—suggests pairing them with its Kona cutters, available in 30-, 55-, and 65-inch configurations.

 

“Unlike some companies, Mutoh offers the print/cut solution with two products instead of one. Both are inexpensive, and don’t disrupt the operator’s print flow. We’ve found that the workflow of these two products is extremely popular, easy to use, and maintain,” suggests Pugh.

 

Zünd America, Inc. celebrates great success with its G3 series, particularly with the G3 XL model, according to Pete Alsten, product manager, Zünd. The Zünd G3 series is comprised of ten models. Among the tool set are universal cutting, kiss-cutting, oscillating electric and pneumatic, 45-degree bevel-cut, V-cut, driven- and power-rotary, creasing, universal drawing, Raster Braille, and 1kW router tools.

 

Reto Woodtli, GM, Zünd, suggests that when it comes to digital finishing, the machine’s speed is only one factor. “For us,” he explains, “the key is not just the machine speed, but the overall throughput, which includes time spent on setting up for new materials and changing tools.”

 

Océ North America partnered with Zünd to manufacture the Océ ProCut line of cutting systems, which blends ten models of Zünd tables and modular tool design with Océ workflow software.

 

“Our most popular model is the Océ ProCut 2500 L,” notes Paar. “The 70x98-inch table size makes it well suited to finishing standard four- by eight-foot board sizes.”

 

“Where Océ is involved in furthering the technology is in bringing to market software that enables easier integration of finishing into the overall workflow. This is achieved by the Océ ProCut Prepress software that enables paths defined in Adobe Illustrator to be easily assigned to functions at the finishing stage, such as routing, cutting, and creating,” remarks Paar.

 

EskoArtwork’s workflow software—which ensures that die-less cutting contours match printed images perfectly—is one of the compelling features that have enabled the broad market success of the i-XL and i-XP models of Kongsberg finishing tables, a fit for lower and higher production volumes, respectively.

 

“The software utilized in the Kongsberg tables—i-cut 7.1—integrates with RIP software to ensure integration between the print and cut portions of the workflow. This software is also part of the i-cut Suite, which includes a preflighting and layout tool,” shares Bill Hartman, VP, marketing, sign and display solutions, EskoArtwork.

 

A Quality Reputation

Lynn Rogers, owner, Rogers Sign Co., Inc., based in Milton, DE, celebrates 40 years in the sign business. “I wanted to call the business ‘Creative Graphics,’ but being in lower DE, people would stop and ask, ‘Where did you get your truck lettered?’ Or, ‘Where did you get your sign done?’ And they’d say, “That Rogers guy over in Milton.”

 

Rogers Sign provides full-service large format print graphics, as well traditional carved, electrical, and LED neon signs.

In addition to decades spent navigating printing and finishing equipment, Rogers witnessed the large format graphics trade evolve in other ways.

 

Rogers Sign’s finishing department is dominated by Gerber Scientific Products, Inc.’s equipment, including a Gerber enVision 750 and a Sabre router.

 

Rogers admits that much of what he’s learned over the course of four decades in the sign business has been discovered through trial and error. But one thing he knows for certain? Selling by price alone is a short-sighted strategy.

 

“We’re the largest sign company in DE, and we see businesses out there bidding a job for cheaper than we can buy the substrate for,” confides Rogers. “So the question to ask is how long are they going to be in business?”

 

Making News

Earlier in the year, MultiCam, Inc. unveiled its High-Speed Digital Express, which the manufacturer describes as a fast, wide format, sheet-feed or conveyorized cutting platform that combines high-speed digital registration with powerful routing and knife-cutting capabilities.

 

Resolution Graphics, Albuquerque, NM, recently invested in a MultiCam High-Speed Digital Express. At press time, it had been on the floor for five weeks.

 

The shop is a grand and superwide format print supplier that serves a number of vertical industries, including providing wholesale print to fellow large format graphics and sign colleagues. The company’s print equipment portfolio includes an eight-color NUR Expedio 5000 and a NUR Tempo flatbed—both now known under the Hewlett-Packard (HP) name, and a Leggett & Platt Virtu 36 hybrid printer.

 

“We also have Epson Stylus Pro GS6000s for small, high-resolution jobs,” explains Chris Ruddy, president, Resolution Graphics. “And HP Designjet 9000s. At this point, we cover any kind of printing with the exception of dye-sublimation.”

 

To complement the digital print engines, Resolution invested in a range of digital finishing technologies, including heat seamers, laminators from Neschen Americas, and Graphtec America, Inc. cutters and plotters for vinyl jobs.

 

“We do label jobs for different customers, and they need to be cut accurately—even though the cuts are simple. This machine does that quickly and efficiently,” reports Ruddy. “It also cuts rigid substrates, foams, Sintras, plastics, and metals.”

 

The MultiCam addition completed the workflow, according to Ruddy. “It is the final piece of equipment that we needed to really make us a full-service shop.”

 

Weights and Measures

It’s easy to measure finishing ROI. “There are two kinds of companies—those without digital finishing, and those with digital finishing,” notes Alsten. “I think it’s pretty apparent that there’s huge labor savings that can be achieved.”

 

“When it comes to finishing, nobody buys a finisher if they are not printing large quantities,” according to Hartman. “They either do the work by hand or utilize a sub-contractor. If printing increases, a finisher makes economical sense.”

 

As with any investment in technology, determining the necessity of finishing technologies—either to replace manual processes or take advantage of new functionality and capabilities—comes down to a very simple analysis—is your finishing workflow as efficient as it can be?  

 

Sep2011, Digital Output

 

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