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Cut Out for the Job

Automatic Cutters Improve Workflow

By Amber E. Watson

Cutting is one of the final steps in the finishing process. Many print service providers (PSPs) uncover the benefits of advanced cutting equipment and software and add to their workflow.

 

With the increased production speed of digital printers, output continues to accelerate. The same output requires fast and accurate finishing. Adding automated cutting eliminates bottlenecks.

 

Grand Displays

Hargrove, Inc. is a leader in trade show, event, and exhibit graphics since 1946. The company operates two locations and employs 225 full-time employees. A large component of the 365,000 square foot shop headquartered in Lanham, MD is complex décor, graphics, banners, and signage for trade shows and events, as well as exhibit graphics, custom furniture, and three dimensional elements.

 

“We provide two types of wide format output,” explains Fred Strickland, director of production, Hargrove. “The first is UV-curable direct to substrate. The second is a roll-to-roll grand format solvent printer for stage backdrops and outdoor banners.”

 

The shop outputs complex contour cut files on a daily basis, including dimensional graphics, kiss cut decals, and inlay logos.

 

Customized for Clients

Many of Hargrove’s clients require custom and semi-custom elements to help them achieve strategic objectives through the use of face-to-face marketing. “Projects in special events include corporate product roll outs, experimental marketing environments, galas, sporting events, and global summits,” shares Strickland. “For trade shows, we create consistent identities, which include registration areas, cyber cafes, information desks, and signage.”

 

Event signage typically involves graphics and other décor elements that complement the environment in which the output appears—from large fabric banners, which are needed to work with television and theater lighting, to directional signage that is colorful and part of the overall design.

 

According to Strickland, trade show clients are focused on cost and sustainability. “Our team is always looking for less expensive materials while meeting client expectations on recycling. Examples include banners made from Tyvek and graphics from foamboard that are recyclable,” he adds.

 

An Automatic Benefit

After purchasing an EFI VUTEK GS3200, Strickland and his team realized the need for a faster cutting solution. “The flatbed simplified printing and eliminated mounting, but created a large volume of graphics that needed to be cut,” he explains.

 

The shop owns an EskoArtwork Kongsberg i-XL digital finishing system, which utilizes the i-cut Suite with i-cut Preflight and i-cut layout software. Hargrove also uses a SCM Group North America Pratix N15 NB. “It focuses on thicker and more durable substrates,” comments Strickland.

 

The team at Hargrove finds its cutting equipment easy to use given an initial training program and ongoing support, which makes all the difference in a busy production environment. “We run three shifts, seven days a week, and call with questions critical to our ever-expanding workload,” notes Strickland.

 

Supplying a Summit

In 2011 Hargrove collaborated with the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) to outfit its annual aviation summit in Hartford, CT. The PSP was called upon to create a new show look to complement AOPA branding and messaging. “The graphics included strong text treatments combined with imagery of pilots, which personalized the overall feel,” shares Strickland.

 

Along with exhibit, registration area, and displays, the AOPA hosted an aircraft static display called Airportfest. This is usually held at a nearby general aviation airport and showcases over 100 aircrafts, products, services, demonstration flights, workshops, entertainment, and refreshments.

 

Hargrove began with a lengthy planning phase followed by a period of writing orders, development of final designs, internal review, client edits, and approvals. Two thirds of the graphics and signage were printed and produced in less than 20 days.

 

The shop used more than 17 different substrates. These included foamboard, Duraplast, foamcore, showcard, Sintra, coroplast, and mesh banner. Hargrove utilized the Kongsberg i-XL, SCM Pratix N15 NB, Miller Weldmaster Corporation Extreme Seam machine, EFI VUTEk GS3200, and Hewlett-Packard (HP) Scitex XL1500.

 

Improving the Process

Switching from printing on adhesive-backed vinyl, laying onto sheets, and hand cutting graphics was a wise choice for this PSP. Adding automated cutting simplifies workflow and eliminates errors.

 

Apr2012, Digital Output

 

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