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Originality on a Grand Scale

Superwide Printers Enable Unique Applications


By Melissa Donovan


Grand format devices, determined by Digital Output to be 95 inches in width or wider, provide print service providers (PSPs) with options. Not just for creating superwide pieces, unique projects are capable of being output thanks to dual roll capabilities.


Traditionally, grand format meant graphics were viewed at a distance, with less emphasis on image resolution. While that may still be the case with older models, newer devices offer advanced printhead technology and high-quality ink sets with a wide color gamut. This presents PSPs with versatility to create more than just the basic banner. We spoke with two print providers utilizing grand format devices to print innovative, unique applications.


Knocking Down the Wall

Set design and backdrops are created via digital printing. Printing these designs to white or another neutral base color is common. Pulp Art Surfaces (PAS) has a grand background in entertainment; the company is located on CBS Studio Center’s lot in Studio City, CA. Its co-founders, Scott Pitters and Dan Maltese, celebrate over three years of creating prints for the studio trade.


Originally, the team manufactured four- by six-foot raw dimensional wall skins that are 100 percent eco-friendly for movie and television sets that scenic artists then painted to make look like real brick, stone, or other dimensional products. Recently the product was perfected by die cutting the edges to be able to print on it, thus eliminating the need to paint. Referred to as Eco-Dimensional Wall Skins, each piece can be die cut to fit together like a puzzle. While its initial focus was on the market it knew and understood, entertainment, now PAS is looking to expand into the retail trade.


Faux brick walls are ideal for promotional purposes in a number of environments. The product is easy to apply, with a low price point, light weight, and created in a quick turnaround. Also eco-friendly, the faux brick comes in standard and custom colors. Pitters and Maltese work with clients to create the desired brick look and then print designs onto that façade.


Making print possible is the Hewlett-Packard (HP) Scitex FB700 98-inch UV printer. Out of the five person PAS team, three operate the device. Pitters says it provides easy maintenance, excellent resolution, and good quality. Its affordability was also an attractive sell.


With a push into the retail sector, the PSP plans to ramp up production. While initial clients were mostly located in CA, it now has a distributor in NY promoting Eco-Dimensional Wall Skins. The HP Scitex FB700 is up to the task. Utilizing the grand width of the printer, PAS simultaneously runs two sheets.


About half of the work output on the device is the faux brick media. Pitters shares that the substrate works well with the printer for a number of reasons, including its ability to absorb ink, so there is little to no banding. Additionally, the white ink option on the printer is essential. Many clients choose white to showcase a logo or other graphic.


The HP Scitex FB700 is also used for signs and wallcoverings around and for the CBS Studio Center. The printer allows for printing of two-sided large banners and backdrops, which achieves a day/night affect for television sets. Media options abound and Pitters says the versatility in the printer is important in their industry.


The evolution of digital print enables PAS to create and sell its Eco-Dimensional Wall Skins. Without the development of UV the brick product couldn’t be printed on. “UV presents us with the possibility to sell to Hollywood and retail stores,” admits Pitters.


Gaining a footing in retail is a challenge. For example, Pitters shares that it received a brick order for 1,100 store locations but it fell through.


Recently, PAS created a brick backdrop using the Eco-Dimensional Wall Skins for a State Farm Insurance Company office model located in a local mall. The team was tasked with designing a special look by custom aging the brick and incorporating the State Farm logo. The insurance company’s goal was to create a test space to promote new offices across its network of locations. Interested parties would then discuss remodel options.


PAS worked closely with State Farm, a first time client, to create something above and beyond its initial goal. The entire process took about two months. Once a brick color/weathered look was decided upon, a design was chosen. The company’s old logo was printed to the brick to look faded and a new, updated logo was printed on top of it. The effect was to showcase the historical nature of the insurance company, its reformation, and more importantly how long it’s been in business.


Once printed on the HP Scitex FB700, the media was sent over to the final location for install. 90 percent of the projects printed on Eco-Dimensional Wall Skins are installed by the end user. Pitters says it is very easy to do, the bricks are cut with a utility knife and then stapled onto the wall.


State Farm was thrilled with the end result. PAS hopes more members of the insurance company decide to remodel their offices, resulting in a plethora of work for the PSP. The new relationship was a fruitful endeavor and introduced the company to a few new challenges. “It was unique for us in working in a small office environment and ensuring the image wasn’t too overpowering. We also had to work with the overhead lighting to make sure the ink reflected correctly,” explains Pitters.


Use to printing large graphics for entertainment sets where the full impact is made from faraway, toning the message down but still creating an influential image was educational for the company—especially if it continues its push into the retail segment were smaller, closed in-store environments are the norm. The HP Scitex FB700 allows PAS to continue catering to both markets thanks to its high quality, wide width, and ability to simultaneously print on multiple rolls.


Many Mediums

SMD Concepts, Inc., based in Livermore, CA, serves the San Francisco, CA bay area with 12 employees offering structural design, graphic design, prototyping, and production for retail packaging, product displays, point of purchase, sign, and display. Established in May 2011, the company works in an 11,000 square foot space.


Six months after it opened doors, it acquired an EFI VUTEk GS3250LX UV 126.5-inch hybrid grand format printer. Brian Belew, creative director, SMD Concepts, says the device’s print quality and speed was the initial attraction and deciding factor in purchasing it. Additionally, its LED lamps are gentle to any piece of media rolling through the printer—no drying out, distortion, or warping.


The width of the printer also played a part in the purchase, particularly in regards to how many pieces could be placed through it in one pass. “For us, we wanted to maximize the number of pieces that can run through the printer, per pass, and needed to print large scale corrugated fiberboard elements for many of the displays that we design and produce,” continues Belew.


Versatility is also essential—SMD Concepts prints to almost everything. While corrugated fiberboard is the most common, SBS, EPVC, HIPS, and PET are mainstays and metal, wood, and acrylic have also run through. Grand format applications mainly consist of corrugated fiberboard, and oversized HIPS and EPVC signage.


“The variety of materials that we process allows us to innovate and show our customers more and better materials,” admits Belew. Innovation is seen most clearly in a recent project created for a network of leading grocery, convenience, drug, and specialty retailers. This company offers consumers the brands they know and trust, with the convenience and flexibility they demand, providing gift cards from more than 350 premium brands in one spot. Prepaid gift cards from popular retailers and restaurants, theme parks, online entertainment, wireless carriers, and more are available at local grocery, convenience, and drug stores across the country, as well as online.


SMD Concepts crafted standee gingerbread houses for the 2011 holiday season to hold the gift cards that the company offers. About 25 sets of prototypes and pieces for the pilot run were printed digitally on corrugated fiberboard using the EFI VUTEk GS3250LX. Each set’s finished size was 30x30x56 inches. The pilot run took about a day to print. Ink adhesion was important, as Belew explains that gift cards had to hang on pegs from the roof and ink couldn’t scruff or rub off as cards were removed and replaced.


A repeat customer, SMD Concepts has developed holiday displays such as this for around seven years. Originally the prototypes and pilot runs were printed on another device but the EFI VUTEk GS3250LX has sped up development time thanks to its size and speeds. Additionally the color matching between prototypes coming off the EFI device versus the old printer are greatly improved. Belew says between prototype and final output the color is dead on. After the client signed off and approved the displays, around 9,000 sets were created with conventional printing equipment.


Two Times the Innovation

Both PAS and SMD Concepts are prime examples of how to utilize a superwide device efficiently. While many PSPs claim a printer over 95 inches is not a fit for them due to the type of applications they are producing, this may not always be the case. Wider devices allow for simultaneous multiple rolls, significantly upping production levels. Creating unique projects continues to occur for any print provider that chooses to utilize a grand format printer.


Click here to view the Grand Format Digital PrintersTarget Chart - an all-inclusive information resource!


Dec2012, Digital Output

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