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Grandiose Applications

Print Providers Excel with Superwide Graphics

By Cassandra Balentine


The world of large format print provides many opportunities. When you supersize print platforms, even more possibilities are within reach.


With grand format—which Digital Output considers devices offering a print width of over 95 inches—print service providers (PSPs) streamline the production of billboards and massive banners by outputting one piece, rather than panels that need to be stitched before install, which requires added labor and can lead to consistency issues.


The benefits of a wider width also extend to narrower applications, as PSPs gang jobs and print two or three up, which increases productivity on projects that could take two or three times longer on a wide format press at one up.


While grand format offers many benefits, some PSPs shy away from the investment and skill required to properly manage the machines. Here, we speak with two print providers producing superwide format graphics and managing the devices to achieve maximum capacity.


Grand Capabilities

Celebrating its 20th anniversary of grand format success, Vision Graphics produces everything from business cards to wallscapes. Based in Salt Lake City, UT, the company has been involved in large format printing since producing billboards for clients back in the early 90s when the print technology peaked at nine dpi.


Since then, the shop has steadily implemented the latest advancements to continuously expand into new markets and improve on core competencies. Gene Chambers, VP, Vision Graphics, notes that the company’s first presses were eight feet wide, and everything had to be tiled, often presenting color consistency challenges. Once 16-foot devices debuted, printing a billboard in one piece was a reality.


Over the years, Chambers says it’s gone through several grand format devices. Today, the PSP operates four EFI VUTEk 5330s and two Durst Image Technology US LLC printers—a Rho 500R UV roll-to-roll and Rho 800 Presto UV flatbed. Its arsenal also includes three Roland DGA Corporation large format printers along with a LightJet photographic printer.


Billboards defined the company, and Chambers says they still print many of them to this day. However, when the U.S. economy slowed in 2007 and 2008, it was important to transition into other directions as many major advertisers tightened their budgets and slowed advertising for nearly four years. Thankfully, he sees activity coming back, but new services are an essential component of Vision Graphics.


In addition to billboards, wallscapes, and other grand format items, the company utilizes its superwide format equipment to churn out narrow format work, including point of purchase, banners, posters, vehicle wraps, and trade show graphics.


While production levels vary, Chambers notes that the shop runs two full shifts five days a week, adding on overtime with extra production shifts as needed. He explains that out of its six grand format printers, at least two are constantly running simultaneously, often up to four. “The Durst devices run the most, producing everything from grand format items to posters. The EFI VUTEk printers strictly run billboards and wallscapes, as the resolution is better suited for distance viewing.”


Chambers estimates that about 50 percent of the time the shop is printing something other than grand format work on the Durst Rho 500R superwide format printer. “That machine in particular has the capability to print bus wraps, and we can print three rolls up to use the width, but it prints on all three at the same time,” he explains. “We can gang those up and print two or three different sized rolls simultaneously.”


New Technologies

WYLD Grand Format Imaging, based in Linden, NJ, is a wholesale-to-trade print provider specializing in grand format graphics. The company serves a range of clients with two EFI VUTEk printers—a 126-inch EFI VUTEk 3360 roll-to-roll and an 80-inch EFI QS2000 flatbed; a 126-inch Hewlett-Packard (HP) Latex 850; and a 54-inch Roland SOLJET Pro III XC-540. The company also utilizes a Miller Weldmaster Corp. cross seamer.


William DiStaso, owner, WYLD, says he opened the business in 2006. With a background in wide and grand format, he knew it was a career he would enjoy and do well. “I really enjoyed what I did. That fact made me open my own company—since then the company has grown in knowledge and experience,” he notes. Today, the PSP operates out of one 5,000 square foot location with four employees.


A wholesale printer, WYLD’s clients are made up of brokers and other sign shops that don’t have the equipment or staff to complete superwide format work.


DiStaso, a long time user of EFI equipment, notes that the 3.2-meter EFI VUTEk 3360 solvent printer delivers industrial strength, reliability, and exceptional color quality at high production speeds. The device has served him for seven and a half years.


The shop’s EFI flatbed also enables it to print white ink, which DiStaso says is a great capability in which clients are starting to take advantage. “We had to educate them on white ink, provide samples, and explain what it is good for and what it’s not good for,” he points out.


With the acquisition of the HP, the company recently expanded into latex. “There was a need for higher capacity at higher quality. To have a 10.5-foot printer to produce good or better quality and handle everything from 54-inch rolls to wraps of 24-foot billboards on the same printer is tremendous,” he adds.


King of the Mountain

Advertising agencies and sporting events represent a big opportunity for Vision Graphics. One event the shop did work for was the 2013 Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah. The week long professional race took place from August 6 to 11, 2013, covering a record 586 miles and more than 43,000 vertical feet of climbing.


Vision Graphics was tasked with creating a majority of the tour’s signage. The project was designed and produced in house, and included a vast range of printed components including the start and finish trusses, course banners, and promotional items including everything from vehicle wraps to decals. Overall, the event consisted of around 400 different production files, translating to even more prints that needed to be produced.


In addition to design and production, the Vision Graphics team was largely involved in installation. A travelling event, the PSP ensured the graphics were portable and durable enough to move between the race’s six stages. Promotional graphics for local hotels and an airport were also created.


Chambers says his team had six weeks to produce the graphics, including design. Most of the output was printed on its two Durst machines. “The nice thing about the Durst, the UV ink sets on top of the substrate, where solvent inks tend to soak in and you have to account for the variance from substrate to substrate,” he adds.


Devils in Detail

WYLD produces graphics nationwide, but primarily works locally. The shop recently worked with a client for an install at the Prudential Center Newark, home of the National Hockey League’s New Jersey Devils, in Newark, NJ.


Part of the job included the rebranding of a bar within the arena, with DiStaso estimated to be more than 1,000 square feet of graphics on its own. All of the work was printed using the HP Latex 850 with Avery Denison Graphics Solutions vinyl.


In addition to the bar rebrand, the job entailed indoor work in the ticketing area—including a fan experience wall. The wall is a 9x30-foot collage of fan photos. Additionally, the client changed out column graphics at the main entrance and some graphics within the Ticketmaster outlet inside of the arena.


Smart Investments

When it comes to investing in any press, it is important to consider all the factors. Is it a replacement or upgrade, a strategic move to a new market, or a necessary move to meet productivity?


For example, Chambers notes that if you’re replacing or upgrading with a new investment that is 50 percent faster, it’s easy to calculate how much work you can get through in a given period of time. “In that case, you’re looking at a couple of years before that investment really pays off. It helps day to day,” he says.


DiStaso stresses the importance of proper maintenance when it comes to maintaining grand format machines. “We don’t beat up our equipment or run it to the breaking point. If we see something happening, we try to address it quickly. If it’s down, we’re not making money,” he says.


Utilizing investments to full capacity is another essential component for achieving a return. WYLD uses the full width of its grand format devices fairly regularly, especially on the EFI printers. He explains that the width capacity is largely determined based on how jobs are split, as some go right to the HP while others to EFI.


Grand Plans

Grand format printers provide the capability and flexibly for high-end prints and impressive productivity. However, knowledge and skills are required to maximize the investment potential. Whether you’re printing grand in house or outsourcing the work to a trusted partner, advancements in hardware engineering, ink, and throughput move grand format printers out of the billboard and banner segment. Quality improves to address up-close viewing, making superwide devices ideal for all types of applications.


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


Dec2013, Digital Output

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