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Learning Curves

How Vendors Train You to Manage Media Choices

by Thomas Franklin

Part 3 of a 4-part exclusive online series

Most manufacturers offer their own media and inks for use with their printers, bundling a full solution out-of-the-box—at least for the most common applications. Other vendors simply offer the printer and allow users to select their own media from the vast ensemble available from third party suppliers.

Some manufacturers will make specific product recommendations during a training course, particularly if it touches on specific applications like vehicle wraps, where the vendor has a harmonious offering. Users will be trained on a printer using the vendor’s own products and given profiles for their most common media. Third party media manufacturers—like 3M—provide their own training courses as well.

"We offer our own media profiled for our printer, but as customers get more advanced they start looking for niche products—like metallic foil—that we don’t supply," says Tony Miller, product manager, Roland DGA, Corp.

"Most people who attend our courses already use our inks," says Gil Richardson, manager of VUTEk training and education, EFI, Inc.

"We don’t make any recommendations on media brands but we are starting to offer profiles and make suggestions about the types of media that work best," says Richard Codos, executive director, North American Development, Leggett & Platt Digital Technologies, Inc.

Regardless of how much guidance you’ll be given on specific brands, one of the most important media factors to consider—outside of basic compatibility with your printer—is whether it’s been profiled for your printer, vendors say. Manufacturers are spending increasing amounts of time generating and publishing profiles for their printers and media lines and assisting customers in creating profiles for unique media. For vendors that offer both media and printer, it’s viewed as a competitive advantage to have a tightly integrated solution with all the necessary profiles available from a single source.

If you use media from third party suppliers, often an on-site trainer can assist you in profiling your most commonly used media. Agfa’s paid training service, for instance, features a full day’s worth of profiling, says Brian Kirkham, director of expert services, Agfa.

If you’re struggling with color matching on a particularly unique piece of media, many vendors will offer free phone support to collaborate towards a solution.

"Our production print center in Chicago has every printer we sell and we’re constantly testing media or troubleshooting complex issues that come up," in the course of assisting customers, says Kirk Levis, director of education management, Oce North America. "We’ve had flatbed customers come in with a door or a piece of tile and ask for help in profiling it," he says.

An important consideration in any media choice is roll-to-roll consistency, Levis adds.

After you’ve successfully grasped what goes into your printer, it’s time to learn how to handle what comes out of it. Print finishing is a subject that tends to get little attention in an on-site training and installation scenario—which is focused on the basics of getting the printer up and running. You’ll likely be exposed to various finishing hardware options from your dealer or from the printer manufacturer if they also offer finishing hardware.

The most intense and direct finishing training you’ll likely receive is from application-specific training courses, such as how to wrap a vehicle. These courses, hosted by Roland, 3M and others, will canvas the full workflow, from start to finish.

Look for a full feature article on Wide Format Training in the December issue of Digital Output.

Click here to read Part 1 of this exclusive online series, Back to School
Click here to read Part 2 of this exclusive online series, Training Day

Nov2006, Digital Output

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