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Textiles Offer Grand Opportunity

New Technology and a Unique Wholesale Business Model

By Kim Crowley

Ten years ago, husband and wife team Eli and Leah Luria began their large format digital printing business, Grand Image, Inc., outside of Boston. Currently housed in a 19,680-square-foot warehouse in the beautiful suburb of Hudson, MA, Grand Image, Inc. has a family of 29 employees.

Eli Luria is no stranger to large format digital printing technology, stemming from his early days as a service and marketing employee for Scitex. He has also gained knowledge through numerous purchases to satisfy the needs of his customers. His most recent investment is an HP Scitex XL1500.

Luria’s first large format device was an Outboard made by Nur and distributed by Scitex. Luria thinks his company may be the only one in the country still actively using the ten-year-old Outboard. The unit is mostly used for printing billboard pieces and aerial banners at 70 dpi.

In addition, Grand Image has a Scitex Idanit printer that delivers 300 dpi output for 30- and eight-sheet paper posters and banners, and a VUTEk 5300 by EFI, Inc. to meet the demand for larger output—up to 16 feet wide. A six-color Mimaki JV3 250SP can produce output reaching 720 dpi at up to eight feet wide and a VUTEk 3360 also aids the busy shop.

To round out the company’s offerings, Grand Image has a full finishing room with a high frequency 10KW bar sealer, hot wedge welder, industrial sewing and grommet press, and a 62-inch AGL laminator for laminating, encapsulating, and mounting.

New Technology
"If you’re going to do something well, do it 100 percent," says Eli Luria. "We are now 100 percent dedicated to being a full service dye sub shop."

Luria is excited about the addition of his new HP Scitex XL1500 and is confident that the machine will be running steadily. The industrial large format printing system can switch between four, six, and eight colors at up to 370x740 dpi resolution, and Grand Image can now offer dye sub at up to 126 inches wide with no seams. The machine will be used for larger output pieces, and Luria tells us it avoids banding and dropouts even at full speed.

Some of the reasons clients turn to dye sublimation, notes Luria, are because the colors are so vibrant, and the fabric can be folded, washed, ironed, and stored without problems such as cracking, peeling, or color loss. These features make dye sub especially worthwhile in temporary installations, such as tradeshow displays and traveling pieces.

Luria tells us that the dye sublimation inks are more expensive and there is an estimated $200 worth of waste to switch the printer over to them. So he typically schedules a minimum of one or two days of work before he crosses over to dye sub.

Customers
Aside from the company’s forward thinking and technology investments, Grand Image’s customer base makes it unique. Luria doesn’t employ salespeople. Customers consist mostly of print brokers and commercial printers.

"We are the only true wholesale production facility I’m aware of," says Luria. "The majority of customers are printers themselves who use us as their production facility." The company has seen significant benefits from being a wholesale printer rather than dealing directly with end users. "The mode of operation allows us to focus on production, rather than marketing. Our revenue stream is more consistent month to month and year to year."

In addition, assembly and installation are left to the customer. This leaves Luria open to concentrate strictly on making a superior printed product.

Dye Sub in Action
Depictives, Inc. has been a print broker in Needham, MA for four years, offering creative professionals a source for producing vehicle wraps, POP, banners, and more. Its staff has 25 years experience servicing the print community.

"Grand Image is incredibly professional. Everyone there is very helpful, and output is very high quality," notes Flo Scott-Hiser, operations manager, Depictives, Inc. As an added bonus, Grand Image’s wholesale model assures the Depictives group that they need not be concerned about their own customers going direct to Grand Image for output.

In February, Depictives was handed a new job from their client Combined Resources. The output was to be part of a permanent installation at the Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center at Roxbury Community College in Boston. The complex was built in 1995 and serves as the college’s home to intramural and intercollegiate sports, host to high school and national track meets, as well as a location for meetings and conferences.

In the past, the Depictives team had output some banner work through other vendors using direct inkjet printing on cloth. When a sample proof of this project came back using this method the color and sharpness just weren’t right. From here, Depictives turned to the folks at Grand Image and their dye sublimation offering. Because of its color vibrancy, "Dye sub really lends itself to the project," states Scott-Hiser.

The installation piece consists of eight fabric banners that are 3x18 feet. Each banner is double sided with a liner. The pieces were printed using Grand Image’s new HP Scitex XL1500. From there the media was transferred to fabric using a Klieverik heated transfer calender machine. Hot knife cuts were made on the sides of the fabric, then pole pockets were sewn at the top and bottom. The job took two days from start to finish for Grand Image to produce. The Reggie Lewis Center output was installed by an outside vendor—in place in under one month.

Future Expansion
Luria expects Grand Image’s current annual revenue of $3.5 to $4 million to grow to $5 million this year with the addition of their new dye sublimation unit. "Our existing customer base either needs or already specs this application to others. Since the application is more unique than most of our other applications, we expect our customer base to widen."

With this predicted growth, Luria sees an opening for adding more technology to the operation, and his large space still affords a little wiggle room for more equipment. Business management software solutions, from providers including Cyrious Software, are already being investigated.

The addition of a direct-print flatbed printer could be in the cards in one or two years, but Luria is aware that it will be a huge investment in people and space, and he will only buy the best. "If we do it, we do it with both feet jumping in," he states.

Asked about the future of large format digital printing technology, Luria notes, "The industry is on the verge of a major transition. High-speed grand format printers [will be capable of] printing much higher resolution."

A unique business model coupled with strategic investments in the latest technology and an established level of quality has allowed Grand Image to expand. The company has set itself apart from other large format digital print providers, and promises even more growth in the future.

Apr2007, Digital Output

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