Printing to Vinyl
An All-Purpose Digital Graphics Solution
by Gretchen A. Peck
Part 3 of a 4-part Series
Digital Graphics Solutions, based in Atlanta, GA, built its business on printing to vinyl, and it’s still a plentiful source of its bread and butter today.
When asked how he found his way into the fast-paced, sometimes chaotic, world of print, Matt Barton, owner of Digital Graphics Solutions, quips, "I’m still trying to figure that one out."
Barton has admittedly had a tumultuous career in print. The product of several downsizings and consolidations, he made the leap of faith seven years ago and started up his own wide format print business with his wife, Kim.
"We began, quite literally, out of our house," he recalls. The couple made their first investment in digital print with the purchase of an Encad Novajet, which they installed in their garage. "Our first year in business, we had about $150,000 in sales."
As business grew, Barton invested in better, faster, and cheaper digital print solutions. Currently, he runs two HP Designjet 5000s, an older-model Encad 700, and his latest installation, a VUTEk PV200 by EFI, Inc.
This particular VUTEk solution is a grand format printer designed to serve the point-of-sale materials market, according to the manufacturer.
"The VUTEk is great for switching back and forth between flatbed and roll-fed jobs for vinyl. Literally, we can do it in a matter of seconds," Barton marvels.
A Banner Year
Today, the company—which surprisingly operates with a staff of only four—banks nearly a million a year. "We’ve grown a little bit each year," Barton modestly acknowledges.
Digital Graphics Solutions’ customers hail from a diverse mix of Atlanta businesses—food/beverage, restaurant, retail, and aerospace companies—and they love vinyl. According to Barton, they appreciate the quality, durability, and affordability the substrate affords them.
Barton estimates that 40 percent of the jobs produced at Digital Graphic Solutions are vinyl based—most often, banners. "It’s not unusual for us to do anything from a single-knock-off banner to 200 to 300 of them at a time," he explains.
Digital Graphic Solutions buys nearly all of its digital media through a distributor—Charrette, a division of Pitman. "They help us identify what’s going to be the best product for each type of application," Barton confides.
"We typically use a multipurpose vinyl, a 13-ounce scrim vinyl from UltraFlex, in either gloss or matte," he notes. "That is a universal and versatile vinyl that can be used for either indoor or outdoor. We’re even comfortable leaving the material unlaminated—without any extra protectants—and can count on the life to span at least two to three years.
"And if it’s being used indoors, you can expect it to last even longer," Barton adds. "You’d practically have to tear it apart before it would be unusable; it’ll last forever!"
The company also sources a 12-ounce, double-sided Avery Dennison vinyl banner through its distributor. "We use that for our two-sided banner applications, and we do a lot of those," Barton explains.
Barton approaches every job as a unique challenge, considering what type of substrate best suits the project’s intention, and best represents the client’s image.
"Whenever we get a request for a job—vinyl or otherwise—we ask two questions immediately: whether it’s intended for indoor or outdoor installation, and how long the print needs to last," Barton explains.
For finishing jobs, Barton has equipped his shop with a 60-inch GBC laminator, but most post-press processes are done by hand, including all grommet work.
"We are in the process of evaluating some digital diecutters," he remarks. "The challenge we have is to select the types of finishing tools we really need for our business. Do we want to get into stitching? Do we want to invest in vinyl cutters? So, we’re evaluating different technologies that really make sense for us. Bringing finishing capabilities in house certainly makes sense from cost-savings perspective, and it also will give us better control over jobs."