By Melissa Donovan
Part 1 of 2
Grand format printers are massive hardware solutions that require a good look at logistics when it comes time to move the device into a shop. Digital Output considers any printer over 95 inches in width grand format. The first part in this series examines the challenges that print service providers (PSPs) face when preparing for a grand format printer. The second part discusses nuances after install.
Preparations need to be made before welcoming a new investment of this magnitude like picking the correct shipping company. Spacing requirements from how to get the printer into the building and to its official area of operation must be mapped out in advance. These plans effect not just the buyer and employees, they can also influence traffic outside depending on the location of the sign shop. Where to place the media that will run on the printer is also a consideration.
Prep and Landing
Working with trusted vendors ensures the safe transportation of a grand format printer. While arranging shipment, it is important to choose a freight company that is able to handle moving large equipment.
“Delivering and unloading such a big, heavy, and delicate piece of machinery is no small feat. It is a task designed for an experienced shipping company, specializing in shipping such large and heavy loads. Make sure the company you choose has all the necessary equipment and tools for unloading and uncrating a printer, including proper lifting equipment—the correct sizes of crane and forklift, special skates, and impact drill,” recommends Erez Zimerman, VP marketing, Matan Digital Printers.
Many times the printer vendor can recommend local freight companies or shipping organizations experienced with grand format printer transportation. Robert Sudol, logistics and project manager, NA, Agfa Graphics, shares that the average PSP does not have the capability to unload/transport such a large device and requires help.
Once a shipping provider is picked for the delivery, a number of other considerations must be addressed. An unpacking area is necessary, something that provides ample space to uncrate the purchase. “Generally it will require at least twice the height and three to four times the depth of the crated printer to remove it from the crate,” explains Keith Faulkner, president, Splash of Color.
How to get the printer into the shop is a factor. This is influenced by where your shop is located, whether in a busy city or a minimally populated suburb. “Challenges are generally found in major cities with narrower roadways, as most units are brought in on a flatbed truck, sometimes the street needs to be closed. Rural environments are a lot easier. The major considerations include loading dock capabilities and transportation to the facility to where the printer will eventually end up,” says Sudol.
According to Sudol, Agfa’s product management services division offers one point of contact with logistical help throughout the U.S. and Canada.
Transportation includes moving the device from the flatbed truck or loading dock into the facility and onto the shop floor. Corridors, door widths and heights, and room angles need be properly measured prior to the install day to know whether or not the printer will fit through smoothly.
In the event the printer needs to be brought from the first floor to a higher level, a freight elevator should be available—one that accepts the dimensions and weight of the printer, shares Faulkner. The other option, according to Sudol, is lifting the printer up with rigging outside and bringing it in through a window or the roof.
A cleared path leads to the final spot of the printer. When deciding where to place the device, obviously enough floor space must be prepared to accommodate its dimensions. However, additional space is needed when factoring in how much space an operator needs to maneuver media.
“The applications you plan to produce will dictate the space needed around the printer for the operator and to accommodate the application,” advises David Conrad, director of marketing, Mutoh America, Inc.
Micha Kemelman, product management team leader, HP Scitex, agrees, providing the example of PSPs producing short runs on a variety of large format substrates. “They may want to consider allocating more space around the press to stack raw material, while a PSP using a narrower span of substrates may require less space for raw material stacks.”
Mutoh suggests that a PSP allot approximately 13×9 feet of space to accommodate a 104-inch printer.
Matan recommends leaving no less than one meter clear on every side of a five-meter printer to allow the operator to work. Zimerman also reminds PSPs to consider accessories, which can adds additional footprint to the device, like vacuum tables or inline folding/creasing devices.
The actual floor is also a consideration. “In most cases, the printer must be installed on a level, solid, and stable concrete floor free of any vibration and capable of supporting the printer’s weight,” shares Ken Hanulec, VP of marketing, EFI.
Recommended temperature and humidity also influence the final location of the device. As Faulkner advises, temperature and humidity can play a large role in the quality of printed output, depending on the type of ink running in the printer. “Sublimation and direct to fabric printing can be much more sensitive than solvent and eco-solvent inks. Low humidity conditions can cause static electricity resulting in deflection problems.”
“The room should be environmentally within spec for temperature and humidity,” agrees Randy Paar, marketing manager – display graphics, Canon Solutions America, “and have a sufficient number of air changes per hour. A dust-free environment helps reduce spoiled prints due to image artifacts and improves uptime by reducing the frequency of having to stop and clean printheads.”
While Brent Moncrief, VP sales and marketing, Durst Image Technology US LLC, admits that today’s machines certainly don’t require a clean room environment, consistent temperature and humidity conditions help optimize media and printer performance.
A bigger device generally necessitates more power to run it. Prior to deciding on the printer’s final home, a PSP should make sure the outlets and all of the power sources nearby can support the printer.
According to Conrad, most grand format printers require an isolated or dedicated 20A or 30A circuit for main power and another non-isolated or dedicated circuit for the take up and heater. He goes on to say that it’s best to have at least two or three power sources dedicated to a grand format printer, ensuring proper power supply for optimum performance.
“The electricity requirements vary from product to product. Reputable vendors will have the information readily available on the data sheets and will make equipment-specific recommendations,” suggests Kemelman.
An afterthought for many PSPs is where to put the media. Many vendors caution that should be thought of in advance, after all you just purchased an over 95-inch printer, the media rolls being used are going to be at least half that long or wider and be heavy.
“You need to take into account that the media used by a grand format printer is also very large and you must arrange enough space in your media storage for those long and heavy rolls, or big rigid boards. Make sure that you can access the printer with the media, using some type of lifting equipment,” says Zimerman.
Wheeled media cradles, pallet jacks, and automated lifters, suggests Conrad, are all handy tools for lifting heavy media.
Questions regarding media, according to Ken VanHorn, director, marketing and business development, Mimaki USA, Inc., include how will media be moved—forklift or hand truck? How will it be stored for acclimation before printing—is there enough space in the print room for it? Will an optional media lifter be used?
“Think very carefully about workflow for material handling. You will be using expensive materials, and that’s good because that means you are competing in a high margin market, but that also means profit on individual jobs can disappear quickly when you damage a board or two because of poor material handling processes,” suggests Mark Schlimme, product marketing manager – wide format, Screen USA.
A Binding Partnership
Most grand format vendors understand the implications of such a large purchase and are readily available to help a PSP through any stage of the process, from shipping logistics and uncrating, to installation. In the next part of this series read about how to handle challenges that arise after the printer has arrived at the shop and is up and running.
May2015, Digital Output DOGF1505