By Olivia Cahoon
Print service providers (PSPs) utilize a combination of digital print and plastics for projects like custom awards, plaques, photography, and wall art. This type of work generally includes varied messaging and personal images. To justify one offs or short runs, digital printing is an ideal solution.
Murray Wald started Wall Designs in 1948 in New York City, NY. The company offered fabricated custom acrylic furniture and three-dimensional acrylic intaglio sculptures until 1981, when Wald’s sons Brad and Eric founded BDW Designs, Inc. The Wald sons manufactured custom acrylic clocks in a 400 square foot workspace with one employee in FL. To encompass their products, they established a new division called Acrylic Idea Factory in 1991.
“It became a well-known acrylic awards manufacturer in the recognition industry,” says Luis Urtaza, director of global operations, Acrylic Idea Factory. As time went on, customers from the recognition industry demanded acrylic awards and plaques personalized in full color instead of monochrome laser engraving. With this in mind, the Wald brothers developed AcryliPrint HD—a proprietary process that allows the company to fuse full-color, digitally printed images to acrylic.
This technology allowed Acrylic Idea Factory to expand into the gift and personalization industry as well as both the signage and photography industries through its AcrylicPress.com division.
Today, Acrylic Idea Factory is based in Tucson, AZ and employs over 350 people in four facilities totaling 120,000 square feet worldwide. Its products include acrylic awards, plaques, and signage through Acrylic Idea Factory and custom personalized gifts as well as acrylic prints for both amateur and professional photographers at AcrylicPress.com.
Above: It took Acrylic Idea Factory five business days to complete four 32.835×48-inch, full-color acrylic print wall pieces for master photography Roberto Valenzuela.
Canon Leads the Way
Limited by four-color screenprinting, the company started using digital print technology in 2006 after the Wald brothers invented AcryliPrint HD. It bought its first Canon U.S.A., Inc. imagePROGRAF iPF8400 in 2010 and currently owns 20 of these printers. It selected this model for its speed and print quality. “The icing on the cake is that we don’t have to schedule a service technician to switch a printhead when it needs replacing. Canon definitely figured that one out and made it easy to maintain,” says Urtaza.
Acrylic Idea Factory’s most recent press is the Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-4000, installed in late 2017. The 44-inch printer uses a 1.28-inch wide, 12-channel integrated compact printhead and Chroma Optimizer. The company decided to purchase it after attending a Canon informational breakfast, which featured the imagePROGRAF PRO-4000. “We have developed great relationships with Canon managers and distributors and once the imagePROGRAF PRO-4000 was through its initial testing phases, the word was out that it was a great printer and that’s when we decided to pick one up,” offers Urtaza.
With the device, Acrylic Idea Factory prints all its orders for its biggest and most important clients and distributors. “The imagePROGRAF PRO-4000 satisfies that need for our AcrylicPress.com customers,” says Urtaza. This division offers a variety of customizable products including acrylic puzzles and tins, coaster sets, clocks, custom face mounted acrylic, dry erase, keychains, light switch panels, luggage tags, ornaments, photo blocks, plaques, and wall art.
100 percent of the PSP’s acrylic print products are digitally printed. Acrylic prints account for roughly 35 percent of its total output.
With its digital printers, Acrylic Idea Factory uses Canon paper and Canon LUCIA PRO inks. The ink set includes microencapsulated colorants that enable smooth gradients, an expanded color gamut, and deep color expression.
Based on its archival performance, Urtaza says Canon LUCIA PRO ink is ideal for the AcryliPrint HD process, which relies specifically on print quality. By using the Canon imagePROGRAF iPF8400 and PRO-4000 printers, quality is guaranteed, he says. “The better the printer, the better our acrylic prints.”
AcryliPrint HD involves the permanent fusion of a full-color printed digital image of any size and shape to acrylic, with 100 percent optical clarity and bubble-free quality. The process uses no liquid solvents or glues and does not produce any volatile organic compounds that can harm the environment.
Despite the advantages of digital print technology, the PSP still experiences challenges. Like with everything, Urtaza says the company has a dedicated team whose primary focus is to ensure the printers are linearized and properly calibrated for accurate color output. Other challenges occur with finding proper RIP software that can help the PSP manage production and color management.
For finishing, the PSP uses its proprietary AcryliPrint Fusion Processor, which was developed in house when the company invented the AcryliPrint HD process.
Photography Goes Digital
In 2017, master photographer Roberto Valenzuela, a Canon Explorer of Light program member, approached Acrylic Idea Factory for photography prints. Based in Beverly Hills, Valenzuela has earned over 100 international awards for his wedding and portrait photography. He also serves as a chair and judge for photographic print competitions in Europe, Mexico, South America, and international photography competitions held in the U.S. through the Wedding and Portrait Photographers International (WPPI) convention in Las Vegas, NV. At the 2017 WPPI, Valenzuela was impressed by the quality of Acrylic Idea Factory’s acrylic prints and wanted to outfit his new photography studio in Beverly Hills, CA.
Valenzuela requested the PSP produce acrylic prints using non-glare acrylic material with the proper color output represented in his photography.
The PSP trimmed 4×8 feet of non-glare, 1/4-inch acrylic sheets to 32.835×48 inches and hand-buffed polished all the edges for a total of four parts.
The images were printed with the imagePROGRAF PRO-4000 using Canon LUCIA PRO inks. Images were fused with the PSP’s high-quality, non-glare acrylic using its AcryliPrint HD process. “We selected the imagePROGRAF PRO-4000 because it assured the best quality print and color output,” says Urtaza.
After fusing, a silver-colored aluminum composite was added to the back. For mounting, the print provider added its French Cleat hanging system. With its complete set of Canon digital print technology and proprietary processes, Urtaza says the combination guaranteed Valenzuela’s satisfaction.
After receiving the client’s files, it took Acrylic Idea Factory five business days to complete four 32.835×48-inch, full-color acrylic print wall pieces.
Printing on Acrylic
As Acrylic Idea Factory moves forward as the largest manufacturer of acrylic prints and full-color personalized acrylic photo keepsakes, it intends to replace its Canon imagePROGRAF iPF8400 printers with imagePROGRAF PRO-4000 models.
Nov2018, Digital Output