By Melissa Donovan
Promotional and award products are hot for a number of verticals, not just in the consumer market but business to business and internal company affairs. For example, if you are planning a company retreat, not only are banners and signs necessary, but swag bags that include keychains, luggage tags, or even phone covers with a company logo or emblem are almost expected.
Small format direct to substrate UV printers are some of the newest technology available to create these types of products. Adapting the benefits of digital on the small scale, one offs and short runs are monetarily possible.
Vendors position small format direct to substrate UV printers as an additional source of revenue for print service providers (PSPs) already familiar with UV in wide format. Application opportunities like printing award signage or creating custom golf balls complement wide format output.
Honing In on Benefits
Small format UV printers, like their larger counterparts, offer ideal ink adhesion and drying times, enabling compatibility with a number of different types of substrates. The expanding media selection presents a wide format PSP with the opportunity to enter into new areas of business.
“The uptake of this technology within traditional sign shops allows them to differentiate their businesses and expand their portfolios with technology they are already familiar with. The same artwork that is used for almost any type of digital printing, can also be used with tabletop flatbed printers,” explains Daniel Valade, product manager, Roland DGA Corporation.
Brad Holdgreve, sales manager, GoVivid, a Rowmark Division, lists some popular applications. “The scope is broad—print to create gift items, plaques, signage, ceramic tiles, art displays, identification and marking tags, and home décor.”
“Adding promotional items is a great way to expand business. For example, if a PSP is producing signage for a local event—say a golf tournament—with a tabletop UV printer they can also produce complementary items such as personalized golf pencils and scorecards, souvenirs, custom-printed golf balls, and awards instead of referring that business to another shop,” suggests Ken VanHorn, director, marketing and business development, Mimaki USA, Inc.
Specialty printing, trophy shops, specialty signs including industrial and directional signage, and promotional printing applications are all possible with small format UV flatbed printers, shares David Conrad, director of marketing, Mutoh America, Inc. One example he expands on is enhancing products like trophies, awards, and specialty items by back printing with a photorealistic image and then engraving the front with details.
Pens, USBs, and smartphones are just the tip of the iceberg, according to Valade. Small format direct to substrate UV printers can print to rocks or glass as well, opening up even more possibilities. “The most successful PSPs not only offer the usual suspects when it comes to promotional materials, they think out of the box and look for ways to be creative,” he continues.
Michael Perrelli, marketing manager, Direct Color Systems (DCS), says that small format UV flatbeds provide wide format owners with the ability to add profit enhancing elements to existing items, including tactile lettering, Braille dots, embossed effects, and clear coats.
Considering the Buy
Small format direct to substrate UV printers are enticing in job capacity, variety, and familiarity but present challenges.
VanHorn sees these expanded substrate options as being more overwhelming for those unfamiliar with UV print. “Print shops already familiar with large format UV flatbed printing can easily integrate a tabletop UV printer into their workflow. For those not familiar, the main challenge will be in learning to print on the many varied surfaces available.”
In any case, Conrad recommends providing operators with the proper training prior to use. That way they are comfortable with operating the printer and can produce the required output to satisfy expectations from customers, he continues.
Challenges aside, the ease of implementation means there is significant interest from a variety of backgrounds. “Everyone from mom and pop shops to national franchises. Simply put, there are no limitations as to who can or will own a UV LED printer; it meets a variety of unique customer needs and applications,” explains Holdgreve.
Valade points to smaller shops that want to expand their capabilities and product offerings as potential users to major manufacturers looking to personalize their offerings for key customers as incentive purchases.
Based in Branford, CT, Pexagon Technology Inc. offers customizable promotional products ranging from flash drives and phone cases to picture frames and pens. 32 employees cater to its three divisions—Business-to-Business Custom Products, Professional Photography & Imaging Branding and Presentation Solutions, and Print & Fulfillment Services. It works with customers worldwide, with 80 percent of the business based in the U.S.
Incorporated in 2002, the company introduced its custom products and services business in 2006. To keep costs down while offering a variety of customized products, Pexagon Technology works with printers from DCS. It purchased its first solvent device in 2010 and a year later traded it in for the UV LED iteration—today it owns four Direct Jet 1024UVMVP6 printers.
The staff previously used laser engravers to achieve variable print and one-off orders. With the new DCS printers, “we were excited about the possibility of offering the same work in full color,” admits Brian Campbell, president, Pexagon Technology. Full color includes properly presenting drop shadows and gradients. The company also hoped to expand its product offering to include small flash drives, large boxes, and water bottles.
Both goals were met. Today, the DCS machines “without question hit the sweet spot for high-quality color,” adheres Campbell. The company works with a lot of professional photographers with critical eyes and the promotional products they order to represent their company must reflect on their brand and the high-quality photography they offer. “With direct to substrate we don’t have to say no to a too detailed logo,” adds Campbell.
The small format UV flatbeds from DCS are an integral part of the business. “We are now able to offer one-off and short-run full-color printing, helping us secure an absolute leadership position in the professional photography and imaging space,” says Campbell.
Small format direct to substrate UV printers extend the capabilities of any shop, opening the floodgates to creative marketers everywhere.
Sep2015, Digital Output