Wide-format Inkjet
Agfa Graphics, during the ISA Sign Expo 2016 running from April 21 to 23, in Orlando, Florida, plans to demonstrate new automation and feature enhancements for its Canadian-made Jeti Tauro and Jeti Mira UV inkjet printing systems.

The Jeti Mira UV inkjet printer will be demonstrated with a dockable RTR system that attaches to the front of the flatbed table, Agfa explains, reducing the distance the media needs to travel (less media waste) and further decreasing the chance of skewing while also improving accuracy.

The 105.9-inch (2.69 metre) Jeti Mira flatbed printer features a moving gantry for industrial workloads and produces work in six colours plus white, with optional primer or varnish. With six vacuum zones, Agfa explains the Jeti Mira’s Print & Prepare mode reduces downtime and increases productivity by allowing operators to load one side of the table as the other side is printing.

The hybrid Jeti Tauro printer, designed for high-end sign and display printers, features media tables, an integrated RTR system and can be upgraded with a semi-automated board feeder and stacker. The system’s Automatic Board Feeder, explains Agfa, can drive productivity gains in some cases by more than 30 percent.

The 98-inch (2.5 metre) Jeti Tauro features six colours plus white and/or primer option and is designed for 24/7 printing on both rigid and flexible material with speeds up to 2,960 square feet per hour. It also features a vacuum-belt drive for motion control that, explains Agfa, results in high dot accuracy.
HP Inc. has unveiled the new Scitex 9000 Industrial Press, which is scheduled to be commercially available beginning June 1, 2016, and new HP HDR245 Scitex Inks, which are designed to provide faster signage printing speeds with an entry-level investment.

The HP Scitex 9000 Industrial Press is rated to produce up to 90 beds per hour with full automation, while operator-dependent manual media handling is targeted at around 60 beds per hour. This relates to a 500,000 m2 per year duty cycle for a range of applications like point-of-purchase signs and displays. Additionally, the Scitex 9000 press is upgradeable, allowing customers to scale production according to their quality and productivity needs.
The new HP HDR245 Scitex Inks are designed to work on flexible, rigid and select plastic medias, providing what HP describes as higher quality work at faster speeds. HP explains these low-odour inks enable longer runs with minimal maintenance intervention and can eliminate the need for additional protective overcoats due to their flexibility and surface durability.  HP HDR245 Scitex Inks provide a colour gamut with up to 86 percent Pantone coverage and print longevity of up to two years outdoors.
Epson has introduced its new 44-inch SureColor P10000 inkjet system, to be made available in Spring 2016, aimed at the upscale retail display graphics market and fine art photography printing.
Joining the 64-inch SC-P20000, the new SC-P10000 leverages an 8,000 nozzle PrecisionCore MicroTFP print head, a new media feeding system, and a reformulated Epson UltraChrome PRO nine-colour pigment ink system.

The company explains, when compared with other Epson systems on the market, the new SureColor P10000 is capable of producing quality output up to 2.8 times faster.
“The SureColor P10000 is ideal for commercial printers who are not only limited by space, but who strive to more efficiently produce output to meet production deadlines and customer turn-around times,” said Larry Kaufman, Product Manager, Epson Professional Imaging, Epson America.
The SureColor P10000 utilizes an all-new 2.6-inch-tall 10-channel PrecisionCore MicroTFP print head capable of printing output at high resolutions of up to 2,400 x 1,200 dpi. Epson explains, when this print-head capability is combined with the new Epson UltraChrome PRO nine-colour pigment ink system, the SureColor P10000 provides strong colour and black density.

Epson continues to explain UltraChrome PRO is the first pigment ink set to feature four-levels of gray ink technology, including Gray, Light Gray, Dark Gray, and Black pigments. In addition, the SureColor P10000 utilizes improved Resin Encapsulation Technology for output with strong gloss uniformity, and overall contrast ratio and clarity.
FujiFilm North America Corporation, Graphic Systems Division, will launch its new Acuity Select 20 Series of wide-format systems in early March at the upcoming FESPA trade show in Europe.

Introduced as a replacement to the existing Acuity Advance Select series, the new UV flatbed printer series reaches print speeds of up to 362 square feet per hour (33.6 square metres) working with substrates of up to 2 inches thick (50.8 mm).

Acuity Select 20 Series also now includes the option of using light cyan and light magenta, aimed at reproducing fine art or photographic images. As well, Fujifilm explains the addition of a pneumatic pin registration system delivers easier media loading, while new UV lamp technology allows for thinner media to be printed. The Select 20 Series is also available with an optional automated printhead maintenance system.

Acuity Select 20 Series now features what Fujifilm describes as an improved high-pressure vacuum system, designed to reduce the need for masking of the bed for easy loading of media. It will also be available in both the standard 98.4 x 49.2 inch (2.5 x 1.25 metre) and X2, 98.4 x 121.3 inches (2.5 x 3.08 metre) print-bed sizes, with a roll option available for both. 
Mohawk, described as North America’s largest privately-owned manufacturer of fine papers, envelopes and specialty substrates for commercial printing, announced a major expansion of its wide format inkjet portfolio.

The Mohawk Wide Format Inkjet portfolio, which previously consisted of six items, expands to 112 items, featuring 32 different product lines, such as backlit, lightblock, black polyester, adhesive, Dupont Tyvek, and tear-resistant fabric.

Mohawk explains items in the expanded portfolio are optimized for Aqueous inks, Memjet inks, Solvent/Eco-Solvent inks, Latex inks and UV-Cured inks, and many products are compatible across multiple ink types.

“With our expanded offering of wide format inkjet media, Mohawk is truly a one-stop shop for the broadest range of digital papers and substrates, including dry toner products, HP Indigo-compatible products, and now wide format inkjet products,” said Mike Madura, Vice President, Digital, Mohawk. 
Mohawk, described as North America’s largest privately-owned manufacturer of fine papers, envelopes and specialty substrates for commercial printing, announced a major expansion of its wide format inkjet portfolio.

The Mohawk Wide Format Inkjet portfolio, which previously consisted of six items, expands to 112 items, featuring 32 different product lines, such as backlit, lightblock, black polyester, adhesive, Dupont Tyvek, and tear-resistant fabric.

Mohawk explains items in the expanded portfolio are optimized for Aqueous inks, Memjet inks, Solvent/Eco-Solvent inks, Latex inks and UV-Cured inks, and many products are compatible across multiple ink types.

“With our expanded offering of wide format inkjet media, Mohawk is truly a one-stop shop for the broadest range of digital papers and substrates, including dry toner products, HP Indigo-compatible products, and now wide format inkjet products,” said Mike Madura, Vice President, Digital, Mohawk. 
Canon announced the global launch of the 4th generation of the Océ Arizona Series UV flatbed printer for mid-volume print producers. Since the launch of the Océ Arizona 250 GT in 2007, more than 5,000 Océ Arizona printers have been sold by the Canon Group companies worldwide.

Canon explains the new series of printers have been designed for sign and display graphics printers and is developed to support a range of rigid and flexible media applications. The series, delivering work on rigid media and objects up to two inches thick and as large as 8 x 10 feet, also features Océ VariaDot grayscale piezoelectric printing technology.

The new printers, now commercially available, are offered in three different configurations and two different size formats, including four, six or eight colour channels in small or large table formats, as follows: Océ Arizona 1240 GT, Arizona 1240 XT, Arizona 1260 GT, Arizona 1260 XT, Arizona 1280 and GT Océ Arizona 1280 XT.
Roland DGA has introduced the new and larger VersaUV LEF-300 to its line of benchtop UV-LED flatbed printers, which also includes the existing LEF-12 and LEF-20 models.

“The LEF-300 was developed in response to customer demand within the personalization and custom printing markets for an LEF printer with significantly increased production capabilities,” said Daniel Valade, Roland DGA’s product manager for the VersaUV LEF Series.

To accommodate greater quantities and larger-sized items, the LEF-300’s printing area has been expanded to 30 inches wide by 13 inches long, which equates to an imaging area 50 percent larger than the LEF-20. With four print heads and two UV-LED lamps, the LEF-300 enables bidirectional printing approximately 60 percent faster than the LEF-20.

As well, the number of LEF-300 White and Clear (gloss) ink nozzles have been doubled for faster printing, increased density and opacity, and faster build-up of multiple layers for three-dimensional textures. A new draft print mode improves overall efficiency for users in need of quick prototype prints.

Users can print on a range of substrates like PET, ABS and polycarbonate, soft materials such as TPU and leather, as well as three-dimensional items ranging from smart phone cases and laptop covers to signs, giftware and promotional items. Roland explains the LEF-300’s built-in vacuum table helps hold thin and soft materials in place, allowing for easier job setup and eliminating errors. The system also includes the BOFA air filtration system, which provides for ventilation while also serving as a stand and storage unit for fixtures and supplies.

The LEF-300 comes equipped with Roland’s new VersaWorks Dual software RIP, which supports native PostScript and PDF files. VersaWorks Dual features such as offset, positioning, rotation, registration of ink layers, and automatic creation of White and Clear ink effects can also be handled directly in the RIP.

The LEF-300 uses new EUV4 ink, which is Roland’s proprietary CYMK, White and Clear ECO-UV inks, which are said to reduce odour and the shrinking of thin film materials like BOPP, PE and PET when curing.

“The market for on-demand printing onto various articles is high, and we expect to see this growth continue in the years to come,” said Valade. “More and more businesses are providing custom printing services for smartphone cases and accessories. Kiosks offering on-site printing of photos taken by customers onto blank goods are also popping up at shopping malls around the world. These are all ideal markets for the LEF-300.”
Roland DGA has introduced the RotaPrint attachment, priced at US$3,195, for the company’s VersaUV LEF-20 flatbed printer for printing directly on bottles and other cylindrical objects. The RotaPrint utilizes the LEF-20’s existing feed system, which, according to the company, enables it to print cleanly and precisely onto glass, plastic, metal or ceramic objects with a diameter between 1.6 to three inches.
Developed exclusively for use with Roland’s LEF-20 by DigiGraphics, the lightweight RotaPrint attaches to the printer via a series of magnets. Roland explains the RotaPrint is also unique in that it does not feature any motors or electrical connections. It is powered solely by the motion of the LEF-20.
“The RotaPrint further expands the already impressive capabilities of Roland’s VersaUV LEF-20 benchtop flatbed printer,” said Daniel Valade, Roland DGA’s product manager, VersaStudio, VersaUV & vinyl cutters. “This incredible attachment works seamlessly with the LEF-20, allowing users to quickly print vibrant, detailed graphics on large areas of cylindrical objects with ease and precision.”
Fujifilm will make the worldwide premier of its new Uvistar Hybrid 320 UV press at the upcoming SGIA Expo in Atlanta, Georgia, running from November 4 to 6.

The Uvistar Hybrid 320 is a 3.2-metre, combination flatbed and roll printer, capable of producing output at speeds of up to 2,100 square feet per hour. The inkjet system uess Fujifilm Dimatix Q-Class print heads and Fujifilm Uvijet inks to produce full grey scale. The press is available in an eight channel configuration delivering CMYK, Lc, Lm, Lk and Orange inks. A nine channel configuration is available that adds White ink.

The Versa-Drop technology of the Dimatix Q-Class print heads allow the press to image in grey scale with droplet sizes ranging from 10 to 30 picoliters. The Uvistar Hybrid 320 also leverages what Fujfilm describes as a patented tri-lobal belt and six-zone vacuum system to handle roll or rigid substrates.

Additionally, Fujifilm explains a dancer bar with spreaders keeps difficult roll media from wrinkling before it enters the print area. Rear pinch rollers engage as rigid material transitions from the print area on to the exit tables. The Uvistar Hybrid 320 also features continuous board capability that increases productivity when feeding multiple sheets of the same stock during production.

“The Uvistar Hybrid 320 redefines thinking about the capabilities of a combination flatbed and roll printer,” says Becky McConnell, Product Marketing Manager, Fujifilm North America, Graphic Systems Division. “The tri-lobal belt and zoned vacuum system really minimize the potential for media to skew which is an inherent problem with most hybrid printers.”

Inca Digital has unveiled the new Onset X Series of large-format flatbed inkjet printing systems, which the UK-based company describes as providing future-proof scalability. Sold globally and exclusively by Fujifilm, the Onset X Series is described by Inca as its fastest-ever printer, reaching speeds of up to 900 square metres per hour (9,687 f2/hr).

The systems also leverage a 25-zone vacuum table and UV control system to help eliminate masking, and a carriage that can incorporate up to 14 ink channels. This scalability, explains Inca, allows printers to configure an Onset X system for the combination of productivity, colour and quality that best matches their production requirements.

“Since 2013 Inca Onset users have benefited from a highly-flexible flatbed UV inkjet production machine that can grow and change with them,” said John Mills, Inca Digital’s CEO. “The new Onset X Series is designed to remove the traditional compromise of quality and productivity and make the choice of printer the easiest decision they have to make.”

Users can start out with the Onset X1, which runs at up to 560 m2/hr or 6,027 f2/hr, producing 112 full-bed sheets per hour. The Onset X2 runs at 725 m2/hr  or 7,803 sqft producing 145 beds per hour. The new the Onset X3 at 900 m2/hr produces up to 180 beds per hour.

The Onset X Series printers use a range of Fujifilm Dimatix print heads, while handling substrates in sizes up to 3.22 metres (126 inches) x 1.6 metres (63 inches) and thicknesses up to 50 mm.

For the first time in North America, Agfa Graphics will be demonstrating the new Anapurna M2540i FB printing system at Consac sign and graphics tradeshow running in Mississauga at the International Centre on September 25 and 26, 2015.

The Anapurna M2540i FB system on the booth will be a 6-colour plus white UV-curable flatbed system, which reaches printing speeds of up to up to 93 m2/h (1,001 ft2/hr). Agfa explains the M2540i, with its moving gantry flatbed, is well suited for both step-and-repeat work and for printing on a range of media sizes at one time.

Demonstrations of the Anapurna M2540i FB at Consac will include the following printing applications: Second surface printing, sandwich white (colour, white, colour); multilayer printing (colour, colour, white); and second surface, 2-sided printing on clear substrates to illustrate how to print an image to be read correctly on the front and back (colour, white, blackout, white, colour).

Agfa continues to explain the flatbed system can run a range of indoor and outdoor medias, as well as on uncoated rigid media like corrugated boards, rigid plastics, plexiglass, mirrors, exhibition panels, wood, aluminum, MDF, stage graphics, and advertising panels. In addition to the Anapurna M2540i FB, Agfa will also be demonstrating the Esko Kongsberg V24 cutting table.
The new Epson SureColor F9200 is a 64-inch production dye-sublimation transfer printer designed for the roll-to-roll digital textile market, which will be a highlight at the company’s Graph Expo booth this September in Chicago.

The SureColor F9200 is aimed at medium- to-large volume transfer printing, reaching speeds of up to 1,044 square feet per hour. Leveraging a dual Epson PrecisionCore TFP print head and Epson UltraChrome DS ink system with high density black ink, the SureColor F9200 is described by Epson as providing quality output with improved ink efficiency and black density for roll-to roll fabric production, as well as customized promotional production, soft signage, sports apparel, and home décor markets.

During Graph Expo, Epson also plans on highlighting its recently introduced SureColor P800 (released in July 2015), which the company describes as a 17-inch professional photo printer as representing a new benchmark in photographic print quality.

The SureColor P800 leverages Epson MicroPiezo AMC print head technology and a new Epson UltraChrome HD eight-colour pigment ink. It features advanced media handling, including a sheet feeder for photo or matte media, and a front-in and front-out paper path, it handles printing on thicker fine art papers and poster board to produce exhibition-quality prints.

Released in June 2015, Epson will also highlight the SureColor S70675, part of Epson’s recently introduced S-Series line of 64-inch solvent printers, at Graph Expo. The SureColor S70675 is built to produce photographic signage output at production speeds of up to 190 square feet per hour. Equipped with UltraChrome GSX inks, a dual Epson PrecisionCore TFP print head, the SureColor S70675 is designed for the signage, vehicle graphics, fine art, and packaging markets.

Canon Canada Inc. launched three new 44-inch, high volume, large format inkjet printers aimed at the architecture, engineering and construction, and Computer Aided Design markets. The five-colour technical document printers feature 15,360 nozzles for intricate full-colour renderings, technical drawings and maps.

In addition to a two-media-roll system, featured in both the imagePROGRAF iPF850 and imagePROGRAF iPF840, the imagePROGRAF iPF850 model features a high-capacity stacker that can hold up-to 100 sheets of different-sized paper (up to A0). Canon explains the stacker neatly gathers newly printed documents to help prevent paper curling and allow users to quickly collect newly printed documents.  

The two-media-roll system featured in the imagePROGRAF iPF840 and iPF850 models enable automatic paper switching between rolls to allow for continuous high-production printing. It can simultaneously handle different types and varying widths of paper up to 44 inches.

The new printers feature a 320 GB hard drive, a high chroma magenta ink and Gigabit Ethernet. They also allow users to replace the available high-capacity 700-ml ink tanks during print jobs without pausing production.

The imagePROGRAF iPF840 and iPF830 models are also available as multi-function devices with full scan-to-print, file, and share solutions, and the capability to scan documents up-to-two mm thick. The MFP model includes a Contex scanner, Nextimage MFP software, a computer, touch screen monitor and MFP stand to help meet a variety of office needs.

The printers are also available with PosterArtist Lite and Direct Print & Share cloud portal software (at no cost), which includes a shortcut feature for batch printing and allows files to be dragged and dropped into hot folders on the desktop. The models are also compatible with the imagePROGRAF Print Utility app, allowing print jobs to be managed from mobile devices.

The Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of the iPF850, iPF840 and iPF830 printers are $10,295, $8,395 and $6,995, respectively.  The MFP Contex model MSRP is $17,955 for the iPF840 MFP and $16,495 for the iPF830 MFP.

Tips on entering the dynamic vehicle graphics printing market

The commercialization of wide-format-inkjet printing in the 1990s signaled the beginnings of a technological evolution into what is today one of the printing industry’s most intriguing and fastest- growing applications, vehicle graphics. Inkjet printing shifted the production of these mobile billboards away from laborious screen-printing techniques reserved for large vehicle fleets, as well as specialized one-off lettering jobs.

Leveraging the maturation of inkjet systems and inks, materials science is now the key driver of the vehicle graphics market, pushing incredible and effective new applications and business models. Printing professionals who were in Miami Beach in late-February for the Graphics of the Americas trade show surely noticed the dozens of ATV-like taxis running people around through the night. “They were all lit up on the sides with a material that was backlit and printed,” recalls Brian Phipps, Vice President and General Manager of Mutoh America.

Phipps continues to describe the growing use of OLED technology applied to thin vehicle films, a boom in paint replacement with pure coloured vinyl holding a metallic flake feel, and car dealerships running inkjet systems in-house by adding the cost of graphics into the leasing of van fleets. Ford recently bought one of Mutoh’s printing systems to apply its logo to corporate semi-trailers.

“[This sector] is more around doing commercial graphics for fleet vehicles and panel trucks, potentially cars too, but it is more about the commercial side… the bigger side of the market,” says David Hawkes, Group Product Manager, Sign Products and Textile Printers, Roland DGA. Marketers and businesses alike are realizing vehicle graphics rule the economics of out-of-home advertising, which is no longer solely pegged to static billboards, as determined by the Cost Per Thousand (CPM) metric relating large-format- advertisement location to eyeballs.

“Vehicle wraps, whether it is on the side of a truck or a car, are the lowest cost form of advertising available,” says Jeffrey Uzbalis, National Distribution Accounts, 3M Commercial Graphics. “Its CPM is around 50 cents versus 20 bucks [for prime TV advertising]. It is cheaper than Internet banner ads.” The advances in wide-format technologies have developed the out-of-home playing field for the betterment of print. Uzbalis explains this is why 3M films are used to display Smirnoff ads on the brick and concrete walls around Toronto’s BMO soccer pitch, where hard-drinking 19- to 34-year-old males congregate.

“Everybody is so focused on social media and mobile that what they often overlook is physical graphics actually get results,” says Uzbalis. “If you put a floor graphic in a supermarket that say Chips Ahoy! you can actually influence consumer behaviour at the point of decision making.” He explains 3M now commissions audited studies to generate hard data points to illustrate the cost effectiveness of printed wraps to marketers. It is part of the company’s massive R&D investment in the sector to tap deeper into one of the strongest printing opportunities.

“People shouldn’t think this is a mature market or that it is too late – it is not. It is growing and there are a million things to do,” says Phipps. “The media companies are driving this a lot with the different materials that are coming out.”

Mastering materials
An 18-year veteran with 3M’s Commercial Graphics division, Uzbalis is a true subject-matter expert on wide-format printing and specifically vehicle graphics. He has seen the wrap-materials evolution mirror the digital revolution from his position with arguably the world’s most-powerful adhesives company, which generated revenues of $32 billion in its most recent fiscal year with some 90,000 employees.

With its Canadian headquarters based in London, Ontario, 3M’s introduction of Controltac graphic film approximately 20 years ago marked a significant step forward for vehicle graphics application. Labeled by 3M as adhesive performance, Controltac allowed users to move away from heavy permanent adhesive that was slow and expensive to use. “Controltac really revolutionized the industry because the adhesive wouldn’t stick immediately,” explains Uzbalis. “You could move it around, slide it around, position it and then apply it with a squeegee.”

3M’s second major wrap innovation came around a decade ago with the introduction of Comply air-release technology, based on micro-replication science that was developed to make better stamp paper. The technology was applied to wrap material to make a special liner with a series of ridges. When the liner is pulled away from the back of Comply film it leaves impressions in the adhesive, which provide routes for the air to escape ahead of an application squeegee – preventing the formation of bubbles. 3M’s newest film advancement, called Envision, adds material stretch and a wider operating temperature to the innovations of Comply and Controltac.

“Really, for [commercial printers] it should be about wrapping in general, whether it is the side of a building or a glass curtain wall or the windows and floors, in addition to vehicle wraps, because there is a well-established vehicle wrap business out there,” says Uzbalis.

Images of the amazing artistic work of vehicle-wrap specialists can be seen across every social media platform, which is intimidating for commercial printers thinking about entering the sector. This is compounded by the fact that print is not the most significant component of such projects.

“It is not just a printer, it is a department,” says Uzbalis. “With wide-format printing, once you have printed [the job] it is only the beginning. Now that graphic has a second life… it has to be applied to somebody else’s private or public property. It has adhesive on the back of it and this is a key difference – it often has to be removed.”

Investing wisely
Commercial printers, however, are becoming more accustomed to value-add business models, where print is not the sole revenue source for a communications project, whether this means data management, specialty finishing or some other tangible expertise.

“There is certainly an art to both the design and the application if you are doing a full vehicle wrap,” says Hawkes. “There are plenty of third-party providers out there who would be more than happy to wrap vehicles for you; and do it under your name… there are ways to put your toe in that market to see if there is interest in your customer base.” Hawkes emphasizes vehicle wraps are often just a component of a client’s overall promotional needs, which may also include out-of-home products like signage, apparel or more standard collateral work.

Commercial printers thinking about entering the wrap sector, therefore, must consider their most viable investment route. “The good news for commercial printers is that they are used to spending a million or half a million dollars and they see our printer for $15,000 or down as low as $6,800,” says Phipps. Mutoh’s proclaimed “Wrapper’s Choice” printing system costs US$18,995 list. “So, at least it is not a shock from the cost standpoint. It may be from the learning curve.”

Uzbalis recalls, when he started out in the wrap sector 18 years ago, it cost around half a million dollars to get into the business. Today, a printer in theory can get into vehicle wraps without spending a dime based on outsourcing, instead focusing on sales. Commercial printers, however, do have specialized colour and production management skills they can leverage with relatively inexpensive equipment, while outsourcing installation.

“A large percentage of the installers do not do any printing at all,” explains Phipps. “They either come to your place if you have a bay, or you can have it done at their place.”

Roland, which builds its expertise in the wrap sector through print-and-cut technology, also focuses on producing decals, smaller format vehicle graphics instead of full wraps. “There is also something called partial wraps,” says Hawkes. “Some companies getting into it will just do tailgates on trucks or maybe back windows with perforated – things that are easy, decals for the door of a plumbing truck. That is a whole business on its own.”

Producing partial graphics can also lower equipment investment needs, in terms of printing system width. However, Hawkes, Phipps and Uzbalis all suggest focusing on investing in 60- to 64-inch printers, again relating to the relatively low cost and available network of installers. “It doesn’t have to be a $70,000 printer that you bring in in order to do this stuff. We have our 640 RF printer and that can handle it,” says Hawkes. “It is print only, but you can do a full vinyl wrap job with it and people do that all the time and that printer is less than $20,000.”

“Sixty-four inch is the magic size,” says Phipps. “Most of the media you are going to use in the wrap business is 60 inches.” This size, explains Phipps, can produce work for a lot of different parts of a vehicle, such as one-piece hoods and tailgates. “You want to shy away from having a seam down the middle if you can. It is becoming less and less acceptable especially when you are getting into higher-end wraps.”

Phipps also explains 60-inch media is the ideal size for a single operator to handle during installation, avoiding the costly need for a second installer. “From an application standpoint one person can handle 60 inches,” he explains, “and secondly it will cover most vehicles in one piece.”

If a commercial printer does decide to enter the sector by purchasing a wide-format system engine, they will also require a laminator, which might cost as little as $5,000. Phipps explains a laminator will typically outlast all of the other wrap equipment by at least two or three times. He warns, however, that it is vital to purchase a good-quality laminator, because an inexpensive machine is likely to lose its pinching ability over time, for applying an even, crinkle-free laminate. “There is nothing worse than spending the time designing the file, then printing it on expensive vinyl… and having it crinkle up and then having to start all over.”

Making margins
After the initial capital outlay for the printing engine and laminator, the ongoing investment concern revolves around media costs, particularly given the current advances in the technology. Printers have the natural tendency to look at these expensive films as a means to control margins on their jobs, but, unlike specifying papers for commercial work, the wrong substrates can turn into very costly mistakes.

This often relates to specialized adhesives and to the use of calendared or cast vinyl, the latter being more expensive. “Calendared vinyl is basically when you take a big lump of heated vinyl [and] roll it flat and then cut it off to get the piece that you want. Well, the problem is that it has memory and over time those corners peel up,” explains Hawkes. “A cast vinyl is just what it sounds like: You are pouring into a mould and so it doesn’t have memory. You always want to print with a cast vinyl, but at the same time there are so many inexpensive places to buy vinyl these days.” Calendared vinyl is also a thicker film, usually 3 1/2 to 4 mils, relative to cast materials.

Uzbalis warns it may be tempting to save $500 on the front end to purchase a vinyl that is cheaper because of its adhesive, which may not be engineered for a specific application. “Profit can quickly turn into a loss when a $2,000 invoice shows up for broken storefront windows,” he says. “Worse, what is my reputation now with that client?”

One of the more important aspects of working with wrap materials is to ensure the production team has the ability to properly estimate the job, which is certainly a strength of commercial printers. “Measuring and estimating the job is one of the more important parts,” says Hawkes, “because if you have to print another 10 feet of vinyl and apply another 10 feet of vinyl, because you forgot the back of a truck or something, that is a big expense in product and time.”

At the same time, Phipps explains the amount of work involved in producing wraps, from design and printing to laminating and installation, provides substantial revenue avenues for printers. “There is a lot of opportunity to show value to the customer. You are not just selling a piece of paper. There is a lot more involved,” he says.

Uzbalis emphasizes revenue potential goes hand in hand with a dynamic market that is constantly presenting new applications. “It is a market that has relatively better margins than ink on paper so it is very attractive to commercial printers,” he says. While it is easy enough to throw calendared vinyl on a piece of Coroplast, which does happen often for short term installations, commercial printers can also leverage their craft-based abilities to add value to what is becoming a powerful and cost-effective form of advertising.

“It is the same with all types of printing. You can find people who are willing to do this for a song and make next-to-no margin,” says Hawkes. “I never really understood the thought process behind that. Or you can find the people who turn around and say, ‘I have the ability to do quality graphics. I use quality materials and I stand behind what I wrap.’ Those are the people who make the margins. It doesn’t happen overnight necessarily, but those are the people who do the best long term.”

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