Thursday, 05 Mar 2020 11:46 GMT

Wide-Format Print

With many commercial print businesses moving into wide-format print, Rob Fletcher takes a look at some of the latest technologies that could help companies establish themselves in the market

The Bigger Picture

In order to remain competitive in a busy market, print-service-providers (PSPs) are having to become more diversified with their service offering. The greater the range of work they can offer to customers, the better chance they have of winning new work and clients.

Wide-format print has been recognised as a key diversification market for some time now, with many traditional PSPs now active in this market and enjoying the amount of work on offer. But as this sector becomes more crowded, it is key that PSPs are able to stand out above the competition in terms of the quality of work they can produce.

One sure-fire way of doing this is ensuring that you have the right machinery in place. With this in mind, we pick out some of the latest options available to PSPs that are already active in the market, as well as those looking to make a mark.

Forward thinking

One of the leading names in wide-format print is Epson, and Phil McMullin, sales manager for ProGraphics at Epson UK, says commercial print companies can still expect growth in the market, despite increasing competition.

“New print technology and ink chemistry from forward-thinking manufacturers like Epson enables PSPs to print on an ever- expanding range of medias at superior output quality whilst also reducing running costs,” McMullin explains, adding: “This opens up new, profitable markets for décor, wallpaper, textiles, window graphics and POS or indeed pretty much any application that requires personalised branding for the customer.”

In terms of the kit PSPs should be looking at, McMullin says technology has made huge advances in recent years, and companies should carefully analyse the stats of a machine before taking the plunge and investing.

“Running a printer with a basic CMYK ink set will no longer give you the wide colour gamut or repeatable corporate colours that are now demanded by brand owners on the new range of printable materials,” he explains, adding: “A wide ink set that includes light colours (LC, LM, LK), spot red and orange plus white and metallic will set you apart from your competition and future proof your business.

“In addition, printers with an industrial build quality will ensure accurate printing, time after time, so that when fitters are out on site they can get the job finished first time. A quality piece of kit will also ensure reliable performance and less down time, ultimately saving you money.”

A popular choice from Epson is the SureColor S80600, its latest generation eco-solvent printer designed for outdoor graphics, but also capable of producing other applications such as wallpaper, décor, textile, window graphics and POS. Key attributes of the SureColor S80600 include the ability to produce print at a resolution of up to 1400 x 1400 dpi, as well as print on media up to 64" wide.

Epson’s SureColor S80600 can produce outdoor graphics, wallpaper, décor, textile, window graphics and POS

McMullin adds: “Big advances in print quality, colour gamut, productivity, ease of use, flexibility, reliability and running costs make it the product of choice for PSPs serious about large-format print.”

Competitive advantage

Elsewhere and Roland DG also has a range of options on offer to PSPs looking to succeed in wide-format print. Rob Goleniowski, head of sales for the UK and Ireland at Roland DG, says the competitive nature of commercial print is one of the major reasons why PSPs should consider a move into wide-format.

Goleniowski expands: “With commercial print as competitive as it’s ever been, it’s the firms which invest in more advanced technology that will have the edge and they’ll also have the confidence in their equipment to experiment and investigate other applications and products.

With commercial print as competitive as it’s ever been, it’s the firms which invest in more advanced technology that will have the edge

“Diversification is the key here; by expanding their production capabilities, they can sell more, higher-margin products to the customers already buying their other print output.”

In terms of kit, Goleniowski says consumers are much more discerning than they used to be and the demand for high-quality products is now almost universal. As such, PSPs should be running the best kit to meet these demands.

Goleniowski says: “Print companies need to deliver consistent output across their entire product range if they want to maintain their reputation. This is why they need equipment that can reliably produce the same great results, time and time again.”

With this, he draws attention to the new generation of Roland DG’s TrueVIS printer/cutters in the form of the SG2 and VG2 devices. Goleniowski says the versatility of the two models makes them perfect for a range of industries, from commercial print to vehicle graphics. The two machines are also supported by VersaWorks 6, Roland DG’s RIP software.

Roland DG’s SG2 and VG2 TrueVIS printer/cutter machines are both supported by the VersaWorks 6 RIP software

Potential profit

Next up is Hybrid Services, the exclusive distributor for Mimaki in the UK and Ireland. Chief operations manager Brett Newman says wide-format print offers commercial printers an opportunity to diversify and differentiate, adding new products and offerings to an existing roster of applications.

Newman expands: “Commercial printers already have the printing, colour management and finishing knowledge to smoothly transition into wide-format print so they should be able to very rapidly promote these new application streams to their existing customers, as well as attracting new ones in.

“Frequently, these are potentially more profitable, so in financially challenging or uncertain times, can bring welcome relief to constantly eroding margins on the smaller format work.

“Adding high quality, productive and versatile wide-format technology can enable commercial printers to keep the entire workflow in-house, allowing them to retain control of the whole process, avoiding delays and increasing profitability.”

Newman highlights a number of new launches from Mimaki that may be a good fit for commercial printers active in the wide-format print arena. At The Print Show 2019, Hybrid hosted the global release of Mimaki’s new Plus series solvent printer, printer/cutter and dedicated cutting plotter ranges. Newman says these products deliver various performance gains, environmental benefits, reduced running costs and a host of application opportunities, making them a solid starting point for commercial printers.

O Factoid: Mimaki, along with Hybrid Services, used The Print Show 2019 as a platform for the global launch of its new Plus series solvent printer, printer/cutter and dedicated cutting plotter ranges O

Also new from Mimaki is the grand-format Mimaki SWJ-320EA, which had its European launch at The Print Show. This 3.2m printer, according to Newman, is an ideal solution for PSPs looking to add grand-format capabilities for banner, mesh and wallcovering printing.

Mimaki’s grand-format SWJ-320EA, which is available in the UK and Ireland from Hybrid Services, had its European launch at The Print Show 2019

In addition, Newman cites Mimaki’s new JFX200-2513EX, a the development of the existing JFX200 8' x 4' flatbed printer, offering enhanced speed and creativity as Newman explains: “If customers are requesting rigid signage for property developments, board-based point-of-sale graphics or decorative projects such as splashbacks or wall art, the JFX200-EX offers an impressive solution at an affordable price point.”

Alternative options

Looking further afield and distributor Service Offset Supplies (SOS) offers an alternative in the form of Yotta, a Chinese manufacturer relatively new to the market. SOS distributes Yotta kit in the UK, with over 50 Yotta machines now running in the market.

Yotta’s hybrid wide-format print machine is distributed in the UK by Service Offset Supplies (SOS)

SOS sales manager Ashley Fleming says Yotta machines are highly configurable and can be specified to fit all budgets and work profiles, which in turn makes them an attractive prospect for commercial print companies looking to grow their business.

Fleming says: “This is perfect for us at SOS, as we believe in providing bespoke solutions to our customers based on their exact requirements. As well as consumable and media supplies, we offer first rate technical support with service and maintenance provided by UK-based engineers.”

Yotta machines are available in flatbed, roll or hybrid configurations. Flatbed models operate via a static bed,
with the printheads moving in three dimensions, while a roll-based machine feeds the media beneath a printhead moving from side to side. Hybrid machines offer a combined approach, with the head moving in two dimensions, while the bed also moves.

SOS can also help with the inks required for the Yotta machines, as Fleming says: “We supply all the necessary UV inks depending on application. If you’re printing on materials which bend, we’ve got flexible inks which won’t crack or come unstuck – and they’re amazingly durable.”

Message from the front

With manufacturers and distributors having had their say, what about those on the frontline of wide-format: the PSPs themselves? Kent-based Wallace Print is a specialist in large-format print, with a wide range of clients, and sales manager Chris Payne says there is still room for growth in the sector.

He expands: “We are constantly identifying new market opportunities where print was at one point not a possibility. As hybrid large-format printers have evolved, so has the range of substrates we can print to opening up additional revenue streams for us to capitalise on.”

Payne echoes the opinions of manufacturers and distributors in setting out the importance of investment in new kit if PSPs are to take full advantage of the opportunities on offer in the wide-format market. Wallace Print recently took on a Swiss Q Impala with white and varnish options, twinned with an oversized board feature allowing the company to print direct-to-media on sheets 4m x 2.5m.

Payne says: “This combination gives us the unique ability to create different finishes, including high build ink, on the largest of panels catering for the most demanding of designs.”

Though the wide-format print market is becoming more crowded, if you are able to invest in high quality new equipment, then there is a good chance you can be successful in the wide-format sector. And with new technology coming to market on a regular basis from leading brands, PSPs are certainly not short of choice if they do choose to splash the cash.

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