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Expanding horizons

Sep 1, 2009 12:00 AM

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Finding success in today's marketplace requires a broader scope of imaging technologies that deliver quality solutions and can meet a diverse range of customer needs. Utilizing wide-format digital printing is a first step toward improving production efforts and increasing profitability.

“Wide-format digital printing offers solutions that add value and help commercial printers foster new business growth,” says Michael Robertson, SGIA's president and CEO. “Looking to the future, commercial printers will find it difficult to compete without some kind of digital imaging capability. The ability to provide a wide range of imaged products will be increasingly valued — and expected — by the customer.”

While wide-format digital imaging already is the technology of choice for creating countless products, it's also a growing industry segment in which new and creative applications are being discovered every day.

A wider perspective

After many requests for signs, banners and other large-format projects, John Mel, Owner of OC PrintWorks (Irvine, CA), now provides a variety of large-format printing services. In 2007, OC PrintWorks installed a Roland VersaCAMM VP-540 54-inch inkjet printer/cutter — a move that expanded the company's market reach and positioned it well for future growth.

“We have built a very strong customer base over the last 18 years,” says Mel. “Adding the VersaCAMM has made us a better resource for our customers. In fact, most of our wide-format business today comes from existing customers.”

According to Mel, OC PrintWorks relies on the printer/cutter to produce banners, signage, window displays and other graphics for its customers. The company recently produced a wall wrap to highlight a fitness center's spinning class. The finished wrap was 8 ft. high by 20 ft. long and featured photorealistic images.

Other recent wide-format projects include a series of three point-of-purchase displays produced for a local retailer. The 6-ft. graphics featuring “Oscar” style awards were printed and contour cut on the VersaCAMM printer/cutter and then mounted to gator board. “This equipment is a great profit center for us and it is taking our business in a new direction,” Mel adds. “Based on our initial success, we now have plans to open a separate division dedicated to large format.”

Motivating factors

Kevin Schrader, vice president of operations for Blanks Printing & Imaging (Dallas), says adding wide-format digital technologies to its production line was a natural progression, as many of the company's current customers already purchased products that are printed on wide-format equipment.

According to Schrader, by adding the EFI QS2000 UV printer, the company is able to offer its customers a higher quality product, as well as manufacture it quicker and for less money. “We provide various types of signage and this equipment will enable us to be more competitively priced on some projects,” Schrader says. “It also gives us the ability to produce additional products in-house.”

Coyle Reproductions (La Mirada, CA) — one of the nation's largest screen printers, and now a digital imager — recently acquired two Durst Rho 800 Presto inkjet printers.

The company first invested in wide-format digital back in 2001. “Considering the technology in the digital printing industry was growing so rapidly and dynamically, we recognized the window for additional opportunities with existing clients and potential new ones,” says Coyle Reproductions president Jerry Jacobs. “The new technology produces graphics at much finer resolution that otherwise would need to be done photographically.”

According to the company, investing in wide-format digital has diversified its core competencies, which in turn provides a broader range of capabilities for fully managing its clients' programs.

New market opportunities

When point-of-purchase display company The Alliance Group (a division of Rock-Tenn Co. based in Winston-Salem, NC), needed shorter run solutions, higher print quality and more regional flexibility, they sought out the Agfa :Dotrix Module system, which uses single-pass inkjet technology. “Utilizing this technology compared to traditional mechanisms enables us to focus on specific needs of the client,” says Tom Cooper, Alliance's process development manager, R&D, digital printing. “It also has allowed us to leverage new opportunities and add value to the marketplace.”

Alliance's most recent venture has been its involvement with printed floor graphics. “We are currently reviewing the latest applications and looking at new market opportunities that can be generated through our digital capabilities,” Cooper adds. “We will be showcasing new materials at the 2009 SGIA Expo in the PDAA Graphics Application Zone, to illustrate the direction we are heading in.”

Commercial printers, who have embraced wide-format digital, not only have discovered cost-effective measurers to help increase their bottom line, but have garnered a competitive edge by providing customers with total imaging solutions.

Susan Pinta is a writer and editor for SGIA. Contact her at

2009 SGIA Expo

October 7-9 in New Orleans

With more than 50 educational sessions addressing the tools, techniques and opportunities found in the specialty graphics industry, the 2009 SGIA Expo covers topics ranging from technology trends and growing markets to high production and industrial printing applications.

The 2009 SGIA Expo offers hands-on demonstration zones to help attendees learn about topics such as finishing digitally printed textiles and graphics.

Commercial printers who are serious about profiting from this growing industry segment are urged to learn, network, discover and grow at the 2009 SGIA Expo.

Top Products
The most common applications for wide-format digital imaging continue to grow
2006 2008
Point-of-Purchase 17.30% 30.90%
Banners 37.10% 71.80%
Exhibits 10.90% 32.90%
Vehicle Graphics 19% 25.50%
Note: Percentages do not equal 100 percent because respondents were permitted multiple answers. Source: 2006 SGIA Substrates & Specialties Survey and 2008 SGIA Product Specialty Survey.

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The SGIA community offers exclusive access to SGIA's staff of industry experts, available to provide troubleshooting and advice on wide-format challenges. SGIA also provides referrals for supplies and equipment. Participate in and benefit from surveys, which monitor trends in industry business practices, technology use and purchases, and markets. See