Signs pointing forward
Aside from versatility, what are the main attractions for why a sign shop should add this digital, full-colour capability to its in-house technology?
Business growth and enhanced profitability are the consistent main objective for any company. As such, more and more sign shops are looking to UV printers as a strategy to satisfy potential voids in their product portfolios (new products), streamline labourious workflow (efficiencies), or complement monochromatic technology (enhance current offerings).
Add colour and meet customer demand
Digitally printing photo-quality, full-colour graphics and/or backgrounds on a range of materials is not something offered by every sign shop. Some might rotary engrave and/or sublimate, but full colour capacity is not always present.
UV-formulated cyan, magenta, yellow, and black (CMYK) inks on their own tend to be somewhat transparent when printed, appearing similar to stained glass. Using white ink as a base layer gives them the punch needed to stand out. As such, most models of UV printers on the market today include white ink within the standard CMYK set. An opaque white ink is vital for printing on dark substrates and achieving optimal colour saturation on these types of materials.
This colour capability can be beneficial in many ways. Say, for instance, a shop has an order for 50 signs that require a woodgrain background. With a UV printer, an operator is able to print every element in-house rather than pay extra for foiled or painted sheet stock; the woodgrain can be printed on the second surface of an acrylic substrate and then the wayfinding, text, or logos can be printed on the front. Signmakers can save even more time if they print it all on a white substrate in a single pass.
Further, utilizing a digital process requires minimal set-up for a job; signmakers simply set their artwork, load the material, hit ‘print,’ and let the machine do the work. The sign will be ready for mounting or further fabricating the moment it comes off the machine.
From a business perspective, the chances are that the same customer who ordered 50 signs will purchase other printed items as well (e.g. golf balls, water bottles, personalized awards), which ties back to the versatility aspect noted earlier. Keep the UV printer running—it is easy for a sign shop to switch between products and expand its offerings with a full-colour capability.
Texture effects can be seen, too
With a UV printer, designing and printing signs with textured elements that can be felt and seen is easy to achieve and can create a remarkable effect. Imagine, for example, printing a sign for a batting cage that has a baseball with raised laces, able to be seen and felt. This element immediately enhances the value of the piece.
UV inkjet technology allows for texture effects to be printed in one of two ways. The first method is to print a certain area or element with multiple clear ink passes, which achieves a raised effect, and then cover the texture with a full-colour print. A faster and more economical method, however, is to use a printer capable of controlling the amount of ink that is dispensed in a single pass, rather than running multiple passes to put down clear, white, and colour. Not only does this method save time, it also allows operators to use the tonal quality of the image to create detailed textured effects.
Braille and tactile element opportunity
Though accessibility codes in Canada are not regulated at a federal level, provinces and local municipalities have outlined standards and regulations (e.g. the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act [AODA]) in regards to braille and accessibility signage, especially when installed in government, commercial, and community facilities.
Further, guidelines outlined by the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in the U.S. have been used as a model for many local accessibility codes within Canada. These requirements continue to drive the demand for compliant signage, equating to significant opportunity for sign shops.
Using a UV printer to create accessibility signage—complete with pictogram (if needed), text, and braille dots—is more efficient and profitable than traditional methods of printing. Signmakers are able to significantly reduce production time, while simultaneously minimizing production cost and increasing profit margins.
There are a few simple steps to printing these signs:
- Create or import a braille-compliant sign design
- Send the file to the raster image processor (RIP)
- Load the substrate and print.
The versatility of UV LED technology increases the services a sign shop can offer its customers. These printers are large profit margin products and should be utilized.
When researching UV LED inkjet technology, sign shop professionals should prioritize education and samples, as well as ask questions to help define and distinguish the potential benefits as they relate to the specific needs of a company.
UV printers—both small- and mid-sized options—can help to significantly grow a business through added opportunity. For many in the industry, this technology has already established itself as the next logical step in growth.
Michael Perrelli is the marketing manager for Direct Color Systems (DCS), where he manages the company’s marketing activities, content, communications, and strategies. Perrelli also oversees the in-house sample production department and domestic trade show logistics. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.