July 28, 2017
By Peter Saunders
Printing technologies continue to advance rapidly, with new capabilities, unprecedented flexibility and versatility in support of creative opportunities. At the same time, the media options for large-format printers keep expanding, with hundreds of printable substrates now available to sign shops.
While it can be challenging to keep pace, these developments have opened the door wide to a whole new world of possibilities for display graphics. For one thing, sign shops can reduce their need to outsource services, bringing more project control and revenue in-house. For another, with the right knowledge, imagination and support, they can often enhance the return on investment (ROI) for their existing full-colour wide-format printing system(s) while catering to their current customer base. The key is to determine smart strategies for using these tools to expand a shop’s offerings and build up its bottom line.
What a printer can do
Given their versatility in producing a wide range of products, from point-of-purchase (POP) displays, trade show booths and floor graphics to custom wallpaper and specialty wrapping paper, today’s wide-format printers and media offer an opportunity to get as creative as signmakers—and their customers—can imagine. The following are just a few examples.
A basic full-colour poster becomes more impressive within a busy retail environment when it is printed on a heavier, precut card stock instead. Eye-catching window and floor graphics can be printed on vinyl and cut in custom shapes, while direct printing on wood can really help distinguish a store or restaurant from its competitors.
Outdoor fabric graphics
Durable banners can be produced by printing onto fabric, stretching it on a wooden panel and holding it flat with magnets and a steel plate. The use of fabric has become an art unto itself, with indoor poster images turned into soft, flowing outdoor graphics for a more high-end look. Retractable banner stands are another way for clients to use fabric graphics to showcase their products and services.
Signmakers have really thought outside the box in recent years, using their wide-format digital printers to create colourful acrylic lamps, decorated apparel and accessories (such as belts), unique wallpaper, inflatables and smartphone cases, among other non-traditional graphics. They are also embracing materials like wallcoverings, anti-slip floorcoverings, textiles and canvases. Different printers can produce different looks for the same product, depending on which option is right for the customer.
Ink and media options
The days when coated white paper was the only media choice for digital wide-format printing have certainly been relegated to history. Not only do hundreds of substrate options exist today, but new ones are constantly being added to the mix.
Indeed, one of the biggest challenges now is sifting through all of these products to find those that best meet a sign shop’s customers’ needs for the applications they have in mind. Factors that influence media selection include the installation location (indoor or outdoor), the durability requirements and, of course, the budget. Fortunately, many new and emerging media choices are less expensive than signmakers may expect.
Paper options alone range from presentation bond and synthetic to gloss and satin. Other non-rigid media include polyvinyl chloride (PVC), canvas, high-density polyethylene (HDPE), textiles and self-adhesive films, while rigid substrates include aluminum, wood, paperboard and glass.
The choice of media must also be matched to the printer’s ink system. In addition to pigment and dye inks that offer a wide range of colours, ultraviolet-resistant (UV-resistant) inks prevent graphics from fading in sunlight. And many of today’s digital wide-format printers support an additional, dedicated channel for white ink, which is important when printing graphics onto non-white substrates.
Even with today’s most advanced UV-curing flatbed printers integrating white ink and digital cutting, the technology’s capabilities are often underutilized. A comprehensive understanding of the ink and media choices available can unlock a myriad of possibilities that would otherwise go untapped or simply overlooked. It is important to test these options to determine what new applications could be offered to clients in the future.
It is also important to build an ongoing business relationship with a trusted vendor or other specialized expert who can move beyond simply taking orders to offering new application ideas. The right partner can work closely with a sign shop to determine and evaluate its options, explore its existing printing systems’ capabilities, keep its management team up-to-date on all of the latest industry developments and leverage its resources to most effectively anticipate and meet its customers’ needs.
The more effectively and creatively a shop can match its wide-format printing capabilities with potential applications, the more productively it can leverage its investment. And the best way to get ‘there’ from ‘here’ is to show off its stuff.
Printing is a visual business, where seeing is believing. It is absolutely essential to create samples of new, innovative applications and display them prominently in a showroom, on the corporate website and via social media, so as to spark the imaginations of both current customers and prospective new clients.
A sign shop can reinforce its reputation as a go-to expert for all wide-format printing purposes by expanding its customers’ understanding of its capabilities, upselling by educating them about higher-end applications and keeping more business in-house to maintain better control over product quality, production schedules, pricing and profits. By making the most of its options, it can capitalize on cost-effective opportunities to grow its business and gain a valuable edge in a highly competitive marketplace.
With files from Canon Canada. For more information, visit www.canon.ca.
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