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Wide-format Printing: Considerations for equipment expansions

Floor graphics are among today’s higher-margin applications.

In many cases, printed vinyl output needs to be laminated before it can be sold as an effective application for real-world use. This raises the question of what kind of laminator is needed for the job, which can deliver the right product to the customer at a price that is profitable for the shop.

There are both hot and cold (heat-assist) laminators and their costs differ. A hot laminator operating with heat on both of its rollers is more expensive than a heat-assist laminator, but requires less expensive consumables (i.e. lamination materials). So, the overall volume of output should be analyzed to determine which type of machine will recover its capital investment within a given period. Identifying how much output will be printed and laminated requires an understanding of how the shop’s customers will use wide-format graphics, including short- and long-term applications.

Similarly, if a PSP plans to buy an RTR printer to produce banners, for example, the plan may be based on the assumption of ease of entry and ramping up to profitability, but it is necessary first to think about where, how and why customers will be using those banners. Large volumes may dictate the addition of a roll cutter, a sewing machine (e.g. for pole pockets) and/or a grommet machine to increase the efficiency of post-print finishing and reduce labour costs. Another option is to outsource finishing services to a third-party trade supplier, but the extra costs of those services could erode profits.

Any investment in new equipment needs to be coupled with an investment in staff to operate it efficiently. An experienced operator understands colour profiling and other complexities of digital wide-format inkjet printing, will get the best performance out of the equipment and can train other employees accordingly.

It can be hard to find good help in this field, but with the ongoing increase in wide-format graphic production, many operators have already successfully transitioned away from the traditional commercial side of the industry. If they are treated well and given the opportunity to step up to new challenges, the business will grow smoothly.

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