Wide-format Printing: Maximizing POP displays with computerized cutting and routing

Figure 2

Building a new workflow
Taking advantage of such extraordinary business opportunities involves a broader skill set than simply printing the aforementioned inks on the aforementioned media. One of the most significant challenges is in pre-
production, i.e. how quickly a shop can prepare the artwork before it is printed. This is often a limiting factor with regard to more complicated displays and packaging.

  So, prior to embarking into 2-D contoured or 3-D graphics, it will be important first to research the corresponding pre-press needs. Graphic design software can be used to set up templates for a variety of sign and packaging formats.

The new pre-press workflow will also need to take post-print finishing into consideration. For the digital cutting required to turn flat graphics into contoured and 3-D products, the shop will need to prepare ‘split’ job files, i.e. with printing information for the printer and cutting information for the cutter. Metadata can also be added such that assembly instructions are printed on the substrate to help the retailer put together a display upon delivery at the store.

There will still always be some workflow changes needed on a project-by-project basis. Overall, however, process engineering can be undertaken for all assets to build a standardized workflow that will make the entire shop more efficient.

Indeed, variations can be derived from the same, shared equipment. By using graphic and design software, pre-production software, printers and cutters together, a shop 
can produce all of its POP display and promotional packaging applications through a single, complete split-file workflow.


CNC cutters and routers have made it more economically feasible to produce graphics in complex shapes.

Further considerations
Another important skill is knowing which substrates are best-suited for each job. For POP displays and promotional packaging, relevant materials may include folding cartons, corrugated boards, acrylics, wood, foam boards, fibreglass and metals.

Concurrently, the right tools need to be determined for each substrate and application. This type of work uses a wide variety of oscillating and static knives, tools for partial cutting, milling tools, creasers and bevelled tools.

Finally, a shop will need to build its own design library, indicating which concepts are best-suited for certain types of projects. Shapes and sizes can vary wildly; one way to customize POP displays based on available retail floor space is to take a modular approach.

In other words, wide-format graphics can involve much more than just printing. Shops that focus on high-value projects will experiment with new substrates and build new design-print-cut workflows to maintain their success, growth and profitability. Those that innovate will find the rewards are significant.


The workflow and materials involved in creating 3-D POP displays can yield profound results for brand PSPmarketers. Recently, for example, a food brand marketer turned to digital technology to produce more impactful in-store merchandising displays, leading to a substantial increase in sales of its products.

Previously, the brand owner in question had cost-effectively mass-produced 3-D displays by using screenprinting to handle runs that were beyond digital capabilities. However, this arrangement did not allow the sizes of the displays to be changed for different retail environments, such as those where a larger, more eye-catching display could be accommodated.

So, the company worked with a PSP to ‘dress up’ its standard POP format by adding new, digitally cut graphics to the sides and headers of its existing displays. It was a simple, modular way to customize them, with merchandising shelves that could be reused or reprinted as needed.

Further, by repurposing existing screenprinted displays with new digitally printed graphics, the cost of design and production was not prohibitive for the brand’s marketing budget. The largest structures were rolled out to the top 100 stores selling its products.

The results were significant: retailers liked the displays and sales increased by 14.3 per cent compared to the previous quarter. And for the PSP—who provided not only printing and cutting, but also the consultative services that led to the ‘part screen, part digital’ configurations in the first place—the job was extremely profitable.

Stephen Bennett is vice-president (VP) of sales for Esko in the U.S. central region. This article is based on a seminar he presented at the Specialty Graphic Imaging Association’s (SGIA’s) opportunity zone and theatre at the 2015 Graphics Canada show and follows an earlier piece he wrote for the SGIA Journal. For more information, visit www.esko.com, www.sgia.org and www.graphicscanada.com.

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