Sign & Digital Graphics

November '12

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and the 98" HP Scitex FB700 Industrial Printer, also offers a white ink kit for printing on window graphics, backlits and corrugated packaging with no need for lamination. FUJIFILM's Onset S20 offers white as an option, while the Acuity Advance printers are typically configured with white. Oce's printheads are configured as CMYK with optional white ink. Regarding color, grayscale technol- ogy is also something that has been part of printing conversations. According to Gasch, "grayscale technology enhances solid color transition, as well as text and fine details." Paar also believes grayscale can be beneficial. "Grayscale print head technology— provided the drop size is small enough —lends itself well to closely-viewed, near-photographic applications," he says. A printer's configuration has much influence on a sign owner's buying deci- sion, which is why hybrid printers – those with both flatbed and roll-to-roll tech- nology—are attractive options. Aside from carrying a lower price than true flatbeds, Paar says hybrid printers are a fit for "shops with limited clearance to bring in a one-piece stationary flatbed." According to Ball, "Shops with lim- ited budget and small space requirements would be a fit for hybrids." Nelson still believes that the best printer option is a true flatbed as it can "easily print edge to edge with accurate registration systems and offer superior results to hybrid systems." The Takeaway Two questions come to mind when considering a flatbed printer purchase: What kind of work are you currently doing and what would you like to be doing? If sign makers are looking at performing nearly unlimited direct-to- surface printing for custom projects, a flatbed printer is the obvious solution. In addition to typical sign projects, Ball has seen non-traditional printing on barn doors and stationary dividers on airplanes that separate the first class sec- tion from coach. "We've even printed on The MD1000 flatbed printer from INX Digital. The Arizona 550 from Océ. laptop computers and iPhones," says Ball. However, shops must justify the investment by showing profitability with the printer's output. Ultimately, a shop will save hours on material cost and production time with direct-to-substrate printing. Will this offset the six-figure price tag of the printer? This is an instance in which the shop must ensure it is truly maximizing the productivity of the printer. "We've often seen shops printing just an hour a day and paying off a significant investment in just a few months," says Paar. One other major consideration when purchasing a flatbed printer has to be the sign shop's footprint. Will the shop have enough space to accommodate such a large piece of equipment while function- ing appropriately? "For any investment," Nelson explains, "one should look at the square footage that needs to be produced versus the capacity of the press. Since the cost of substrate is highly variable, this is a more accurate measure than the traditional ROI model." Says Paar: "Shops should review the ROI based on existing and future print volume, and applications. They should also consider the ROI for a higher qual- ity and/or unique application that can be accomplished on a flatbed printer." Ball believes a shop needs a 400- square-foot area to justify a flatbed installation. He says, "a shop in a strip SIGN & DIGITAL GRAPHICS • November 2012 • 37

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