Sign & Digital Graphics

March '18

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48 • March 2018 • S I G N & D I G I T A L G R A P H I C S DIGITAL PRINTING AND FINISHING DIGITAL GRAPHICS What is the Estimated Cost of Entry? "In most cases, a shop can get started with about a $50,000 investment in equip- ment," Valade notes. That would include a printer/cutter (or a printer and stand-alone cutter), a laminator, a heat press (for dye-sublimation applications) and any other required hardware," he adds. Conrad says you can get a 54˝ or 64˝ printer, laminator, RIP software, start up sign materials like vinyl and banner and laminate, your PC/monitor and ink and materials for under $40-50k. "If you are looking at high production printers with better features like dual print heads, faster print speeds, wider print widths or even dye sublimation where you may need other heat presses or calendar devices or steamers that can run the cost up quickly." Mahmoud reports you can get a hybrid UV-curing printer for about $55,000. What are the Basic Equipment Needs? "Remember input, throughput, output and finishing. You'll need a PC with a heavy-duty processor for ripping files. You'll need a good RIP to process the files and manage your workflow. You'll need a reliable printer to handle the workload you plan to send it. You will want a standalone cutter for all your cut jobs, do not get a print/cut all in one. The only time that makes sense is if you physically do not have space for a printer and a cutter. You'll also need a laminator to finish the work as well as a nice multi-function worktable, maybe a tabletop trimmer and some straight edges. That will get you started," Conrad explains. How Much Total Space is Required? Valade says that this will depend upon a number of factors, including the square foot- age needed for equipment and workspace, space required for finishing and design, storage space for media and other supplies, etc. "As much as you need to run an effective and productive workflow. This will depend on your equipment requirement and the types of applications you are producing. Give your- self plenty of space to work around the printer, cutter, laminator and table," says Conrad. Maxwell reports that large-format printing equipment is available in a wide range of sizes and shapes. "Though there is no strict rule," he says. "The generally accepted range described as 'large-format' falls between 24˝ and 96˝ wide. For roll-based printers, 54˝ and 64˝ printers are the most popular sizes. Room for the printer, a computer and software to drive it, plus space to store rolls or sheets of media will be required. A finishing area may also be needed for trimming, laminating, grommeting, etc." How Much Time is Needed to Become Proficient? "You best be proficient within the first three months," Mohmoud suggests. Conrad says everyone will learn at their own pace. "Prior experience will obviously make a difference. Nothing beats doing. Repetition will make the learning process much shorter." Maxwell reports that most printers can be up and running within hours of installa- tion, and a basic operation tutorial should be provided before the installer leaves the customers' facility. "Shops should use all the tools available to learn about large-format color printing available from their dealer, printer manufacturer or software vendor, or from industry resources. Most shops can be up and running pretty quickly—inside of a few weeks—if they're producing relatively simple signage. Mastering more complex signs may take more practice, as shops begin to learn the art and science of color profiling. Knowledge of the content-generating software (e.g., Adobe Illustrator, InDesign, etc.) is very helpful," he concludes. ers may also want to consider purchasing a quality dye-sublimation printer, like a Roland Texart RT-640, to decorate soft signage, apparel, hard goods with vibrant, eye-catching graphics." What Finishing Equipment is Needed? "You will need a laminator for pro- ducing outdoor durable graphics. If you'll be offering dye-sublimation or heat transfer products/services for cre- ating custom apparel, you'll need a heat press," states Valade. "For those who will be UV printing onto rigid or semi-rigid substrates, a CNC router or digital table cutter will help you stand out from the competition by making custom shapes out of the substrate itself." "Eco-solvent printers pair up nicely with cold or heat-assist roll laminators for car wraps, mounting and other simple finishing applications," explains Conrad. "Most folks have a laminator, a flat- bed cutter and some form of stitching option," Mahmoud says. When Can You Expect to Make a Profit? Having a realistic idea of when your new business will make a profit is impor- tant. Conrad says a big part of your busi- ness planning should look at your break- even point and beyond. "Don't set your plan to strict goals since your business will change and evolve as you go. Be dili- gent enough to stick to your plan but flexible enough to react to new market opportunities for increased growth or market penetration." Maxwell says that there's great vari- ance and too many components to pro- vide a comprehensive answer. Location (overhead costs), labor rates, financing, machine and ink type, consumables, software, media, finishing, etc., can affect production costs to varying degrees. "Low cost-of-entry doesn't always trans- late into better value because of hidden consumables, service or other printer- related expenses," he says. Maxwell adds that "Once a printer/ ink type is determined, we recommend Getting Started FACTS:

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