By Digital Output Staff
Exhibit and display producers rely on superwide devices to create seamless graphics for environments like trade shows, theaters, and sports arenas.
Printing with a grand format device in this vertical market segment ensures that enough fabric is left over to be used for finishing purposes. In addition to the width, other benefits include quality and speed. Digital Output considers anything over 95 inches superwide or grand format.
As turnaround requests increase, exhibit and display graphics producers must be prepared to meet demand and today’s high-resolution devices are equipped to do so.
One Singular Sensation
Print service providers (PSPs) with clients requesting exhibits and displays often favor grand format printing over multiple wide format devices. Primarily because these printers can output a large project, like a stage backdrop, in one continuous run. The alternative is printing multiple times on several printers where color matching between prints and seaming pieces together can become challenging.
“The ability to print consistent color images on large format media allows print providers to deliver high-quality seamless displays quickly and affordably. Since large jobs are printed on very wide media in a single pass, the change of color variations between sheets is reduced,” explains Tod Robinson, channel sales manager, Paradigm Imaging Group.
A grand format printer eliminates the need for stitching panels together, saving on labor costs, says Wen Chen, director, Meijet Digital Technology Inc.
According to Hary Gandy, president, Gandy Digital, many exhibits or displays are eight feet or larger, making superwide devices a natural fit because they can print a graphic on one piece, instead of joining materials from smaller printers together in the finishing stage.
“If you use a large format printer you are going to have to deal with a seam, which can be unattractive as well as potentially labor intensive. In the exhibit and display industry, bigger is better. It grabs the audiences’ attention and makes a greater impact, so you don’t want anything taking away from the visual effect and appeal,” shares Greg Lamb, CEO, Global Imaging, Inc.
Guy Cipresso, VP sales and business development, Novus Imaging Inc., says a superwide device is favorable because it streamlines finishing operations. “Grand format printers can print eight to 15 foot wide rolls on large diameter cores resulting in grand format images having less seams.”
Not only are there finishing efficiencies with larger rolls of material, but Mark Schlimme, director of marketing Screen USA, says there are monetary advantages in running ten-foot material rolls because of the lower media cost.
Pieces and seams affect installation. “The ability to provide a larger display with fewer seams means easier installation and lower costs as less matching is required. This provides a more dramatic appearance to the customer and their audience,” points out Tom Wittenberg, sign and display marketing manager, Hewlett-Packard.
“In the end, it saves the exhibit house time and space—they don’t need to operate as many smaller machines for what they can get out of a larger machine,” explains Michelle Johnson, advertising and events manager, Mutoh America, Inc.
The benefits are “bi-fold,” according to Ed Prieto, digital printing specialist, Media One Digital Imaging Solutions LLC. “It eliminates extra time and hands for finishing, and produces a better quality, one-stop-shop product.”
Versatility is essential to many PSPs and grand format’s size offers it. “A print provider can set himself apart on larger format, high-profit jobs because of the capabilities of size that a grand format printer can produce,” shares Becky McConnell, product marketing manager, Fujifilm North America Corporation, Graphic Systems Division.
We Want More
In addition to size, exhibit and display producers have other requirements. Quality, speed, and more relevant factors are considered when it comes to superwide printing meeting their needs.
“Superwide printers are ideal for exhibit and display producers that need to control printing in house. We are at a point where most superwide devices offer high-quality output, so buyers are selecting options that are more productive, offer better value, and/or have a proven reliable support structure,” asserts Joe Garcia, managing director Americas, Stratojet USA.
When it comes to speed, superwide devices are built to go faster. “Exhibit and display products are typically large jobs where the print speed of one grand format printer can exceed three to six wide format devices,” says Cipresso.
“Speed is the key feature as it permits them to turn large jobs in a very short time. Displays and exhibits do require very good print quality and the current technology can easily meet the most extracting quality standards at very high overall print speeds,” says Terry Amerine, director of product marketing, Durst Image Technology US LLC.
Randy Paar, marketing manager – display graphics, Canon Solutions America, believes speed and quality go hand in hand. “Exhibit and display companies need equipment that provides both the speed and quality to handle not only the demands of quality conscious customers but also the inevitable rush job.”
“Exhibit and display producers’ success relies on the creation and on-time delivery of memorable brand environments and effective indoor and outdoor visual communications programs,” says Ken Hanulec, VP of marketing, EFI.
Beyond quality and speed, labor efficiency is another benefit. “It is typically more efficient to run larger, faster machines due to the lower labor rate, if you have the volume to fill these units. This is due to the fact that you have an ability to run more work with less people on the more production-oriented printers,” explains Larry D’Amico, VP digital imaging, Agfa Graphics.
Schlimme agrees, explaining that industrial built, robust superwide devices are designed to run rolls unattended, “essentially giving the owner a free additional shift of printing.”
How today’s superwide printers are configured is also part of their allure. “Newly designed industrial printheads produce smaller and variable droplet sizes enabling sharp, crisp images. These new three- to five-meter printers can more than double production capacity when compared with older grand format printers,” says Keith Faulkner, president, Splash of Color.
“Grand format printers typically use bulk ink systems to feed printheads. Using larger capacity bulk ink systems not only saves time loading cartridges, but also saves money. The typical cost per square foot for bulk ink is lower, raising the profit margin for the shop,” explains Robinson.
Resolution and Cost
Legacy grand format printers traditionally output at low resolutions. Today’s superwide devices can print at high resolutions. As such, exhibit and display producers have the option to print at a high resolution and lower rate of speed or at a low resolution and faster production speeds. The method chosen depends on the customer, job, and costs associated with it.
“Any printer is going to attempt to run at the lowest possible quality his customer will accept in order to print at the highest speed,” suggests D’Amico. “Unfortunately, competitive pressures keep pushing the quality bar up.”
Lamb provides the example of company A with grainy prints and company B with smooth toned prints, if you were a buyer—which product would you choose?
According to Faulkner, whenever soft signage, displays, or backdrops are subject to close viewing, image quality is the most important objective—even if the print speed has to be slowed down.
Johnson argues that the choice is based on customer expectations. “It’s about the quality that the customer is expecting and what the graphic will be used for. The higher resolution the image, the slower the printer will print, which will inevitably take more ink and more money.”
Wittenberg agrees. “High-end product manufacturers are particular about presentation as consumers see the quality of their signage as a reflection of the quality of the products. Pricing is part of the mix, but is not number one with the higher end. With the less discriminating customer when it comes to quality, higher speeds are in order, since the expectation is that the pricing will be low and competitive.”
In addition to expectations, consider the customer’s specific application. “Many applications are still distance viewing and there is no need for higher resolution. However, growing markets for direct to textile and soft signage also require higher resolution printing,” shares Schlimme.
Ken VanHorn, director, marketing and business development, Mimaki USA, Inc., provides the example of a header graphic that’s 20 feet off of the ground, which can be printed at a lower resolution. With a graphic viewed up close a higher resolution is required, but the text and infographic panels found on that graphic aren’t generally large, so slower speeds don’t have a significant impact.
“A higher print quality will require a slower print mode. This will affect the cost of the finished print, but that is usually more than offset by the end-selling price of the graphic itself,” says Amerine.
Overall, “the price of the job can be affected by the quality demanded, but that is not necessarily the case—this will depend on the business model and the presses that a PSP is currently using,” explains McConnell.
Always There for You
A superwide printer is beneficial for PSPs in the exhibit and display space. The overall labor savings minimizes room for error, heightens production, and eliminates the need for manpower on the production floor. While the size of the physical printer helps, today’s devices are also driven by quality and provide the option to output graphics with near or far viewing distances in mind. The result is a polished backdrop for any environment.
Dec2015, Digital Output