By Digital Output Staff
Many of the end users we spotlight in Digital Output rely on digital printing for producing signage, but innovative, out-of-the-box scenarios are presented on a daily basis. Especially today, as technology advances to the point where is it now possible to print on nearly anything, these stories should come as no surprise.
Of note, many of the newest pieces of hardware, namely flatbeds—hybrid or dedicated—feature higher printhead clearance to accommodate for pre-manufactured objects without the worry of them slamming into the printhead and damaging the print and ultimately the printer, which results in unwanted downtime.
The introduction of bigger gaps between object and printhead allows more manufacturers to dip their toes into digital print as a decoration practice. AJJ Enterprises of West Chester Township, OH is one of those businesses. It specializes in custom, affordable, ACA-compliant cornhole sets thanks to 23 employees working out of a 48,000 square foot warehouse.
The company ships cornhole boards to Canada, the Caribbean, Europe, and the U.S. It operates through two main channels—promotional corporate products and direct-to-consumer retail.
Above: AJJ Enterprises manufactures custom cornhole board sets. The decorative portion is printed using one of its two EFI Pro 30f UV LED flatbed printers.
More than a Side Hustle
In 2005, Shane Back, co-owner, AJJ Enterprises, and a few friends purchased lumber and started constructing cornhole boards. At first, custom graphics and logos were hand painted, but this decorative method was eventually replaced with a roll-to-roll vinyl inkjet printer. As business grew it added a UV inkjet flatbed to keep up with demand.
Soon what had started as a side project became a full-fledged business, leading Back and his business partner, Jason Wahl, to both quit their day jobs to operate AJJ Enterprises full time in 2008.
In 2019, the company’s customer base and demand had grown to a level where its existing printers could no longer keep up. Reaching out to Nazdar, the company pointed Back and Wahl in the direction of EFI. The timing couldn’t have been better, EFI was planning to launch the EFI Pro 30f UV LED flatbed printer and was looking for beta testers.
The EFI Pro 30f UV LED flatbed printer features a maximum print bed of 120×80 inches with bleed printing. It offers four colors plus dual channels of white standard and single-pass, multi-layer printing.
Paramount for AJJ Enterprises was the machine’s ability to output on items up to four inches thick. When decorating the cornhole boards, the fully assembled piece is printed to directly and run right through the device. Printing at the maximum thickness led to hardware modifications.
“EFI engineers worked really closely with us because we have such a unique application,” explains Back. The printer’s UV LED curing lamps were positioned so they faced farther out. This was to prevent the lamps’ lights from reflecting back and curing inks inside the printheads.
As AJJ Enterprises worked with the EFI Pro 30f the benefits of the device were immediately made clear. The company cited a seven time improvement in throughput compared to using its original printers. With the EFI Pro 30f, a cornhole board is printed in a minute and 40 seconds.
The EFI Pro 30f is especially beneficial to printing white onto a birch cornhole substrate. “The ability to print white at a high speed has been a huge help. We can move jobs that we would have first printed on vinyl and then transferred to the substrate to the EFI Pro 30f because of the white ink,” explains Back.
The six-zone vacuum hold down system works well for handling the 4×2-foot boards. It ensures efficient hold down, no unintended media movement, and easy transition between jobs. “What sets us apart from competitors is the wide breadth of designs that we have and the fact that we can print so quickly,” shares Back.
Directly after any cornhole board is printed, it is finished with a coat of polyurethane. After an hour of dry time for the polyurethane, the printed cornhole board sets are ready to be packaged and shipped to customers.
Typically, turnaround time for an average cornhole board job, from order submission to shipment, is two to three days for stock artwork and five to seven days for customer-supplied artwork.
Unfortunately, the ramping up of output from the EFI Pro 30f was met with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020. The promotional corporate products side of the business, served though sister company Promotoss, was immediately effected. However, due to stay-at-home mandates and people looking for ways to occupy their time, the direct-to-consumer sales site, ajjcornhole.com, experienced a jump in orders.
According to Back, at press time, its 2021 promotional products business is tracking ahead of its record 2019 sales.
Thanks to this growth, AJJ Enterprises added a second EFI Pro 30f to its production site in June 2020. It also plans on adding another EFI printer this year to keep up with the demand.
The company’s revenue is expected to grow ten to 15 percent in 2021 to $10M. On average it receives 200 cornhole board orders each day, something its EFI Pro 30f UV LED flatbed printers are well positioned to handle.
Jun2021, Digital Output