By Olivia Cahoon
Part 1 of 2
Aluminum panels are a lightweight, durable, and recyclable rigid substrate for digital printing. Metal prints are used for artwork and photography display to residential and commercial signage.
Available in a variety of shapes, sizes, and finishes, print service providers (PSPs) utilize aluminum panels produce vibrant images on a unique material.
Established in 1976, XPress Printing, Inc. started as a quick copy shop in Columbus, GA. With three employees, it operated in a 1,200 square foot space.
The shop has since evolved into a printing company that provides a full spectrum of printing options, including offset, digital, and wide format printing as well as installation. XPress Printing has 15 employees and resides in an 8,000 square foot workspace. It prints for several corporations and ships throughout the Southeast U.S. It also has an annual account that requests over 300 shipments nationwide.
While XPress Printing offers a variety of digitally printed materials, the shop is also known for printing aluminum panels. “We started to print on aluminum panels this past year due to our purchase of a flatbed printer,” says Drew Konze, special projects manager, XPress Printing.
The HP Inc. Latex R2000 Plus is XPress Printing’s first flatbed press. With this investment, the shop establishes itself regionally as the go-to source for wide format printing. “The aluminum panels provide a rigid material with a flat surface that provides high-quality prints for indoor displays,” offers Konze.
Projects that include aluminum panels are typically for indoor display applications. According to Konze, businesses select aluminum panels when using standoff installation to display their company name or for quarterly promotions. “The clean edges and the sharp image quality provide the professional look our clients strive to demonstrate to their customer.”
XPress Printing’s aluminum panel customers are predominantly in the banking and real estate industries as well as church organizations.
Digitally Printed Panels
While XPress Printing’s primary output is foam core and coroplast, the shop has developed an affinity to aluminum panels for high-end interior signage.
With its HP Latex R2000 Plus, XPress Printing prints to Kommerling USA, Inc. KömaAlu aluminum panels. According to Konze, KömaAlu aluminum composite boards provide the smoothest surface for printing. The latex inks adhere to the material well and with the proper calibration for the media, the shop produces high-quality prints without horizontal or vertical banding.
KömaAlu is rigid and lightweight enough for wall installations—both indoors and outdoors. “We haven’t experienced any warping or deformities before or after installation,” shares Konze.
By digitally printing to aluminum panels, XPress Printing produces graphics with quality color and smooth surfaces. “Each piece we print produces the same vivid color and the adhesion is consistent across the board,” shares Konze.
Issues are minimal but when the shop first started printing to aluminum panels it experienced challenges with profiling the printer to the media. By fine tuning the overcoat and optimizer levels, XPress Printing further improved the scratch resistance.
Finishing is completed on a Summa F1832 flatbed cutter with a high-frequency router. The machine cuts all of the shop’s board, but the high-frequency router tool is used to cut aluminum panels. XPress Printing uses a multi-pass method to cut through the material in stages, which provides a clean, finished edge with no burrs.
Synovus Bank is one of XPress Printing’s long-term customers. In 2019, the bank approached the shop for aluminum panel signage to provide brand awareness and promotional consistency across all its locations.
For this job, XPress Printing used the HP Latex R2000 Plus and KömaAlu aluminum panels. The panels were finished on the Summa F1832 flatbed cutter with a high-frequency router tool, which provided a smooth, clean edge with no burrs. “This equipment is ideal for this type of job because of the color consistency produced across 87 pieces,” offers Konze.
In total, XPress Printing produced 87 30×42-inch digitally printed aluminum panels. The pieces were cut to size and had one-inch circles cut to align to pre-existing standoffs.
Challenges associated with this job mainly related to packaging and cleaning/removing the loose debris attracted to the pieces due to static. Each board was individually wiped free of debris to prevent scratches that might occur during packaging and delivery.
Another challenge was related to proper maintenance on the HP Latex R2000 Plus to produce consistent prints across all 87 pieces. According to Konze, when printing these boards over several days the shop needed to ensure the printer was calibrated to the media and that the printheads fired correctly every time to produce the high-quality prints the customer expected.
From start to finish, XPress Printing completed the signs in two weeks. The artwork was submitted ready-to-go in a timely manner and allowed the shop to work simultaneously on this job while balancing other projects. Each piece was individually packaged and shipped across the Southeastern region of the U.S. Each bank was responsible for the installation with pre-existing standoffs at their location.
This job stands out as XPress Printing’s largest project on aluminum panels. “We have been able to produce quality prints on various substrates, but this project is one of which we hope to feed off to continue our growth in the wide format industry in the Southeastern region,” explains Konze.
After the completion of their order, the client was pleased to have the project completed on time and with a quality print on aluminum panels.
By offering digitally printed aluminum panels, XPress Printing offers customers high-quality graphics with smooth surfaces and vivid color.
Part two of this series features a PSP using aluminum panels as a substitute for glass and acrylic.
Feb2020, Digital Output