By Melissa Donovan
Every flatbed printer on the market today differs in some regard—from the size of the bed to the printheads and how high they can be adjusted. One variation involves whether the flatbed in question is a true dedicated machine or a moving bed added to a roll printer to create a hybrid solution.
Each offers its own advantages. Many times the choice of which to use in house is based on applications and substrates commonly run as well as any physical size restraints that might be on the production floor.
Spectrum Print Plus, based out of Canton, MA, went with a true dedicated flatbed when it decided to add direct board printing to its business in 2016 with the purchase of a Canon Solutions America Arizona 365 GT. It primarily looked to add this model versus a moving bed system because its work requires exact, precise registration.
Above: Canton, MA-based Spectrum Print Plus uses a Canon Arizona 2360 GTF to print ADA/braille signage.
The print service provider (PSP) offers both cutsheet digital and wide format services to retail, hospitality, healthcare, and technology markets. Established in 2007, with 12 employees working out of an 18,000 square foot space, Spectrum Print Plus is a 100 percent digital shop. The majority of its customer base is located in CT, MA, and RI; but its reach also extends into NY, down to FL, and across the country to CA.
Today Spectrum Print Plus operates the newest iterations of the Canon Arizona flatbed portfolio, specifically the Canon Arizona 2360 GTF, which was brought into the fold in December 2020. It can print a maximum size of 49.2×98.4 inches and a rigid media thickness of two inches. The printer is outfitted with six ink channels; with the option to run CMYK plus white, varnish, light cyan, or light magenta.
The true stationary flatbed is equipped with FLOW Technology, which reduces or eliminates the need to mask the vacuum table. Pneumatic registration pins are included on the left, right, and bottom edges of each 4×8-foot print zone. With Canon VariaDot printing technology, the Canon Arizona 2360 GTF prints six to 42 picoliter droplets with 636 nozzles utilizing a two printhead/channel and dual row design.
Spectrum Print Plus chose the Canon Arizona 2360 GTF based on its reliability and variability. “It can print on a variety of substrates up to two inches thick. Having a true flatbed printer gives us the ability to print braille, tactile printing, and value-added applications,” explains Mark Zimmerman, president/owner, Spectrum Print Plus.
Jobs printed on the flatbed include custom architectural and wayfinding signage, which is usually output on anything from wood, glass, and aluminum to polycarbonate. Another common request is braille and ADA signage, which is printed using acrylic or P95 acrylic.
Braille and ADA signage is a very well received application. “Having the capability to print braille/ADA signage digitally on our flatbed has served as a benchmark for future braille/ADA signage projects,” shares Zimmerman.
An example of recent work completed on the Canon Arizona 2360 GTF was a large braille/ADA job for a repeat customer that was looking for exact color reproduction. The printer was able to complete the job matching the color request and also meeting a hairline registration requirement. Over 300 pieces were printed in a span of two weeks. Many of the signs were different dimensions so a jig was constructed to keep all the signs in order and in correct placement when running through the printer.
Flat to Roll
A winning combination of flatbed and roll printers enables any sign shop to deliver a desired outcome to its customers. While many PSPs may choose to mix it up when it comes to hardware on the production floor, a good majority remain loyal to a sole vendor. The advantages in this scenario are vast. A single touch point if anything should go wrong, an eco-system of similarly designed hardware running on shared software, and media profiling/color management made a bit easier.
So, it made sense when looking for another printer in 2018 that Spectrum Print Plus turned once again to Canon, specifically to address demand for high-quality banners, window signage, and display and point of purchase work. With a roll-fed device in mind, Zimmerman wanted something that could increase efficiency over its legacy equipment in addition to offering customers new applications.
Visiting Canon’s Customer Experience Center in Itasca, IL he saw the 64-inch Colorado 1640 in action and decided to purchase the UVgel-powered device. UVgel technology offers instant pinning and dot gain control, which results in high-quality images at a high speed. A low temperature curing process means thin and heat-sensitive media are suitable for printing. The printer also offers easy and fast media loading and automatic switching with the support of two inline rolls.
Since implementing the printer, Spectrum Print Plus has met and exceeded customer demands for roll-based applications. “We can now take more work, deliver more high-quality jobs in a day, and eliminate the need to outsource projects. The Canon Colorado 1640 enables us to seek opportunities in new markets with new customers that we simply could not do in the past. It is game changing for our business,” shares Zimmerman in the original press release announcing the purchase.
Not one to rest, Spectrum Print Plus invested in the Canon Colorado 1650 in 2019. The Colorado 1650 works with a newer version of Canon UVgel ink, formulated for maximum flexibility by increasing the stretchability of each cured ink droplet. In addition, the printer is equipped with FLXfinish technology, which allows the user to choose between matte or gloss modes for each individual print to achieve different finishes. FLXfinish technology expands application capabilities with options for more porous media, including uncoated papers, as well as soft signage materials.
For all of its Canon printers Spectrum Print Plus purchases its ink through Canon and it also enjoys Canon’s wide range of substrate offerings. “Having them as a resource for different media needs is an added bonus—they are a true partner,” admits Zimmerman.
The last year and a half presented many challenges, none of which the team at Spectrum Print Plus was immune to. However, being an essential business, Zimmerman says COVID-19 signage requests of all types helped the company get through much of the last year.
Having tandem roll and flatbed devices from Canon, which offer efficiency, high productivity, and versatility when it comes to media, is an important part of its continued success.
Looking ahead, Zimmerman believes braille/ADA signage is trending, as he noticed a substantial increase in demand in the last 12 months. Luckily, Spectrum Print Plus has its Canon Arizona 2360 GTF ready to meet the onslaught of requests.
Nov2021, Digital Output