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Opening up the large format market

Andrew Hall, Marketing Manager, OKI Systems UK, shares his thoughts on how print providers can stand out from the crowd in an increasingly crowded marketplace

Andrew Hall, Marketing Manager, OKI
Andrew Hall, Marketing Manager, OKI

Creative designs come in all shapes and sizes, putting pressure on the graphic communications industry to provide high quality results for clients with maximum visual impact, which means every provider is looking for new ways to differentiate their business.

To meet these requirements, print providers need reliable large format graphic arts printers that deliver brilliant colour, photo quality detail and lasting, high durability results for both indoor and outdoor applications.

For many of these businesses, finding the right technology solution is an increasingly urgent concern.

As the markets in which they operate become more and more competitive, businesses are seeking fresh opportunities and new revenue streams, requiring access to a wider range of versatile media in order to provide the greatest variety of high quality applications.

Scoping the challenge
To deliver business advantage against their peers, they need to find ways to make shorter run lengths, faster turnarounds and high output quality more profitable. That’s one part of the equation, but at the same time, hard-pressed graphic communications businesses are also facing an ever-growing range of customer driven demands.

The pressure to deliver high impact results is increasing all the time. Today’s businesses demand vibrant colour and sharp photo quality detail from graphic arts printing. Added to this, maintaining productivity is essential in busy printing environments, making equipment downtime costly, compromising service levels and risking reputation.

Inside and out
Moreover, there are a range of challenges that impact both indoor and outdoor applications. Sunlight, pollution and other weather conditions cause outdoor signs, banners and vehicle wraps to fade and degrade. To ensure customer satisfaction and repeat business, outdoor media needs to be robust enough to withstand sunlight, changing weather conditions, pollution and other external factors. This calls for stronger, and often potent inks and, in the past, meant different machines for printing indoor and outdoor applications.

This put further restrictions on large format businesses. After all, providing indoor applications is a growing market where high quality prints will be viewed close up. Therefore, high resolution and accurate print registration are essential. Additionally, in a confined indoor environment certified low odour inks are critical. But businesses have historically been unable to take advantage of high quality indoor and outdoor printing in the one machine.

Unfortunately, graphic arts and printing businesses were also facing problems with colour quality. Colours were typically not strong enough to be lit from the back, which ruled out many indoor applications such as exhibition posters and displays. Nor were they dense enough for applications like wallpapers. In fact, the colour density tended to deteriorate when printing high-speed or towards the end of a mass production campaign.

Critically too, for exhibition and other work such as building wraps, photorealistic prints were not possible and as the industry had primarily focused on outdoor work in the past, neither were fine details and small lettering. Yet especially when used indoors, high-quality prints are viewed close up and so high resolution and accurate print registration are crucial.

So in light of the raft of challenges impacting the large format sector today, how can print services providers operating in graphic arts businesses effectively address these challenges and deliver the high quality output that is increasingly critical in this space?

Finding an answer
Following recent developments in the large format printer market, for a relatively affordable outlay, print shops and small and medium-sized businesses specialising in this type of printing can significantly widen their portfolio and open up new revenue streams, leading to fast return on their investment.

The latest innovations mean that it is now possible to print indoor and outdoor orders on the same machine using low colour, eco-solvent SX inks. These provide the right print quality and UV stability for outdoor use but are also low odour certified for use in an indoor environment.

Colour quality is no longer an issue either – at least not with the most innovative of these devices. Combining high viscosity inks with advanced print heads, the latest printers now maintain accurate density, enabling vibrant colour and sharp photo quality detail. Industrial high frequency greyscale print heads increase the quality and reliability of the printer and print results. High ink pigmentation creates saturated prints for backlit applications opening up the potential of printing light frames for technical textile and backlit materials over floor graphics and point of sale. Innovative Dynamic Drop Printing (DDP) technology accentuates fine details and delivers smooth gradients and rich, glossy colours, even at high print speeds.

New applications for these ground-breaking new print devices include light frames for technical textile and backlit materials over floor graphics, point of sale (PoS) and point of presentation (PoP), wallpaper, posters, window graphics with clear or transparent film, banners and signs for hotels, shops, malls and theatres, art reproductions, department store displays, exhibition displays and many more applications. Durability of output means it will be possible to explore the markets for outdoor media from customised vehicle and building wraps to banners, signs and awnings.

Plus, there’s the flexibility of a wide variety of substrates including wallpaper, fleece, canvas and other textiles, whiteback, blueback, poster paper, photo paper, clear or transparent film, backlit PVC, PET, film light box paper and textiles and hard PVC.

Positive prospects
All business sectors have their ups and downs. That’s as true of the large format printing industry as any other. Not so long ago it was in danger of turning into the dinosaur of the commercial print world, best with a raft of environmental and performance challenges. Today, thanks to the latest technological advances, that’s all changed. Armed with the latest technology innovations, large format printing businesses can face the future positively, confident in their ability to meet the demands of an increasingly competitive market and capitalise on a growing array of profitable opportunities.

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