Unleashing print with creativity and innovation

Written by Dominic Fahy on Wednesday, 15 March 2017.

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Unleashing print with creativity and innovation resizedSign & Digital is 30 years old this year and what a 30 years it has been for printing! The IT revolution during this period has enabled digital printing to grow and has delivered a wealth of opportunities to new print service providers.

New applications and new services have been made possible, but ultimately the consumer’s experience of print has been made more valuable than it has ever been. Looking ahead to the next 30 years, the opportunities are endless and continuously growing, as the needs of our customers and their customers continue to evolve. 

As an industry, we have the opportunity to bring vibrant, bold and disruptive ideas to life, and Canon will be spending time at the Sign & Digital show, discussing with print service providers how we can do that together, not least through a bespoke Application Gallery, which will illustrate the possibilities of print for backlit displays and decorative surfaces. 

The Canon stand will be one of the largest at the show, and we can promise visitors a heady combination of outstanding technology and inspirational ideas to move our customers’ businesses forward. Of course, while our technology is important – and Canon, as you will soon see, will have some truly state-of-the-art technology on show – we recognise the important role that companies like Canon play in helping our customers extend their business capabilities. Through continuous dialogue with our customers we have a deep understanding of the trends that are driving change. We want our customers to reimagine their businesses and realise their full potential. 

Visitors to the Canon stand will experience a hub of creative and disruptive ideas that will help them to unlock the power of print. Our specialist team will be on hand to discuss ideas on how show-goers can develop their businesses through a combination of technology and knowledge.

Also on view for the first time in the UK will be a very exciting new technology: our unique new UVgel. This is a UV curable ink that gels immediately on contact with the media, requiring no heat to cure, and therefore being suitable for a wide range of media, including ultra-thin and heat-sensitive substrates. 

This breakthrough technology allows users to print up to four times as fast as is possible with water-based printers. It therefore breaks through the speed barrier, helping you sidestep production bottlenecks. delivers consistent vibrant colour, banding-free output and sensational finishing, and its versatility means that POS, billboard, wallpaper and more are effortlessly at the disposal of the signage and interior décor market.

Why is UVgel so important? The market is telling us that volumes are growing, that there is a need for faster turnaround times and for prints that don’t need time to dry. This technology meets all of these demands and does so at a significantly reduced cost, compared to eco-solvent and latex printing. In part, this is caused by the UVgel’s ultra-thin ink dispersion, resulting in low ink consumption. 

We believe UVgel technology will transform prospects for wide format roll-to-roll printing, and the first models to use this ink have already been announced: the Océ Colorado 1640 – a 64-inch roll-to-roll wide format printer that has a top speed of 159 square metres per hour for applications such as billboards and outdoor banners. At its highest quality level, the Colorado 1640 can still operate at 40 square metres per hour. The first public presentation of this system will be FESPA 2017 in Hamburg in May 2017 and we’ll be showing UVgel applications at Sign & Digital. 

Also at Sign & Digital, Canon will be showing the award-winning Arizona range, which sets new standards in productivity and ease of use and reliability.

At Canon, we are in constant contact with the industry, to ensure that our technology and services meet the needs of this vibrant, fast-moving market place. Visitors to Sign & Digital will see us unleash the power of print like never before, with ground-breaking new printing technology and inspirational application ideas. Print is exciting again, but our customers still face many challenges. We believe that by surrounding themselves with the right partners, they will continue to survive, prosper and transform.

Dominic Fahy is the Business Group Manager for Display Graphics Systems and Imaging Supplies at Canon UK.


‘Living in the material world’ … where service wins over price

Written by Rudi Blackett on Tuesday, 20 December 2016.

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Rudi Blackett Sign Digital UK Portfolio Director Copy resizedApplications, Ideas and Advice is the show theme for Sign & Digital UK 2017, and with good reason as the focus is very much now on output, applications and especially creativity. 

If the focus is on output and applications then the creative element of the process of making signage is even more crucial than before. If you want to offer your customer the best display and signage work, then creating visual impact has to be paramount. Imagine a wall graphic or an exterior or interior fit-out without that creative edge and spark, it just isn’t going to work.

This brings me on to the need for quality in the creative brief, the products used and the level of work done. The stakes are high when signage projects are in the public eye. In our age of increasingly sophisticated computer and mobile technology, fast moving goods and services, growing social media networks and eye popping cinematic graphics, the requirements have been raised considerably when it comes to quality as well as visual impact. 

As Sign & Digital UK continues to change and grow, we have seen an increase in material and substrates suppliers exhibiting at SDUK in recent times, and for the 2017 show the growing list includes APA Italy, Hexis UK, Soyang Europe, Neschen, Antalis, Spandex, Grafityp, Dorotape and many more. For visitors to the show this is good news as you can find many more new products as well as ideas to create new revenue streams. These suppliers are closely aligned with the creative process offering real ideas and advice on the many applications now available

The show website has full details of all the product categories and suppliers at the exhibition.

To tie in with this, we are also introducing a NEW Creative Theatre at the event. This brings the design and pre -press element of the market channel into play at the show. Topics in this new Theatre include digital advertising and signage, wall décor projects, materials for the future, the retail experience, colour management, vehicle livery and way finding case studies.

And now given this is an opinion piece, I thought I would raise the Price versus Service predicament.

In our material world price alone will not give you the result you want. If you are the client you have to insist on good service. There is no point getting the lowest price for the job and then complaining afterwards that the work is not at the quality you expect. It is often worth paying more to get that reliability and level of service from your suppliers. For Signmakers it is essential to sell your service along with the price. It is all too tempting to just lower your price to get the job. 

Good service wins over price. If you want to build a long-term business relationship, focus on service. It will stand you in good stead.

Rudi Blackett


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Paint is so last year! A vehicle wrapper gets to grips with the OKI ColorPainter M-64s

Written by Jason Price on Wednesday, 12 October 2016.

primi sui motori con e-max

Screen Shot 2016 10 12 at 14.56.20 resized

Motorsports vehicle wrapping expert Jason Price is the lead creative designer at Jellyfish Design. With over 15 years experience in motorsports Price has  printed and wrapped everything from a Honda Civic to a Le Mans prototype. 

Jellyfish recently invested in an OKI ColorPainter M-64s and was approached by OKI to print and fit the unique vehicle wrap for the launch of its ‘Print My Ride’ campaign that was launched in partnership with Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship race team Motorbase Performance. Price describes the OKI ColorPainter as ‘sturdy, reliable, a great all rounder, and by far the best printer in its class’. “I call it my ‘Weapon of Mass Production’,” he enthuses. “It’s by far the fastest printer I have used to produce a full race wrap livery on. It’s not just devastatingly quick; it’s ridiculously quick!”

Here Price shares his opinion on using the top-of-the-range OKI ColorPainter W-64s for vehicle wrapping.

Having speed and quality is a must in our particular arena as we work a lot in the motorsport industry and having the ability to react quickly is essential. Using the OKI ColorPainter to print for vehicle wrapping elevates this printer to a whole different league as quality, speed and consistency are all available in abundance. Also, the machine's consistency of output is just as important if not top of the list. If we are to replace the graphics on the door of a race car after a first corner shunt in practice we need have the confidence that the colours are going to match - and with the OKI they certainly do. 

Screen Shot 2016 10 12 at 13.19.09 resizedWe have the seven colour OKI ColorPainter M-64s, giving us one of the biggest colour gamuts of all wide format printers, and the tonal range has to be seen to be believed! I have pushed the printer by using some of the craziest artwork I could muster and it handled it all without even breaking a sweat. The light cyan, light magenta and grey allow the colours to have extra depth. Tones can be deep and rich, or subtle, but either way all are faithfully reproduced.

The ink usage is also less than other printers in its class but they stretch further with the material before 'ballooning or whiting' out. This affords you, the designer, to push the colours and design further than before, especially with deeper richer colours.

One thing that has blown us away is the ColorPainter's ability to lay deep colours down flawlessly, time after time. I have never come across a machine that can put a black down that actually looks like a black vinyl. There is no hint of banding whatsoever, even using a relatively high-speed print set-up.

This colour set-up, coupled with the variable dot size technology, is nothing short of exceptional and gives you the confidence to use the ColorPainter for jobs that previously would have caused issues. The variable dot size has been around for some time but the OKI has got it nailed!

With the vast array of materials on the market today, from papers and canvas to self adhesive vinyl, the ability to quickly get these printing at their best is a must. Loading in a material and picking a middle of the road profile to use with it is really not the best approach. This will not produce an output that shows the machines full printing capability. 

With the ColorPainter, profiling a material could not be simpler. Using the VPM software, the Screen Shot 2016 10 12 at 14.58.56 resizedColorPainter will print a set of bands using each of the heads then scan and measure the print. It will then re-do the print and scan until the best setting has been achieved. It will do this automatically, but it is a pleasure to watch the machine in action (for all us print tech geeks anyway!). You can choose which level of quality to profile for each material, so you need to decide which quality levels you will use for each material, i.e. you wouldn't print a pvc banner using a 720 x 720 dpi 16 pass set-up, so there is no need to profile that in.

I did made the mistake of choosing some ‘all-for-one’ material to profile, and needless to say it took a while and quite a bit of material to profile them all! However, this whole process is so easy to do and over time you will build up a catalogue of materials which will print beautifully every time.

As a rule we use 3M IJ180 to do fully printed wraps. There are other equally good materials available but we like it and it works. It is an easy material to work with from print through to fit. 

The ColorPainter is certainly built well, and is an imposing bit of equipment which instils a level of faith in its ability to work hard all day for you. This sturdiness is most definitely required when you have a full 50m x 1.6m roll of material to put on the back! The loading mechanism is a solid piece of engineering that gives the user the confidence that it can handle anything you can throw at it, and feeding the material in is also a breeze. Once fed-in and rolled back to straighten it up, OKI has provided a handy pinch roller locking handle at the rear - which in my opinion is a godsend - so you can pop round the front to set the edge guards in place.

8A5A9725 720x400 resizedConsidering the blistering speed that the ColorPainter can throw print out, a decent take-up system is a must. And following the build quality of the rest of the machine, the take-up system is built equally as well. The ability to pull the entire take-up mechanism out, which is on heavy duty castors, is a great idea. It makes attaching the sheet to the take-up core a breeze, and you can manually control the initial few inches of take-up to ensure all is well. Then, push the whole mechanism back into place with a reassuring 'clunk', flick the drive switch and you are good to go.

I printed a full 30m of material for a vehicle wrap and the take-up didn't even break sweat - no straining or slipping drive motors. The ability to move the whole lot forwards when completed also makes taking the printed material off the take-up system a lot easier

Comparing the ColorPainter to other wide format printers is a tricky thing to do, especially as the ColorPainter has so much to offer and handles pretty much everything you can throw at it. If there is a downside I guess it would be the level of maintenance required, whether automated by the machine or a user-based requirement, but you also have to do this with any other wide format inkjet printer if you want it to print flawlessly for you day-in, day-out. I can’t stress how important this is for all wide format printers. Thinking 'I will clean it tomorrow' will only cause you problems from the outset and you will begin to have print issues. The best way to avoid this is to follow the manufacturers guidelines for daily and monthly cleaning. 

To put it into simple terms, spending half an hour a day ensuring that all cleaning routines are followed will ensure that a full eight hours worth of solid printing will go without incident.

In my opinion all vehicle wrappers should take a look at this bit of kit from OKI. Since we have had the printer I can say it has certainly changed my perspective on printing full colour vibrant wraps for motorsports for the better.

Jason Price


Shaping Up – 3D printing’s proposition to the large format/sign & display sector

Written by Lilach Sapir on Thursday, 07 July 2016.

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Lilach Sapir VP Marketing BD Massivit 3D 3 resizedUnless you’ve been living on the moon for the last few years, it’s highly likely that the continued rise of 3D printing has not escaped your notice. Created around 30 years ago, the technology has gradually strengthened its foothold and is now widely used across a plethora of applications within industry sectors that include automotive, aerospace and medical.

Despite its popularity in such sectors, it’s fair to say that 3D printing has yet to make its mark on the graphic arts industry. However, if you are large format print business or sign & display operation, then the good news is that 3D printing opportunity might be within closer reach than you were aware. Moreover, just as it has proved already within the manufacturing world, 3D printing technology has the flexibility, speed and price point to unlock huge new creative opportunities and drive profitable growth for users in the graphic arts industry.

At Drupa, we unveiled our own solution for this market – the Massivit 1800 3D Printer – publicly for the first time. From our side, we believe that the Massivit 1800 3D Printer offers something different, something new for this sector. It enables the creation of vibrant, eye-catching, 3D printed sign and display projects beyond those that can be achieved with 2D large format printing solutions. With the capability to very quickly produce high quality 3D pieces up to 1.8m / 6ft high, we expect it to transform the way high-level marketing, advertising and themed projects are created. 

At the heart of this is our new proprietary technology, GDP (Gel Dispensing Printing), which enables instant solidification of the printing material thus achieving very high-speed printing. Not only that, but the printer also utilises techniques that allow it to print non-vertical walls and ceilings, without the need to produce a solid object or build intensive support structure.

So, in printing less to achieve the same result, the Massivit 1800 is able to dramatically increase print speed, while also reducing material costs and product weight – pivotal for additional materials handling, transportation and storage benefits.

For the owners of large format print and sign businesses, 3D printing technology could be an enabler to unlocking the door to new business. The printing industry remains a difficult environment in which to operate and the need for higher impact output delivered faster and cheaper than the next provider will be a perpetual goal for those at the sharp-end. The ability to differentiate your offering and enhance your applications gamut to customers will always stand you in good stead in the quest to maintain customers and win new ones.

After all, it goes without saying that brand and marketing managers will always be seeking to maximise their budgets with as much wow factor as possible. The ability to offer attention-grabbing, added-value visual communications that better engage target audiences achieves this. Moreover, it makes engaging - and subsequently keeping - such customers much easier.

Of course, if you are a large format print provider currently weighing up the options for your next investment, your decision will be governed by your company’s own aspirations and strategic objectives. Many of you are likely to be already running successful, profitable companies, having perhaps found a ‘niche’ offering or a stable portfolio of clients. That said, leaving your comfort zone to explore and add new applications to your service capability and ‘futureproof’ business, is always healthy and can only help differentiate your offering retain your overall competitive edge. 

And what of the future? I think that the way the technology has evolved generally in other sectors is probably a good barometer for where things might eventually be headed. I would, therefore, be surprised if in a few years, we were not seeing additional 3D applications that we have yet to even envisage. What’s more, these will likely be created with even higher speeds, greater build size and possibly extended material options that will take the large format/sign sector further still into uncharted territory.

Lilach Sapir 
VP Marketing & Business Development 
Massivit 3D


Design Essentials – how the right design software can help improve production efficiencies and expand your service offering

Written by Jurgen Verhulst on Tuesday, 07 June 2016.

primi sui motori con e-max

SAi Jurgen VerhulstIf you are reading this as a large format print provider or sign making business, then the constant need to keep production costs low and increase turnaround times without compromising on quality will be all too familiar challenges. The curtain may still only be closing on another Drupa and it’s a safe bet that new large format hardware introductions will be grabbing the headlines. At the same time, it is worth remembering that ensuring an efficient end-to-end production workflow – supported by advanced software – will also go a long way to achieving the objectives outlined above.

This of course includes the front-end aspect of the job, even before it is sent to the printer. Indeed, via the right software solutions, enhancing efficiencies at the design stage can have a huge impact on the overall production time. In short, it can mean the difference between a job making it off the cutter, onto the van and en route to the customer – or a missed deadline and an angry customer.

When it comes to point-of-purchase (POP) display and box design software, there are a number of solutions available on the market. That said, it makes sense to check out the respective attributes of each should you be on the verge of your next investment.
Indeed, recent new introductions include those packages that tick even more boxes by enabling large format/sign & display businesses to expand their applications offering, increase revenues and sharpen their competitive edge.

So, having established that not all software is created equal, it’s worth being aware of some of the shortfalls in certain options out there. For example, is it compatible with all existing wide-format RIP software that drives flatbed printers and cutters? A number of design packages are either limited to specific cutting machines (which invariably include expensive implementation costs) or require costly additional shape libraries. These are also often only available on licence, but as a customer, you may also have to pay for an annual subscription, which adds to the expense. 

Additional or unforeseen costs aside, you should also consider the varying performance capabilities of the respective design software solutions in line with your specific requirements.

For example, most designers would concur that an irksome and oft-faced problem is the issue of accurately visualising designs in 3D. Because of the difficulty in properly accounting for folding material thickness and folding behaviour, achieving accurate design using Adobe Illustrator or Corel is often time-consuming and invariably relies on trial and error during production.

The good news is that a quick review of the latest software options demonstrates that the foremost providers now offer solutions that address this via an animated 3D folding preview feature.

If you do happen to be assessing different options, then our own recently-introduced offering, SAi DisplayGenie, is well worth a look – especially if you are also seeking to extend your applications offering to customers.

This powerful, efficiency-enhancing software eliminates multiple steps to improve job creation efficiencies by simplifying the structural design of POP-display and box construction – all within one bundle.
This eliminates the need for any additional software plug-in to access the suite of design options; users simply access a library of popular folding POP display, ECMA and FEFCO box templates and select or adapt the shape or design that best suits the customer’s requirements. From there users can adapt the dimension, rotate it, include additional shelves and client logos and perfect the final design in as little as five minutes. This saves considerable design time that would have previously taken up to several hours.

Importantly, DisplayGenie also incorporates an integrated graphic and structural design with animated 3D folding preview, which also lets users view the layout/design in 3D on the box they have created. This clever tool helps maintain workflow efficiency by catching any mistakes before production, so if you’re a large format provider, this spells savings in both cost and time. This is also aided by the ability to export rotational package display or box designs as 3D PDF files for customer review or adjustment prior to production.

A fifth of the price of certain other packages on the market, this solution could, for many businesses, help unlock the door to quick, easily and cost-effective POP-display and box creation without the shackles of a long-term subscription contract.

As one would expect, it’s clear to see how accessing software in this way is proving increasingly popular. If you are large format or sign & display business, the freedom and capability to easily integrate one single all-embracing solution within your current workflow – without having to change your design, RIP or cutting software – is obviously highly attractive.

For those who already have design software, DisplayGenie offers a great foundation to create a wide array of displays that can be adapted to meet the customers’ exacting requirement, right down to the thickness of the board. These users can simply access the free and regularly updated library of POP display templates with the added option of continuing the design in Illustrator or utilising their existing RIP and cutting solution.

Naturally, it’s a likely objective of most large format print providers to grow business and increase revenues by extending one’s current applications offering. For those that already operate a flatbed printer, but might also be seeking to install a flatbed cutter, DisplayGenie’s ability to provide rapid, trouble-free creation of display and packaging products could hold the key to achieving these goals.

Jurgen Verhulst
Technical Marketing Manager EMEA

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How can you win more customers for your printing business

How can you win more customers for your printing business

Anybody who has run a printing business for any time will at some stage ask themselves the question “How do I get more customers?” The trouble with this is it’s a perennial question that has no right or wrong answer. You could always start by learning to think differently and...

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