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Large Opportunities

Making a difference in the wide-format sector

June 2010 By Elise Hacking Carr
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The wide-format printing sector continues to take new and creative forms. From vying technologies to end-user applications, nothing can be taken for granted in this market. According to InfoTrends, "Understanding the wide-format market takes focus and expertise because it now has three distinct segments, namely technical (which includes architectural, engineering and construction documents), production (posters, signs and banners) and creative (prepress, photography and fine art printing)."

And there are many companies that understand this process. For instance, take Darien, Wisconsin-based Convert-all. The company is a synthetic paper (plastic film) coater and laminator that produces top-coated films for aqueous, solvent and UV-cured print methods, as well as adhesive-backed versions using permanent, removable and repositionable adhesives, said Tara Starck, product manager.

Lawrence, Massachusetts-based Graphic Litho can produce a maximum size of 54x77", six colors, plus thin film lamination, press varnish or aqueous coating, commented Ralph E. Wilbur, president. The company also manufactures a lot of wall maps, growth charts, posters and store signage.

In relation to equipment, his company recently added a six-color 54x77" offset press capable of printing 6,000 sheets per hour.

Brent McKinnon, president of Muskegon, Michigan-based Graphics House Imaging (the wide-format division of Graphics House companies), observed high production rates in decals, banners, fabrics, rigid products for point-of-purchase, fleet, building wraps, etc.

When asked what his company's capabilities included, McKinnon responded, "[Our maximum] offset sheet is 28x40", five-color + UV coat; digital presses; Scitex solvent 10' and 16' press eight-color; L&P Flatbed 48x96" or roll to roll four-color Uvink; HP L6650 Latex Printer six-color 104" wide; HP TJ8550 six-color 64x144" Sheet size UV ink; Canon 44" Aqueous inkjet; Roland 64" six-color eco-solvent ink; Brother DTG—aqueous ink for apparel decorating four-color; and prints can be finished with film or ran through 72" UV coater."

The latest printer Graphics House Imaging installed was the 104" Latex printer. "It offers instant curing versus out gassing that comes with solvent prints so that speeds up the time to the laminator," he noted. "It also plays well with the green movement. Our investment into print finishing has exceeded print equipment in the last 12 months faster finishing and more finishing options are where the separation comes in."

McKinnon elaborated on the wave to go green, citing it as a hot trend in the wide-format sector. Its UV and latex printers, therefore, strongly position the company for continued growth.

Though the technologies are improving the industry, there are certain misconceptions associated with wide-format printing. McKinnon believes inkjet is still too vaguely used. "To this day, uneducated buyers of print recall there are aqueous-based desktop inkjet prints the same as production inkjet. Inkjet is a process. Ink is entirely different," he urged.



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