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Larger Than Life

Wide format printing is big business

June 2011 By Melissa Busch

Wide format printing, also known as large format printing, can be a company's best friend. How can a consumer miss an advertisement emblazoned across a large banner, poster or sign? It allows a company to literally stand head and shoulders above the rest.

Besides being useful, wide format printers say exciting things are happening in the sector.

"Since I've only been a large format printer, I have a limited perspective on this. It's a great industry with a lot of current growth that is likely to continue into the foreseeable future," said Harvey Meister, owner of GDS Business Displays located in Bloomington, Ill. "Other types of print are not taking our work, but we are definitely taking some of their work. And for legitimate reasons."

Meister added there also seems to be a sifting of suppliers who are able to meet the increasing demand for digital output in large to medium quantities and the smaller local sign and print shops that have some capability but cannot compete on larger or more complex bids.

Despite business going well, there are some disadvantages.

Meister explained it is sometimes difficult to convince customers who have been "burned" by digital or large format in the past "that it is now equal to or better than litho, screen and process printing in many ways."

Bob Roeda, owner/partner of Roeda Signs & ScreenTech Imaging, located outside of Chicago in South Holland, Ill., said the pace of the industry can be daunting.

"The technology in wide format moves at a high speed," Roeda continued. "This has pros and cons. The technology improves almost quarterly, so we are able to look at new equipment continuously and decide what will be a good fit for our production capability, and ultimately, our customers' needs. The technology also allows better graphics produced in a shorter amount of time. The con to speed and improved graphics seems like you are constantly replacing or purchasing new equipment.

"Customers' awareness to speed also makes your daily production more demanding in that lead times have been reduced in the whole industry. What used to take three to five days to produce is expected in one to two days on average. Also, the improved speed of these printers has caused printed graphics to be reduced to very low profit margins. What used to demand, say, $3.50 per sq. ft. years ago is sold for 89 cents per sq. ft. by some now. But this is supply and demand, technology versus inefficiency, so with good reliable staff and equipment you can meet all these demands and at the end of the day feel good about what you have produced."

 

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