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The most important points to consider for your next wide format printing investment
By Tudor Morgan, Graphic Marketing Manager at Fujifilm Sericol 

As a 2009 provider of print in a highly competitive visual communications industry, experiencing deep recession but needing to grow your business, now is the time to sit back and take stock. Take a long hard look at your business and above all ask yourselves, what is it that your customers are looking for today?

Without exception we can safely assume that customers want lower costs and a quicker turnaround, and will shop around to find the right deal for them. This not only includes image and print quality, but also, for example, the ability to print corporate colours on a range of substrates at a keen price. They, along with their customers, are feeling the pinch from the societal trend of people wanting things quicker, better and cheaper, now!

The wide format market has changed considerably in the recent past, and is continuing to evolve. The digital revolution is in full swing. UV Inkjet machines are approaching their 10th anniversary, and over time everything has become faster, cheaper and of better quality. But what has driven this trend? Digital flatbed technology is one of the fastest growing areas, with its roots in the screen industry, and has vastly impacted the screen printing business as a highly efficient way of producing print. Ten years into the digital age, the industry is still primarily in business because of flatbed material. And, with digital UV flatbed equipment having firmly made its mark, with latest technologies even more economical than screen, it is here to stay and set to dominate the market.

So, when taking stock of your business and considering your next move, what is it you should look for?  Quite simply, unless you do your research on flatbed equipment you will be left behind by your competitors.

The latest innovation in flatbed is full print width array printing, again driven by the need to produce more print of a better quality than before to replace existing print processes such as screen or offset for the decoration of rigid materials. For a healthy return on your investment you need to be printing a high volume of print per day, if this meets your needs then seriously consider looking into the latest technology available. Work with your chosen supplier to develop a plan on how to supply product to your customers that is going to be of better quality than they have previously experienced but cheaper for them to purchase.

When making your choice, consider the volume of work you have, both minimums and maximums. Look at the sizes of material you are printing per day, and if you’re into high volumes then look for a piece of kit that can offer you like for like quality at the lowest price possible, and that can print single and double sided with perfect registration. You must consider UV Inkjet as you will need this not only for speed but to keep your pricing competitive. Think about your end applications in order to focus on the right equipment for you - for example if you predominantly print rigid materials then don’t invest in a hybrid product - and think about the colour gamut you will need to achieve the requests of your customers.

Ask yourself these key questions when looking to make an investment in digital flatbed technology:

•    Does the equipment and supplier have a proven track record in flatbed so that I know I can fall back on them when I need support?
•    Can my choice produce solid colours as good as the colours I produce now?
•    Has it got the registration and ability to print the different text and detail that I need? Can it consistently produce print of the quality I need? What is the drop placement accuracy like?
•    How will my choice handle the materials I want to use? What sort of system do I need to achieve this – manual, semi automatic or fully automatic? Does it give me the versatility to print individual pieces quickly and efficiently?
•    Can the supplier offer the best workflow package to allow me to transition to this system?
•    Can I trust the reliability of the equipment I am about to invest in?

Suppliers are constantly challenged to keep up with the industry and continue to make products attractive enough to prompt investment, and as a potential investor it is vital that you have confidence in the ability of the manufacturer to deliver a robust and reliable platform. Above all, work closely with your chosen supplier on material handling, they should have an excellent understanding of your business and workflow, and be able to provide a detailed consultancy service/business proposition to you. Finally, armed with this strong application knowledge, go forward and make an investment in digital flatbed technology.

By Tudor Morgan, Graphic Marketing Manager at Fujifilm Sericol