Bigger is better—at least when grand-format prints are involved. From building wraps to billboards, grand-format print providers produce thousands of feet of graphics and signage every year. Wide-Format Imaging takes its annual look at this market by talking with representatives from some of the top manufacturers in the market.
When it comes to grand-format printers, Agfa’s :Anapurna XL2 is the company’s best seller, thanks to its pre- and post-white printing capabilities. “It handles the broad range of applications that customers are demanding, giving users increased business opportunities,” said Deborah Hutcheson, senior marketing manager, commercial/wide format, Agfa.
One of those opportunities arose for Decorative Films LLC of Gaithersburg, MD, who did a project for the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Memorial in Washington, DC. “They used the :Anapurna XL2 to produce four 95x84-inch prints for the windows of the Woodrow Wilson Center,” said Hutcheson.
The market, however, has seen several changes in the past 12 months—mostly based on sustainability issues. “Print buyers and government regulations have had the most significant and immediate impacts on the green movement,” said Hutcheson. Major retailers are specifying print requirements that include more efficient and earth-friendly processes and substrates. “Therefore, conventional mounting processes and photo-sensitive film are losing ground,” she said, adding that eco-solvent and aggressive solvent printing technologies have also lost ground. “The economy is motivating people to reduce waste, increase productivity, and move to no- or low-VOC inks,” Hutcheson explained.
The real question now, though, is whether people will continue to pay a premium for an environmentally-friendly print. “People want to be green, but they may or may not be willing to pay more for it, particularly in this economy,” she said. “It’s an issue that has to be addressed in the market.”
According to Hutcheson, grand-format UV printing will continue to grow due to the reduced production and labor costs as well as the flexibility of substrates associated with UV technology. “We are also seeing growth within interior design, home décor, and fashion industries, especially with regard to store décor,” she explained. “Grand-format technologies have provided a more cost-effective way to produce wallpaper, floor tiles, and now even the panels on ceiling fans.”
Durst Image Technology US LLC
From a roll-to-roll standpoint, the Rho 320R UV machine is at the top of the list at Durst. “Its productivity is really giving our customers an advantage in the market, along with the capabilities for dual-sided printing and fabric printing,” said Christopher Howard, the company’s vice president of marketing and sales.
Astek Wallcoverings of Van Nuys, CA, recently purchased the Rho 320R. The company used its Rho 600 Pictor to create the interiors of the Sistine Chapel, the Parthenon, and other historic locales for “Angels and Demons”, the sequel to the “Da Vinci Code”. Astek President Aaron Kirsch says his team printed on MDF boards to reproduce the Sistine Chapel’s marble floors, on plexi-sheets to reproduce its stained-glass windows, and on bolts of roll media to reproduce walls and other interior elements.
The move from a solvent roll-to-roll base to a UV roll to roll is a continuing trend, according to Howard. “I think this is due to the efficiency of the platform, along with the expanded scope of products that can be produced from it,” he said. Durst works with its customers to help them meet the sustainability goals they set for their businesses. “Our platforms, which are all UV-based, give our customers advantages in this area as it relates to the inkset and production environment friendliness.”