Printer Review: EFI R3225 Wide-Format Printer

Vector Printing, based in Chattanooga, TN, has offered both digital and screen printing since its inception in late 2007 when partners Mike Shultz and Greg Smith, who had worked together at a previous billboard printer, decided to strike out on their own. “We bought a used screen press and dryer and printed our first job in January 2008,” recalled Smith. “It was a little poster for a health club and we sold it for $185, but we were under way.”

Over the years, Vector continued to add equipment; everything from a Mutoh 65-inch solvent press in May 2008 to a Mutoh 90-inch solvent press in April 2009. Starting in October of 2009 and through the end of 2011, Vector purchased four additional Océ flatbed printers.

According to Smith, nearly all of the company’s growth came from existing relationships and from word of mouth. “We print for some of the largest agencies and end users in the country. Most people are shocked to see the customer list and the end product being produced in this little shop of six people,” said Smith. “We are very hands-on. We only run one shift, so we see every job that goes out. We constantly upgrade our equipment and spend a lot of time profiling and color managing. As we added staff, we hired people with print experience, but more importantly people who were as passionate about the quality and the customer as we are.”

With this mix of solvent and UV printers, Vector was looking to transition all of its digital print to UV-curing devices to provide faster production times, more flexibility in the types of applications and substrates that can be utilized, and a safer work environment for employees.

“We had been looking for a dedicated roll-to-roll UV printer that was under $200,000 that would still handle production in the 500 to 600 sqft/hr or above range. I saw this press on the Internet and called Tubelite to set up a showing for us at the EFI headquarters. EFI and Tubelite were very accommodating in getting us up to New Hampshire to see the press. I ordered it on spot,” said Smith. It was installed in September 2012.

Vector Printing chose an EFI R3225 UV-curable wide-format printer with a Fiery XF RIP to replace two older roll-to-roll solvent printers.

“This press fits a niche that was not being served by any other leading printer manufacturer” said Smith. “There was a huge gap between little roll-to-roll presses for sign shops and the industrial presses in the $500,000 and up range. We really like the look and quality of UV ink. And, obviously, so do our high end customers.”

Smith points to several features of the EFI R3225 that helped to seal his decision to purchase this printer. “This is a heavy duty press, capable of handling heavy rolls of material like 126-inch by 165-foot vinyl and 54-inch by 350-foot cling,” said Smith. “The color gamut is excellent and the consistency of color in a long run is very good. The grayscale heads produce a really nice image and there is very little nozzle dropout on this machine.”

The EFI R3225 printer and Fiery XF RIP have exceeded expectations at Vector Printing. Smith says, “The printer was up and operational quickly, and its operation was intuitive. Two days after install, we produced a huge self-adhesive vinyl job for a national advertiser. It consisted of 20,000 square feet of FLEXcon RAILmark for a bus and subway promotion that ran in New York. We ran the press for 12 to 14 hours each day for several days. Our client was very impressed with the quality of the image and consistency of color throughout the run.”

Smith adds “Our employees are passionate about taking care of our clients. They are excited about the capabilities the R3225 has brought to our business and to our ability to more than satisfy our clients, especially with clings, banners, posters, and self-adhesive vinyl applications.”

As to the future, Smith has a positive outlook. He says, “We experienced phenomenal growth the first four years while maintaining a disciplined business plan. We have very little debt and a stable client base—we are still printing for almost every client of any size that we ever had. Our EFI R3225 and the capabilities that Fiery XF offers are central to our ability to continue our growth while remaining profitable.”