It’s not unusual for PSPs to agonize a bit over the idea of acquiring a flatbed printer. Before investing in the equipment, most shop owners want to seriously consider whether they will be able to recoup that investment.
Take it from those who’ve already made the purchase of a flatbed. With the additional work they’ve been able to take on and the added customers they can serve, the ROI on flatbeds can be seen in, well, nothing flat.
With a flatbed printer, shops reduce labor, materials, and waste, because they print directly to substrates. They expand the materials on which they print, thereby increasing the range of customers they service. They can also tackle the fast-growing POP/retail signage segments.
Shops See Sales Growth
Among the shops that have recently acquired flatbed printers and have parlayed them into greater profits is Davis Sign Company. The company has served the sign industry for a third of a century, starting with hand lettering and later transitioning into computerization. Today, the shop handles “everything but electrical signs,” and also produces banners, posters, and vehicle wraps, reports co-owner Milton Davis Jr.
Davis had wanted a flatbed printer for a half dozen years, but budget constraints kept him from acquiring one. The breakthrough came in November of last year, when the company purchased an Océ Arizona 318 flatbed printer. “It’s a dedicated table as opposed to a roll-to-roll,” he says. “Among our main products are aluminum, plastic, and wood flat signs. The flatbed allowed us to do those things much more efficiently, because we could print directly to the substrate.
“Now we’re doing a lot more sign work for other sign makers. And we took the white ink option, allowing us to do reverse and clear jobs that were beyond us before. We do a lot more interior displays for the POP market. The flatbed has allowed us to get in that market as well, because it provides better resolution and better turnaround times. The savings we have on adhesive vinyl, because we’re able to print direct to substrates, represents a huge benefit in and of itself.”
The shop also turns out lots of irregularly-shaped product. Davis uses a router to cut first and then run those oddly-shaped pieces through the flatbed. “Now we can print full bleed on stuff, and projects always come out cleaner,” he says. “We’ve done award plaques and storefront displays. For a retail company, we did a huge submarine that we cut out first using the router and printed direct to brushed aluminum.”
While he hasn’t computed the precise ROI generated from the machine, Davis does say sales per month have dramatically increased with the flatbed. He estimates the company has experienced a 30 to 40 percent increase in sales since January, when the equipment became operational. Davis generated enough profit to add another solvent roll-to-roll printer to his shop.
At Archetype, a 14-year-old Minneapolis-based shop that specializes in custom architectural signs and other sign projects, president Steve Carpenter reports he has had the benefit of a swissQprint flatbed printer for three years.
The primary benefit Archetype has derived from the acquisition is the ability to print on a broader spectrum of materials.
“That has broadened our customer base,” he adds. “All of a sudden, we’re doing custom jobs for art museums, zoos, and individual artists.”
The shop recently completed a large sales kit project for Marvin Windows. To finish the project, Archtetype had to print on a Sintra material, a dye bond, and an aluminum composite material and print the binder on leather. “That’s an example of one project where we’re not just printing the sheets, but the covers and binder,” Carpenter says. “In the past, we would have silk screened the leather and sent the sheets out. We would probably have subbed out all the components of that job, but we instead were able to do all of them ourselves.”