Among the reasons Carpenter chose the swissQprint printer was to obtain very high-resolution prints. Previously, high resolution was only possible on its roll-to-roll printers. “Now, we can get a beautiful, high-resolution print directly on the substrate,” he says, adding that among the substrates that the shop can now print upon for the first time is glass.
Twenty-two-year-old CRC Printing is a small commercial shop in Atlanta. CRC Printing has two digital presses, one of them a Mutoh ValueJet 1608HS, which owner Joe Conway reports is “a good entry level machine” that handles both roll-to-roll applications and, by means of its flatbed, rigid substrates.
After adding the capabilities provided by the Mutoh machine, CRC Printing approached its long-time account base, for which the shop had provided business cards and brochures. “They didn’t even know we could do stuff like posters and printing on foam board, glass, and even wood and aluminum,” Conway recalls. “They were delighted we now could. Now we have been going after new business, and these new capabilities, like posters and banners, have opened up doors for us in printing our traditional jobs. I’m excited about that. It goes hand in hand...The Mutoh is absolutely wonderful.”
When the shop closed its books last December, the work made possible by the hybrid machine had increased base revenues eight to 10 percent, Conway says. For the full 18 months since the machine went online, revenues are up 15 percent. “We have a lot of repeat business, because we do the magnets for cars and trucks, and outdoor signs that attach to walls,” he says.
LaCrosse, WI-based Duratech Industries is a nearly 40-year-old company that has traditionally been a screen printer, turning out decorative and functional identification products like washer-dryer, medical, and industrial labels.
Recently, the shop has added flatbed capabilities. Two years ago, it got a Mimaki UJF-706. Last December, seeking more speed, it added a larger, 4x8-foot swissQprint. “Screen printing can be pretty expensive,” says Pat Mehren, production manager. “Flatbed printing has made us more competitive in the low- to mid-volume projects. It allows you to do smaller runs and quick turns. Screen preparation is very labor intensive, so flatbed is more cost effective.”
Mehren can’t yet provide ROI statistics, but does suggest the acquisitions have helped the bottom line. “I don’t know that we’ve had that much more business” since buying the machines, he says. “Our sales have been going up for the last couple years. But a lot of times, we are taking some of the smaller-run screen jobs and bringing them out here to the flatbed area. It’s much less expensive to run the lower volume stuff on the flatbeds.”
Advice to Others
Owners and personnel of shops that have acquired flatbed equipment range from positive to enthusiastic in their advice to others. “I’d say if you can afford to get it, it’s definitely something to consider,” says Davis.
“It’s not a perfect fit for all; you have to make sure you have enough business in the door before you get it. But if you do, it will make your business explode. Jobs keep pouring in that we can use that flatbed to complete.”
His other advice is to avoid the lowest-end machines. “Get a system that might cost you a little more on a monthly payment. You’ll print faster. The quality will be the same, but you’ll have faster throughput.”
At Archetype, Carpenter reflects that the nature of a shop’s work should strongly influence its choice of a flatbed. “The fact I was doing a few pieces with really high resolution, as opposed to thousands of pieces, dictated the printer I bought,” he says. “For shops that have to do many, many pieces, but don’t need as high resolution, the choice of a flatbed printer might be different.”
He also urges buying a printer with white ink capability. “If I’m going to print light blue on black leather, I have to have ability to print white,” he says.
As for CRC Printing’s Conway, he feels before a commercial printer like his shop goes to flatbed printing, its personnel, he says, “must know the printer side better than a traditional printer would in order to get into the sign work. The language is different and the applications are different. The learning curve was big for the first three months, because I didn’t know the sign business at all.”