Wider Than Ever at Charlotte Mecklenburg

Printing Services Supervisor Nancy W. Pierce (left) and Debbie Alexander, color lab specialist, show off a print produced on Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools’ new Fujifilm Acuity Advance Select flatbed printer.

Tracie Butler (left) and Debbie Alexander stand with the in-plant’s new Konica Monilta KIPP C7800.

Tracie Butler (left) and Debbie Alexander.

Debbie Alexander and Tracie Butler

Alvin B. Griffin, director of the Graphic Production Center at Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools, can hardly contain his excitement about the Fujifilm Acuity Advance Select flatbed printer that his in-plant installed in June. And rightfully so, since the printer has already cut production time of 8×4-foot panels from four hours to seven minutes.

“I don’t like to use the word amazing very often,” Griffin muses, “but I am still stunned by how quickly the Fujifilm Acuity can print and the quality that comes off of it.”

The 90˝ printer replaces two Mutoh wide-format printers at the Charlotte, N.C., in-plant: a 1604 roll-fed machine and a ValueJet 1608 hybrid flatbed.

“We had those two Mutohs for about five years, and we were just ready for an upgrade,” explains Griffin. “The Acuity is a true flatbed. The substrate stays [stationary] while the print head moves. That is the biggest difference.”

The Fujifilm Acuity with the roll-feed option has allowed the 16-employee shop to tackle new jobs that were not possible on the Mutoh printers. For example, Griffin and his staff were able to take on a large project for Habitat for ­Humanity of Charlotte, which required banners, coreplast yard signs and ultraboard.

“During that time we must have printed 100 jobs on that printer,” recalls Griffin.

The in-plant also has additional projects in the works, with the upcoming rebranding of the school district.

“As part of this project, we will provide two posters for each school (160), along with a piece of ‘wall paper’ with the new branding included,” he says, adding that the Family Application Center will also be rebranded. “This project will total more than 1,000 square feet of materials, which includes window treatments, door signs and sandwich boards.”

What Griffin likes most about the Acuity Advance Select are its ease of use, minimal operator maintenance and the quality of the color that comes off of it.

“The Mutoh 1608 was running flatboards, and the 1604 was running roll-fed, so our operator was bouncing back and forth between the two of those,” he remarks. “Now that we have the Acuity in place, our operator is now centrally located in one area.”

Another investment the Graphic Production Center recently made was the addition of a Konica Monilta KIPP C7800 wide-format color printer, purchased from Carolina Business Solutions. With four LED imaging heads providing 600×2,400-dpi resolution, it produces both classroom and sales materials for community clients, as well as banners.

“This press operates at a very competitive cost per copy and has software that allows the operator to calculate the cost and usage of raw materials,” Griffin says. “The operator enters in the parameters, and the software does the math.”

Griffin notes that he justified the purchase of the two wide-format printers to management by calculating the ROI, explaining how long the in-plant was going to keep the equipment and doing cost comparisons with outside service providers.

“I think that if you take the approach toward having a shop that has a diverse level of services, it’s a missing part of the puzzle,” concludes Griffin. “By providing wide-format capabilities, it’s not only profitable but can also lead to a lot of other opportunities for your shop. We are already seeing a return on investment in the short time we have operated the Fujifilm.”

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