Flatbed Printer, Contour Cutter Let Colorado Springs In-plant Produce ‘Virtually Anything’
As Joe Morin sees it, wide-format is the key to his in-plant’s resurgence.
“Over the years, as we’ve seen print volumes begin to shift downward, we’ve viewed wide-format as an area for continuous growth and an opportunity to add value to our organization,” explains Morin, manager of Production Printing at Colorado Springs School District 11.
“We really have the ability to print and finish virtually anything requested now,” Morin proclaims.
The in-plant was drawn to the EFI Pro 16h, Morin says, because of its solid construction, its impressive color gamut, its two channels of white ink, its fast speed of 311 sq. ft. per hour and its UV curing, which enables very fast drying times.
Morin touts acrylics in particular as the most impressive substrate the in-plant is able to print on. The shop can now print signage for schools, which is becoming a big business. The image is printed in reverse on the back of the clear acrylic material, then topped with a layer of white ink. The image is seen through the acrylic.
“It almost creates a three-dimensional effect that is really kind of a ‘wow’ effect,” Morin says. “The white ink really enhanced the product for us.”
As the principals of the district’s 44 schools talk to one another and see what the in-plant can produce, requests for signs are growing.
“A lot of schools are starting to ask for that, and we’re gaining traction on school signage,” Morin says.
Getting the EFI Pro 16h has been a huge step up from the in-plant’s previous wide-format printer, a Mutoh Valujet 1608, which enabled a decade of wide-format expansion for the in-plant.
“Over the past 10 years, the wide-format sales segment of our business has tripled,” notes Morin. “Our production needs pretty much outgrew the Mutoh in terms of substrate flexibility and drying times. Our customers were requesting signage substrates that were impossible for us to produce. We saw moving up as an opportunity.”
One drawback to the older printer was its slow drying time. Operators had to wait 30 to 60 minutes before they could finish printed pieces. With the Pro 16h’s UV LED process, ink is instantly cured with each pass of the printhead, letting operators get right to the finishing. Plus, there is no warmup time required.
“That’s a startup time savings of probably 20 to 30 minutes each morning,” proclaims Morin. “Which is a significant increase in productive time.”
The EFI Pro 16h also requires no ventilation.
“No noticeable emissions is a significant plus,” he remarks.
Morin loves the range of possible products the new printer has opened up. Even metal signs, which were previously outsourced, are now printed by the in-plant.
“There’s always a need for a metal sign somewhere,” he observes.
Contour Cutting Opportunities
The shop can tackle new types of products it never contemplated before, like drink coasters. These are printed 200-up on on a 4x10-ft. sheet of 1/4˝ acrylic material, then cut with the Colex contour cutter. The Colex also cuts other unique projects, like puzzles used for classroom projects.
“The Colex will absolutely whip through that in just minutes,” Morin says. “The capabilities of that are just mind blowing.”
Cutting thick substrates for projects like sports graphics or life-size animal cutouts for a local animal rescue organization used to be an arduous process for in-plant employees, armed with X-Acto knives. No more.
“What used to take maybe a full day will be completed in 15 to 20 minutes,” Morin proclaims.
Business is booming so much thanks to the new devices, that Morin expects a short ROI time.
“We’ll have recouped our investment in both of these pieces of equipment in somewhere between three and four years,” he remarks.
As to the question of whether other in-plants should expand into new, unfamiliar markets like printing on rigid substrates, Morin feels the answer is an obvious yes. This is the direction the print market is going, and in-plants should not ignore this.
“Every in-plant should continually benchmark themselves against the best,” he says — and that includes the commercial market, where your customers are also looking for solutions.
“I’m extremely proud of where we are today,” he says.
Related story: Colorado School District Goes Digital
Bob has served as editor of In-plant Graphics since October of 1994. Prior to that he served for three years as managing editor of Printing Impressions, a commercial printing publication. Mr. Neubauer is very active in the U.S. in-plant industry. He attends all the major in-plant conferences and has visited more than 130 in-plant operations around the world. He has given presentations to numerous in-plant groups in the U.S., Canada and Australia, including the Association of College and University Printers and the In-plant Printing and Mailing Association. He also coordinates the annual In-Print contest, cosponsored by IPMA and In-plant Graphics.