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Manage the “tipping point”

Graphics | May 1, 2013 | By:

Janine Trutna of Big Ink Display Graphics (Eagan, Minn.) has tips on looking for the tipping point in your equipment and the total cost of ownership. Her holistic view includes a nod to social media and predictions about sustainability and the impact of faster, better, less expensive.

Q: What types of new equipment are available? What performance and benefits do these offer; what are their best uses compared to “traditional” printing/cutting/finishing equipment?

Trutna: We are doing more and more fabric printing for clients using new, innovative frames. We dedicate ongoing sales meeting time to review client jobs using fabric columns, hanging fabric structures, silicon edge graphics, media backdrops and tension fabric structures because of the growing interest.

We recently increased our dye-sublimation printing capacity. There’s more demand in events and retail because it’s not only innovative, but it’s more economical and sustainable to ship compared to traditional printing.

Q: What guidelines should EPMs use to determine the correct equipment for their operation and market segment; what cautions need be observed?

Trutna: They need to keep a close eye on increasing interest and then the “tipping point” of production for any certain type of printing—where equipment starts struggling to keep up with demand. We had a printer that used both traditional dye sub and solvent ink and we would switch between the two. As demand changed for more dye sub, we purchased a 10-foot aqueous based dye sub printer, allowing more output.

Q: What tough questions need to be asked to help EPMs make informed decisions on equipment choices?

Trutna: You need to look at total cost of ownership—beyond just the ink, maintenance and machine costs. Often the cost of training operators, expendable components and difficulty of use (meaning reprints) have more impact on cost, and need to be considered carefully when choosing equipment.

Q: What resources do EPMs have to verify manufacturer claims? How will this affect their own claims to clients and messages in marketing their services?

Trutna: The first line of information gathering and comparative shopping is at trade shows. Then, attending an onsite demo and using live files and the materials you are familiar with—not just the materials that best showcase the machine’s capacities—will help in vetting claims.

There’s also more and more information being shared on social media. A lot of people are using LinkedIn to ask opinions about all aspects of printing.

Q: What can users expect in the near future with regard to improvements and new trends within digital printing equipment and sustainability issues?

Trutna: Interest in sustainability slowed during the downturn of the economy, but will pick up again as the topic becomes more and more talked about in the media and businesses.

The future in digital printing equipment follows the same path as all technology—it will continue to get faster, better and less expensive. There is opportunity and threat in that, since it means cost savings, but also that more companies will jump into the market.

Dara Syrkin is a freelance writer and editor who admires the folks making science and art collide in the fabric graphics industry.

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