By Lisa Guerriero
By utilizing wide format inkjet devices, print providers improve turnover to satisfy customers’ needs and handle more jobs. Fast results are especially important for large projects progress require shipping pieces to multiple locations.
The Graphic Source, based in CA, has offered wide format printing services since its founding in 1996. It introduced digital technology in 2004 to keep pace with the business’ overall growth and in response to clients’ demand for quick turnaround.
“While we have always been a wide format print house, wide format digital has helped decrease production time without making large sacrifices in image quality or color accuracy compared to previous methods and technologies,” explains Jeffrey Lo, COO, The Graphic Source.
Digital printing now represents 40 percent of the firm’s business. It produces 250,000 square feet of wide format output daily from two locations—headquarters in Fairfax, CA, and two facilities in MN. Together, the shops comprise over 75,000 square feet. The company has 85 employees.
Technology Aids Turnaround
The Graphic Source works with clients worldwide. It offers a variety of services but specializes in large format digital printing, point of purchase (POP) displays, and promotional items.
As business expanded, the company faced what Lo describes as shrinking client turn times. It looked to digital printing to handle increased output.
“We had the option of purchasing additional machines using aging technology but decided to invest in wide format digital printing and use photographic as a supplementary service,” he says.
The Graphic Source now has eight Durst Rho UV printers in various models, five Durst Lambdas for photographic work, and three Epson inkjets—two Stylus Pro GS6000s and a Stylus Pro 7900.
For finishing, it operates four Zünd cutters—three G3 XL-3200s and an XL-3000—and three XY Autocutters, as well as two 60-inch Advanced Greig Laminator 6400 thermal laminating presses, a 60-inch SEAL mounting press, a Fotoba XL 320 roll trimmer, and a Straub Design Company tape machine.
The shop utilizes multiple software options for its range of printers. These include Epson proofing systems, Stylus Pro 9880 and Stylus Pro 9900, which are G7 calibrated, and a Caldera RIP. For color management it relies on Caldera Total Color, CGS’ ORIS Color Tuner // Web, and X-Rite’s i1 Profiler. It also uses two additional X-Rite products—i1 Pro spectrophotometer and 530 spectrodensitometer.
The Graphic Source prints on a broader range of substrates since its shift to digital. Its range includes rigid products like Visual Magnetics’ magnetic-receptive XMR and Hexacomb’s Falconboard to flexible media like Ultraflex’s G-Floor and Kodak’s backlit films.
“Making the move has also allowed us to print on the many media available to flatbed and roll-to-roll printers, adding value to our clients and their changing needs,” observes Lo.
The company views digital wide format printing as a core competency that allows it to deliver a full complement of services—along with custom promotional product manufacturing and high-end display fixtures made of wood, wire, metal, and acrylic. After its success with digital printing on the wide format side, the shop made its first venture into narrow format this Spring. It acquired a Ricoh Pro C7110X, which prints up to 4,800 dpi.
A Complex Campaign
The Graphic Source recently completed a seasonal campaign for Williams-Sonoma, one of its ongoing customers. It printed, cut, and kitted 9,000 pieces for the project, and wide format played an important role.
Utilizing multiple formats and substrates, the firm printed graphics for 250 domestic and global locations with an average of 360 pieces per kit. The job entailed rigid media for displays to be inserted within existing fixtures, photographic paper for window banners, and small format cardstock for counter displays.
“The goal was to deliver a cohesive campaign across multiple media to locations worldwide while minimizing processing time for damaged products after initial shipment,” explains Lo.
After finalizing the scope, quantities, design, and delivery timelines, The Graphic Source received the digital artwork and verified dimensions, bleeds, copy, and layout.
It used several devices to print the job’s three components—the Durst Rho 1000 for flatbed wide format, the Durst Lambda for photographic wide format, and the Ricoh C7110X for smaller format pieces.
Given the size and scope of the job, color management was essential. The shop used its G7 calibration standard and supporting Caldera software to dial in profiles for each of the three machines, ensuring consistent color across the three types of output and substrates.
The shop created two hardcopy proofs from each machine—one sent to the client for approval and the other kept as a master match copy for final production quality control.
“By utilizing the color management software and hardcopy proofing system, we took extra precaution to ensure correct output despite the additional time it took. We don’t do this for every job, but on rollouts of this size, we do,” notes Lo.
The staff printed on three types of media, using Gilman Brothers’ foamboard for the rigid output, Sihl TriSolv for the banners, and Kodak Display Paper for the smaller counter displays.
They utilized the three Zünd G3 XL-3200 cutters for the rigid materials and the three Durst XY Autocutters to trim the photographic output. The firm chose the printers and cutters because high productivity was needed for the size and scope of the job.
“These automated systems were a good fit for the job given their ability to consistently provide the highest quality, precision, and production speed,” says Lo.
In addition to color control, another challenge was the size of the job and the multiple locations. The firm used a custom-designed software system to schedule tasks for each department. The system also allowed the staff to manage machine runtime, quantity, kitting, packaging, and shipping logistics.
The firm also has a Web-based system that allows Williams-Sonoma to oversee each campaign, track shipments, compare the intended graphics to what the store manager received, and order replacements for lost or damaged shipments.
The initial production plan called for a seven-day turnaround, but the artwork was delayed, and The Graphic Source needed to complete the job within four days. The firm’s automated systems helped it meet the deadline.
“By coordinating the finishing and shipping departments during printing, we were able to work more effectively and efficiently to hit the project deadline given the shortened timeline,” says Lo.
He believes that delivering a multi-format job—with speed, quality, and dependability—ensures clients like Williams-Sonoma remain ongoing customers.
“Just like a restaurant that serves great food, any print service provider can attract client once—it’s the combination of great service and product that keeps them coming back,” observes Lo.
The Graphic Source expects to continue growing its wide format services, capitalizing on developments in digital printing. It strives for a dynamic business model, adjusting to trends among print buyers in general as well as the needs of the individual client and job.
“The technology behind wide format digital printing advanced at an impressive rate over the past decade, and we plan to remain at the leading edge for quality, dependability, and innovation,” says Lo. dps
Aug15, DPS Magazine