By Cassandra Balentine
Digital wide format products enable a variety of applications. In addition to traditional banners and signs, shops that have mastered the art learn to think outside of the box and utilize their large format devices to the maximum potential, creating everything from vehicle graphics to decals and labels.
At its core, Design Dynamics is a wide format digital print and sign manufacturer. In 1974, the company began by providing hand-painting services for boats in New Orleans, LA. A few years later, the founder packed up and moved to CA where he and his sister officially formed Design Dynamics. The first move was introducing colored cut vinyl to Orange County boaters as a more affordable alternative to hand-painted lettering.
After generating a solid customer base, the company expanded and evolved to what it is today—providing a variety of wide format work including building signage, banners, wall murals, rigid posters, point of sale displays, backlit displays, window films, vehicle graphics, and industrial labels.
The shop operates a range of wide format devices, offering aqueous, thermal, eco-solvent, and UV capabilities. Most recently, it brought in an Epson SureColor S50670.
Lorin Young, owner, Design Dynamics, estimates that 85 percent of the company’s work is digital wide format, and 15 percent is cut vinyl. Additionally, the shop offers design services, which approximately 40 percent of customers rely on. The other 60 percent of jobs are created from client supplied art.
Young purchased the business in 2009 from the founding brother and sister. Bringing to the table a background in corporate marketing and sales, he helped the company better serve clients from a marketing perspective. “I’m visual, and I enjoy creating visually compelling work that combines the science of marketing, design, and signage to solve business problems,” he explains. When he looks at a job, he looks at it from a business perspective and ensures that the final outcome hits at least one of three key points—identify, inform, and influence.
A large part of the business includes branded signage for industrial machines, from company logos to warning labels. Young estimates that the shop produces over a million decals a year.
Informing is the essential component to the industrial machine business. “Our labels have to stand up to the life of the machine. We’re selling warning labels for machines that could take an operator’s finger—or at worst, a life. Since these machines do a lot of damage, the labels make it a safer operation,” says Young.
After purchasing Design Dynamics, Young surveyed the workflow and technology capabilities and made a real push on process efficiency to improve productivity. “One thing about the industry that I underestimated is how everything is treated as a unique job. I focused on introducing process discipline. How could we gang jobs? Soon, I realized my bottleneck was the back end—I was printing faster than I could finish. So I invested in finishing,” says Young.
After implementing strategic finishing investments, the challenge shifted back up to the front end, so the company decided to expand its printing capabilities. Just before the launch of Epson’s new SureColor line, Young’s distributor gave him a heads up about the technology. He looked at the demo model and determined that it would solve many of the problems he was experiencing with previous machines. “I was looking for three things—fine text, speed without banding, and lower ink costs,” says Young.
The SureColor S30670 exceeded expectations. The company experienced an uptick in sales and when the SureColor S50670 was introduced, it purchased that as well. The productivity was especially appealing to Young, “because I do so many warning labels, I print a lot of full rolls overnight.”
Today, with the S30670 and S50670, Design Dynamics is in a position to dedicate its equipment. The S50670 is used for longer runs. “We’ll set it up and run all night. When you come in, it’s been done for a couple of hours and it’s ready to move to the next step,” says Young.
He also notes that the white ink capability of the S50670 is more useful than originally expected. “One job recently done on clear media was too light, so we laid down white ink to help the blue pop. We wouldn’t be able to do that without the white ink. So, I’m pleasantly surprised.”
In addition to production jobs on the S50670, the S30670 is used for rush work and graphics that typically fall under 25 feet. “One of the worst things you can do is interrupt a print run. But, one of our values is customer responsiveness. So, when a customer has an urgent need, I want to be able to take that stress out and know that we can get it done,” says Young.
With the two Epsons, the shop has the capability to simultaneously run production jobs as well as one-offs and urgent requests.
A prime application for Design Dynamics, Young walks us through a typical industrial warning label run.
The process starts in prepress, where the file is readied for print and optimized for width. After prepress, the file is RIPped and sent to the best output device. Once it is printed, eco-solvent output needs to outgas, so 24 hours is built into the process where it is set aside to fully dry.
The industrial labels are generally printed to calendered vinyl, which makes drying prior to lamination a critical step. Laminates are used to help protect the graphic from chemicals it is regularly exposed to. After lamination, it is run through either a plotter for kiss cutting, back slitting, and a guillotine or die cut to its final size. Finally, it’s packed and shipped.
“The typical practice is to hand cut these types of decals,” remarks Young. “However, one differentiating factor of our graphics factory is the investment on the finishing end.”
Young notes that one issue with digital versus screen printing is the fact that it comes from a roll versus a sheet. “We run rolls, so we print, rewind, outgas, laminate, and rewind, which can lead to stretching. When you’re producing 4×6-inch decals with a narrow black border, you really need to have control. That’s why the media handling on the printer is so important,” he says.
Efficiency is critical for profitability, especially with today’s short-run digital work. By paying close attention to the process, determining bottlenecks, and investing in solutions, Design Dynamics runs an effective and productive operation.
Young admits that the best part is stepping back and watching the process run—from print to ship. “We’ve put a lot of emphasis on process discipline. People want affordable quality. You can’t give them a good value with a lot of waste and inefficiencies. We don’t waste, and we don’t scrap,” he concludes. dps
Jan2014, DPS Magazine