Large-format printing is a fast-growing opportunity for corporate marketers. And thanks to advancements in inks, media and output technologies, the applications seem endless.
Today’s brand messaging opportunities literally are everywhere: on walls, windows, floors, support columns in airports and even on giant tarps keeping professional baseball diamonds dry this coming season. For marketers, the large-format choices are broadening beyond posters, banners, signs, decals and canvas prints.
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More commercial print service providers (PSPs) are investing in wide-format equipment and supplies than ever before. The business case for such expansion is simple demand vs. supply: As their share of traditional ink- and toner-on-paper projects continues to contract, commercial printers are seeking out growth opportunities – and, along with package printing, wide format is a big one.
Tim Greene, research director of the HardCopy Solutions business for consultancy International Data Corp. (IDC), says that such wide-format growth should continue at least over the next three years. “One of the things I see happening even more is that there will be more integration of services, so we have seen some print companies buying agencies and some agencies buying print companies,” Greene recently told Wide Format & Signage (WFS) magazine.
Big in Texas
In the Southwest, for example, the demand for large-format printing is there and growing, according to Vince Trebilcock, vice president of trade printer Spartan Printing in Arlington, TX. Before Spartan ventured into the wide-format print game two years ago, Trebilcock and his team polled their broker customers; then, to meet the demand, they chose a 78-inch EFI VUTEk QS2 Pro UV inkjet printer along with a Kongsberg cutting table from Esko. The flatbed, production-level digital device outputs up to sixteen 4×8-foot boards per hour, and the color quality is very good.
The Esko cutter allows Spartan Printing to offer services beyond banners and square-cut products, Trebilcock reports. “We can do things like acrylic cut-outs,” he told sister publication Quick Printing last year. The firm’s job gamut spans literally floor to ceiling: from ceramic tiles to ceiling tiles and clear light covers in a dentist’s office. “We’ve even done glass, aluminum and outdoor signage,” he added.
Canon Solutions America, another original equipment manufacturer, offers the Océ Arizona 318 GL entry-level device, which can produce a variety of wide-format applications, including day/night backlit images and lenticular effects.
A print fight is on around the country. Gene Klein, the CEO of display graphics firm barkerblue in San Mateo, CA, has declared war on walls. “We are targeting walls and clear glass all over the San Francisco Bay area,” Klein told WFS. That’s because so-called branded environments are the rage in Silicon Valley and around the world, especially among tech companies that reject the traditional look of framed paintings hung on stark, white walls.
Open corporate spaces feature fewer corner offices, short cubicle partitions and themed work rooms. Many firms are going the way of Facebook’s Menlo Park HQ offices, shunning the unsightly wires and cords of landline phones and desktop computers. “It’s all smartphones, laptops and tablets,” Klein shared.
The wall-covering trend has spread to employee work areas for both established and start-up firms competing against each other for skilled labor. “These graphics used to be reserved for corporate headquarters and client-centric areas, but not any longer,” he pointed out. High-profile clientele such as Cisco and Google use barkerblue’s services. “We are not artists,” Klein noted, “[but] we have talented imaging technicians who can pull out images from a [computer] monitor and make them live on walls.”
Ooo, Ooo That Smell …
Print tech advancements have changed the indoor graphics game, and Klein says the watershed moment was the development of latex printing technologies, which HP introduced eight years ago as a water-based alternative to solvent ink. His California firm first purchased an HP Designjet 126500 latex model in 2009. Since then, the OEM has installed more than 30,000 wide-format latex printers worldwide.
“Latex changed everything,” Klein continued. Retail environments were among the first to embrace latex print. “They saw the potential of using latex output inside stores,” he said. “It was like, ‘Oh my God, we can bring it indoors and it doesn’t smell!’” he told WFS, adding that barkerblue even uses latex technology to image glass.
Media advancements, too, have played a large role in bringing high-end graphics inside, especially “the development of materials that look like wallpaper and canvas,” according to Klein. “Outside of retail, people did not know [this] was possible.” HP also offers the HP Scitex FB 700 flatbed printer, which is a hybrid eco-solvent, UV-curable device that can image directly onto substrates.
In Southern California, Astek Wallcoverings favors UV-curable prints on heavier-weight stocks for increased durability on commercial applications for hotels, restaurants and night clubs, said owner/president Aaron Kirsch. The Van Nuys-based firm uses large-format equipment from Durst Image Technology.
As Q1 2016 concludes, consider your large-format marketing needs for the rest of this year. Then find out how a PSP partner can help turn your big branding visions into a profitable reality for your company.