New print opportunities for print & sign shops

Not long ago, signs were hand painted using one-shot enamels until vinyl cutters cut into the market. Things have drastically changed over the last number of years with the advent of digital printing. Smart entrepreneurs have made new investments into digital output devices of all sorts from high speed copiers to large format printers and are able to offer quick turnaround at competitive prices. The products are being used to create wall murals and fine art, indoor and outdoor signage, banners and photo reproductions, POP applications and poster work, and kiosks and bus shelter graphics. Some forecasters have predicted a 35% growth rate in the solvent printing market over the next few years.

In 2002 worldwide outdoor advertising expenditures for print were around $16.7 billion and almost 90 percent of that were using analog print technologies, with screen printing occupying the largest part of that pie (77 percent).

Digital printing technologies (inkjet, electrostatic and electro photography) represent about 13 percent of the market, or almost $2 billion and are poised to take over that market.

In early 2004, Web Consulting estimated that eco-solvent and solvent printers could possibly capture nearly 15 percent of the US printer installed base by the end of 2004. To support that trend, more than 30 percent of end users surveyed who were planning to make a new printer purchase in 2004 indicated that they were planning to purchase either a wideformat eco-solvent or solvent-based inkjet printer, said Web Consulting.

Different types of solvent inks

Currently there is a choice you have between eco-solvent-based inks and solvent-based inks. By its very definition, solvent-based ink is caustic and volatile. When ink ddes by the evaporation of a solvent, volatile chemicals are released into the air, leaving the dyes, resins, and pigments on the page. Most solventbased inks are classified as hazardous, so ventilation is required, but these inks have better abrasion resistance. Solventbased inks are also typically less expensive and allow the user to print directly to untreated media cheaply. Standard solvent also dries faster, so it leads to higher printing speeds.

Eco-solvent inks use an environmentally friendly chemistry in the inks, and the abrasion resistance is good. Also, with eco-solvent inks, no ventilation is needed. Outdoor durability for both solvent and eco solvent is about three years, and is more dependent on the weather than the sun. Eco-solvent-plus printers can print resolutions up to 1,440 dpi at speeds up to 100-200 square feet per hour and have a good color gamut. There are some media limitations with eco-solvent printers versus solvent printers, which have quicker adhesion and drying times. Solvent printers print at resolutions between 300 dpi and 720 dpi. Some of the leading manufactures and their printer types:

Mutoh Falcon II Outdoor ECO Solvent Printer

The PMA 2005 show was a very exciting show for Mutoh America! Mutoh America featured the 2004 DIMA shootout award winning Falcon II Outdoor Heavy Duty (HD) inkjet printer. The Falcon II Outdoor HD comes equipped with a best-in-class media handling system that can accept media roll weights of up to 200 lbs. The Falcon II Outdoor uses Mutoh’s environmentally friendly ECO Solvent Plus ink to produce brilliant images that can last 3 years outdoors without lamination! From large vehicle wraps to complex tradeshow graphics, the Falcon II Outdoor produces a variety of different products. Prices start at $30,000 for the 50″ printer.

Mimaki JV3-160S solvent printers

The Mimaki JV3-160S is the most affordable top-of-the-line solvent-based inket plotter. At 63″, it yields photoquality outputs up to 1440 dpi, and gives you all the speed you need. It also features an automatic take-up device, and comes with a full set of six brilliant, permanent outdoor inks. It’s an excellent alternative to the “much-higher-priced,lower-resolution”, solvent inket printers at fraction of the cost. In just two years the Mimaki JV3 solvent ink printer has sold more units than Arizona solvent ink printers sold in a decade. Since the JV3-160S is a solvent printer, proper ventilation is a necessity. This will require pre-site inspection and a preliminary set up that could cost up to $1500 for the installation of proper ducts and a fan. Priced around $36,000.

Roland SOLJET SJ-1000EX Eco-SOL Printer

The SOLJET SJ-1000EX grand format printer is Roland’s widest and fastest inkjet ever. At 104 inches wide, it prints billboards, banners and vehicle graphics up to 484 sq.ft/hr. Like the rest of the EX Series, SJ-1000EX prints brilliant graphics directly onto uncoated materials without harmful fumes or expensive ventilation systems. Graphics dry fast and last up to three years outdoors without lamination. The SJ-1000EX can print up to 484 sq.ft/hr at 360 dpi. Roland developed this ultra fast print speed for the production of huge signs and banners. One inch wide, the print heads employ 360 nozzles each.

Large 30-sq. ft banners take only 10 minutes. Its ink system features a motordriven elevator that automatically adjusts to print head height. It has wipers that clean two heads at a time and flushes the ink on each pass. Priced at around $87,000.