In some past articles I reviewed the techniques involved in how sign makers screen print signs, and I also explored various plastic materials and how they were used. Today I’m going to talk about the revolution digital printing has brought to the print industry in the past 10 to 15 years.
In the beginning, Johannes Gutenberg invented moveable type, revolutionizing the world into the modern era. One thing led to another (I will save the history of printing for 20 more articles later), and now we all have digital signage press!
In the Good Old Days, “In the Long Run” was the only way Printers Could Offer Cheap Pricing
Print companies have always had a tough time with short runs, and customers an even harder time, because the pricing was ridiculously high due to the set-up costs which most customers simply don’t understand [What do you mean, Mr. Sign Guy, that you need to be paid for set-up and clean up? I only want to pay you for the sign!]. For instance, if you need 10 signs, it costs nearly as much to make 10 as it would have to make 100. So, you might find that 10 pieces cost $90 each, but that 100 displays cost $15.00 each. This is not at all uncommon amongst companies.
However, digital sign printing has changed all of this for producers and clientele. It takes pretty much the same amount of time to set up for digital printing whether it be 10 or 100, but you can do it in 5 minutes instead of 4 hours, which is what it might take if the manufacturers are screen printing using 4-color process methods. You’ll still pay more money per item for 10 pieces than you would 100, but the difference now might be $30 or $40 per sign versus $90.
For both companies and customers alike, digital press has made attractive sign and banner prints affordable like never before. Beautiful full color graphics are now seen in small Mom & Pop stores instead of only big box stores like WalMart or Best Buy.
Print Makers are now able to Print Direct to Rigid Substrates – Sometimes
Sign makers now may have two main types of digital printers. The first to be developed was the roll-to-roll printer in which one could print vinyl banner material or various types of vinyl materials that could be printed, laminated, and applied to rigid materials such as PVC signs, MDO plywood, or plastic yard displays.
And with the advent a few years back of the flatbed UV digital printer, more and more are now able to press almost anything that can be printed as long as it’s very flat. The flatbed printer also has made it faster to produce rigid signage, creating a one-step printing process. On the roll-to-roll print machines, producers printed the vinyl material, laminated, after it cured overnight, then mounted to the rigid substrate. Three steps versus one.
And the inks have also improved, both ecologically and durability-wise. It has been found that in our area, the inks have lasted 8 to 10 years, and that has been since the late ’90’s when many jumped into digital pressing. The new inks are even better. And they’re using less toxic chemicals than they used to formulate the inks with, so they’re better for the environment.
How Companies Make Use of Digital Printing
Various things that companies use digital printing for? Decals and Stickers…this includes reflective decals, static clings, product labels, large format window and wall decals, vehicle and floor graphics, and those applied to rigid substrates as discussed earlier, etc. Banners, banners, and more banners. It used to be that vinyl displays were cheap if they were one color, and got more expensive with additional colors. Now it is possible to print a full color banner for cheap…literally. Fabric or cloth items were pretty much out of reach for small business unless your wife could applique̒-sew a banner.
With the advent of dye-sublimation digital press media, businesses can print onto a transfer paper, then with special equipment, transfer the full color images to the fabric…for relatively low cost. The fabric varies, but generally there are a few main categories; sheer, heavy duty, and stretch materials. These graphics are used mostly in trade show booths and retail displays.
So, in a nutshell, that’s digital printing: inexpensive, durable, attractive! If you want to learn more about what sign makers can do, browse here: https://www.visigraph.com/