Wide-format print is one of the most vibrant sectors of the digital print market, as evidenced by the 22,000 people who made their way to Fespa London in June 2013. Three groups are driving this growth: conventional sign shops and screen printers adding or switching to digital printing methods; existing wide-format users wanting to increase capacity or improve quality and/or productivity to meet customer demand; and commercial offset printers or prepress specialists who are keen to capture a larger proportion of their customers’ print spend.
There is also a wide rate of technological development in the area of wide format print. This has therefore resulted into wide opportunities for market as new ways of package prototyping as well as fabric printing emerge each day.
While the capabilities of individual wide-format printers continue to evolve apace in terms of resolution, colour gamut, speed of production and range of supported substrates, the integration of these devices into both the production workflow and the wider environment of their owners’ businesses has largely been neglected.
The wide format printers are operated in isolation as compared to all the other kinds of ERP systems. Products to facilitate this integration are available, but lack of customer focus, awareness or trust in automation have been barriers to their uptake.
The main barrier is that most wide print format requires more meticulous finishing than all the other kinds of print leading to increasing costs. Just like most complex jobs, most one off jobs require more elaborate planning, shipping and creative input in order to have a good finished product. With high levels of customization being the norm, there may be a reluctance to believe that automation can help in what has always been a labor-intensive business.
The manual method of conducting wide format printing is very time consuming and may result into a lot of wastawge. Inability to load-balance work across different machines because color matching cannot be achieved reliably can cause delays and waste production capacity, leaving some machines idles while others are running full-time.
Every point at which manual processes occur is a point at which costs can rapidly be added and yet these costs are often unaccounted. Job costing models based on ‘per square metre’ pricing can lead to work being done at a loss, especially where time spent on file preparation before output is not recorded. The manual method mainly does not provide all the relevant information and therefore as there are no bottle necks already in place, it means that some costs that have already been incurred will be left unaccounted for.
The wide format printer will be crowded very soon and this will create awn increase pressure to offset the extra costs.