Digital Output May 23

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MAY 2023 Eco-Friendly Media Chart | pg. 12 Finishing Consumables | pg. 13 Packaging So ware | pg. 21 pg. 8 DIGITALOUTPUT.NET VOL XXIX, NO. 5 • $6.95 USA


13 } Bits, Blades, and Other Bobbles

The Rise in Sourcing Options for Finishing Consumables Business is good, new companies appear. by Melissa Donovan

18 } Well Grounded Color Matching and Floor Graphics

A critical piece of the production work�low. by Cassandra Balentine

21 } Meeting Variable, Essential Needs in Packaging So ware Solutions

Packaging software updates to fuel business. by Digital Output Staff

24 } Concentric Diversification

Adding DTG to Your Shop

Direct to garment (DTG) printers present advantages. by Digital Output Staff May 2023 | Digital Output { 3 } Departments Editor ’s Input ................................................................ {4 Marketplace {5 In the Aisles .................................................................. {6 Application Spotlight ................................................. {8 Target Chart {12 Plus Marketplace Spotlight ................................................ {5 Advertiser’s Index { 17 Companies Mentioned .............................................. { 17 Showcase Advertisers { 17 ON THE COVER: VisualPro of CA works with Lintec of America, Inc. window films. See page 8.
18 6 21 8 24 12

Architectural Windows

Digitally printed window graphics are much more than display and point of purchase. Break out of the box and consider promoting their use—and your print capabilities—for architectural work. That’s what VisualPro of Cotati, CA did in our cover story, Inviting Workspaces.


ISSN: 1083-5121


Thomas Tetreault

EDITOR Melissa Donovan


Cassandra Balentine


Melissa Mueller


Sarah M. White


Olivia Cahoon, Tim Greene, Mark Hanley, Melinda Tetreault, Amber Watson



Thomas Tetreault


Nicole Pizzi-Cerundolo

The possibilities are endless when you consider how adaptable digitally printed window graphics are.

Elsewhere in this edition, Bits, Blades, and Other Bobbles explains the recent influx of companies offering finishing consumables. While tools for finishing are small investments, where and how they are purchased make a big difference. This article takes a look at third-party suppliers as well as OEMs.

Color management is critical for any application, but each application does present its own nuances. Take floor graphics for example. They require consistent and accurate color—but to achieve it one must consider things like the substrate and how it absorbs the ink. Floor graphics require traction and the same feature that offers this also lowers the color matching potential of a printing system. Read more in Well Grounded.

Learn about direct to garment (DTG) printing and how to add it into your existing business in Concentric Diversification. DTG remains popular, even in the wide format space, as consumers drive demand for personalization.

This issue also dives into packaging software updates, eco-friendly media, and a recap of the International Sign Association’s recent International Sign Expo.

978-921-7850, Ext. 160

Amanda Doyon

978-921-7850, Ext. 170

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Jeffrey Jensen


Thomas Tetreault

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The possibilities are endless when you consider how adaptable digitally printed window graphics are.
Best regards, Melissa Donovan, editor

Zünd Presents Q-Line with BHS180

Zünd raises the bar for industrial, pallet-to-pallet production with the new Q-Line with BHS180 Board Handling System and UNDERCAM. It is specifically intended for the demands of highly automated, industrial finishing of printed boards for displays and packaging.

The individual components—board feeder with UNDERCAM, the new Q-Line cutter generation, and the off-load unit—offer incredible cutting accuracy and reliability. Consequently, they make it easier than ever for packaging and display manufacturers to automate their cutting operations and achieve maximum efficiency. In doing so, the Q-Line with BHS180 helps manufacturers optimize their production processes and increase their overall productivity. #252

Mactac Expands Window Graphics Line

Mactac Graphics & Signage Solutions expands its window graphics product line. From air-egress films that are used to create double-sided window displays to other permanent and removable films, the six new products include WV528 Windowview Translucent, WV399R Windowview Easy, WV399P Windowview Clear, WV129 Windowview Opaque, WV599 Windowview Clear, and WV596P Windowview Easy Etch. All products are designed for inkjet printing, and durability ranges from one to five years. #253

SAi Reconfigures Adendo

SA International (SAi) launches a reconfigured and enlarged Adendo, comprising of a range of learning and development services for SAi Flexi users in Canada and the U.S. The program provides online and in-person training as well as an enhanced Flexi User Community under the Adendo umbrella. Adendo comprises of three major components—online training, live virtual or on-site training, and the Flexi User Community. Adendo makes high-quality training available to the Flexi community and fosters continuous improvement and business growth. #254

Flexible Magnetic Materials Manufacturer

Newlife Magnetics’ focus on science and engineering has led to our success in leading the magnet industry through research and development of exciting new products that solve customer problems, increase efficiency, and improve our customers’ lives without harming our environment. We offer a variety of products including industry-leading Platinum magnetic receptive, printable magnet media up to 60 inches wide, cling king micro-suction films, and new pre-magnetized Indigo Sheets. We currently offer the thinnest, widest, lightest, and strongest magnetic materials on the market. Visit INFO# 250

Canon Announces New Colorado M-Series

Canon announces the new Colorado M-series 64inch roll-to-roll printers. Retaining the Colorado’s industrial build quality, the new M-series design, with in-field upgrades, is based on a single platform that can be configured to help meet customer needs. The scalable series features two speed configurations, optional UVgel white ink capabilities, and a host of additional modular options.

The M3 BASE configuration can be expanded over time up to the M5W PRO configuration, which includes increased functionality such as speed enhancements, double-sided printing, dual-roll, white ink capabilities, and FLXfinish+.

The M-series incorporates the printhead technology found in the Colorado 1630 devices. #255

World Class Converting Centers

NEPATA converting centers are the most successful and widely used converting centers worldwide. Engineered and manufactured in Germany to the highest quality standards, NEPATA converting equipment utilizes the latest in CNC technology resulting in unprecedented control and accuracy over the converting process. NEPATA converting centers deliver precise material cuts, highly accurate rewinds, and advanced inventory control, allowing for quick delivery times across a range of media. For more information visit, call 734-668-0755, or email sales@ INFO# 251

Avery Dennison Adds Overlaminate Series

Avery Dennison Graphics Solutions launches the advanced DOL Max Series—DOL 1060 Max and DOL 1360 Max—along with DOL 6470.

DOL 1060 Max is a gloss finish film with outstanding durability and outdoor performance. DOL 1360 Max is an optically clear film with a super smooth finish and excellent UV, temperature, humidity, and salt spray resistance. Both come with up to seven years vertical durability and two years horizontal durability.

DOL 6470 is a luster finish high-performance PVCfree film that offers exceptional value for applications requiring abrasion resistance, color durability, and conformability to irregular substrates. It comes with up to six years vertical durability and up to three years horizontal durability. #256

SUPPLY55, INC. NEWLIFE MAGNETICS, LLC May 2023 | Digital Output { 5 }

We Saw It There

Recap of ISA International Sign Expo

The International Sign Association (ISA) is a member trade association, representing 2,300 manufacturers, users, and suppliers of on-premises signs and other graphics products. It supports, promotes, and improves the sign, graphics, and visual communications industry through advocacy, education, and networking.

One notable networking event is the ISA International Sign Expo, which took place this April in Las Vegas, NV. It was buzzing with activity all three days on the show floor. ISA reported that attendance surpassed 17,600. There was access to hundreds of exhibits, The Wrap Experience, the ISA Fabrication Experience, and the Learning Zone.

Quick Look

Here, we share notable products and announcements.

For rigid media, 3A Composites USA showcased its rigid substrate lineup with the visual aid of the U.S. National Parks. DGS displayed its new Standee Base XL corrugated product. Laminators Inc. highlighted Alumalite Economy, which is a square flute board that offers a 20 percent price decrease compared to other solutions.

Thinking of magnets, New Force Magnetics brought its flexible magnetic sheeting and strip, as well as highenergy magnetic material. Newlife Magnetics promoted its 60-inch magnet and Platinum magnet lines.

With pressure-sensitive materials in mind, Arlon focused on SLX+ with FLITE technology with a FLITE School, which included a 15 minute hands-on experience. Avery Dennison educated attendees about its new DOL Max overlaminate films. FDC Graphic Films, Inc. displayed holographic film, ASLAN glass film, anti-graffiti film, and stripping. Jessup Mfg. Co. showed its new ARMORLam 15 ultra-clear, anti-slip film. Lintec of America, Inc. showcased its PVC-free films for glass decoration. Nekoosa focused on its wide format and pressure sensitive lines, as well as announced the rebrand of its cut lettering film to EZ-Color. Presto Tex exhibited its re-engineered, 10-mil wall media. Tekra focused on wide format, specifically its JetView UV/latex lines.

For fabric, Ultraflex Systems, Inc, displayed its Vortex line of products like Blizzard T320, Bolaro S225, and Stretch Eclipse D250.

1 & 2)
May 2023 | Digital Output { 6 } 1 2
The ISA International Sign Expo took place April 2023 in Las Vegas, NV with over 17,600 visitors in attendance.

On the finishing side of things, AP Lazer displayed its SN4836 and SN2616 laser engravers. AXYZ exhibited its WARDjet Compact A-Series waterjet system and AXYZ Trident CNC Router-Knife Hybrid. Cutworx USA focused on “versatility in finishing” and ran Apex Plus machines. Epilog Laser displayed the FusionPro and Fusion Maker laser cutters. GBC showcased several products including Seal 65Pro MD, Proton 30, Flatbed Applicator, 62 Base laminator, and Smart Cut. Graphic Whizard premiered its flatbed cutter, DG 2516. Kongsberg/MultiCam showcased the Kongsberg C64, Kongsberg X24, MultiCam APEX 3R, and MultiCam APEX 1R. Marabu North America displayed its StarLam 1600 laminator. Summa ran demonstrations of its F-1613 Flatbed with P750 sheet feeder. Trotec Laser promoted its full range of laser cutters. Vision Engraving & Routing Systems exhibited its 2525 CNC Router/ Engraver and 1624 Pro Engraver. XEdge focused on its core audience, those looking for finishing tools for cutting/routing plastics. Zünd promoted its “#letstalkworkflow” theme and ran demonstrations on its Robot PortaTable 130.

For workflow, Caldera demonstrated its PrimeCenter and RIP products. Onyx Graphics, Inc. showcased ONYX Advantage and previewed a business management solution.

Printer hardware announcements included Canon’s newest release, the Colorado M-Series with white ink. CET Color and Gandy Digital teamed up prior to the show and as a result, the Dynasty printer was on display in Gandy’s booth.

Digitech promoted its TrueFire LT/X2 inline with Colex finishing device. Epson exhibited the SD-10 Spectrophotometer, SureColor F670H and F6470 dye-sublimation printers, and SureColor R5070 printer. Konica Minolta presented its newest AccurioWide 250 printer. Mimaki USA, Inc. brought its vast line up of

products including the TxF15075—its new dedicated direct to film printer. Mutoh America, Inc. previewed the 1462UF 55x27-inch UV printer, which will officially launch in August. swissQprint showcased its Kudo printer. Vanguard Digital demonstrated its portfolio of products like the VK300D-HS, VR6D, and

VKR3200-HS. Xanté displayed its X Series Flatbed UV Printers.

It was a full show, jam packed with the latest products for the wide format signage marketplace and more. We look forward to attending ISA International Sign Expo next year in Orlando, FL from April 10 to 12, 2024. D May 2023 | Digital Output { 7 }

Inviting Workspaces

Window Graphics Present Privacy and Branding

Workplace culture is changing. While many businesses encourage hybrid work models, they want to facilitate an inviting office environment. This is achieved in a number of ways, but window graphics in particular make a big impact by contributing to a sensory-friendly environment that offers both branding and privacy.

Established in 1979, ClimatePro is based in Northern CA in a city 40 minutes outside of San Francisco—Cotati. It has 24 employees and operates out of a 5,500 square foot facility. ClimatePro is well adept at installing window films for residential and commercial buildings.

Its graphic arm, VisualPro, specializes in providing digital print and graphics to its clients—many of which are large corporate offices.

The dedicated division to printed graphics came about as the original establishment, ClimatePro, saw the

demand emerge among existing clients asking for more customization. It slowly started to adopt equipment and launched VisualPro in 2014.

With both specialties under one roof, the company provides products and services to a range of clientele from design firms to construction businesses, event managers, and facility management companies with production and installation of murals, wall graphics, decorative glass films, and signage.

Architectural Graphics

The business has collaborated with many organizations to create solutions that help solidify brands and create visuals that enhance workplaces. Approximately 60 percent of its work is window graphics, while the rest is made up of other items that support a corporate graphics package, like wallpaper, photo prints, and vinyl wraps.

1 2
Clients are able to truly customize their space, knowing that it’s not a permanent design.
May 2023 | Digital Output { 8 }
— Jeremy Dobbins, GM, ClimatePro and VisualPro
1 & 2) VisualPro recently partnered with Rose Design for an immersive office design, featuring window graphics printed on Lintec media.

In addition to partnering with interior designers, VisualPro offers an on-staff graphic designer and production manager that work closely with customers to turn concepts and designs into reality.

Jeremy Dobbins, GM, ClimatePro and VisualPro, says customers look to the company to solve both branding and privacy challenges in office environments, sometimes even safety comes into play as the open glass office concept is trendy, but can lead to accidents.

Printed window graphics help to break up an office space with style. “Clients are able to truly customize their space, knowing that it’s not a permanent design.”

For privacy, many designs are able to get away from the “fish bowl”

feel and offer a space that is open but offers a confidential place.

Along with the many benefits printed window graphics offer, there are challenges. VisualPro works hard to manage customer expectations. Dobbins says this is important when working with window graphics because light is at play, bringing with it translucent effects. Like a stained glass, the look of the graphic may be altered by how the light hits it. It’s not as simple as printing to a white base.

The graphics provider combats any concerns through experience and taking the time to walk clients through the options, offering full mock ups and examples.

Installation can also be difficult because it’s so specialized. Finding

and maintaining trained installers is increasingly challenging.

Tools for the Trade

Window graphics are trending upwards, according to Dobbins. “Our designers are pushing the envelope with what they can do with printed glass graphics.”

The trend goes along with media options that replace decorative glass etching, a process that is both permanent and costly. “Printed graphics emulate the effects of glass etching and make an impact with a lower cost and removability,” he states.

For printing and finishing window and related graphics, it utilizes an EFI VUTEk wide format printer and a Zünd flatbed cutter.

The print division relies on Lintec of America, Inc. substrates for glass work. Dobbins says the media supplier has been an important partner of the shop since its start in the graphics side of the business.

He finds Lintec offers an affordable product with good quality. Further, it can’t be beat when it comes to the film’s optimal clarity.

“Consistency is important and we know Lintec’s media delivers consistently from start to end without media changes,” shares Dobbins.

He adds that Lintec is one of the only brands that offer scratchcoated optically clear film. “This is important because it won’t scratch or blemish during install,” he shares, noting that vinyl-based glass graphic products look good but aren’t as durable.

This durability is especially important when working with clear areas that would really showcase these flaws.

In Play

In addition to working directly with clients, VisualPro partners with interior designers to help bring its vision and its customers’ visions to life.

One such client was a San Francisco, CA-based people management software company, Lattice, and Bay Area-based design firm, Rose Design.

Rose Design is a repeat customer for VisualPro, and together they were able to create custom, decorative graphics for Lattice.

“We created waves of colors that appear as layers on a myriad of glass windows and doors. Signage and wall decals were also produced,” says Dobbins.

The colorful designs were able to create privacy, but also offer dynamic visual interest and help to identify rooms and spaces.

ClimatePro handled installation for the project.

Creating Spaces

VisualPro helps businesses meet modern demands for inviting work spaces. With the ability to produce beautiful window graphics that incorporate color and branding to separating spaces to create privacy, it is set up for continued success in its area of expertise. D

See page 17 for more info.

May 2023 | Digital Output { 10 } #8

Today it’s a given that seamless, customized work�low integration across a print shop’s entire business is essential for long-term success. This is true in prepress departments, long recognized as traditional “bottlenecks” in production environments due to the variety and complexity of incoming �iles that must be processed properly.

So it was no surprise when Seattle, WA’s SuperGraphics made automation a priority in 2021, while still recovering from COVID-19. With production volumes at new lows, the time was ideal for identifying inef�iciencies and developing new processes to improve in-shop work�low. Its latest work�low software investment, led by Signi�icans Automation, is proving to be the most crucial and rewarding modernization effort in its history.

Numbers that Speak for Themselves

So far, the results have been nothing short of phenomenal. SuperGraphics’ highly re�ined work�lows from Signi�icans Automation have yielded a 500 to 700 percent improvement in prepress work�low. These savings have translated into fewer prepress hours, lower operating costs, and enthusiastic feedback from a rejuvenated prepress staff.

These numbers are not that surprising to Signi�icans Automation’s clients across North America, who have reported such improvements as a 30 percent increase in yearly printing capacity, several hours of labor reduced to a few minutes, job preparation times reduced from eight hours to �ive minutes, prepress productivity increased from ten to over 50 jobs a day, and labor costs cut by over 50 percent.


The Turning Point

Founded in 1990 to service the �leet, event, and architectural industries, SuperGraphics was acquired in 2018 by print industry veteran Reid Baker and three partners, after recognizing an opportunity with a “distressed but not failing” company. In 2018, SuperGraphics was not participating in the automation revolution, with everything done manually. So Baker’s team focused on building sales, upgrading its equipment, and making key investments in digital presses and �inishing equipment.

“We signed up with Signi�icans Automation in the �irst quarter of 2021,” recalls Baker, “and acquired Enfocus PitStop with Switch for pre�lighting and automated layout and nesting software from Tilia Labs. That was our go-forward platform for prepress. The consistency that automated �iles produce is remarkable. Signi�icans gave us the opportunity to drive improvements throughout our entire business.”

Modernize or Die

When asked about return on investment, Baker estimates that his six-�igure spend on automation will be �inancially recouped by the third quarter of 2023. “To me, you’re either modernizing or you’re dying,” insists Baker. “Now, we can be more competitive with future proposals and other pricing because we know that our prepress time has been reduced to just minutes—and we’re no longer losing precious time, money, or clients due to manual errors.”

For an assessment of your work�low automation needs, call 877-463-4465 or visit signi� D May 2023 | Digital Output { 11 }

Dramatic Improvements Highly Customized Workflow Automation 1 2
1 & 2) Sea le, WA-based SuperGraphics implements highly refined workflows from Significans Automation, which have yielded a 500 to 700 percent improvement in prepress workflow.

KEY Forest Stewardship Council = FSC Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design = LEED Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification = PEFC Registration, Evaluation, Authorization (and/or Restriction), of Chemicals = REACH Sustainable Forestry Initiative = SFI Volatile organic compounds = VOCs ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

*Based on the Federal Trade Commission’s guide for the use of environmental marketing claims

May 2023 | Digital Output { 12 }
GREEN FACTORS GREEN CERTIFICATIONS INFO# Company Website Recyclable* Contains Post-Consumer Waste Content Free of… DIN EN 13432:2000-12 Standard FSC GREENGUARD LEED Credit OEKO-TEX Standard 100 PEFC REACH Compliant Repreve from Unifi SFI Sorbtek from Unifi Halogens Oil Petroleum Phthalates PVC VOCs 160 3A Composites USA ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ 161 3M Commercial Solutions ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ 162 Arlon Graphics ✓ ✓ 163 ASLAN Selbstklebefolien GmbH ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ 164 Avery Dennison Graphics Solutions ✓ 165 Beaver Paper & Graphic Media ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ 166 Berger Textiles ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ 167 Brand Management Group ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ 168 Continental Grafix USA, Inc. ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ 169 Cooley Group ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ 170 DreamScape ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ 171 Drytac ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ 172 DuPont ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ 173 FDC Graphic Films, Inc. ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ 174 Fisher Textiles ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ 175 Flech Paper Products ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ 176 FLEXcon ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ 177 FloorSignage ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ 178 General Formulations ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ 179 Gilman Brothers Company (The) ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ 180 Grafityp Selfadhesive Products ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ 181 The Gri Network thegri ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ 182 Hexacomb, a PCA Co. ✓ ✓ ✓ 183 Hexis ✓ ✓ ✓ 184 HEYtex USA ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ 185 Hop Industries Corporation ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ 186 HP Inc. ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ 187 Innovia Films ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ 188 Jessup Manufacturing Company ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ 189 Kernow Coatings ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ 190 Kodak ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ 191 LAMITECH, INC. ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ 192 LexJet ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ 193 Lintec of America, Inc. ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ 194 Mac Papers and Packaging ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ 195 Mactac ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ 196 Magic ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ 197 Media One ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ 198 Mohawk ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ 199 Monadnock Paper Mills, Inc. ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ 200 Mosaica Group (The) ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ 201 Neenah ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ 202 Nekoosa ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ 203 Neschen ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ 204 Newlife Magnetics LLC ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ 205 ORAFOL Americas ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ 206 Panel Processing ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ 207 Photo Tex Group Inc. ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ 208 Plastiprint ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ 209 PONGS Group ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ 210 Pulp Art Surfaces, LLC ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ 211 Quality Media & Laminating Solutions ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ 212 Que Media, Inc. ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ 213 Roland DGA ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ 214 S-One Labels & Packaging ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ 215 Saint Clair Textiles Evergreen ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ 216 Sonoma Graphic Products ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ 217 SWM International ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ 218 TRICEL Honeycomb ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ 219 TVF ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ 220 Ultraflex Systems Inc. ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ 221 Veritiv ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ 222 Verseidag/Serge Ferrari ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ 223 Vescom ✓ ✓ ✓ 224 Xanita ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ 225 Xcel Products, Inc. ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓

rint providers want options and that extends to the smallest parts of their business operations, like tools for finishing equipment. Bit, blades, knives, and even belts are small investments that make a big difference when purchased through the right vendor. These are acquired through OEM or third-party resellers. Lately

the latter organizations have made a stir—with multiple companies popping up to service the industry.

Understanding Why

More companies are making appearances as third-party resellers of finishing tools like bits, blades, and knives. This rise in vendors is fueled by many factors.

According to Nikolai Mikkelsen, president, VTX Tools, demand has always existed, but digital print/finishing has continually grown year over year for the last 30-plus years. “With that growth, comes the increased demand May 2023 | Digital Output { 13 }
Above) X-Edge Products responds to demand with new tooling innovations and expanded options tailored to produce the best possible parts with the best possible edge quality.
by Melissa Donovan

for the cutting systems needed to keep up with the increase of digitally printed substrates, and in return, more consumables—blades, bits, and accessories. And when business is good, new companies are formed to take part and benefit from the growth.”

Justin Davis, director of sales and marketing, Flatbed Tools, says more cutting machines are sold every year, adding to the machines already in use, which creates demand for digital cutting consumables. Another reason is that print providers are cutting more than traditional printed substrates.

As print providers branch out, they also make an effort to build on their existing knowledge. “With more pressure to produce parts faster, cleaner, and with better edge quality, consumers have begun to educate themselves in an effort to achieve this. It’s no longer good enough to just accept what is handed to you by the machine manufacturer. They are experts in machines but not necessarily materials, and in some cases the

manufacturer has very little experience with some of the materials therefore they can not produce the best bit or blade for the job,” explains Josh Martinez, account manager, X-Edge Products, Inc.

New technology leads to print providers upgrading legacy equipment to keep up with demand. “Companies replace their products with newer models, which often leads to discontinued consumables as well. Those who are still using these older products are then forced to look elsewhere to find their blades, bits, and other consumables to get the job done,” shares Alvita Scott, inside sales, CutGuru.

Third-party resellers are popping up and thriving in response to all of these factors because according to Davis, they offer a wider range of consumables versus OEM. However, he cautions “customers should be careful because when you pay less you may get a lesser product. You don’t want to sacrifice quality. You don’t want blade tips that chip easily, for example.”

“Purchasers are—and always have been—looking for ways to save

money, especially when it comes to operating costs,” explains John Phillips, production optimization consultant, Zund America, Inc., in response to the uptick in thirdparty consumable vendors. However, in support of OEM, he says Zünd prices are quite competitive with non-OEM blades and bits, and once you couple that with longer blade/bit life and higher and more consistent cut quality, OEM consumables like those from Zünd are an economic choice.

Tools Demand

There is demand for cutting consumables purchased from third parties and OEMs. This occurs based on growth in machine usage as well as the type of machines utilized.

“Companies looking to automate and streamline production are purchasing more equipment, new equipment, and upgrading old equipment to keep up with demand. With this comes the need for more consumables at a reasonable cost,” notes Scott.

It is a natural evolution from manual to automated cutting. “I think the rise in demand for tools is due to more machines being utilized than ever before. The market keeps growing. People are going from hand cutting to buying machines to do that work more precisely,” explains Davis.

“There is a rise in demand for tooling along with an increased demand for Zünd cutting equipment and automation solutions in general. This is partly due to tighter availability of labor but also the result of the greater production

efficiencies and profitability made possible in many cases through automation,” comments Phillips.

Today’s automated cutters offer tool interchangeability, making multi-tool accessibility for a user even greater than before and opening up digital cutting practices to not only the traditional printer but industrial verticals as well. “The interchangeability that models offer is a factor. With the variety of substrates people want to cut, the machines aren’t only for the printing industry anymore—there’s packaging, technical textiles, composites, just to name a few. The cutting machine manufacturers understand that,” says Davis.

“Yes, with more interchangeability, comes greater potential options. Previously, manual tool change spindles and fixed knife systems made it much harder to change the bits and blades so the answer was to pick the tool that would do ‘okay’ when cutting multiple, different materials. With automatic tool changers on the rise and even automatic knife changers starting to be offered, there is pressure to produce better router bits and knife blades as well as more options,” shares Martinez.

Consumable demand is also growing thanks to the made-in-the-U.S. movement. “There’s a general shift in the marketplace for more manufacturing in the U.S. These cutting machines help do just that, while also being very efficient,” adds Davis.

According to Phillips, supply chain disruptions, along with worldwide shipping costs and delays, also

May 2023 | Digital Output { 14 } 1
1) OEM consumables like those from Zünd are an economic choice for blades and bits.

lead many North American manufacturers to increase domestic production capacities. This means in some cases investing in multiple locations within North America to meet market demand and increase proximity to their customer base.

“We have seen a handful of new cutting machine brands enter the U.S. market in the last ten years. Whether it’s a newly formed company, a division of an already established company, or a European/foreign company entering the U.S. market for the first time. More machines equals more consumables,” states Mikkelsen.

Differentiation in the Market

We polled the vendors interviewed for this piece—in addition to a quick synopsis of others—to get an idea on how they differentiate themselves from other players in the market.

Colex Finishing, Inc., which specializes in wide format cutting equipment for graphic sign, display, point of purchase, and packaging, offers an extensive line of precision cutting equipment together with premier service. Colex manufactures the Sharpcut Flatbed Cutter 5x10and 10x10-foot options and in addition provides tools for the device, which are manufactured at the company’s headquarters in Elmwood Park, NJ. All tools, bits, and blades are in stock and available for overnight delivery.

CutGuru offers consumables at a low cost. Its customer service is unsurpassed and it has a userfriendly website to purchase consumables easily, according to Scott. May 2023 | Digital Output { 15 }
#10 #3

try expertise to RIP knowledge to print-to-cut consultations, Flatbed Tools provides top-tier technical, workflow, and support services that help make businesses more productive and successful. It offers bits, blades, and belts, which are all fully vetted and tested to ensure the best materials on the market are used to provide longevity.

In August 2022, Kongsberg Precision Cutting Systems, manufacturer of digital cutting solutions, unveiled an online store to boost the speed and ease of ordering replacement consumables for its hardware. The site improved searching for individual bits, blades, and other consumables in addition it includes demonstration videos and advice guides and additional functionality to enable one-click re-ordering, as well as simplified access to a customer’s order history and information on their installed products.

Superior Carbide was founded to offer premier tooling at an incredible price. The company allows

companies mentioned

its customers to remain focused on doing what they do best, not searching for vendors or being caught with downtime. It aims to be a one-stop shop for products, resources, and knowledge. According to the company, it circumvents traditional channels to bring the absolute best prices for blades, router bits, and belts.

While VTX Tools might be a new name in the industry, the players behind the company are anything but. Mikkelsen’s father, Steen, invented i-Cut software and introduced two popular cutting systems to the U.S. in the late 90s and early 2000s. The Mikkelsens and others then partnered to launch the first online platform for consumables sales, and then in 2011 were involved with CutGuru. Today, Mikkelsen says VTX Tools sets itself apart from the competition with its “experience, knowledge, and passion to develop the best quality blade, bit, or accessory for the best price possible.”

X-Edge Products is responding to demand with new tooling innovations and expanded

options tailored to produce the best possible parts with the best possible edge quality. “Beyond that we have approached things from the customer’s standpoint. Most of us at X-Edge Products are on the consumer side of things as machine operators or small shop owners. Designing tools based on what will provide better parts and more of them per hour rather than simply what will make the tool last the longest was a formula that put more profit in the consumer’s pocket,” comments Martinez.

As a manufacturer, Zünd operates full control over specifications and tolerances as well as the provenance of the raw materials—e.g. tungsten carbide—that go into tools. All blades and bits are marked with Zünd insignia, part numbers, and batch numbers to ensure quality, consistency, and traceability. In addition, Zünd holds patents on many designs, so it offers tooling and consumable items that are exclusive to Zünd and not available from any other sources.


Is there a contrast between consumables like blades, bits, and knives sourced from third-party vendors and OEM?

Phillips says there are differences between third-party and OEM vendors when it comes to consumables, and the biggest advantage is that at Zünd the company has full control over the manufacturing process. “This

built-in quality control results in superior blade life/tool longevity and cut quality/consistency. In addition, Zünd offers a variety of tools, blades, and bits—all tailored to specific applications and the materials involved. The know-how behind Zünd finishing tool technology is the result of years of materials testing and customer input.”

Not all third-party vendors repurpose OEM products, many design and/or manufacture their own. “There’s a difference between OEM and third-party parts but those distinctions depend on the thirdparty vendor you choose,” admits Davis. “While we offer standard replacement bits and blades, Flatbed Tools is particular when sourcing the materials for them. And we developed our own lines of blades and bits for cutting specific substrates, so we have the right tools for each job.”

Martinez agrees with Davis’ sentiments, noting that X-Edge Products has its offerings made to its designs and specifications. “If we find a product that does well, then we try to improve on it if at all possible. We are living what we make, not just making a living.”

“Customers who do not look beyond OEM are missing out on an opportunity to optimize performance, improve stock availability, and improve their bottom line and production costs,” shares Scott.

Davis stresses the importance of support. “Our biggest difference is we provide a level of support customers won’t find anywhere else to get so much more out of their machines and their workflow.

INFO# COMPANY WEBSITE 120 Colex Finishing, Inc. 121 CutGuru 122 Flatbed Tools 123 Kongsberg Precision Cutting Systems 124 Superior Carbide 125 VTX Tools 126 X-Edge Products, Inc. 127 Zund America, Inc. See page 17 for more info. May 2023 | Digital Output { 16 }
2) VTX Tools sets itself apart from the competition with its experience, knowledge, and passion to develop the best quality blade, bit, or accessory for the best price possible. years in the industry. From indus-
its customers to remain focused

A partnership with Flatbed Tools is a big value-add for their business. We’re more than the consumables. We are experts—troubleshooting, problem solving, and providing technical support.”

“The difference is not in the product, but more in the support and company. VTX Tools’ pricing is much better, but we love what we do, and will go the extra mile for our customers,” adds Mikkelsen.

Let’s Go

The choice to purchase consumables like bits, blades, knives, and belts is up to the print provider. It’s a level of comfort and ultimately what works best for

its business model. Luckily, there is no shortage of buying options between OEM and third party.

Visit to view a webinar on this topic. D

INFO# ADVERTISER PAGE WEBSITE 14 Alpina Manufacturing, LLC 17 15 Alpina Manufacturing, LLC 17 1 AP Lazer 2 2 Caldera 25 3 Canon Solutions America 15 16 Delivery Signs 17 4 Digitech USA 19 5 FDC Graphic Films, Inc. 23 17 GTI Graphic Technology Inc. 20 INFO# ADVERTISER PAGE WEBSITE 6 Jessup Mfg. Co. 27 7 Lintec of America, Inc. 9 8 Newlife Magnetics, LLC 10 12 Panel Processing 12 11 Significans Automation 11 9 Signs365 28 13 Ultraflex Systems, Inc. 12 10 X-Edge Products, Inc. 15 INFO# COMPANY PAGE 145 Agfa 21 100 Alwan Color 18 101 Caldera 18 120 Colex Finishing, Inc. 13 102 Continental Grafix USA, Inc. 18 121 CutGuru 13 112 DTG Connection 24 146 Durst US 21 240 EFI 8 147 eProductivity So ware 21 148 Esko 21 122 Flatbed Tools 13 INFO# COMPANY PAGE 103 General Formulations 18 149 HiFlow Solutions 21 150 HYBRID So ware 21 123 Kongsberg Precision Cu ing Systems 13 113 Kornit Digital 24 114 Lawson Screen & Digital Products, Inc. 24 241 Lintec of America, Inc. 8 104 Mactac 18 115 Millcra 24 116 Mimaki USA, Inc. 24 105 Neschen Inc. 18 106 Onyx Graphics, Inc. 18 INFO# COMPANY PAGE 151 Onyx Graphics, Inc. 21 107 PrintFactory 18 117 Roland DGA Corporation 24 108 SA International 18 152 Significans Automation 21 124 Superior Carbide 13 109 Techkon USA 18 125 VTX Tools 13 126 X-Edge Products, Inc. 13 110 X-Rite, Incorporated 18 242 Zund America, Inc. 8 127 Zund America, Inc. 13 #15 #14 #16 May 2023 | Digital Output { 17 }

s marketing campaigns get more creative and utilize multiple elements to create an immersive experience, they might include everything from wall graphics to corrugated displays and floor graphics. For brand owners accurate and matching color across all elements is essential.

Color management remains a critical piece of workflow. “Access to easy color management becomes a necessity to satisfy customer and brand expectations for color matching while maintaining operational efficiency and profitability,”

shares Lou Prestia, product manager, print and packaging, X-Rite, Incorporated.

“Color management is like brand management, and the ability to produce corporate colors across multiple media and surfaces is critical to maintaining the integrity of the brand image,” adds Matt Edwards, product manager, digital print media solution, General Formulations.

Color and Floor Graphics

When it comes to color, expectations vary. So it is important to manage them from the start.

Michelle Kempf, VP, sales and marketing, Continental Grafix USA, Inc., admits that for some clients, pleasing color is acceptable, where the sky is blue and the grass is green. However, other clients demand exacting color—precise matching to Pantone or corporate colors. “Printers must be able to create custom ICC profiles across media and devices to achieve exacting outcomes.”

May 2023 | Digital Output { 18 }
Above, top to bottom) Floor graphics installed by Advance Imaging Inc. with media from General Formulations. Spectrophotometers like the Techkon SpectroDens and color quality software solutions like Techkon’s ChromaQA provide actionable feedback to operators.

Floor graphics require consistent and accurate color to ensure brand identity and recognition. “When colors are not managed correctly they may appear differently across various materials and substrates, leading to a disjointed and unprofessional look. This can negatively impact a campaign as it can result in decreased brand recognition and consumer engagement,” adds Simon Landau, director, global strategic partners, PrintFactory.

Nate Goodman, technical product manager, Mactac, agrees, adding that using color management protocols to ensure proper color in floor graphics is essential for most

campaigns because of the importance of branding recognition of specific colors. “It also allows for the creation of more impressive graphics that stand out and catch the eye, which brings the desired message to the forefront.”

“The brand and designers create the design for a project with expectations. Part of those expectations is vibrant, accurate color—no matter the application or media. The print service provider (PSP) needs to manage those expectations by producing correctly and explaining to the customer what color gamut can be achieved,” adds Sebastien Hanssens, VP, marketing, Caldera.

Stephen Rankin, director of product management, Techkon USA, feels that it’s never been more important for printers to embrace color management technology and use it throughout their color production workflow.

“A goal in floor graphics is to attract the attention of the viewer, bright colors as well as accurate product brand colors are important,” says Mark A. Rugen, managing director of learning and development, SA International (SAi).

Floor Factors

Many factors play into the successful color management of

floor graphics. Everything from the print method and inks to substrates, finishes, and lighting conditions matter when it comes to color accuracy.

Profiles, Substrates, and Inks

Achieving accurate color for floor graphics requires building profiles that consider substrates, ink, and print methods used.

Determining the correct profile for the media and set white point are critical to color management. “Not every media has the same white point, which is why color swatch/color proofing a material can help reduce waste in materials May 2023 | Digital Output { 19 } #4

and time,” says Steve Yarbrough, customer experience manager, Neschen Inc.

When trying to achieve superior color output it is crucial to understand that every material behaves differently, adds Jonathan Rogers, PhD, marketing, Onyx Graphics, Inc. “Different media types need different color managed ICC profiles to ensure color accuracy.”

Color management tools like ICC profiling ensure that the colors in graphic files are optimized for the specific output/print technology and media combination. “ICC profiles and color conversions into the final print output color space provide the best chance for colors to match across the variety of print applications,” explains Rankin.

Substrates make a difference, particularly within floor graphic media, which often features finishes to ensure anti-slip and scuffing. Landau points out that substrates absorb ink differently, and this influences the final color appearance as well.

PSPs may find themselves struggling with color management across devices using different ink and over time due to maintenance cycles. “Having color management tools that are malleable to provide the same output across device, ink, and media as well as recalibrate for consistent output over time are important,” states Rogers.


The finish of a floor graphic is an important factor when it comes to color management.

“Floor graphics need to have a slip resistant surface. This is accomplished by a textured overlaminate or a print media with a textured surface. Both distort the image and colors need to be adjusted accordingly,” offers Goodman.

“Laminates can cause a slight color shift depending on the material and/or finish/texture. Make sure the customer approves a finished sample that includes the approved floor laminate,” suggests Edwards.

Kempf also stresses that the finish of floor graphic material should be considered when attempting to match color against other substrates. “Is the material gloss or matte? Smooth or textured? Will the material receive a laminate? These varied elements can cause an undesired color shift and should be considered in the color management strategy of a job.”


The location of a floor graphic also affects the color due to lighting considerations and the floor itself.

“The lighting conditions in the room can impact the perception of color, making it appear different than intended,” agrees Landau.

Harsh room lighting from florescent lights can change the visual representation of colors in an image. “The print shop must not only create designs that are color accurate, but also have a way to easily adjust color when seen in the final lighted environment. That could mean producing a brand color that is slightly darker or lighter so it appears correct in the harsh lighting,” shares Rugen.

Elie Khoury, president, and Fabrio Santoro, color management engineer, specialty printing applications specialist, Alwan Color, add that the reference illuminant—D50 for color servers and D65 for industrial applications—introduces additional color mismatching between design and print.

Yarbrough notes that the color of the actual floor may alter color depending on material show through or opacity.

Color Focus

Color management is critical for all applications and floor graphics are no exception. Read more about color management and floor graphics at D

companies mentioned INFO# COMPANY WEBSITE 100 Alwan Color 101 Caldera 102 Continental Grafix USA, Inc. 103 General Formulations 104 Mactac 105 Neschen Inc. 106 Onyx Graphics, Inc. 107 PrintFactory 108 SA International 109 Techkon USA 110 X-Rite, Incorporated See page 17 for more info. #17 May 2023 | Digital Output { 20 }

hether it’s package prototypes on a flatbed device or short-run lengths off a dedicated press, packaging of all shapes and sizes benefit from software that influences the entire production workflow from design to print and cut.

Many products offer tools in direct response to trends like variability, personalization, and

smart or intelligent packaging. Other concerns include meeting sustainability requirements and the need to consistently yield correct brand colors across multiple substrates.

More than Pretty Packaging

Software companies continue to introduce features and enhancements to meet the challenges of professional packaging prepress

environments. While challenges refer to many things, one category is trends. Generally, trends indicate new or different products, and in those situations, print service providers (PSPs) learn to adapt and capitalize. May 2023 | Digital Output { 21 }
Above) Esko Release 23.03 includes the new feature, Phoenix, which is an AI-based tool developed in collaboration with Tilia Labs that unlocks planning and imposition productivity improvements. by Digital Output Staff

“With the rapid adoption of digital presses for labels, cartons, and corrugated boxes along with a growing demand for personalization—as well as the need to find a way to reduce the cost of producing multiple flavors, languages, or other options—package printers need a better solution for variable data print (VDP) preparation and output than existing offerings,” admits Mike Agness, EVP, Americas, HYBRID Software.

A direct result of the increased rate of digital adoption, Steve Lynn, director, labels and packaging, Durst US, says is shorter run lengths, which are driven by more personalization or regionalization.

“Although still low, variable data usage grows constantly as the request for packaging personalization increases. The challenge is to offer an efficient solution for high print volume, including not only the processing of the variable data, but also managing cutting

and scoring,” comments Alain Cormond, business development manager, GS/marketing - Apogee & Asanti, Agfa.

According to Nick Benkovich, VP, global portfolio product management, eProductivity Software (ePS), “global brand expansion requires support for run length and version variations as well as justin-time planning and production— all while maintaining production traceability. In addition, the move to online purchasing, single serve, and on-the-go packaging is changing the way we package and distribute products.”

Smart and/or intelligent packaging are other trends. With smart packaging, “you scan a quick response code with a smartphone and are escorted into an online odyssey that tells you everything about the product you’re thinking of buying, and the company that created it. NFC or near field communication also helps brands get their messages across in a memorable way,” points out Michel Beauchamp, customer growth manager, Significans Automation.

Intelligent packaging is a sub-category of smart packaging. “It adds value by expanding the options for communication between on-theshelf products and consumers. A futuristic approach, it focuses mostly on detecting the condition of a package’s contents, then sharing that information with consumers,” explains Beauchamp.

Less Waste

There is a demand for—or least conversation around—sustainable packaging. This doesn’t mean the packaging itself is necessarily recyclable or made with post-consumer contents, instead it’s whether the process/production of the packaging is sustainable. With this in mind, packaging software offers many features that reduce ink usage, minimize substrate waste, and increase efficiencies.

“Error and waste reduction has a direct impact on the environmental footprint of a packaging business. With sustainability and digitalization fundamentally altering how the industry operates, it is imperative that today’s packaging companies invest in technology that enables them to boost efficiency, reduce costs, and improve their overall productivity,” says Jan De Roeck, director of marketing, industry relations and strategy, Esko.

Software tools detect ways to minimize waste. “The newest features seek to use the least amount of substrate. Full substrate libraries contain sustainable substrates and give recommendations for their use. This is tied to a full tool and die library to recognize the best tool/die to be used with the sustainable materials,” shares Jack J. Lafler, VP, sales and technical services, HiFlow Solutions.

Improving nesting minimizes waste per sheet and reduces ink usage by up to 30 percent—as is the case with Durst Workflow software. “PSPs are also adding efficiency to their operations via automation. And reporting abilities enable PSPs to analyze different jobs that have been produced and determine how to improve efficiencies,” explains Lynn.

Similarly, Cormond admits that “discussions with Agfa packaging customers often have an accent of day to day, economical challenges leading to extra attention to the consumables and the adoption of best practices and software helping to conscientiously manage and control waste.”

ePS’ Packaging Suite helps users minimize waste in the production process with features like recipe management and substitute resins

May 2023 | Digital Output { 22 } 1 companies mentioned INFO# COMPANY WEBSITE 145 Agfa 146 Durst US 147 eProductivity Software 148 Esko 149 HiFlow Solutions 150 HYBRID Software 151 Onyx Graphics, Inc. 152 Significans Automation See page 17 for more info.
1) PSPs add efficiency to operations via automation with Durst Lift ERP software, focusing on sustainability by reducing waste and time across the board.

for flexible packaging—including substitution during production, accurate calculation of required materials to reduce waste, tracking of waste to facilitate reuse and recycling, weight-based measurement of waste, and the ability to repurpose waste to raw material.

Inflexible Color

Spot colors are critical to brands, and packaging obviously requires them to be 100 percent accurate. This is something that has forever been important to brand owners, and despite all of these newer introductions involving variability, sustainability, and the like—color continues to be a top priority.

“While some digital presses create spot color printing units, most are limited by either four-color or expanded gamut ink sets. It’s important to utilize a solution with a collection of color management tools to help proofing software recreate accurate spot colors using expanded gamut inks on a digital press,” recommends Agness.

“Spot color for accurate brand color management is very important so any packaging prepress software should have the ability and tools to make color matching or management very easy. Durst Workflow software has a suite of tools that help prepress in file

preparation and also check and maintain color throughout production,” shares Lynn.

“Brand colors must meet the output expectations of print buyers. This is particularly true for repeat orders or where customers print across different media types. Color management tools provide the ability to match brand colors and include process control measures to ensure consistency in color output overtime,” recommends Jonathan Rogers, international marketing manager, Onyx Graphics, Inc.

Color management is critical in packaging, “because you’re usually

dealing with strict, inflexible brand colors, type fonts, logos, and images. Automated color management software ensuring the printability and repeatability of packaging graphics across all devices and on all substrates is a must, regardless of the type of packaging,” shares Stan Carmichael, special projects, Significans Automation.

End-to-End Efficiencies

The latest software solutions meet the needs of packaging environments, whether a PSP or commercial printer. The software is tasked with providing essential efficiencies from package design, print, and finishing to fulfillment. D May 2023 | Digital Output { 23 }

irect to garment (DTG) printers are advantageous to your business for a number of reasons. You shouldn’t hesitate to consider adopting new technologies if you are looking for an effective way to grow your service offerings without breaking the bank.

Primary Thoughts

The benefits of adding DTG are apparent. Customization and personalization are hot trends and this technology delivers. In addition, it’s a great way for print providers to bring textile printing in house. “Concentric diversification

is the best way to add a new revenue stream to an existing business. Wide format print shops can offer a variety of products and combine apparel with their current services. DTG and direct to film are growing at an exponential rate and if they aren’t looking at adding it to their shop, they should recognize that their competitor likely is,” explains Eric Deem, apparel solutions sales manager, Millcraft.

DTG checks the boxes in terms of the latest consumer demands. Sharon Donovich, marketing director, Kornit Digital, says “DTG is a unique offering that is growing and answers

many market trends, such as personalization, sustainability, and reshoring.”

It yields minimal waste. “DTG offers smaller prints and quantities,” explains Deana Iribe, technical support manager, DTG Connection.

“DTG provides an easy way for wide format printers to bring textile printing in house. The ability to offer more production in house provides you with quality control, along with

May 2023 | Digital Output { 24 }
Above) Millcraft is a one-stop shop for DTG and direct to film printers and supplies. by Digital Output Staff

the ability to meet your production and deadlines,” shares Taylor Landesman, VP, Lawson Screen & Digital Products, Inc.

Kitt Jones, product manager, Roland DGA Corporation, agrees, stressing the importance of print providers keeping jobs in house.

“As digital and large format evolves, so does the need for the print provider to accommodate the needs of their clients. Those who don’t take steps to expand their product offerings risk having the market passing them by.”

DTG printers complement a wide format print shop’s existing work. “Sign shops already handle a plethora of marketing materials for events and adding garments to those projects seems like a no brainer,” says Iribe. She gives the example of a print shop that wins a bid to produce signage and posters for a city-wide marathon. If the print shop also has a DTG printer, it now is capable of producing shirts for the staff and participants of the marathon.

“Most commercial print and wide format shops work with corporate/enterprise-type accounts. Almost all of those customers utilize some form of corporate merchandise that can be fulfilled with DTG. Other low-hanging fruit would include using DTG to work with customers looking for small order runs with complex art, such as photographs,” notes Deem.

DTG imprinted apparel appeals to a PSP’s existing customer base, according to Donovich. “A print shop owner can complement existing work by offering additional

products to his/her own customer database, thus creating more value as well as versatility/resilience.”

“The past few years have shown us that short-run and print on demand DTG are prominent profit centers for many PSPs. The ability to fulfill small t-shirt and apparel orders in house helps maximize profit, while allowing control over turnaround time and quality to these print providers,” continues Jones.

Learning Curve

Well you are convinced taking on a DTG device is worth it, but are you weary about what is next?

Deem admits that as in any skilled trade or just like any other type of print, there is absolutely a learning curve. “However, as it is a digital process, there is a tremendous amount of overlap with wide format machines and workflow as with DTG. As long as proper training is provided and time is spent understanding the various processes involved in DTG the learning curve is reduced much more quickly.”

“For print shops already using digital printers, including wide format, the learning curve should be quick and simple. The challenges of digital printers primarily involve knowing how to maintain inkjet printers, so this integration should be fairly smooth. Print shops also tend to be familiar with workflow and orders processing, which certainly helps,” continues Donovich.

Jones lists a few of the learning requirements specific to the application—pretreating the garment,

printing, and postcuring or drying. Out of these, he says an important consideration is whether to pretreat shirts in house or buy factory pretreated shirts.

“Purchasing pretreated t-shirts is a great way to start out before the need arises to start pretreating garments in house. SanMar and RTP are good choices if you don’t want to deal with the pretreating application, or the extra time involved in the preprocessing,” recommends Jones.

Iribe believes the learning curve is relative to the substrates used. “With DTG you are printing directly onto a fabric substrate. It’s important to understand that different fabric qualities, contents, weights, and weaves can affect the outcome of your print. 100 percent combed ring spun cotton will yield the best results. With DTG overcoming the mindset that ‘cheaper is better’ can be a client’s biggest hurdle,” she explains.

“There is a learning curve with DTG, mainly in the areas May 2023 | Digital Output { 25 } #2

of pretreatment. This is the part where digital graphic people spend the most time learning as each garment has different variables,” agrees Landesman.

With so much technology at our disposable, it’s easy to gain insight on any topic. “As entrepreneurs, print providers are accustomed to learning curves, and with so much information available, the knowledge can be obtained quickly and easily. With that in mind, learning as much as possible about the process and equipment before making your decision on whether to bring the application in house allows you to make an educated choice,” says Jones.

Direct to Film

An offshoot of DTG is direct to film, which has exploded in popularity. Direct to film is the process of printing directly to a film without the help of a pretreatment, applying a transfer layer/powder, and transferring the image with heat to a preferred substrate. This of course expands the types of substrates that can be direct printed onto.

Direct to film is something a wide format printer should look into, advises Landesman. “Many are turning away from DTG and increasingly adopting direct to film into their production. This is because it offers the one-off and

high-color printing of DTG but is not limited to cotton.”

Mimaki USA, Inc. announced its dedicated direct to film printer in April 2023. The TxF150-75 is an inkjet printer with a maximum printing width of 31.5 inches for producing direct to film print transfer sheets.

The buzz surrounding direct to film will continue, says Iribe, because it creates a wider range of options. “Polyester has been the achilles heel of DTG due to its weaker ability to absorb pretreatment and less capacity to retain the opaqueness of white ink after being cured under a heat press. Direct to film uses a powder to create adherence to garments without the use of a pretreatment. It also allows it to be transferred in less time under a heat press, which helps the white ink retain its opacity onto previously tricky synthetic brands.”

Direct to film is a great option for print shops looking to work primarily with polyester-based athletic apparel or other highstretch materials, according to Deem. In addition, if you’re looking to gang up several larger orders at one time, then direct to film is efficient.

“Direct to film has its place and is gaining popularity as a viable application or offering for print providers. I see that trend continuing and evolving in 2023 as printer manufacturers provide more reliable and easy-to-use products,” foresees Jones.

What to Look For

A popular request from many users is eliminating pretreatment, according to Iribe. “We may soon see printers with the ability of removing that step by adding a pretreatment function within the machine at a consumer level.”

“Increased automation and unique applications like 3D printing, while special inks are going to be more important,” says Donovich of what will happen in the future.

Multi-station units that can handle larger format items like towels or blankets are an evolution worth watching in the DTG space, according to Jones. “Such devices have opened the doorway to new markets, allowing for the creation of output that could not have been produced by DTG in the past. While dye-sublimation may be great for polyester and screen printing ideal for other fabrics, having that on demand, short-run, or one-off capability that a quality large format DTG printer provides is a game changer.”

Deem says more brands of blank garments witness the growth of DTG in the apparel decorating space. “I think we will see more garment manufacturers expand their offerings to include a DTG ready-to-print option.”

DTG on the Go

If you’re looking to expand your service offerings and dangle that premise of a one-stop shop to customers, DTG printing is a great option. It complements a wide format portfolio well and the learning curve—while it exists—isn’t steep since the technology is familiar. D

1 companies mentioned INFO# COMPANY WEBSITE 112 DTG Connection 113 Kornit Digital 114 Lawson Screen & Digital Products, Inc. 115 Millcraft 116 Mimaki USA, Inc. 117 Roland DGA Corporation See page 17 for more info. May 2023 | Digital Output { 26 }
1) Lawson Screen & Digital distributes Epson DTG printers.
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