Digital Output May 24

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MAY 2024 Window Graphics | pg. 11 Eco-Friendly Media Chart | pg. 13 Color Managing Wallcoverings | pg. 24 pg. 20 DIGITALOUTPUT.NET VOL XXX, NO. 5 • $6.95 USA
#5 May 2024 | Digital Output { 3 } Departments Editor’s Input ................................................................ {4 In the Aisles {6 & 10 Application Spotlight ................................................ {11 Target Chart {13 Plus Marketplace Spotlight { 9 Advertiser’s Index/Companies Mentioned ........... { 19 Showcase Advertisers ............................................... { 19 ON THE COVER: FireSprint focuses on providing wholesale print services day in and day out. See page 20. features
Details Color Critical Wallcoverings Spectrophotometers, RIPs, and other tools get the job done. by Digital Output Staff 20 6 11 10 13 24 14
14 } On Trend and Remaining Relevant
and DTF Printing Bring Value to Print Shops
investment with a high
20 } Economics of Scale Outsourcing Partners for the Win Turn to trade-only wholesale printers. by
24 } Managing Intricacies,
and Fine

Less is More

If you’re looking to boost your sign shop with new service offerings, sometimes the most effective option is the least expensive or less intrusive to your current business.

If they aren’t buying them from you, they are purchasing them from somewhere else.

Consider direct to garment (DTG) and/or direct to film (DTF) for example. These printers are in many cases available at an entry level to cater to new users looking to make a mark in the garment business. Before you say, “hey I’m a wide format printer”—well, think about how you can offer your sign and display customers t-shirts as well. If they aren’t buying them from you, they are purchasing them from somewhere else. Read more in On Trend and Remaining Relevant.

Another way to add services without breaking the bank? Partnering with a wholesale printer. If you don’t have the capability to offer a specific application, but want to avoid turning away a customer, consider reaching out to a trade-only printer. These businesses specialize in volume and are up to date with the latest technologies and trends. Economies of Scale discusses this in more detail.

This issue also includes a look at color management for wallcoverings, a spotlight on window graphics, vendors offering eco-friendly media compiled into a handy chart, and both post- and pre-coverage of recent trade shows.

The ISA International Sign Expo was held in April and we walked the show floor to report on the newest product announcements. drupa, not held since 2016, starts in May and goes until the first week of June. We include wide format printing-related information in our show preview.



Thomas Tetreault


Melissa Donovan


Cassandra Balentine


Melissa Mueller


Sarah M. White


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



Thomas Tetreault


Amanda Doyon 978-921-7850, Ext. 170

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International Event drupa on Display

It’s a drupa year! Looking to experience a bit of European culture with a side of print? Visit the Düsseldorf Fairgrounds in Düsseldorf, Germany from May 28 to June 7, 2024. The event is spread across 17 halls as well as outdoor space with 1,426 exhibitors from 50 countries. With a focus on sustainability and digitalization, the show promises to educate all attendees on the important topics in printing today.

We asked exhibting wide format vendors to provide information on their plans for drupa.

Alwan, hall 7A, booth E10, co-exhibits with ColorConsulting. Learn about Alwan ColorHub—a PDF color server that allows for printing accurate colors while using less ink and reducing color maintenance time. Alwan ColorCloud is a cloud platform designed to make color management and process control available and affordable. It offers users free, as well as reasonably priced, subscription plans. Also demonstrated is Hydra Profiling/HydraFix. Hydra Profiling allows for the quick creation of three to seven color ICC output profiles by measuring a small number of printed patches. INFO# 220

DuPont, hall 8B, booth B13, exhibits its three brand offerings Artistri, Tyvek, and Cyrel. Pertaining to digital wide format, it’s Artistri digital water-based inkjet printing inks and dispersions deliver jetting reliability, durability, high color, and image quality across production runs and over time. Tyvek is a unique, nonwoven material made from high-density polyethylene fibers, combining the best properties of paper, film, and fabric. It resists tearing, puncturing, and moisture infiltration, making it suitable for applications that require high levels of protection, safety, and durability. Tyvek is a highly printable substrate that offers excellent ink adhesion and vibrant color reproduction. INFO# 221

Enfocus, hall 8B, booth A12 brings its flexible automation software, featuring the 24.03 update of Pitstop Pro for PDF proofing and Griffin, an automated nesting tool. The two solutions work together to present a unified wide format printng workflow. The collaboration between Enfocus and its co-exhibitors demonstrates how businesses can power up their operations with an integrated technology ecosystem that incorporates automation, cloud technology, and artificial intelligence (AI). INFO# 222

May 2024 | Digital Output { 6 } 1 2
1) Alwan, hall 7A / E10, showcases Alwan ColorHub, Alwan ColorCloud, and Hydra Profiling/ HydraFix. 2) Kongsberg Precision Cutting Systems, hall 8A, booth b43, publicly debuts the Kongsberg Ultimate.
Winnersarefeaturedinour Issue NOMINATIONS MUST INCLUDE: • Print provider company name and contact information • Name of client • Brief description of job (media, ink, hardware used) • Image(s) of application Email to by May 10, 2024

Esko , hall 8B, booth A12, unveils sCloud, a multi-tenant cloudnative platform that delivers on a new technological reality based on cloud computing, data sharing, and AI. All existing Esko applications—from ArtPro+, ArtiosCAD, and Phoenix through to Cape Pack and Automation Engine—will connect to the new platform, giving all stakeholders in the value chain 24/7 real-time access to live data and identical resources, wherever they reside. Esko sCloud is an open platform supporting connectivity with partners. INFO# 223

Fiery , hall 8B, booth B10, displays the latest digital front ends, color management, and workflow automation innovations. Showcased is Fiery’s newest AI-driven features, including an ink stock management application and a new job ticketing assistant. Explore Fiery Impress for label and packaging production and Digital

Factory for direct to film printing. Unlock your superpowers using color management and automated job handling with Fiery FS600 Pro and Fiery XF 8. INFO# 224

GTI Graphic Technology, Inc. , hall 5, booth E10, showcases a new D50 LED lamp that offers a high CRI solution for its Graphiclite portfolio of products. This new lamp combines the benefits of LED technology with a close match to D50 spectral specifications ensuring tight conformance to the ISO 3664:2009 viewing standard. GTI’s D50 LED lamps are EU and RoHS compliant, have a high-quality CRI of up to 97+, 10,000 hours of use, and are energy efficient. An in-house spectroradiometric laboratory and a 100 percent measurement and verification production process guarantee that precision and accuracy is built into all products. Also on display are color viewing systems like LED floor stand

models CVX-3052/LED, VPI-52/ LED, and EVS-2028/LED. LED desktop models include the PDV-3e/LED and the muti-source MiniMatcher-4e/LED. INFO# 225

INX International Ink Co. , hall 3, booth E83, presents a range of inks, coatings, and color management solutions, and also demonstrates its commitment to sustainability, product innovation, and customer partnerships. Since introducing the Coloring a Safe and Sustainable Future model in 2020, INX assists brand owners and customers in making products easier to recycle and promotes the development of circular economies. This may include improving functional barriers to enable the use of mono material structures; the use of color fast washable inks such as the Genesis GS washable inks that are easily removed in the recycling process; sustainably sourced natural based inks;

and inks and coatings that are designed to be highly robust for multiple re-use and returnable applications. INFO# 226

Kongsberg Precision Cutting Systems, hall 8A, booth B43, debuts advanced robotics and next generation digital cutting technology. Not only is the Kongsberg Ultimate making its public debut at the global exhibition, but the company also previews the future of automation with the newest addition to its line—a sevenaxis rail-mounted robot cell that allows customers to increase throughput utilizing multiple pallets and multiple cutting systems. drupa visitors also have the opportunity to see the flagship in the MultiCam range of advanced routing and CNC cutting systems, the Apex3R, as the company

3) Zünd, hall 9, booth B03, presents the new Q-Line generation of cutters—with Board Handling System BHS180 and integrated UNDERCAM optical capturing system.

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increases its distribution across EMEA and APAC. INFO# 227

Techkon, hall 9, booth A03, demonstrates its SpectroVision inline color measurement system for any flexographic, digital, and offset web printer. It allows for real-time color measurement at full speed, measuring an entire color bar in a single printed impression. This not only reduces make-ready times by 50 percent or more, but also features a predictive system alerting press operators when colors begin to drift, allowing them to act before they are out of tolerance and without having to stop the press.INFO# 228

Zünd, hall 9, booth B03, continues to expand its portfolio of digital cutting systems, software tools, and automation solutions. The goal is to offer productivity for all—for every customer, every requirement, every budget. For the first time, the complete Zünd Q-Line with BHS180 is on display. Zünd also exhibits the many ways advanced digital cutting technologies are making Zünd’s G3/ S3 systems ever more efficient and cost effective. In the spotlight is the UNDERCAM registration system for G3, enabling efficient processing of boards from the reverse side; the completely reengineered, touch-based Zünd Cut Center 4.0; and a range of automation features including the Robot PortaTable for fully automated picking and sorting. INFO# 229

Travel Abroad

Hurry and make plans to visit Düsseldorf, Germany between May 28 to June 7, 2024 today. The next drupa takes place in 2028. D

Stand Out in the Industry

Featuring a table size of 55x27 inches, the XpertJet 1462UF stands out. This large dimension allows for increased production capacity and profitability, enabling users to print up to 5.91 inches thick. Whether you’re looking to enhance your existing UV printer or venture into new areas such as ADA compliant braille, awards, packaging, signage, or home décor, this printer is ideal. Powered by MUTOH’s VerteLith Genuine RIP software and bundled with FlexiDESIGNER MUTOH Edition 21, a $2,199 value, the XpertJet 1462UF offers businesses a powerful solution to enhance productivity, expand creative possibilities, and deliver exceptional print quality. Request a free print sample at INFO# 230


Guardian Cold Laminator - $4,295

Guardian Laminators are an affordable, easy to use solution for all of your finishing, laminating, and mounting needs. The Guardian’s intuitive design makes for quick and easy use, maintenance, and cleaning… saving you time on production. Solid, all-steel construction, cold or heat assist models, crowned silicone rollers, upper and lower idler bars, single-level nip adjustment, and easy load drop-in supply mandrels with a centering system provide high quality performance. For more information visit or contact Supply55, Inc. at 734-668-0755 or INFO# 232

Endless Possibilities with Retail Pro

Newlife Magnetics is the world’s largest manufacturer of flexible magnetic materials. Our company’s 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 currently offer the thinnest, widest, lightest, and strongest magnetic materials on the market. Do you need a fresh way to display your graphics? Give our new Retail Pro a shot! The versatility of our DCK makes this product great for almost any location, including, but not limited to, cars, windows, and countertops. DCK micro-suction film opens up a range of possibilities for consumers looking for convenient and effective solutions for display purposes. INFO# 231

92ST Digital Wrap Film

Trim USA is proud to introduce 92ST Digital Wrap Film, manufactured by LX Hausys, a division of LG. It has been engineered with installer-friendly features such as repositionability, slideability, air-free technology, and ability to conform to irregular surfaces. Image quality with the new 92ST is outstanding with printable solvent, latex, and UV-curable inks. The LX 809904 laminate that is paired with the media at 1.6-mil contributes to the stretch in compound areas. The laminate is carried on a layflat liner and is also printable. For the occasion you need a clear media, you can print on this film. Call 800-642-0959 for more information. INFO# 233

NEWLIFE MAGNETICS MUTOH AMERICA, INC. May 2024 | Digital Output { 9 }

Community in Wraps

ISA International Sign Expo Recap

Held this past April and hosted by the International Sign Association (ISA), the ISA International Sign Expo demonstrated just how busy the sign industry is, with new products showcased on the expo �loor to meet-and-greets that personi�ied the importance of networking and collaboration.

Collaboration Announcement

One of the more notable announcements was from ISA itself, as the association is deepening its alliance with The Wrap Institute (TWI). This is on the heels of ISA taking a minority ownership interest in TWI.

ISA and TWI already have a history of working together, collaborating on the ISA International Sign Expo’s The Wrap Experience since 2018. The two launched The Wrap Summit in early 2024, an event that brings wrap professionals together for networking.

“The wrap segment brings additional skills to the overall sign and graphics industry,” says Lori Anderson, president/CEO, ISA. “With the growth of vinyl applications, whether on vehicles or walls, this relationship

between ISA and TWI will help all facets of the sign and graphics industry grow.”

“The wrap community has not really had a home until now,” notes Justin Pate, TWI. “ISA and TWI are perfect partners to help the wrap community with more education, training, networking, and events.”

Wraps were indeed a big part of the 2024 event in FL. Companies like Avery Dennison Graphics Solutions, Arlon, EVOLV, General Formulations, and ORAFOL showcased vehicle wraps as well as other pressuresensitive adhesive applications in their booths.

Of course, The Wrap Experience was also a great interactive booth area that surrounded the Never Stop Learning Contest.

We look forward to watching this extended alliance between ISA and TWI grow in the coming months. Continue to review our news sections online and in print to learn more about their collaboration and how you can be a part of it. D

May 2024 | Digital Output { 10 } 1 2
1) Photo Tex Group donated 20 rolls of material to wrap both entrances of the show. 2) EVOLV was one of the companies showing o wrap skills at the ISA International Sign Expo in April.

Working with Windows

Producing High-Impact Window Graphics

When it comes to impactful graphics, versatility wins. Window graphics are functional and aesthetically pleasing, as simple as cut vinyl or as complex as a print graphic.

Central Graphics, Inc. of Akron, OH is well adept in creating all types of window graphics. It began as a small company with a vinyl plotter in 1995. It has 18 employees and works out of a 10,000 square foot location. The print provider primarily caters to customers East of the MS, often extending to FL and SC.

Today, its core businesses includes environmental graphics, specialty wraps, channel letters, electric signs, window graphics, signs, banners, fabric and silicone edge graphic printing, building and mesh banners,

vehicle and bus wraps, wall wraps and murals, as well as illustration and design. It also has a separate wholesale graphics installation company.

Window Graphics

Among Central Graphics’ extensive offerings, window graphics represent about 15 percent of its business. Within this category, it is able to offer clients options for utilizing the window space of a business, vehicle, or environment, from cut vinyl lettering to custom printed, perforated window graphics that match a brand or highlight a campaign.

Businesses with changing window decals convey that they’re lively and thriving, with new deals, fresh merchandise, and creative specials.
Dave Soulsby, president, Central Graphics

Window graphics are an important and growing area for Central Graphics. One reason is because they are easily exchangeable. “The possibilities are endless, and the decisions are entirely

1) Central Graphics worked on a city-wide campaign for the NBA 2022 All Star Game. Depending on the location, media used was Mactac IMAGin B-free Frosted or Mactac M-Dot. 2) Distraction branding at National Interstate Insurance in Richfield, OH using Mactac IMAGin B-Free Frosted on office windows. Printed on Central Graphics’ Epson printer.

1 2 May 2024 | Digital Output { 11 }

up to your marketing targets. This advertising flexibility is a great business advantage. Businesses with changing window decals convey that they’re lively and thriving, with new deals, fresh merchandise, and creative specials. Even the most frequent and loyal customers will feel there’s something new to see in your store every time they visit,” says Dave Soulsby, president, Central Graphics.

For window graphic production, the print provider relies on Epson solvent and HP Inc. Latex 700 W roll-to-roll devices and an HP Latex R1000 hybrid printer, as well as a Colex Finishing Solutions, Inc. cutting table, Rollsroller flatbed applicator, and a range of other printers, plotters, and laminators. For media, it prefers Mactac.

“All these new buildings are being constructed with glass and everyone can see right in the offices,” shares Soulsby. “This means a lot of Mactac IMAGin B-free Frosted is being installed after the ‘cool and hip’ offices are finished. Then we come in and make it usable.”

For architectural or office installations, Mactac IMAGin B-free Frosted features dry application with no air bubbles or wrinkling. It is intended for printed window graphics and internally illuminated signs.

Central Graphics also utilizes Mactac IMAGin Simply Sustainable Crystal Cling, a 4-mil gloss clear removable PET film that offers excellent clarity and print compatibility with UV and latex

inkjet printers and is intended for short- to medium-term advertising on glass surfaces such as windows, displays, and signboards.

“For years corporations or retail companies only had solid colors to adhere to their windows. Now with most Mactac products we can print on it and cut with the Colex flatbed cutter,” offers Soulsby.

Another favored film for windows is Mactac M-Dot. M-Dot MD128 white or MD199 clear allows quick and easy error-free, bubble-free application on smooth, flat interior surfaces such as windows, Plexi partitions, walls, and point of purchase advertising.

The shop benefits from the Mactac headquarters being the next town over. “For years they have come over with new products to test in the field. They are a fun bunch,” says Soulsby.

All Star Windows

Central Graphics works with the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers. In fact, one of its specialties is reimagining sports and college arenas with wall graphics, vehicle wraps, stadium signs, window graphics, locker room graphics, bleacher banner wraps, flatbed printing, smaller LED signage, and interactive displays for Hall of Fames.

One of the shop’s most memorable experiences was when it did a city-wide branding campaign for the NBA 2022 All Star Game. This included graphics for airports and retail stores.

For a Hopkins Airport arrival window graphic, it printed to Mactac

M-Dot and did not laminate so that it had a translucent look.

“There were some speed bumps along the way, but it all worked out in the end,” shares Soulsby.

For instance, the airport graphic was redone with M-Dot after the original material proved to be too opaque. “Once they switched to MDot, and the translucent material allowed the light to come through, it looked amazing. It was like a huge light box,” explains Soulsby.

The project was quick, and turned around in just about a month. “We were all hands on deck. I was driving graphics around Cleveland with a crew,” shares Soulsby.

The graphics were slated to be up for about a week and then Central Graphics’ crew removed it all. “MDot has these micro-dot adhesive pieces that allow the installer to basically install it by hand and smooth it out. It peels right off, even in the OH winters it goes on well and comes off quickly when needed,” adds Soulsby.

Winning with Windows

Central Graphics enjoys working with windows, an application that requires knowledge of the various media options available and the skill to install them properly.

During the interview for this article, the shop was busy working on a project for the NCAA Women’s March Madness Final Four, an exciting endeavor as the spotlight was on Iowa Hawkeyes’ player Caitlin Clark, an all-time leading scorer. D

#8 See page 19 for more info. May 2024 | Digital Output { 12 }

&irect to garment (DTG) and direct to film (DTF) printing isn’t new, but it is growing in popularity. Multiple hardware vendors tout recent product introductions. Some are purposely built to operate as solely a DTG printer, or just a DTF printer—while others switch between the two, making them hybrid devices.

Wide format print service providers (PSPs) would be remiss to ignore the demand DTG/ DTF printers are generating. These devices are low-cost investments for any sign shop

and act as complementary service offerings regardless of your current application lineup.

Accessible and Appealing

Driving interest in DTG/DTF printing is its ease of use, which makes for a minimal time investment when learning how to use. The versatility of this technology—able to print to multiple substrates or in the case of DTF from film to any substrate—is also part of its mystique.

According to a representative from Ricoh DTG, “consumers increasingly look for personalized

and customized products, especially apparel, accessories, and home décor. Both DTG and DTF printing enable businesses to offer on demand customization with vibrant colors and high-resolution graphics, tailoring to individual preferences and trends.”

Customization continues to be a major driving force, according to Shawn Stender, account executive, DTG Connection. “Customers seek out businesses that produce full color, custom, Above) The Mimaki TxF Series includes two models of DTF printers for heat transfer textile applications.

May 2024 | Digital Output { 14 }
by Melissa Donovan

quick turnaround apparel orders. With DTG, you can print one-off orders without the long setup times associated with older printing technologies.”

“Evolving the print process from analog to digital is driving much of the interest in that previously, the screenprinting process was largely to decorate garments. Then came DTG and more recently, DTF, which enables more complex decoration without manual weeding on not just garments, but a range of textile options such as tote bags, pillows, and blankets. DTF expands the range of substrate options both

in color and materials,” says Josh Hope, senior manager, segment marketing, Mimaki USA, Inc.

Versatility is a top advantage, especially when considering DTG/DTF hybrid solutions. “DTG/DTF hybrid solutions also provide a unique opportunity for print shops to expand product offerings. Hybrid solutions allow printers to leverage DTG features to print directly to cotton and primarily cotton-blend fabric, while simultaneously giving users the ability to print and transfer applications to polyester, cotton/poly blends, and more— even products outside the textile

space—which presents significant expansion opportunities,” explains Lily Hunter, product manager, Professional Imaging, Epson America Inc.

DTF is particularly popular because Daniel Valade, product manager of digital print, Roland DGA Corporation, sees an increase in demand for intricate custom designs. “With this increased popularity comes a corresponding demand for the necessary equipment. DTF allows for fine detail without the need for weeding, which can be a very tedious process in postproduction, especially with fine

text or difficult-to-weed images like paint splatter.”

Technology Advancements

Technology is always advancing. DTG and DTF printers incorporate many of the technology updates we see on wide format devices, only at a smaller scale.

Marcel Schwendimann, VP of sales, NuCoat, says that strategic alliances between ink and RIP software providers are pivotal in DTG/DTF. NuCoat is an authorized dealer of CobraFlex printers, which utilize DuPont ink and Neostampa Inedit for RIP software. “By aligning with these innovators, we ensure our May 2024 | Digital Output { 15 } & #4

printers stay ahead, capitalizing on technological breakthroughs to secure a competitive advantage.”

“New generation machines push the bar higher and faster every year, faster equipment means faster turnarounds,” explains the representative from Ricoh DTG. One example, printers like the Ricoh Ri 4000 that prints enhancer out of a printhead and directly onto the wet surface. This eliminates offline pretreating and makes everything inline.

Another example, white ink recirculation. “A specific technology that creates demand is a robust white ink circulation system. This enables the jetting of more opaque white inks while ensuring that the heavy white pigments don’t settle, reducing waste from missing nozzles and extending print run lengths. A more opaque white ink means faster print times on DTF prints intended for darker substrates,” shares Hope.

How these printers are packaged and presented to the industry is also relevant. “Methods like DTF require many different components, including the printer, ink, film, powder, dyer, and heat press. Today’s market demands a total solution, so Roland is making things easier for those in the market by serving as a single source for many of these components,” says Valade.

Hope also notices the heightened request for total solutions from a single vendor. “Fully integrated DTF systems are in high demand due to the printer, consumables, and software all being designed together by a single company. This provides a cohesive solution that is reliable and gives the owner peace of mind knowing that they have a single source for supplies, service, and parts availability.”

Where DTF is today technologywise reminds Stender of DTG in early 2008. “Many lower end DTF printers require a lot of maintenance. DTG technology on the other hand has matured and there are many industrial options on the market. These printers no longer require daily maintenance and are workhorses. Ink cost has also fallen over the years making the profit margins per shirt incredibly attractive.”

A noticeable advancement is the introduction of hybrid devices that include both DTG and DTF capabilities. According to Hunter, “with the rise of ecommerce and customizable printed products, hybrid technology emerges as a leading solution to meet the increased demand and quick

May 2024 | Digital Output { 16 } 2 1
1) The Roland VersaSTUDIO BY-20 Desktop Direct-to-Film System is designed to be simple to use, reliable, and efficient. 2) The compact, versatile Epson SureColor F1070 printer is purpose-built for both DTG and DTF printing.

required turnaround times. Consolidating hardware into a single, reliable system has simplified logistics and increased efficiency and versatility in print shops. It streamlines workflow and reduces the time and resources spent on learning and understanding multiple machines and their maintenance requirements.”

Hybrid Focus

Devices offering the capability to switch between DTG and DTF are a hot topic. There are advantages to offering both capabilities in one piece of hardware.

Hybrid DTG/DTF printers are the best of both worlds. “For the customer looking to sell apparel, printing directly on the garment is faster, cheaper, and overall has a better finished quality print. While having the capabilities to quickly switch to DTF in instances where you would like to sell the sheets or print on specialty materials is a huge advantage,” notes Stender.

“On the consumable side, utilizing a single system simplifies ink and media management. Instead of monitoring multiple ink types and media compatibility, print shop owners can easily track a unified solution,” explains Hunter.

Of course, a hybrid device might not be for everyone. “While hybrid machines may introduce a steeper learning curve and potentially higher initial expenses, they appeal to those valuing multifunctionality over specialization,” shares Schwendimann

According to Hope, “hybrid devices can be a great option

for operators with limited space and production requirements. However, when production levels exceed the throughput of a hybrid device, a dedicated higher speed is required.”

“As business grows and demands increase, having one hybrid system may become limiting. Increasing demand for either DTG or DTF may require a print shop to upgrade to a dedicated solution to meet deadlines. Therefore, while a hybrid printer is an excellent choice, expanding businesses may eventually need to invest in specialized equipment or supplemental printers to keep pace and ensure efficient workflow,” agrees Hunter.

Added Step

DTF requires an extra step in the process, with additional consumables. Despite this, it remains a popular option for PSPs, even as using DTG alone can cut out a big part of the process/cost.

“For many looking to start up a new business, the lower cost of a desktop DTF printer is attractive due to the lower overall initial investment. But it is important to understand the overall cost. Consumer-grade DTF printers can take up to five times as long to print the same design at a higher cost and lower finished quality,” cautions Stender.

Hunter points out that DTF simplifies the application process by eliminating the need for textile pretreatment, however DTF powder is a necessary requirement.

“Users are encouraged to check with powder manufacturers and

do their own tests before determining the appropriate procedure regarding the application.”

Despite adding the powder, DTF is attractive because the user can preprint graphics and store them for later use. “If printing a logo, the print shop can print multiple logo images per film sheet to apply later to hats, shirts, tote bags, or golf towels. Having custom logos or designs preprinted and ready to transfer can decrease production time, reduce waste, and provide faster order turnaround time,” suggests Hunter.

Also advantageous, “is the high durability of the finished print and there is no weeding required. Additionally, DTF printers work with a range of materials including light and dark fabrics, cotton, blends, leather, nylon, and fleece,” adds Hope.

According to the representative from Ricoh DTG, most potential users of DTF are “attracted to the May 2024 | Digital Output { 17 } #2

idea of a hassle-free printing option, in which they purchase the graphics on film and heat press them on the garments. DTF printing offers versatility printing on various fabrics, including cotton, polyester, and blends.”

“The softer hand of the finished product—a quality that’s achievable when DTF graphics are printed and transferred correctly—is

also responsible for the increased adoption of this method. Using knockout designs and taking advantage of the shirt or substrate color as the background is very well received in the market,” shares Valade.

Lasting Thoughts

So why consider DTG/DTF printers—standalone or hybrid—into your business model?

“Diversifying into DTG/DTF printing can be transformative, enabling shops to offer detailed, colorful prints on a variety of textiles. This expansion into apparel and promotional items can broaden your customer base and increase revenue streams, enriching your business portfolio,” notes Schwendimann.

These efficient printers offer customization and personalization capacities that are currently all the rage—and not going away anytime soon. “The ability to produce just-in-time goods enables the expansion of product offerings without the commitment of preprinted inventory,” says Hope.

Customized products present higher profit margins. “While wide format printing for signage may be highly competitive, DTG and DTF printing can offer higher profit margins due to the customization and personalization aspects. Businesses can charge premium prices for custom apparel, accessories, and specialty items, leading to increased profitability,” notes the representative from Ricoh DTG.

“It’s another tool in a PSP’s toolbox that complements their existing technologies. When a print shop is a comprehensive solution for its customers, it fosters loyalty and customer retention. With a diverse set of technologies, print shops can fulfill a full-service project, including indoor and outdoor signage, floor and window decals, point

of purchase displays, t-shirts and apparel, as well as other promotional products,” shares Hunter.

Offering an all-in-one shop is much better than outsourcing to another vendor or turning away business entirely. “Let’s face it, DTG printers are more closely related to your sign printing equipment than they are screenprinting equipment. Your customer coming in for a new sign is also in need of apparel, so it is a great way to be a one-stop shop for your customer,” agrees Stender.

“In today’s market, an investment of under $10,000 that allows the PSP to provide an in-house service, as opposed to having to outsource or turndown jobs, makes a lot of sense. Dependable, easy-to-use devices are changing the minds of print providers and influencing their decision to bring this trending application in house. User-friendly software makes it simple to turn almost any file type into a high-quality DTF transfer,” says Valade.

Add Ons

DTG and DTF printers offer versatility in terms of substrate compatibility—allowing for printing to totes and t-shirts or transferring those same graphics to water bottles, phone cases, and other applicable goods. As a wide format print shop, don’t be deterred—these small printers pack a punch and are great add-ons to any business. We dive into this topic in more detail in a recent webinar, visit to learn more. D

May 2024 | Digital Output { 18 } companies mentioned INFO# COMPANY WEBSITE 110 DTG Connection 111 Epson America Inc. 112 Mimaki USA, Inc. 113 NuCoat 114 Ricoh DTG 115 Roland DGA Corp. See page 19 for more info. 3
3) The Ricoh Ri 4000 is capable of printing directly on 100 percent polyester fabric without compromising the quality and color of the graphics.
#14 #13 #16 #15 INFO# ADVERTISER PAGE WEBSITE 1 3A Composites USA 23 13 Alpina Manufacturing, LLC 19 14 Alpina Manufacturing, LLC 19 2 Caldera 17 15 Delivery Signs 19 3 Digitech 21 4 FDC Graphic Films, Inc. 15 5 FELLERS 2 16 Good Guys Signs 19 6 Jessup Manufacturing Co. 27 7 Lintec of America, Inc. 5 8 Newlife Magnetics LLC 12 10 Newlife Magnetics LLC 13 11 Panel Processing 13 9 Signs365 28 12 XCEL Products 13 INFO# COMPANY PAGE 195 Agfa 20 100 Caldera 24 210 Colex Finishing Solutions, Inc. 11 196 Coroplast, an Inteplast Group Co. 20 197 DigiTech 20 110 DTG Connection 14 198 Durst Image Technology US, LLC 20 211 Epson 11 111 Epson America Inc. 14 199 FireSprint 20 200 Georgia Printco 20 201 Good Guys Signs Wholesale 20 212 HP Inc. 11 101 INX International Ink Co. 24 213 Mactac 11 112 Mimaki USA, Inc. 14 202 Multicam, a Kongsberg PCS Co. 20 INFO# COMPANY PAGE 113 NuCoat 14 102 Onyx Graphics, Inc. 24 103 PrintFactory 24 114 Ricoh DTG 14 115 Roland DGA Corp. 14 214 Rollsroller 11 104 SAi 24 203 Showdown Displays 20 204 Supreme Color Graphics 20 105 Techkon USA 24 106 X-Rite Inc. 24 205 Yard Sign Ninjas 20 206 Zund America, Inc. 20 May 2024 | Digital Output { 19 }

economics outsourcing partners for the win

holesale printers strictly focus on serving existing print service providers (PSPs) looking to reach and test new markets and accept higher volumes. With impressive capabilities, wholesale printers give PSPs the option to never have to say no to a client or prospective customer.

“We find there are two reasons why a PSP would use us. They don’t have the equipment, or they have the equipment, but they don’t have the capacity,” shares Gene Hamzhie, CEO, FireSprint. “Both scenarios can be a win-winwin for us, our client, and the end user.”

“Trade printers typically have expansive production facilities with advanced, large format printers that handle high-volume orders in minutes. In contrast, a local print provider with exceptional commercial printers might be limited in their ability to produce large quantities due to time constraints,” comments Grant Waters, operations manager, Supreme Color Graphics.

Through outsourcing, Michael Clarke, chief sales officer, Georgia Printco, says a PSP is able to take advantage of economies of scale. “We efficiently produce bulk projects and that frees up individual stores for other projects.”

“While they may have printing capabilities for certain items, a trade printer can offload the volume of larger runs, offering economies of scale to reduce costs and freeing them up for day-to-day business,” offers Kent Dunham, VP of sales, Showdown Displays.

Waters agrees, adding that while some PSPs can handle high-volume orders, they might choose to collaborate with a trade printer because the cost to outsource the job is comparable to in-house production costs while avoiding equipment utilization.

May 2024 | Digital Output { 20 }
Above) About 40 percent of GGS’ work is yard sign printing, both digital and PMS-based silkscreen printing.

Outsourcing work is an acceptable practice by many, but there is hesitation as it could leave a PSP vulnerable to quality and timing control concerns. Therefore, it is essential to find the right partner. It is also a good idea to test these relationships before you find yourself in a pinch.

Yes to Yard Signs

Yard signs are one application that is ripe for outsourcing, especially in an election year when demand is higher. If you’re not offering this type of application, it is a great time to consider it, and if you don’t have the capabilities or skills in house, trade printers are ready to go.

Yard signs are primarily used for outdoor advertising, including promoting businesses and events, supporting political campaigns, and conveying messages to the local community. “Real estate agents and national brands are also heavy users of yard signs. Their portability, affordability, and visibility make them ideal for grabbing attention and communicating messages effectively in various settings,” says Jeff Hartman, CEO, Yard Sign Ninjas.

In general, yard signs are a costeffective way to create name recognition. “In many local elections, yard signs viewed by motorists

and neighbors are the only way a candidate will get the necessary recognition from voters to win,” comments Hamzhie. “A yard sign in a home’s front yard might be the only time a respected friend or neighbor shows their political affiliation. They also must be physically placed by hand. This takes a personal touch by the candidate or a supporter. Voters might not think about it directly, but subconsciously yard signs tell voters that their community is rallying around a candidate, and this candidate is local,” he adds.

“The cost per 1,000 impressions for yard signs is low compared to

TV, radio, social media, and direct mail,” offers Tom Tucky, president, Good Guys Signs (GGS) Wholesale. “Where traditional media can be a tenth of a penny to ten cents per impression, yard signs cost much less per impression, as low as 1/10,000th of a cent in heavy traffic areas. In low information political races, or regional product launches, no advertising medium costs less per impression, or has a bigger bang for the buck.”

“For corrugated plastic yard signs in particular, the only way to get a quality, repeatable print is for a trade printer to use reputable suppliers consistently,” says May 2024 | Digital Output { 21 } #3

Tucky. For example, “our relationship with Coroplast was built over years of buying millions of square feet annually of their premium material. Also, bulk yard sign orders require tens of thousands of square feet of dedicated space to store and handle large orders. Our facility is purpose built for this.”

The simplicity of production and temporary nature of yard signs make them a popular choice, often eliminating the need for sample proofs, adds Waters.

Streamlining Production

Trade-only printers are stacked with hardware capabilities to

serve high volumes of orders— like yard signs—fast.

Print providers turn to trade printers for bulk, high-volume signage orders due to several reasons. “Trade printers specialize in large-scale production, equipped with the machinery and expertise to handle extensive print runs efficiently,” says Hartman. “Trade printers streamline the production process, ensuring timely delivery and consistent quality across all signage pieces.”

Yard signs inevitably come with tight turnaround times. “At GGS, we have five silkscreen lines and

two dedicated flatbeds, including a P5 350HS from Durst Image Technology US, LLC. We generally have 275,000 square feet of Coroplast brand in stock at all times. Fast turn times are the only way to satisfy the demand, so in-stock inventory is step one. Updating production schedules throughout the day puts the real in ‘real time,’” offers Tucky.

With these capabilities, GGS is able to turn 100 sign jobs in one day, 500 sign jobs in two, and always has the ability to discuss real time turn times for large and complex orders. “For digital flatbed work, we have both a Durst P5 350HS and a DigiTech TrueFIRE. We can cut shapes with both Multicam and a Zünd CNC router. Ordering is done through phone/email for now, as large orders are often high touch,” adds Tucky.

Having Durst and Agfa highvolume, hybrid printers along with multiple high-speed cutting tables gives Supreme Color Graphics the quick turnaround demanded by these market segments. “Also, we have the capability for fulfillment to multiple locations, which is also a highdemand option,” says Waters.

Yard Sign Ninjas prides itself on its hardware capabilities, including digital single-pass printing technology, digital cutters, and innovative wire stand designs. “Our online ordering capabilities provide convenience and flexibility for clients, allowing them to submit orders and track progress with ease. With our fast turnaround options, clients

rely on us to meet their deadlines without compromising on quality—with additional rush ordering options and nationwide blind delivery service,” explains Hartman.

Customer service is an essential component to a successful trade relationship. “While we offer online ordering, the majority of large orders are handled by our customer service team, providing clients with a reliable point of contact for any questions regarding their order,” explains Waters. “For tight turnaround times, our goal is to meet the specific needs of each client and accommodate their schedule for large-volume orders, without a rush charge.”

Showdown Displays offers step stakes to display yard signs, users can order all of its products through its website, upload art, and receive an additional two percent discount on an order. “Our turnaround times on this product are only two days after artwork approval for catalog quantities up to 24,” shares Dunham.

Establishing a Relationship

Outsourcing work to a trade partner should be a strategic decision, one that is not made in haste. Besides stepping in when equipment is down, or meeting a high-volume order you would have to turn away, a good trade partner can be an extension of your business.

“Establishing a relationship with a trade supplier offers numerous benefits, including access to specialized expertise, costeffective solutions, and reliable production capabilities,” shares Hartman. By partnering with a

May 2024 | Digital Output { 22 } companies mentioned INFO# COMPANY WEBSITE 195 Agfa 196 Coroplast, an Inteplast Group Company 197 DigiTech 198 Durst Image Technology US, LLC 199 FireSprint 200 Georgia Printco 201 Good Guys Signs Wholesale
Multicam, a Kongsberg PCS Company
Showdown Displays
Supreme Color Graphics 205 Yard Sign Ninjas 206 Zund America, Inc. See page 19 for more info. 1
Yard signs make up more
half of Supreme Color Graphics’ business.

trade-only wholesale printer, he feels that PSPs can focus on their overall commercial relationship with their customers and benefit from industry knowledge and resources to enhance print offerings and meet the evolving needs of clients effectively.

“Even if you have the in-house capability it frees up your machine for daily work and in most cases a large trade printer like Showdown Displays produces these products on a scale that offers much better costing than doing it themselves,” admits Dunham.

“If you’re a jack-of-all-trades, you’re a master of none. There are so many substrates and applications in the industry, and it’s helpful to work with a trade supplier that is capable of producing many projects. The cost of inventory and warehousing can be problematic as they tie up cash and floor space,” offers Clarke.

“A good trade supplier can help you with color matching by virtue of their consistent material and factory inks. They can often assist you with advice on setting your resell price, which is invaluable when selling quantities you are not experienced with,” says Tucky. “A good trade printer is an extension of your business. Often, our resellers make $10,000 plus on orders they had less than eight hours of time in design and logistical planning.”

Hamzhie admits that while it works with first-time clients every day, it’s a good idea to establish a relationship with any supplier before a hot order comes in. “This allows distributors time to

understand the order process and intricacies early on. What does the packaging look like? What does the product feel like? How should the product be handled, stored, and deployed? The questions can get answered quickly with a test order, or a small order for a few signs.”

Control Issues

PSPs often have issues letting go of control—and reasonably so. Why should a PSP trust a tradeonly wholesale printer to complete the application and deliver it at 100 percent?

Waters admits that some trade printers prioritize speed, and overlook quality, reliability, and service, leading to a lack of trust from PSPs. “Trust is generally earned over a period of time when working with a contract printer.

Supreme Color Graphics ensures quality, timeliness, and constant communication with a price that helps to build trust. Supreme Color Graphics has gained national credibility with PSPs by strictly adhering to a trade-only model, never selling to end consumers.”

“I can’t speak for all trade-only wholesale printers, but Showdown Displays’ hallmark is being a ‘silent partner’ in the background, allowing our customers be the star in the relationship with their customer. We have an on time delivery guarantee backed up by a 100 percent satisfaction guarantee. You do not pay if your customer is not happy with delivery, print quality, or type of product sold,” stresses Dunham.

Hamzhie points out that trade-only suppliers like FireSprint focus on

providing wholesale services day in and day out. “We don’t offer retail printing. Our entire production process is focused on providing consistent quality with absolutely no FireSprint branding or pricing on the product or packaging. We take dozens of steps to ensure the product PSPs order from us looks like it came from the PSP’s own production floor, not an outsourced partner,” he offers.

“Growing a business in uncertain economic times requires more of a one-stop shop mentality. If you find a very good trade printer, they have certainly built up a culture where quality and ontime performance is celebrated in their workforce. Their employees understand work is being resold, and that this work reflects on their clients,” says Tucky.

“We strive to deliver an excellent product every time. Our reputation is built on our customers’ success,” adds Clarke.

“With years of experience and a dedication to excellence, we prioritize customer satisfaction and strive to exceed expectations in every project,” concludes Hartman.

Outsourcing Needs

Yard signs remain a popular application due to their versatility and effectiveness in outdoor advertising campaigns, reaching specific and very localized audiences, points out Hartman.

In an election year, demand for these signs is expected to explode. It may be a good idea to find a partner that can help meet requests for this application. D May 2024 | Digital Output { 23 } #1

aintaining a color standard is expected for any print application. Digitally printed wallcoverings are color specific—whether requested by a retailer, brand owner, or interior designer. Often multiple panels of material must match across the entire project.

Tools from spectrophotometers, color profiling software, and light viewing boxes keep printers at their peak performance, helping to achieve consistent color.

Focus on Color

Color management is critical for any application. When you have a campaign that involves multiple applications, substrates, and placement of said applications, it becomes even more important.

“Color management is a key factor in all digital printing applications. Bringing out the widest gamut from the combination

of printer, media, ink set, and ink type is the goal of all RIPs in the market,” stresses Luigi Ostani, application specialist EMEA, Caldera. RIP manufacturers like Caldera strive to offer ease of color management through their solutions.

Effective color management “forms the bedrock for achieving consistent desired outcomes. Poorly managed color and printing processes introduce unpredictability, making it challenging, if not impossible, to get predictable results that match between applications and print runs over time,” shares Max Derhak, principal scientist, Onyx Graphics, Inc.

“Achieving consistent and accurate color across various materials is essential for maintaining brand identity, repeatability, and visual appeal,” attests Karl Norman, application specialist, textile and large format digital printing, PrintFactory.

Wallcoverings necessitate attention to color. “Intricate patterns, fine details, or vibrant colors are often the most color critical. Additionally, factors such as the type of media used and whether the application is intended for interior or exterior placement can impact color accuracy,” continues Norman.

Certain wallcoverings pose more significant color management challenges than others. “Those with intricate designs or subtle color gradients demand meticulous attention to color accuracy. Additionally, high-visibility areas, such as commercial interiors or exterior installations, require precise color reproduction to ensure vibrant and long-lasting colors,” explains Lou Prestia, product manager, X-Rite Inc.

According to Steve Rankin, director of product management, Techkon USA, the

May 2024 | Digital Output { 24 }
by Digital Output Staff

most color critical wallcoverings are any with less saturated colors and pastels. “This is because deviations in near neutral colors are very perceptible to the human eye, more so than saturated colors. Even slight differences between rolls would immediately stand out.”

Wallcovering projects generally involve panels of media—and each must match up according to the original design. “Color must be consistent from one panel to the next,” suggests Bobby Cagle, North America sales director, SAi. “You do not want one panel to be red and the next one to be pinkish or orangeish.”

“You cannot have the start of your wallpaper roll look any different from the end. When you put one layer of paper down, the next one beside it needs to look the same. It is also desirable to buy a match to the original maybe a year later, so the color management needs to be able to reproduce historic jobs with significant accuracy,” says Paul Edwards, VP of the digital division, INX International Ink Co.

Prestia agrees. “Customers typically acquiring multiple rolls or packages for their initial application and potentially purchasing additional material of the same design for future expansions or replacements look for consistency in color. Any deviation between packages or rolls becomes glaringly apparent once the wallcovering is installed. This requirement for color uniformity holds true whether it’s the initial purchase or subsequent acquisitions for the same location.”

As this application generally involves a large volume of media, avoiding waste is high on the list of priorities. “When it comes to wallcoverings, scale matters significantly. Large-scale projects can result in substantial waste if reprinting becomes necessary, especially considering the expense of wallcovering material,” admits Matt Crawford, CEO, Onyx Graphics, Inc.

Preventing a Match

It’s good to be aware of what pitfalls may prevent a desired color match, especially when it comes to wallcoverings.

“Substrate variations, environmental conditions, and differences in printing technologies can contribute to color discrepancies. Understanding and addressing these factors is crucial for successful color management,” lists Norman.

Substrates and ink go hand in hand. “Consider substrate variation in ink spread or absorbency, or even white point. The ink color variance could be too high from batch to batch. The printer may come out of calibration over time and put down different amounts of ink. Temperature variations in the work environment can occur or within the printer, leading to different amounts of ink being put down during a print run,” shares Edwards.

Other challenges to note, according to Derhak, “are printing on different printers with varying ink sets, resulting in color matches under specific lighting conditions but not others due to nonspectral matching or fluorescence

of media or inks. Another is the variability in the printing process, especially for long prints, which may result in mismatches between adjacent strips or panels of the wallpaper.”

Environmental factors like lighting conditions “can significantly alter the perception of color. Accounting for these variables ensures consistency in color appearance across different environments,” says Crawford.

“Colors can look different in light types such as sunlight, LED lamps, and fluorescent bulbs. Ink types can look different in the same lighting,” adds Edwards.

Products that Get Results

Color profiling software, spectrophotometers, and light boxes are used to achieve accurate and consistent color in wallcoverings. As are well-cared for printers, ink sets, and quality media.

“Products should be viewed in controlled lighting and measurement conditions. The printer should be measured daily using

control targets to ensure proper calibration within specific tolerances. Depending on the variety of images, a standard target could be used or custom targets can be designed to focus on critical colors,” suggests Javier Robles, director of technical service, INX International.

Color calibration modules found in RIP solutions can offer “guided and very easy-to-use procedures for creating ICC profiles optimized for the type of media, ink, and printing mode used. Sometimes this also incorporates several color libraries for automatic and optimized reproduction of spot colors. It is also possible to leverage this to create custom color libraries to ensure perfect replicability over time,” shares Ostani.

“Calibration plays a role in maintaining consistency over time. Regular calibration of printing devices is essential for achieving

1) Techkon offers the all-in-one SpectroDens 4 spectrodensitometer to help control process, spot, Pantone, or other critical brand colors by measuring solid ink density, percentage of dot area, CIE Lab, and deltaE. May 2024 | Digital Output { 25 }

predictable, accurate, and reproducible results,” notes Crawford.

Creating profiles is necessary for success. “Profiling for purpose is crucial in wallcovering applications to ensure the most economical printing. They not only address color but also encompass mode settings, resolution, speed, and other parameters essential for optimized output,” suggests Crawford.

“To further enhance color consistency, creating ICC profiles

tailored to the substrate, print system, consumables, and printer configuration is critical. Custom ICC output profiles are essential to match color over time based on the specific mechanical characteristics and the environmental operating conditions of each printing machine,” agrees Prestia.

“Regular calibration and profiling help maintain accurate color reproduction, even in changing production environments, leading to satisfied customers and reduced waste,” continues Norman.

Additionally, “once in production, handheld spectrophotometers and color quality software solutions will provide feedback to operators that is actionable at runtime and ensures that the color stays on track throughout production,” says Rankin.

Light boxes and other lighting tools are advantageous. “The impact of lighting on color cannot be overlooked. While daylight or D50 lighting is standard in traditional graphic arts workflows, considering alternative lighting conditions such as LED sources may be necessary, particularly for wallcoverings used in commercial or retail settings,” advises Prestia.

Other tools noted for their advantage in relation to wallcoverings involve ink savings and color checks. “Typically, those who produce in the digital wallcoverings arena also need to keep production costs down because of the high volumes,” shares Ostani. Ink savings tools are helpful here as they work without comprising the quality of the final result.

And since wallcoverings might be longer runs, “it is also useful to check color consistency from the beginning to end of the printing production process. Solutions like Caldera allow for printing out a color strip and checking the result with a connected spectrophotometer,” adds Ostani.

Also nothing helps more than a good printer, one that has properly undergone specific and expected

maintenance. “Having a printer that is in excellent condition as far a printheads and quality ink, making sure your ink is not out of date and all nozzles are firing correctly is a big step in assuring color consistency,” notes Cagle.

Working with any or all of these tools “allow printers to customize profiles for their substrates and their print conditions. Someone printing in FL will need a very different profile than someone in UT for example because of humidity and temperature variations,” admits Cagle.

In the End

Color management is critical for applications like wallcoverings.

“Ultimately, the bottom line in wallcovering color management is achieving predictability, accuracy, economy, and reproducibility in output. These elements are fundamental to meeting customer expectations and optimizing efficiency in wallcovering production,” explains Crawford.

While each application has its own intricacies, wallcoverings present unique challenges in their large volumes of media and panels that must be matched instantaneously, or even months/years down the road when a replacement piece needs to be installed.

Print providers need to ensure that predictability happens each and every time a print is run, or their reputation is on the line. To achieve this, tools like color profiling software, spectrophotometers, and light boxes are used. D

May 2024 | Digital Output { 26 } companies mentioned INFO# COMPANY WEBSITE 100 Caldera 101 INX International Ink Co. 102 Onyx Graphics, Inc. 103 PrintFactory 104 SAi 105 Techkon USA 106 X-Rite Inc. See page 19 for more info. 2
2) Caldera RIP Version 17 EasyMedia optimizes ICC color profiles easily and in an efficient
way without the

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