Custom Sign Production Has Changed With Flatbed Printing

by Bob Chapa on October 16, 2012

Custom sign production has changed because of flatbed printing. It’s exciting. The very way these printers work has changed. There is a great difference between the flatbed where the print head moves and the flatbed where the bed and the substrate move.

SIGNARAMA Troy/Madison Heights just got our new flatbed custom sign printer about two months ago and it’s amazing. I’ve known about the technology for a while but we weren’t able to move it in house until now. What I never really quite understood was how much of a game changer it was.

It has changed everything about custom sign production at SIGNARAMA Troy/Madison Heights. First, there’s no more vinyl. We’re printing directly to the substrate. The amount of vinyl and scrap paper waste is not just reduced, it’s gone completely.SIGNARAMA Troy:Madison Heights Flatbed UV Printer

The amount of time and labor spent producing a custom sign the old school way (where we cut the vinyl or printed the vinyl and mounted it to the substrate) was immense. Now we just need a clean substrate cut to the finished size and we run it right through the flatbed.

You don’t need anybody standing there making sure it’s getting done correctly. The machine is doing it. Additionally it cuts the turnaround time down to 20% of what it was before, an 80% reduction. There are some jobs that would take us 5 days to do that can now be done in 2 hours.

The flatbed we have is the latest and greatest in flatbed printing technology, the HP Scitex FB500 printer. It’s similar to a conveyor belt concept where the print head still moves left to right but it doesn’t slide over the whole length of the material. The material actually rolls underneath the head.

Picture the belt around the wheels like on a military tank, and how it kind of rolls across the ground. That’s how this machine works. It feeds the custom sign substrate through at the right speed while the print heads are rolling left to right and printing it.

The big benefit here is that while one custom sign project is finishing, we’re laying in the next one so there is no set up time. Just keep going and keep pushing it. As long as you have custom sign jobs running on the computer, there is no downtime. It’s almost like dropping another piece of paper into a printer.

This has also helped us cut down on labor costs. This new flatbed printer does more with less time, which frees up staff. We’ve been able to reallocate the people who were spending so much time in vinyl, to working on other projects.

Now we’re picking up more custom sign business because we don’t have a 3-5 day turnaround time. Instead, we can have a custom sign project done the next day, which means people can come to us for a completed project 24 hours later.

The flatbed printer has been one of the best investments we’ve made, and our customers love it.

To learn more about flatbed printing or custom sign production, visit the SIGNARAMA store locator.

This post was written by...

– who has written 16 posts on Signarama Blog.

is president of the Troy/Madison Heights and Southfield SIGNARAMA locations. He specializes in corporate signage packages, national brand roll-outs, and project management of sign conversions, particularly with mergers of large companies. Bob is also a loyal Tigers fan, and is looking forward to the 2014 season, and a return to the playoffs.

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