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by Scott Schinlever

A venture in large-format imaging should top that list. Empowered by the latest digital color printing technology, today's large-format printers present new options in how oversized color images and graphics can be used. Signs and pictures which simply weren't practical or cost effective to produce in the past can now be printed and displayed on a variety of media in a broad range of settings.

Those who equip themselves to offer these services, and aggressively promote them, will find the venture a practical and profitable complement to existing services. In the highly competitive imaging marketplace, offering large-format services can serve as a strategic move which makes your company a one-stop-shop for all your clients' imaging needs.

Not fully convinced? Talk to your customers. Odds are they are already making limited use of large-format images, produced by some other vendor, or could find a use if it were an affordable service. In fact, you may learn of things you could do for them with a large-format printer you haven't envisioned.

These digital printers bypass a principal drawback of screen printing, the traditional solution for large-format: the long print runs required to justify the expensive set-up costs involved. With digital imaging, once the file is prepped and ready to RIP, you can print 1 or 100 relatively quickly and affordably. And clients can make changes, even experiment with variations of the same piece, without incurring significant additional fees.

Other Factors to Consider The latest color digital large-format printers can deliver true photographic quality when needed. With a flatbed printer, the graphics can be rendered on as broad a range of substrates as with screen printing. And, advances in ink technology have brought digital printing the months and years of durability customers demand, whether displayed indoors or exposed to sun, wind and rain.

For all of these reasons, large-format digital prints are now prominently featured as signs, banners, backlit displays, point of purchase sales aids, floor graphics- just about any image application. If your clients have a product or service to sell, a message they want to communicate, it's likely you can help them find a way to take advantage of the technology.

That's where the venture begins. If you need convincing on the opportunities that await you in large-format imaging, meet with customers, and assess how they already communicate with signs and graphics. Alert them to some of the things now possible with large-format imaging: the short press runs, the range of substrates, and durability of the image. The applications you discover providing them with large-format images can serve as a springboard for new services.

Also, think of how expanding into large-format can serve you strategically. In today's highly competitive marketplace, there's much to be said for one-stop convenience. The company which can solve all a customer's graphics communications needs is the one best positioned to capture all their business. Clients would rather deal with one vendor who understands their goals, and can demonstrate to them new ways to achieve them. A large-format printer gives you one more tool to serve them, whether they are promoting a product or providing information.

Once you are convinced of the opportunities in large-format imaging, investigate the feasibility of such a move, it entails an investment of time, money and personnel resources. Before you even consider the equipment, evaluate your facility. Do you have the space and facilities to take full advantage of the equipment? The largest "grand" format images are 60-inches wide, or wider, produced on rigid or rolled media. You may need additional space for the wide variety of substrates and related finishing requirements. Before you install a printer, you may also need to upgrade available power.

Versatility Important As far as the printer itself goes, look for your most versatile option, at least at the outset. Once the large-format service is established and more specialized, demand may require dedicated digital printers for producing indoor or outdoor graphics. Initially, though, you'll be better served as you grow the business by investing in the most flexible solution, especially one that allows you to produce the highest print quality. Unless you have guaranteed demand for a specialized service, start with the hardware which allows you to print on a variety of substrates for the broadest range of applications.

At VUTEk, we've built a global reputation as a premiere supplier of large-format color inkjet printers and inks for the graphic arts market. We hope you'll consider our products, media and considerable expertise in helping our customers make a profitable move into large-format imaging. They include a range of eight color industrial strength digital printers capable of running around the clock with little downtime.

Our line includes the UltraVu solvent ink printers for printing on flexible media; the flatbed PressVu models, which can print on flexible or rigid substrates with UV cured inks; and the FabriVu family of two and three meter printers for dye-sublimation production.

The UltraVu printers includes the new UltraVu 150, for images up to 1.5 meters wide at 360 dpi, with production capacity of 430 sq. ft. per hour; the UltraVu 2600 EC, for 600 dpi images up to 80-inches wide, with production capacity of 675 sq. ft. per hour; the UltraVu 2360 EC, a 360 dpi printer offering maximum width of 80 inches and production capacity of 1600 sq. ft. per hour; the high capacity UltraVu 3360 EC, also a 360 dpi printer with maximum width of 125-inches and production capacity rated at 1960 sq. ft. per hour; and the UltraVu 5330, a 330 dpi five meter printer with speeds up to 2100 sq.ft./hr. All the UltraVu products can convert between photo-quality eight-color printing and super-fast-quality four-color printing. PressVu models include the PressVu UV180/600 EC, winner of the 2003 DIMA Digital Printer Shoot-out, for printing 600 dpi images up to 72 inches wide, with maximum output rated at 500 sq. ft. per hour; and the PressVu180/360 EC, a high-capacity 72-inch flatbed printer delivering 360 dpi at a maximum rate of 1100 sq. ft. per hour. For complete information and specs on our printers and features, and media selection, please visit our website: www.vutek.com.

Our FabriVu printers are available in four, six and eight color models, and will produce 360 dpi resolution at the unprecedented speed of 1230 sq.ft/hr.

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