In search of new business opportunities while climbing the wide-format ladder, Vesely believed that bigger was better, so Vista Color opted to become the beta site for the Raster Graphics Arizona 500 75-inch solvent printer. "A product doesn't have to perform immediately to be successful for us," Vesely says.This Fleet graphics image was created for a theme park and wrapped on a PT Cruiser.
In spite of all the inconveniences of solvent printing, they were determined to make it work. They needed wider output for outdoor applications. Vesely attributes the dedication and expertise of his digital manager, Scott Ney, and technician Bob Schmittgen for making the Arizona 500 run and helping develop a market for vinyl output. (Schmittgen runs the CMYK side of Vista Color and has the same commitment to the business as Gallo and Vesely: When he found out that flatbed printing was the technology of the future, he put his bid in early to be the primary operator.)
Vesely also believes in sending out jobs that Vista Color can't handle to fellow APCI members. So, since their Arizona 500 solvent printer is only 75 inches wide, they farm out much of their grand-format work to Tri-Color Photographic Inc. in Detroit. "I feel that outsourcing provides us the time to determine if there's enough of a market for us, plus [the time] to test the market or develop a market," he says. "What helps us even more is being able to go to people you trust-a known, high-quality supplier within the industry."
Gallo and Vesely decided not to put all their eggs in one basket, so they purchased two Durst Phototechnik Lambdas. First came the Lambda 130 (five turret) than a second single-turret Lambda 131.
But before the next wide-format graphics technology phase, the two business minds were still on the photo output path of offering prints wider than their Lambdas' 50-inch digital capability. Last year Vista Color installed the Océ LightJet 500XL. "Analyzing our client base told us we needed 72-inch digital photo output," says Vesely. The mural room was already gone, so they sold the single-turret Lambda 131 and took a chance that 72-inch digital photo output would continue to be in demand for several years. "There is limited 72-inch-wide digital photo availability in the country," Vesely explains, "so we knew we could satisfy our clients, further penetrate the retail market, and be a source for others."
Vista Color takes pride in the fact that they have very little personnel turnover. Vesely explains how they trained darkroom technicians to become digital printers: "The best Lambda and LightJet operators come from the darkroom. One of my biggest responsibilities as president is to ensure the security of the company, its employees and their families. This allows us to have more stability than some others in the industry." Gallo adds that the reason for the small amount of turnover is that they are always willing to accommodate people for their personal needs. "In this company, family is the most important asset of the employee, and the most important asset of the company is my employees," he says. Gallo and Vesely both feel that family closeness and responsibility are important to having stable employees. In fact, Vista Color was an industry leader in instituting flextime.
The Latest Technology
No matter what area of graphics production you're in, 2004 has been the year of the flatbed UV curing printer. Vista Color settled on the Durst Phototechnik AG Rho 205/8W (the W stands for "white ink"), an 80-inch-wide, four-color UV curing piezo inkjet that utilizes the same software platform as the Lambda and accepts materials up to 1.55 inches thick. When asked why they selected Durst, Vesely relates their level of satisfaction with the two Lambdas: "Durst proved to be a good partner with their efficient service and product reliability." Plus, being a conservative group, they liked starting with a basic economical press and having the capability of upgrading to additional colors and the possibility of printing on materials up to 2.75-inch thickness. Their requirements were a reliable piece of equipment and sufficient production throughput. The Rho's 215-foot-per hour output fulfills their speed requirement.
Through the years, Vista Color has continued to provide prints for Gallo Displays and many other national display houses. A CNC router is a short time away from installation, and work is already lined up in the wings for the MultiCam with the MGE i-cut camera. Another key Vista employee is Joanne Mociolek, company vice president. Mociolek worked for Paul B. Gallo, and today, in addition to her accounting and HR duties, she's is the primary customer service contact for Gallo Displays. She, too, must learn the requirements of routing.
The Ultimate in Finishing
When you walk through Vista Color's finishing department, headed by Larry Angyalosi, you'll see some of the same company history displayed that you'll find in the front lobby and conference room. Still in service is Robert Greig's first cold mounter/laminator, circa 1977. "It's 37 years old, and we still use it daily," says Gallo, recalling how pressure-sensitive adhesive was conceived in this very room. His father, along with Jack McClintock, a finishing pioneer from Morgan Adhesive (now MACtac); Rick Bachelder's father from Filmet; and Bob Greig set up parameters for Morgan to make pressure-sensitive adhesive, a finishing product that's indispensable today.
Across the room from the "old Greig," as it's referred to, sits the modern 8500B laminator. Vesely is hoping for another AGL (Advanced Greig Laminating) unit to supplement the two Seal 6500s, Seal 80 Pro and Sallmetall 800 laminators.
Both CMYK and RGB print output is one big department, but if you don't have sufficient finishing, the whole production chain can get bogged down. The Arizona 500 75-inch printer drove the purchase of the 10-foot Miller Weldmaster. "We knew that the amount [of pole pockets and seaming] we were buying out would pay for the Miller," says Vesely. Vesely can tell that Vista Color is moving rapidly into the sign business. Hardware, frames, portable displays and the new flatbed will put them on signage autopilot. "Everything we produce gets some kind of finishing, lam, mount, etc.," he says. "With the Rho, we expect greater efficiency, fewer hands touching the product and a better bottom line."
Scott Ney, who runs scanning, digital and color for the company, was the person who was able to integrate the new devices into a digital workflow and to find the best possible production methods, according to Vesely.
Vista Color's design capabilities were improved when they absorbed a small presentation graphics company three years ago, but Vesely finds it harder to sell design because of available technology. "We do a lot of redesign," he says. "This has been a big asset for creating and advancing our own corporate identity. We are going to take a renewed effort at promoting our design capabilities [to clients] this fall."
Several years ago, Vista Color tackled lenticular imaging plus 3-D and limited motion using Flip software. "I see it used in mass advertising on a regular basis," notes Vesely. "It's not easy to produce, and it's time-consuming to calibrate the lenses."