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Mon, Jul

What technical issues do you still need resolving?

We hear plenty from manufacturers on where large-format inkjet technology is going. But are they putting R&D spend in the areas where you want to see development? Are there irritants that still need eradicating?

As a wide-format print provider what technical development/s (anywhere across your business) would make your life easier - and why?

Russell Wilson, Head of operations, Leach

If we could have auto colour profiling, and the ability to add metallic inks to the printers, this would help us with our current challenges. Also, if there were any camera systems that could ‘auto inspect’ graphics (material going in and print coming out) this would be a great advantage. 

Outside of these, time and quality are our main focus and any services which could keep us at the front of the race here would be advantageous.

John Mark Watson, Managing director, John Mark

Getting our printers to run at faster speeds would enable us to increase our output and reduce lead times. Currently the printers only operate on CMYK colour and we would like to see the development of other inks, such as whites and metallics.

Andy Wilson, Managing director, PressOn

I think there could be more transparency about what environmental impact inks and materials generate.  We are getting approached more and more for products that have lower environmental impact and quite often it’s quite challenging to find paperwork to back up claims.

Richard McCombe, Managing director, Matic Media

We have developed our own W2P platform powering our online trade service GraphicWarehouse because we could not find anything on the market that would work across the whole business and be adaptable. We built this in-house because at the time we could find nothing that could deliver clients’ artwork directly to the Rip queue and automatically print for over 400 products we had standardised. This links to our accounting software, marketing CRM, dispatch and is about to link to scheduling. 


Do you think you’ll see manufacturers/developers meeting this/these need/s in 2020 – why/why not?

Russell Wilson, Head of operations, Leach

I am aware that some print manufacturers are now integrating colour profiling or colour matching within new kit. Retro fit kits might be a little more challenging in 2020 due to the variation of printers, Rip systems that are out there currently.

I am also aware there are very limited metallic inks and printers out there at the moment - I cannot see that our printers will have this as a retro fit option in 2020. 

Camera quality inspection can see coming in 2020. The cost of the technology is now lower than ever, and data systems can be trained very quickly now, so this could be very real for 2020. 

John Mark Watson, Managing director, John Mark

The best way to increase speed of the printers would be to have a static printhead, however, you would need a massive amount of individual printheads within the main bulk head to be able to print at the varying widths required for wallpaper printing. At present, there are printers in the market that do employ this design, but they cannot print at the same quality as our current latex printers. 

Regarding different inks, hopefully we will see further development in this area during 2020, as there are already some printers being used for different areas of printing that are now using them.

Andy Wilson, Managing director, PressOn

The recycling and waste removal community are happy to take the waste but are less keen to produce audit trails to show the journey of the product after the material has been removed. It seems that lower environmental impact is OK apparently if it’s only in landfill for 200 years instead of 1000. I would like to see better information available from 2020 on what we can do as an industry to help with environmental pressures.

Richard McCombe, Managing director, Matic Media

There seems to be a lack of understanding from the manufacturers on what is going on at grassroots level. How many years have we seen their push for wallcoverings, blinds, and most recently, soft furnishings, but what about the bit about making your business more efficient - reducing wastes like nesting, time, labour, receiving artwork files, that are correct or being able to fix it quickly... plus automated invoicing?


Are there technological irritants you think will never be resolved?

Russell Wilson, Head of operations, Leach

100% true colour consistency will always be a moving target due to all the differences with the substrates, ambient temperature and humidity. Very slight variations in ink along with artwork variances mean eliminating colour variation is not achievable in my eyes - although, it will always improve.  

John Mark Watson, Managing director, John Mark

We are very fortunate with the working relationship we have with our printer manufacturer, and we work very closely with them. As such, and through previous experience, I cannot see any technological issues that cannot be resolved.

Andy Wilson, Managing director, PressOn

Maybe I’m going out on a limb here but technically I think we are in the best place we have ever been. These days we have excellent colour management software, machines that are affordable and reliable and given how mature the digital print market is there is a lot of knowledge out there that can be referenced when you do encounter an issue. I would say we are actually in a golden age.

Richard McCombe, Managing director, Matic Media

One of the problems is standardisation - there’s such a mix of kit and consumables. In our business there are at least 25,000 combinations, so who in the industry could actually write the recipes with all the ingredients to make the delicious creations that form large-format printed products to match everyone’s offerings?  


Are you attending any of the print trade shows this year – and if so, what are you hoping to see in terms of technological advances?

Russell Wilson, Head of operations, Leach

We always try to attend Fespa, and will be looking for quality and customer improvement tools. We wouldn’t look to invest in printers or computer systems at an exhibition, as we invest heavily (time and money) in these relationships. But anything else that could help would be considered.

John Mark Watson, Managing director, John Mark

2020 is a big year for print exhibitions - Fespa and Drupa. I will attend at least one of these, if not both to see if there are any innovative concepts coming out. If I can see any developments regarding increased colours or speed then this will be of interest.

Andy Wilson, Managing director, PressOn

We have not recently, and have no plans to in the future attend any print shows.  Our focus for printed material now lies firmly in the HP Latex camp, finishing remains with Kongsberg and Flexa, if there are any particular advances I’m sure they will be in touch.

Richard McCombe, Managing director, Matic Media

Our three directors will attend Sign UK and Fespa but we all have different agendas covering machinery that will make us efficient, software and new ideas or products to sell. We have tried a few times to seek partners to support the development of our own software and the trade shows are always a good platform to build relationships but quite often the right people are not on hand. 


Do you think manufacturers/suppliers do enough to help you futureproof your investments in new technology?

Russell Wilson, Head of operations, Leach

Yes and no. Investment is generally large in large-format printing, therefore no decision is going to be quick, or 100% certain and some sales reps don’t see the long game. This is generally the reason why we have such mature relationships with our current suppliers as they are moving forward at a good pace and will often develop their kit to meet our requirements in terms of new techniques, materials, speeds and quality improvements. In our field we are happy with options and availability. 

John Mark Watson, Managing director, John Mark

The benefit for us is that we do work very closely with the manufacturer to help them develop what is required. Also, many of the small advancements can be added/amended to our printers to keep them up to date with the latest products in the industry.

Andy Wilson, Managing director, PressOn

Futureproofing technology is always going to be challenging for a supplier or PSP, but how futureproof do you want to be? I think we are at the cutting edge of tech - we are seeing print machines that are still capable and running after six-plus years which, in digital, is no mean feat.  Finishing kit has seen in excess of ten years. I think the onus must be on the purchaser doing their own due diligence rather than any supplier offering futureproof guarantees. 

Richard McCombe, Managing director, Matic Media

Recently we were advised that our HP Desigjet L26500’s were about to become obsolete with the discontinuation of ink, printheads and parts.  We have four of these machines and they work perfectly but the notice left us in a very uncomfortable position.  We spread load over these machines by leaving the same stock in the printer, reducing waste and setup time - because our software can deliver the print file from the clients’ computers to our printers in as little as 60 seconds from anywhere in the world with all the digital cutting and eyeletting marks automatically on the print file.  Now, you can get remanufactured printheads and third-party inks but instead we decided to purchase a Canon Colorado as we felt there was nothing else in that market space to support our requirements.


Do you do any/much in-house technological development within your own company – if so, what?

Russell Wilson, Head of operations, Leach

We have a dedicated team on R&D. This is mostly related to product development (working materials and print together), mainly on our illuminated and non-illuminated tension frames. 

John Mark Watson, Managing director, John Mark

For us, as a company, printing of the wallcovering is just the first step in the process, we still have to trim and finish the product to make a roll of wallpaper that we can send out to our clients. We require specialised machinery to complete the full process and as the wallpaper market changes constantly - we have to make changes to our equipment to be able to fulfil our customers’ requirements and specification. 

Andy Wilson, Managing director, PressOn

Lately most of our technical development has been in marketing. That might sound odd but getting our message out there is technically challenging in an ever changing social media landscape. We are constantly looking for ways to get our case studies and reference material out into the marketplace.  Another area of development has been our MIS system, we have recently invested in more features to help us categorise our client list more, again to assist with the marketing analysis.

Richard McCombe, Managing director, Matic Media

Yes, we do a lot - see above or check out GraphicWarehouse to see the front-end in action!