large format printing

Fast Finishing: Automated Cutting

In September of 2016, we attended the Specialty Graphic Imaging Association (SGIA) trade show in Las Vegas. To predict the printing trends that I thought we’d see, I wrote a blog on the Expected Industry Trends from the SGIA Expo. To document my printing prophecy, I followed up with SGIA Sightings, a recap.

At SGIA we got up close and personal with two of Zünd’s newest automation features. In my recap, I loudly proclaimed our love for Zünd digital die-cutters and this awesome new technology. The love story was mutual and Custom Color was invited to contribute to the December issue of Sign & Digital Graphics magazine’s Making Finishing Solutions as Easy as ABC. This opportunity for contribution made me think about my appreciation for our automated cutting machines.

At Custom Color Corp, our motto is “Ink Big. Ink Fast. Ink Printing.” Without the quick cutting capabilities of our three Zünd digital die cutters, we wouldn’t be able to Ink Fast – which is quite obviously a problem in today’s fast-paced world.

Digital printing has a quick-turnaround reputation, and for good reason. Because customers recognize that the printing process is speeding up, they are requesting more displays and shorter run times. Zünd cutters provide the increase in productivity that customers expect. On any given day, our I-Cut operators process hundreds of thousands of square feet of material.

Not only is the act of cutting the material automated, our Zünd cutters are tied into our workflow. This workflow accessibility means increased accuracy and efficiency. We are able to estimate cut times through integration with our company management information system.

One of our Zünd cutters touches each and every large format project that comes through our production facility.  Three Zünd cutters provide the cutting needs for our flatbed, latex, fabric and UV printing – the versatility of the machines to finish any substrate prevents a bottleneck in our production flow. 

Zünd’s upgradability is unparalleled. This adaptability to new projects ensures that Custom Color can remain an ever-innovative print service provider.

Zünd increases our productivity and reduces our production time. Our Zünd cutters are an integral function of our facility and our motto – ink big, ink fast, ink printing.

Want to see our Zünd machines in action? Contact us for a tour.


 Jason Milbourne is the Vice President at Custom Color Corp. A designer, pre-press connoisseur, and Royals fanatic by day and a fantasy baseball pro and taco and craft beer arbitrator by night, Jason loves all things fun and crazy….just like his hair. Connect with him on LinkedIn, but don’t follow him on Instagram, because he won’t follow back. 

Custom Color Corp Jason

Wrangling Large Format: A Project with Wrangler

In the world of large format printing, our sales team is often approached with projects that are so amazing that they can’t help but take them on. When our sales executives work so hard to successfully execute these projects, we can’t help but to share their experiences. 

Susan, our director of business development, was contacted by Wrangler to work on the graphics for their Cowboy Christmas retail expo at the National Finals Rodeo. With her prior success in retail graphics executions, Susan knew that she could bring so much to the table.

Wrangler was seeking maximum exposure for their Cowboy Christmas, a retail shopping experience, that took place during the rodeo – they knew that they needed large eye-catching graphics that were sure to appeal to customers. Knowing about our experience with tension fabric products, the Wrangler team onboarded Susan to help their graphic designs dreams come to life.

A large suspended rectangular aluminum hardware sign, complete with tension fabric graphics, hung from the ceiling. The 36 foot by 24 foot sign had a dynamic impact on all visitors as they approached the Wrangler Cowboy Christmas retail expo area. The outer area of their booth was adorned with fabric graphics that brilliantly displayed their "throwback" designs for the event. The Fan Fest area, where visitors could participate in a life-size dice game, was completed with fabric walls that distinguished the perimeter for their space. After the closing events, the elements were removed, crated and will be ready for next year.

Guests, rodeo participants and other retailers at the event commented on the booth and the impact of the graphic elements. For Susan, the opportunity to “ink outside of the box” and the time spent with Wrangler during the design and implementation of the project was a terrific experience. It doesn’t hurt that she was named a front row VIP and got to experience the thrill from one of the best seats in the house.

Susan said it perfectly when she explained our role in an innovative partnership. “Our goal is not to be all things to everyone, but to find the clients that truly appreciate the partnership we provide.” That mantra is what makes our clients want to team up with us on their printing projects.

When asked why she loves print, Susan said, “Being able to bring value to my clients is the reason I love my job and why I love working at Custom Color.” Kudos from Kansas City, Susan, this was a project exuding with value for our clients.

Want to hear more about Susan's project? Connect with her on LinkedIn! If you’re looking for a great printing partnership or need to wrangle a large format printing project, request a quote today.

Profiling for Print: A Necessary Step for New Products

W. Edwards Deming, American scientist, once said, “Innovation comes from the producer – not from the consumer.”  We recognize that we’re not the sole innovators on print projects, but rather innovation captains. This quote reminded us that we, as producers, are responsible for the successful execution of innovation.

At Custom Color, the foundation of our success lies in innovation. We’re a group of trendsetters who work systematically to find new and fresh solutions to our client’s printing problems.

The solutions to our customer’s printing problems lie in our material offerings. We store a standard stock of over 200 materials that work for a majority of our client’s projects. However, in order to stay on the cutting-edge and to anticipate marketplace changes, we must introduce new materials into our offerings.

How do we find out which materials to introduce? We listen to our customer’s needs. We scour trade shows and meet with vendors to find materials that our client’s have never seen before. Then we find the products at the highest quality possible that we can introduce for the lowest price to our customers.

Profiling for Print: A Necessary Step for New Products

Finding the product is just the beginning. Every company, regardless of industry, always wants to offer their clients the best products and services – at Custom Color, we’re no different in that regard. Unlike every other company in the world, we have to go through a much more extensive and complex process before offering new products to our clients: profiling.

Printers and materials do not have one-size-fits-all properties. Each printer and material requires special amounts of ink, a certain speed and a precise degree of heat in order to render a perfect print.

In order to guarantee the color that our customers have grown to depend on, the profiling step is crucial. After an initial trial test print, our purchasing department works with the press operators, the RIP team, the production manager and our color management expert to determine the printer settings that will ensure that the final product matches the graphic on the customer’s screen. After getting the settings just right, our color management expert will work to certify the material to G7 Master Qualification standards.

We check for multiple factors when introducing material. We look at the ink consumption, sublimation, color, the stretch and whether it creases or wrinkles. If the material meets our Custom Color standards and cooperates with our workflow, we’ll introduce the product to a permanent spot on our substrate lineup.

We have a very aggressive material testing and profiling process. Usually, we test four or five materials per month. Our vendors have noted our profiling process, too! We have been selected to be the primary research and development testers for one of our biggest vendors - this means that we have the opportunity to print on the newest materials before they hit the market.

We walk the walk. Because we’re all about innovation, we’ve introduced two new materials to our Global Shop booth. If you’re a qualified buyer and will be in or around Las Vegas between March 28 and 30, register here for a free pass to the show to check out our booth!

If you’re interested in learning about other new materials, drop me a line. I can’t wait to work on innovation with you.


Custom Color Josh VanMeter

As the Custom Color Purchasing Manager, Josh VanMeter is the keeper of the company credit card. When he isn’t scouting out the best material deals, he is either shopping at Costco or Gap, looking around Amazon or dreaming about San Francisco. Connecting with him on LinkedIn is a wise move, he’s a rising printing star. 

Millennials in Print Marketing: A Look At How They Work

Millennial – while the term may be synonymous with technology-and-wine-driven young people, it’s more appropriate to view this generation as a force to be reckoned with in every industry, including print.

To better define millennials, they’re the generation of young adults born between 1980 and 2000 – their size exceeds past generations with 83.1 million people representing more than one quarter of the population. This group possesses over $200 billion in direct spending power per year. Moreover, it is estimated that millennial consumerism will surge to an estimated $1.4 trillion annually by 2020.

Jeff Fromm, FutureCast President and millennial marketing expert, defines the Millennial Mindset in six categories: social circle, self, innovative, trusted, purposeful and accessible. In a recent seminar, Fromm explained the extensiveness of motivation for millennial’s stated and derived importance: what millennials say is important versus the money that they spend on a brand to express importance.

This seminar, while intended to help B2B companies, made us think about millennials in a different light. As millennials come into the workforce and baby boomers phase out, many millennials are occupying positions such as print buyers, design directors, and planning and allocation specialists in various retail development roles.

We recognize that working with millennials to produce print products is different from what we’re used to, so we’ve altered Fromm’s millennial mindset to rethink how we interact with this new generation of print professionals.

Social Circle:

While many millennials might not jump at the opportunity to discuss large format printing within their social circle, print professionals crave collaboration. Fromm explained that the ABC of working with millennials is Always Be Collaborating.

When scheduling meetings with clients, our sales executives work to include team members of all levels. Bridget Suarez, Custom Color Account Executive, makes a spot at the table for millennials because “they’re authentic and they care more about what others feel about the brand than what the brand thinks about itself.” Even print professionals new to the industry can contribute quality feedback and suggestions that add fresh new perspectives to old printing principles.

Self:

Brands that build an emotional connection with millennial consumers have better brand performance – the same is true when interacting with millennial consumers that are representing their companies. Utility is important to millennial employees. We value our millennial customers by providing customized experiences through research and development, facility tours and showing our loyalty to their brands.

Innovative:

Millennial consumers want novelty, efficiency and effectiveness in product innovation. One of our motivators at Custom Color is to make store-level install as easy and as seamless as possible. Using silicone edge graphics and fabric frames provides an effective, high quality aesthetic that requires effortless install, which in-turn increases store efficiencies. Whether store managers or store associates, millennials across the retail spectrum appreciate the innovation of SEG Graphics. 

Creative is key with millennials. To millennials, creative means more than being artistic, it means solving problems, exuding expression, being successful and producing new ideas. This group of young consumers expect brands to appeal to them creatively. Through our Research & Development process, we continue to create innovative and unique print solutions – our millennial employees serve as a constant reminder to make sure our inventions are “on fleek.”

Trusted:

Millennials are unconvinced by advertising – they are so skeptical that only about 1% of millennials claim that a compelling ad influences them. When discussing our services with millennial print professionals, we’ve found that they want data.

Because of this, we’re taking the time to compile the numbers that they need. A catchy song and commercial might make them contact us, but we’re betting that our statistics impress them more: 1.5 million kits distributed with over 99.95% accuracy, thousands of vehicles wrapped, and over 15,200 jobs in the past 12 months.

Purposeful:

Millennials want brands to possess purpose. Companies that are good to the world and that are committed to making earth a better place will stand out to millennial consumers.

One aspect that millennial print professionals appreciate is that Custom Color strives to be as environmentally conscious as possible. The ink used by our three HP 3500 latex presses contains no Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAPs), are nickel free and have obtained Greenguard Gold and Ecologo qualifications.           

Accessible:

All millennial professionals seek accessibility – after all, they have the world at their fingertips. We’ve found that by incorporating live chat into our website, we’ve made ourselves more accessible to our clients. In a meeting? Don’t want to pick up the phone? No problem, chat allows us to answer questions, share photos and ideas and work with customers to place orders.

Millennials yearn to be more than “media-connected,” “savvy” or “technology junkies”– they want to be treated like the purchasing superpower that they are. At Custom Color, we will continue to evaluate our strategies to accommodate the millennial print professionals that we work with.


Jason Milbourne is the Vice President at Custom Color Corp. A designer, pre-press connoisseur, and Royals fanatic by day and a fantasy baseball pro and taco and craft beer arbitrator by night, Jason loves all things fun and crazy….just like his hair. Connect with him on LinkedIn, but don’t follow him on Instagram, because he won’t follow back.

Trade Show Timeline: Breaking It Down

The statistics behind trade shows are staggering. If you knew that 81% of trade show attendees have buying authority or that 78% of trade show attendees travel more than 400 miles to get to the show, then maybe you’d be prompted to rethink your trade show marketing.

If your company is anything like us at Custom Color, you are always looking for opportunities to meet and strengthen relationships with clients, you have an investment in your brand, you’re ready for company growth and you’re looking to outshine your competition. Trade shows provide the perfect opportunity to check all of the above boxes.

Before you can reap the benefits of awesome new customers and higher sales numbers, you have to consider the type of trade show booth that will be most attractive to your customers. For some of our clients wanting custom and more complex exhibits, we have compiled this trade show timeline to help guarantee a flawlessly executed event.

6 months out:

Approximately six months before the event start date, you should request to meet with one of our sales executives. In that initial consultation, we’ll discuss your budget and how we can get you the biggest bang for your buck.

During your consultation, we’ll want to know if you’re interested in custom flooring, suspended structures, walls, windows and frames and fabric. Our offerings are extensive and can range from $100 to $50,000 depending upon your needs.

2 months out:

We request that art files are submitted eight weeks prior to the exhibit’s arrival at the show. Following our art requirements will cut down on production time and will ensure that your art comes out looking its best. After our prepress process, our master press operators and finishers will get to work creating the graphics that will capture attention.

6 weeks out:

If required, frames from SEG Systems will arrive at our Color Castle approximately six weeks before the show. This gives us enough time to construct your booth and test the graphics so that we can confirm a flawless fit.

Following this timeline ensures that the booth will be complete one month before the start of the show and allows for any changes to be made. Generally, the show determines received shipments and set-up dates.

Here's an inside look into the construction of our very own trade show booth:

Building a custom trade show booth with us means that your prints will be of the best color image quality (thanks to our G7 Master Qualification), you’ll gain unlimited access to our high levels of service and knowledge in the trade show industry and we’ll facilitate the shipping to ensure that your booth arrives in the best condition.

Creating a captivating and custom trade show booth requires a bit of strategy and lot of creativity. Thankfully, we carry a hefty trade show resume and can assert just the right amount of tactic and vision to boost your booth.

Here’s a little bit of inspiration and a view of what your trade show booth could look like. Let us know if you want to talk about boosting your brand at the next show you attend.

Perfect Window Advertising: Perforated Window Film

While I can think of a million advertising mediums that companies forget about or take for granted, one of the most prominent that comes to mind is perforated window film. While I can think of a million advertising mediums that catch consumer’s attention best, one of the most prominent that comes to mind is perforated window film. Coincidence, right?

The greatest reason for window film is this: your business can have outfacing visual advertising that entices customers to walk in your doors. Windows prove to be a fantastic advertising canvas – using perforated window film gives business owners the opportunity to use all available space to advertise, without sacrificing the benefits of windows and the natural light they allow in.

Perhaps more organizations would use perforated window film if they better understood its properties and all of the possibilities that this pressure sensitive film offers.

Some city governments and property owners have regulations against materials on the outside of the window – because of these rules, some businesses think that they must dismiss outdoor advertising all together. Fortunately for them, our 70/30 option is a clear and inside mount. The image is printed in reverse and mounted on the interior of the window. That’s right, you can still gain all of the benefits of window-perforated film without breaking the rules or obtaining costly permits from your municipality.

Our outside mounted films are printed with latex ink. These graphics are perfect for sensitive environments, like hospitals and restaurants, because the ink contains no Hazardous Air Pollutants.

Some of the most popular uses for window film:

Organizations that handle sensitive information benefit immensely from window-perforated film – information can be hidden from the public while still providing employees an unobstructed view of the outside environment that surrounds them.

Lessors renting out office and business spaces oftentimes employ window perforated film when they start to see their energy costs trending skyward. Other businesses looking to alleviate the burden of the sun’s rays often look to window perforated film to help cool their space.

Museums and art studios wield the printed area of the film to protect interiors and artifacts from fading caused by the sun’s UV rays. 

Using window-perforated film on fleet vehicles, in addition to vehicle wraps, ensures a consistent design across the car, truck, van, SUV or bus. Film on vehicles also creates a more comfortable ride for drivers and passengers by eliminating excessive heat and providing UV and glare protection.

Stop taking the windows on your businesses, leased spaces and automobiles for granted! Perforated window film is incredibly easy to self-install and leaves behind no residue when removed. Make your windows work for you by advertising outwardly to customers and by creating a comfortable and safe interior environment. Without any negative implications of perforated window film, what are you waiting for?

Want your windows to be included in 200,000 square feet of perforated window film that we print a year? Contact us today.


As the Custom Color Purchasing Manager, Josh VanMeter is the keeper of the company credit card. When he isn’t scouting out the best material deals, he is either shopping at Costco or Gap, looking around Amazon or dreaming about San Francisco. Connecting with him on LinkedIn is a wise move, he’s a rising printing star. 

Ink Inquiries: Our Most Frequently Asked Questions

There is a certain unspoken mantra at Custom Color – it is best explained by Alan Weiss, author of Million Dollar Consulting. Weiss stated, “Ask your customers to be part of the solution, and don’t view them as part of the problem.”

We’re collaborators, we always include our clients in the solutions to their printing problems. Oftentimes, customers coming from the hospitality, retail and trade show sectors have questions about large format printing, the process, and its worth to their organizations.

We decided to compile a Frequently Asked Questions blog to calm the qualms of printing prospects and current customers. Without delay, a bit of Custom Color proficiency from the beginning of the printing process to the end:

Why does my company need large format printing?

As we stated in our Questions Answered blog, the reason that you must incorporate large format printing into your campaigns is because “it’s, hands-down, the easiest way to attract customers, increase brand awareness and boost sales.“

Fun retail fact: 53% of all customers’ in-store buying decisions are classified as impulse buying – if you’re not employing POP or POS displays, you might be missing out.

It’s simple! You provide art and specs and we do the rest.

Can you make __________________________?

If you can think it, we can ink it (we have t-shirts that say this, so we’re very serious). Our large variety of over 125 inventory items works great for a majority of our client’s projects. However, if you’re looking for something that we don’t stock, we can special order any substrates or accessories that your custom project requires.

I need this by this afternoon (or tomorrow, or the day after) - can you make that happen?

While we try really hard to meet every deadline that we’re challenged with, perfection takes a bit more time than a day. Our general turn around time from receiving print ready files, to production to shipping is five to seven business days. We like to dedicate our energy to each and every piece of a project, which our clients love.

What kind of proofs do you offer? When will I receive my proof?

Customers have a few options when it comes to proofs. If you’re looking for a proof of the entire art file at a reduced size, you’ll need a production proof. We can make our production proofs at any reduced size. Oftentimes, our customers ask for a mag proof along with their production proof. A mag proof is“magnified” and is the term that we use when requesting a cut out section of the artwork printed at 100%.

Full-sized production proofs is exactly what it sounds like – a proof of the image printed at 100%.

Proofs are sent after our prepress process deems your artwork error free and print-ready.

Can I alter the provided template?

Many of our promotional products require templates provided by our prepress peeps. While we encourage inking outside of the box, it’s important not to alter the cut files or bleed lines on the templates provided or else ink might not make it on your box.

Tell me how you prefer your files:

Lucky for you, our prepress lead, Larry has put together this art requirement guide that you can pass on to your design team. Following these art requirements will ultimately benefit your printing timeline – if we receive art-ready files, we can usually decrease the print turnaround time by one day, in addition to providing print perfection on our client’s projects.

How long until I receive my prints?

Our centralized location in the Midwest means that we can deliver graphics and kits to most of the country in three days or less using standard ground shipping.

Fed-Ex Shipping Map:
UPS Shipping Map: 

Printing technology? Pricing? Materials? Tracking numbers?

Our fantastic group of Happiness Heroes double as print professors – they can answer any questions about the printing process, substrates, pricing and tracking information. Have a question that we haven’t covered in this blog? We’ve got the answer to that, too. 

Basically...

Solving printing problems is our number one goal. We find that including our customers as part of each solution that we provide ensures that our customers are 100% satisfied with the final outcome.  Let’s celebrate solutions together. Print with us.


Jason Milbourne is the Vice President at Custom Color Corp. A designer, pre-press connoisseur, and Royals fanatic by day and a fantasy baseball pro and taco and craft beer arbitrator by night, Jason loves all things fun and crazy….just like his hair. Connect with him on LinkedIn, but don’t follow him on Instagram, because he won’t follow back. 

Par Excellence Promotions: An A+ Rated SAGE Supplier

SAGE, a Texas-based promotional products information services provider, recently announced its 2016 supplier rating award winners. Every year, SAGE presents its annual supplier awards to distributors and suppliers who are part of the SAGE network.

Ratings are a throw back to school – possible ratings are A+, A, B, C, D and F. After placing an order, customers voluntarily rate and comment about their provider’s performance on certain categories. These ratings are then all compiled to determine the provider’s yearly “grade.” The five categories for ratings are customer service, delivery, product quality, decoration quality and problem resolution.  These ratings are instantly averaged with the ratings from other SAGE users who have rated the particular supplier. This Supplier Rating System takes away speculation. By following this rating system, distributors know which company scores well in the areas applicable to their needs.

We’re so excited (and downright proud) to announce that Custom Color is a 2016 A+ rated SAGE supplier.  For the past five years, we have received an A+ rating from SAGE and countless positive scores and comments from our promotional products clients across the globe.

Our promotional products that are available on SAGE are the perfect outfit for any brand. Our 41-product offerings range from branding blocks to feather flags and table cloths to floor mats. All of our products are incredibly affordable and are created with the same care as all other Custom Color orders.

Being a part of the SAGE network is such an honor. In 2016 alone, more than 45,000 distributors spent over 9.1 million hours in SAGE. Moreover, SAGE is the leading provider of research and business management tools for the promotional products industry.  SAGE’s database of promotional products, combined with distributor’s honest reviews, is a fantastic resource that customers can use to elevate their businesses – we love being a part of client’s increased brand awareness and revenue.

Custom Color wants to thank our Color Crew for continuously inking amazing products and our Happiness Heroes for always making sure our clients are nothing short of pleased. Another huge thank you to our distributor clients for choosing Custom Color and for the ratings and comments that you provide.

We’re already working toward our 2017 A+ rating and are looking forward to providing print for the best clients in the business.

Picking a Print Solutions Provider: The Three C's

If you haven't noticed, we reference our Custom Color dictionary often – we like to think that we’re continuously redefining old print production and ink industry terms. A few weeks ago, in our Printing Predictions blog, we differentiated print services provider from print solutions provider. 

To refresh your memory, a print solutions provider, defined by our Custom Color dictionary, is a printing company that possesses tools capable of holistic print services to solve client’s questions or problems.

If you're not employing large format to increase your brand awareness and boost your overall revenue, you might be wondering why you need large format printing. If you’re currently working with a print services provider, you might be thinking, “a print solutions provider sounds awesome – how do I score one of those?” They are awesome, and the answer lies in the “Three C’s.”

Customization

Companies, regardless of their industry, want customized print products. We live in a world where consumers are constantly bombarded by distractions – every brand wants theirs to stand out among the others. Hanging cardstock in your retail store windows isn’t going to provide the uniqueness that customers crave or the exposure that brands need. Displaying innovative large format printing helps brands emerge from in sea of sales.

Working with a large format printing company that prides themselves on customization is the first step. At Custom Color, our clients determine what their final product will look like – our customers obviously choose the substrate and the size, but they are also afforded many options for finishing and display systems. Our customers can also work with our Research & Development guru to determine their next greatest point-of-purchase display or branding effort. Inking outside of the box is our tagline.

Collaboration

Custom Color Happiness Heroes.jpg

Some print seekers can be overwhelmed by the customization options that print providers offer.  Choosing between 25 different lamination and finishing options, white ink and fixtures is enough to perplex non-print pros.

Print solutions providers will always have a robust printing posse – at Custom Color, we have our Happiness Heroes a.k.a. our Account Managers. Instead of playing a guessing game, our customers collaborate with one of our eight print ninjas. These printing pros have over 130 years of combined experience in the printing industry – they will always pose the most efficient solutions to any printing problem that may arise. We can even guarantee that they’ll make sure you’re smiling all the way; they are Happiness Heroes after all.

Capacity

When talking to prospective clients, we find that they are looking for a holistic service – they want to print floor graphics, fleet graphics and fabric all in one place. We are able to provide that. While “one-stop-shop” is so cliché, that is truly the most accurate description of how we operate – we can print on almost anything and everything imaginable.

Furthermore, we are able to meet high quantity numbers and customer specified turn around times because of our capacity. We boast an arsenal of large format printing equipment, which includes: 2 UV Flatbeds, 4 Latex Roll Presses, and 4 Fabric Dye Sublimation Presses. This combination of equipment, along with automated cutting and finishing, make it possible for us to service larger retail clients in their national rollouts.

C-C-C

Customization and collaboration ensures that the print is perfect for the customer; capacity ensures that we can execute each and every project to supreme standards while continuously exceeding client’s expectations. It’s not at all coincidental that there are three other C’s that designate the right printing solutions provider: Custom Color Corp.


Matt Keith is the CEO at Custom Color Corp, also known as the captain of the printing process from idea conception to kitting and shipping. He doesn't enjoy talking about himself in third person, but he is a big fan of Motocross Racing. Connect with him on LinkedIn. 

SGIA Sightings: A Recap

To answer your first question – yes, Vegas was awesome. To answer your second question – yes, I am a printing prophet.

Before we left last week, I sat down to jot down some of my thoughts on the trends that I thought we’d see at SGIA; thus, my Printing Predictions blog was born.  I thought I’d follow up on my three predictions: automation, technology and substrates.

Automation

First, I referenced WhatTheyThink’s commentary that highlighted automation as this year’s top topic. For other print service providers, it might have been – but for us, a print solutions provider, we’re already incorporating automation.

At Custom Color, we use Enfocus’ Switch software to automate our prepress process. This software alerts us of any print problems that might arise before the file hits the production floor. We also use automated finishing – this prevents jobs that move through production quickly to only get hung up at our sewing machines. We find that automation works for us – prepress detects more errors with Switch and the sewing on our prints can be completed quickly and perfectly every time. 

We did spot some cool finds that are on our radar. It must first be noted that we love Zund die-cutters – we have two on our production floor now. Zund has outdone themselves with two automation features that really blew our minds. The Bird’s-Eye View is an HD registration dot reader that reads dots as the material feeds onto the cutting surface – this eliminates the time that the camera takes to read the dots after the fabric has been fed onto the cutting surface. Zund has also rolled out a laser cutter that finishes the edges of fabric as it cuts. This automation would certainly reduce time for finishing and I-Cut – faster production for ink in a blink.

Technology

Three words: Box on Demand. In case you were wondering, we’re asking for one for the holidays. The Box on Demand system is a highly customized approach at constructing corrugated packaging. This means custom boxes for our custom prints – it also means that packaging costs will be consistent, regardless of configuration, quantity or design. Custom boxes at Custom Color – it’s only fitting. 

While we don’t print offset, HP’s Page-Wide makes us wish that we did. This press has High Definition Nozzle Architecture (HDNA) technology – that’s 2,400 nozzles per inch, which prints at 10,000 square feet an hour. This HDNA means HP’s best-in-class print quality while providing enhanced productivity and versatility. 

Substrates

Technology is awesome, but we can’t do what we do without the substrates. We found two new substrate products that we’re excited to get our hands on.

Coated fabric and fabric coating might just be a game-changer. There are certain fabrics that we cannot print on unless we bought entirely new equipment. The addition of coated fabrics and fabric coatings mean that we can use our HP 3500 latex printers to print curtains and other home décor that we had only printed on in our dreams.

We were introduced to a mesh that revolutionizes construction site graphics– Pes Mesh. Pacific Coast Fabrics introduced us to this fantastic dye-sublimated mesh material. This eyelet mesh has an open weave structure, which allows wind to travel through easily. The dye-sublimation process means that the ink will last longer and perform better in adverse conditions. This material is perfect for construction area fencing, graphics and advertising.

Wrap-Up

SGIA Expo gave us so many ideas and possibilities for research and development. We’re incredibly excited to see what the next few weeks hold in terms of automation, technology and substrates. 

Follow us on our social media channels to see it first - check us out on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram

Also, I must add one last time…I am the printing prophet.


Jason Milbourne is the Vice President at Custom Color Corp. A designer, pre-press connoisseur, and Royals fanatic by day and a fantasy baseball pro and taco and craft beer arbitrator by night, Jason loves all things fun and crazy….just like his hair. Connect with him on LinkedIn, but don’t follow him on Instagram, because he won’t follow back.