substrates

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. 

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. 

Printing Predictions: Expected Industry trends from SGIA Expo

The Specialty Printing & Imaging Technology’s SGIA Expo begins tomorrow and we couldn’t be more excited. This Las Vegas trade show is where the most qualified and educated print professionals convene to check out the printing world’s best products, methodologies and applications. The Material Men from Custom Color will be there to explore the exhibits and take part in a bit of large format fun. 

It’s important to recognize that customers don’t just want a print service provider. Clients, regardless of their industry, are looking for a print solutions provider: 

printsolutionsprovider

With that sentiment in mind, I thought it’d be fun to make some predictions about what I think we’ll see at the show:

Automation

WhatTheyThink recently published a commentary that addressed automation as the hot topic for this year’s trade show season. “Automation has become an integral part of general commercial printing, with more and more parts of the printing workflow more or less completely automated.

I think we’ll see automation in two different avenues: software and equipment. Everyone in the industry is looking for ways to streamline the standardized parts of printing. Furthermore, printing companies want to ensure that there is as little error as possible prior to printing and in the final product.

While we already automate our prepress process and sewing, we will be on the lookout for more ways to include automation in our preparation and production procedures.

Technology

Show attendees will definitely be on the lookout for the latest and greatest in printing technology. It’s a given that the floors of the Las Vegas Convention Center will be filled with printers and finishing equipment – many times these mammoth machines are the spotlight of the show. Software technology will also be a pretty big deal for many print shop owners who are looking for automation and process efficiency. 

Both machines and software work hand-in-hand to enhance print output – print owners want consistency in software technology and in machines. All production devices should work together to provide reliable results – this is what we’ll be checking out. While we have a pretty robust collection of software and equipment, we are always looking for technology that can enhance our output uniformity and speed.

Substrates

Doing a quick scan over the SGIA Exhibitor List and #SGIAExpo on Twitter makes us really excited about the many mediums that we’re about to encounter.

I’m seeing quite a few new large and grand format fabrics that will make their debut at the expo – I’m predicting that fabric will be the substrate show-stealer.

Print shops are always seeking out ways to clarify prints and provide more deep and vivid colors. The dye-sublimation process is the provider of the clearest prints and most bold and vibrant colors currently attainable. A variety of exhibitors at this Expo will flaunt this capability.

As a shop that has been printing on fabric for the past twelve years, we’re looking for the next advent in the fabric forecast.

Final Thoughts...

In effort to be the best print solutions provider that we can be, we’ll be on the watch for integrations that incorporate into our current processes and technology. While I’m not a prophet, I am confident that automation, technology and substrates will happen in Vegas, but won’t stay in Vegas…because they’ll come back to our Color Castle in Lenexa, Kansas with us. 

Next week on our Positively Printing blog, I’ll let you know how accurate my expo envisions were. In the meantime, I’ll be in Vegas, baby. 


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. 

Flooring Fixation: Graphic Flooring

As a society, we’re obsessed with technology – that’s no secret. It’s a rare occurrence that a passerby you meet looks at you in the eye because they are consumed by whatever device they’re holding. In fact, people are so absorbed with their handheld devices, that Germany put traffic lights in the ground for phone gazers.  I can’t make these things up. 

While I think the lights are cool, I’m not advocating for you to take on such an expensive project. But think about the concept, people are looking down at the ground. Wouldn’t it only make sense to market in the direction that consumers are gazing?

One of my favorite products that we print is G-Floor. G-Floor is commercial grade vinyl flooring that can be customized with a little help from large format printing. Gone are the days where retailers have to settle for floor graphics, because now we have graphic flooring. 

G-Floor was originally created for garages - it is incredibly durable, even in high traffic areas. The graphic is mirrored and printed on the reverse side of the vinyl – this means that it’s impossible to scratch or damage the printed graphic because there is 2 millimeters of PVC (that's .075 inches) that protects the ink. We stock G-Floor in ten-foot wide wood grain, ceramic, coin, and diamond texture rolls.  A majority of our projects are printed on clear flooring; however, we have white, black and grey G-Flooring readily available for printing projcts.

Prior to G-Floor becoming a commodity for large format printers, it went through an extensive research and development phase with yours truly. At Custom Color, we did all of the print and durability testing with the flooring. We have had this product rolling through our printers for a long time – because we conducted the research and development, we have more experience with the substrate than any other large format printer in the world. 

It’s not just the material that is a big deal – it’s the printing process, which we’ve perfected. G-Floor is printed on our LED flatbed. This machine has white ink capabilities, so designers have the option to flood the design with white if desired. Traditional presses put off high heat, which causes the product to stretch – because our inks are dried with an LED light, there is no stretching that occurs, which means a better registration with tile flooring.  

This unique flooring substrate has been the center of some of our coolest projects. 

Did you know that sports shows like Inside the NFL rent out spaces for one day to record their segments in? These spaces are constructed to look like the sets that you see on television and are then taken down and transported to their next set location. Prior to using g-floor, networks would lay temporary hardwood floors just to remove them hours later. Now we print wood pattern on wood grain g-floor - they roll out, record, roll back up and roll on to their next city. We’ve worked with CBS, ESPN, NCAA and the MLB on projects like weekly segments, the NCAA Final 4 and the Super Bowl to make their set-up simpler with the use of this substrate. 

We recently printed a G-Floor walkway for Bass Pro Shops’ Museum in Springfield, Missouri. The floor in their arctic exhibit was originally painted white, and while that looked nice, it didn’t convey the entire arctic experience that Bass Pro Shops wanted guests to have. The new floor design mimics what one would see if they were standing on icy waters in the North Pole.

As we speak, another important roll of G-Floor is coming off of the press. We were contacted to create the flooring for the 2016 MTV Video Music Awards. We caught wind that Rihanna will be performing on our flooring! It really can’t get much cooler than that.

Our G-Floor can also be found in Universities, retail stores, restaurants and other museums.  G-Floor can also be cut down smaller and used as entrance mats to businesses and other organizations – when companies order these mats, we use a non-skid backing to prevent the mat from sliding. We’re currently working with many different stores like Carter’s and Academy Sports to create shoe-sizing mats from G-Floor to place in the footwear areas of their stores. 

If you’re interested in G-Floor for your organization, here are some tips to insure that your G-Floor makes the best first impression: 

We could go on and on about this amazing substrate. We believe in G-Floor so much that we are redesigning Color Castle’s lobby floor to incorporate the material. When you’ve printed over 150,000 square feet of a particular material in a year, it’s impossible not to fall in love. 

Check out some of our other work. If you’d like to talk about graphic flooring, give me a shout. 


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.