Many print service providers (PSPs) understand that, to fuel business growth and differentiate themselves from the competition, they need to move beyond just having operational print expertise. To stay afloat, writes James de Waal, Head of Marketing Business Imaging Group, Canon South Africa, they must become experts in all aspects of their production line – from learning about inks and how they jet onto a substrate, to the media they work with and how they can optimise workflow solutions to create products as efficiently as possible.
Understanding substrate behaviour is actually a fundamental part of this process. Without this knowledge, you may struggle to achieve the high quality required by customers, increasing wastage and impacting your bottom line. For example, it’s important to consider how an ink adheres to a substrate so that the colour doesn’t run and bleed into material.
But with the spectrum of media getting wider and wider, the challenge for today’s PSPs is to find a solution that can offer media versatility and work with substrates that meet your clients’ needs. Papers that were previously made from all materials like bamboo, grass, wood fibres and papyrus, are now being made from hemp, rags and wood.
Advances in digital print solutions mean that you can now work with a wide variety of these substrates – and many more, such as self-adhesive vinyl – offering your customers an even broader range of applications and enabling you to diversify your product offering.
Fit for purpose
Signs are one of the top applications being produced by wide format PSPs. POS/POP displays have also more recently been gaining traction, with 59% of businesses experiencing growth in this area. Over half of all printing businesses are also producing more self-adhesive applications due to the rise of developments in digitally printable self-adhesive media.
To deliver a high quality, high margin product, these applications must be fit for purpose – and the substrate plays a key role in this. It is up to you to determine with your client the functional criteria that needs to be considered for each application created.
Looking at outdoor applications, for example, you may receive a request from customers in hospitality, leisure and retail who want to produce short-term outdoor graphics to promote their business. If a retailer wants to print posters and outdoor A-frames to encourage passers-by to come inside or a self-adhesive vinyl wrapped around a pillar to highlight an instore promotion, you will need to help them print on a substrate that can handle any weather.
In the past, the only way to make a print water resistant was to laminate it. This meant waiting until the output was dry, slowing down the whole production process and adding cost. Now, with our Water Resistant Media, ideal for use with the imagePROGRAF printer series, you can make high quality promotional waterproof prints, with no need for lamination, which will be as good as new for up to six months outdoors.
Keeping this superior level of quality would not be possible when using materials such as glossy inkjet paper for outdoor applications. Printed on matte polypropylene, self-adhesive and banner vinyl, our specially designed substrate ensures printed output is instantly resistant to water, thanks to its ink-receiving layer that consists of a binder with low water solubility. This layer makes it easier, quicker and more cost-effective for you to produce durable prints.
Placing promotional graphics outdoors comes with a number of challenges that go beyond testing wet weather conditions. They also need to be protected from strong UV rays and general wear and tear. Choosing your substrate carefully can ensure that prints come off the printer immediately ready for installation, while being instantly protected against rain, sunlight and abrasions.
However, it’s not always outdoor conditions that substrates have to withstand. Prints can sometimes be exposed to damp environments indoors; for example, graphics mounted in bathrooms or in spaces such as changing rooms, where they are cleaned regularly with harsh chemicals.
Substrates, such as Water Resistant Media, that enable you to produce a variety of indoor and outdoor applications, including signs, banners, posters, self-adhesive graphics and pop-up displays, offer a cost-effective solution as you can use a single substrate for a diverse mix of marketing applications.
By understanding a substrate’s qualities, you can be confident that you are providing customers with durable prints that can resist testing conditions from the surrounding environment, while maintaining the colour quality of warm colours, grey tones and deep blacks.
A flood of possibilities
With diversification into new markets and product offerings remaining a focus of investment for 53% of wide format PSPs, extending your array of substrates is one way to provide customers with more choice and endless application possibilities.
There are so many growth opportunities to explore with new substrate innovations. It’s important that not only do you have the appropriate digital print solutions in place that can work with different materials efficiently, but that you also take time in selecting the most suitable media depending on the application’s end purpose.
With substrates such as Water Resistant Media, you can now test the waters with new applications, and open the floodgates for even more business.