The NEC hosted a print exhibition last month that showed that there is nothing wrong with the venue. More than 5,000 turned up at Sign & Digital UK, visiting two halls that were almost filled where exhibitors displayed the technology and increasingly the applications in use.
Show director Rudi Blackett emphasised this, pointing to live demonstrations of vehicle wrapping carried out by Spandex, wall coverings by Antalis and textile production by Mimaki.
And there was new technology to see, some aimed at commercial printers testing the water in flatbed printing, much aimed at inkjet printers expanding into textile printing.
Much of this was about the benefits of printing on polyesters for banners and exhibition displays. Examples were everywhere, not least the main theatre area of the hall, hosting a chat show discussion programme that was a key part of the show’s television output.
On the first day the focus was on Queen of Shops Mary Portas, who took questions in a 45-minute session and then walked the floor for a further 45 minutes. Her key message was about enhancing the high street experience for shoppers through custom design and signage.
This was important for independent retailers, a message that chimed with the equally independent small businesses that dominate the signage and display sector.
The textile flag was flown by Epson and Mimaki, introducing a press specifically to address these opportunities, as well as specialist dealer RA Smart and materials from Spandex among others.
Blackman & White, UK producer of flatbed cutting tables, has enjoyed good business on the back of interest in textiles. It offers a laser cutting head, a technology better suited to accurately cutting textile than knife. Managing director Alex White points out that few competitors can offer this technology. “It’s a differentiator that sets us apart,” he says. “We are comfortable with complex patterns and flags.”
Another product launch for Sign & Digital comes from Jetrix supplier InkTec Europe. It unveiled the Jetrix KX6U LED-UV flatbed, selling for £68,000 complete with Rip and training for the entry level machine. “This has better options than the equivalent entry level Mimaki flatbed at a similar price,” says InkTec managing directorJoey Kim. “It comes with a three-year warranty and roll to roll option at the front.
“The entry level flatbed sector is growing fast in the UK and we wanted to lower the price to make it more attractive as well,” says Kim.
The printer comes with anti static bar as standard and can be upgraded to a higher spec. “It is ideal for people moving from roll to roll to flatbed. If they are not certain about the demand, they can buy the entry level machine and upgrade it later to double the print speed.”
Agfa is also attacking this sector, introducing the Anapurna 1650i to the UK through dealers i-Sub and Josero. It shares the majority of components with the larger 2500i LED UV printer.
The Agfa machine is more expensive at around £90,000 than the Jetrix, but comes with four colours plus white or a six-colour head.
Agfa inkjet marketing and channel manager Steve Collins explains that it is designed for new customers, especially newcomers to flatbed printing. “This is more appropriate for commercial printers: a 2 metre flatbed is a big step for a first time investment. This is attractive to commercial printers and we can bundle it with a plates deal if that suits.”
The largest stand at the show went to CMYUK which has already booked one that is larger still for the next event. It had filled this year’s stand to reflect its expanding showroom and training facilities in Shrewsbury. “We have now taken an extra 200m2 to add to the 750m2 we already have. It will the one of the biggest in Europe,” says managing director Robin East.
“We will have all the top products in one place: the entire Mimaki range, most Vuteks (we have a 3.4m RTR machine, LS3, 16Hi, FabriVu), three Esko cutting tables. we can show UV, solvent, latex and 3D printing.”
CMYUK had the Massivit 1800 3D printer on the stand, along with samples of output. However, a step into large format 3D printing requires more than just the printer. There is the finishing and spraying to consider let alone the sales approach for something that is outside the experience of many large format printers.
But the opportunity is there for those able to reach the right decision maker for large brands. One had built a large 3D hand to show off its latest product in the Westfield shopping centre. The hand had cost £20,000, says East, but was considered worthwhile because of the social media attention it garnered.
“It is about the high impact, high attention that this type of display can make. But customers will need to understand that they need to buy more than just a printer. For them, it is a great opportunity.”
InkTec Europe launched Jetrix's entry level KX6U LED-UV flatbed at Sign & Digital.
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Blackman & White offers a laser cutting head for its flatbed cutting tables which have enjoyed good business on the back of interest in textiles.
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Agfa's Anapurna 1650i has a 2 metre flatbed and can be bundled with a plate deal if customers desire.
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