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Antalis Digital Academy

Amid our fast-paced modern environment, which is awash with constant technological advancements and new innovation, it can be all too difficult for both traditional signmakers and commercial printers to keep up. As such, regular training is vital to not only ensure best practice but to unlock new opportunities and grow. Here, Giles Bristow at Antalis’ Digital Academy advises on the importance of training resources for today’s busy sign-makers, commercial printers and design specialists.

“The growth in inkjet technology during the last 10 years has been huge, with the introduction of flatbed printers and the replacement of UV technology by LED light sources having a significant impact on the sector. The wide and ever-growing array of products that are suitable for these innovative printing machines has opened up a plethora of new revenue streams and diversification opportunities for signmakers and commercial printers alike.

“Progressing with diversification creates alongside it a critical requirement for the upskilling of employees in order to make the most of existing equipment, as well as learning how to use new pieces of kit or substrates. Therefore, training in large format printing is a hot and growing topic amongst printers who are not currently in that market. For existing signmakers who are, there’s a real focus on training in new large format applications.

“When we talk about diversification, there are big opportunities from both a hardware and a media point of view, both of which create a training requirement. For example, a signmaker could invest in upgrading its large format equipment in order to be able to diversify into new markets such as vinyls and vehicle wrapping. However, that same company could also utilise existing machinery to diversify into different substrates, allowing them to enter new markets such as digital wallcoverings, which is experiencing rapid growth at the moment. We often find that signmakers who are already producing large format printing such as banners and posters may not have considered that. But with the right training, they could use their existing large format hardware to diversify into new areas such as vehicle wrapping.

“Often the process of printing itself, even with new machinery or substrates, isn’t too complicated - it’s the application of the output that is incredibly skilled and requires a substantial level of knowledge transfer and practical learning. Both wallcoverings and self-adhesive vinyls, e.g. vehicle wraps, are great examples of this with the real challenge in how to apply the printed product onto its destination surface correctly, with a first-time success rate.

“The growing demand for training in the sector means that there is a range of training courses available. However, one of the limitations of some of the current training opportunities is that they are product or brand specific. This makes absolute sense for the manufacturer offering them, in relation to a specific printing press they produce, but for the printer, who is often looking for a richer, perhaps independent, training experience that covers a wider range of both hardware and substrates, it can be quite restrictive.

“Our Digital Academy looks to address this challenge and support customers across the spectrum who are looking to invest in digital print, expand their business portfolio or maximise the potential of their digital print machinery. Based at the Antalis head office in Leicestershire, it’s a unique facility equipped with the latest digital kit, enabling live demonstrations and real-life application case studies. Delivering 70 workshops across the UK and Ireland last year, we welcomed 370 printing professionals into our specialist sessions which included courses on vehicle wrapping, colour management, laminating and much more.

“Like the large format printing sector, we never stand still and this year we’re delighted to be launching more new workshops at the Academy, including a Digital Wallcoverings Application Workshop to help printers who are looking to diversify into this exciting and growing market. In addition to the workshops run at the Academy, we’re also running a series of regional workshops again this year across the UK. We are even due to hold our first digital seminar on Friday 30th June 2017. Specifically targeted at business leaders of commercial printers, this will be an intimate, interactive breakfast seminar where we will discuss what’s new and what’s coming up for large format printing, as well as the critical role of training and development.

“Diversifying into large format media and printers can significantly expand the market for our customers, however, with some of the large format hardware costing up to half a million pounds, it’s essential signmakers get the necessary help. In an effort to further support our customers, Antalis has just launched a range of specialist hardware partnerships, enabling both signmakers and commercial printers to access market leading large format hardware directly through Antalis. Complemented by our existing range of roll and rigid media and supported by independent training from The Academy, we’re now able to support customers with even the most complex sign and display needs.

“Appropriate skills and training is a big challenge for the visual communications sector but it’s absolutely essential in order for printers to be able to make the most of their current machinery and also to successfully expand into new offerings. In the past, printers have shied away from venturing into some of these growth areas as they may have lacked the know-how or the confidence to acquire and operate the required technology and/ or media. We’re big believers in training and development and view our investment in this wealth of independent training, across hardware and substrates, as an essential part of supporting commercial printers and the visual communications sector as a whole.”