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Ottimo Digital

South Wales-based Ottimo Digital has invested in a second Epson SureColor SC-S30600 printer to meet increased production demand. The 64-inch (162.6cm), four-colour, roll-fed machine was supplied by Epson reseller Spandex and joins one installed earlier this year.

Ottimo Digital, based in Newport, was started in January 2010 by Lee Crew and Nick Lindwall. The company prints a full range of large-format products – banners, exhibition graphics, retail signage and interiors, vehicle wraps, photo canvasses, even custom wallpaper – on a wide variety of media.

Lee Crew comments, “We print a lot on self-adhesive vinyls, plus PVC and mesh banner materials, canvas, poster paper, stoplight stock.  Essentially, we print anything we can!  A lot of jobs are last-minute, particularly when they’re for exhibitions - a market we’re strong in.”

For Lee and Nick, decision time on expansion came within just two years of starting the business, when year-on-year growth of around 40% regularly tested its existing production capacity to extremes. “We hate turning work away, so we coped somehow, even if it meant sub-contracting work out, but we needed to add capacity. In particular, we wanted to be able to take on high-volume jobs with tight deadlines, a category of work we weren’t confident of handling with our existing kit,” adds Nick.

Guided by Epson distributor Spandex, Ottimo found the solution in the shape of the Epson SureColor SC-S30600. Launched earlier this year, the SureColor SC-S30600 sets a new price/performance ratio in a highly competitive market sector. The SC-S30600 can produce everything from posters, signs, banners, backlit panels and POS materials to vehicle wraps, interior decorations and exhibition displays. The printer supports a wide range of media, allowing users to print reliably and cost-effectively on vinyl, PVC and clear film, photographic paper and a range of popular banner substrates. Print speeds range from 7.3 to 29.4m2/hour depending on printing mode and maximum resolution is 1440 x 1440dpi.

“When Spandex introduced the Epson SureColor to us it looked perfect on paper,” says Nick. “It had the print speed we wanted, three times faster than our fastest existing printer, plus larger-capacity ink cartridges and a heavy-duty take-up roll system. A demonstration confirmed that first impression. We ran a series of our own test files using all the print modes and the results were excellent.”

Since Ottimo’s SureColor SC-S30600 - one of the first installed in the UK - arrived, its impact on the business has been dramatic. “It quickly became our ‘go-to’ printer,” says Lee. “Now when we get a job, out first thought is, ‘Can we run it on the SureColor?’ It handles around 50% of our workload.”

The quantum leap in production speed was just one factor in choosing the SC-S30600. Like a lot of large-format printers, Ottimo’s workload is unpredictable as they often don’t know what they will be printing on next, so have to be able to handle as broad a range of products as possible on as many different media. The SC-S30600 not only handles all the media but also features really fast, simple media changeover - thanks to a unique jack system loading heavy rolls is a one-man operation that takes about five minutes. Also the media tensioning, which is traditionally only accessible from the front of the printer, is controllable from both front and rear, so you don’t waste time going backwards and forwards.

The different print modes the SureColor SC-S30600 offers are also a big plus, explains Nick. “For really high-quality applications, like some retail interiors, we use the ten-pass mode, while in the two-pass mode - which is very fast! - we can print a banner in minutes, compared to the half an hour it can take on our other printers. It all depends on the size of the product, and how close the viewers are to it. That said, we find the six-pass mode perfectly good for most applications.”

Within six months of installing the SC-S30600 they were confident enough to take on the large-volume, high-quality, last-minute jobs they previously thought twice about. As an example, they cite a rush job they produced for the RAC’s stand at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. Says Lee, “It was a big banner job, very last-minute, and high quality. Without the Epson SureColor we couldn’t have handled it all in-house, but we delivered on time and more RAC work followed.”

They were also confident enough to sign up for new premises: five times bigger than the first site, the new headquarters provide additional production capacity, extra office space, and showroom facilities where they can hold regular open days. This created enough space for them to invest in a second SC-S30600 which means they are able to split even larger jobs between the printers without consistency issues. As Lee concludes, “In this industry you have to stay on top of the technology and keep looking ahead to what comes next. Thanks to the SureColor SC-S30600 we have the time to make those strategic plans.”

[photo shows Nick Lindwall and Lee Crew standing next to wallpaper printed on Epson SureColor SC-30600 wide format printer]