Bringing the benefits of large format to your print operation

Ricoh blog: How to bring the benefits of large format to your print operation.

Ricoh recently hosted a webinar about large format print and how print businesses could benefit from adding these services to their operations. You can catch up with the session on-demand here.

The speakers included Marc Burnett, owner of Large Format Review magazine, and Shaun Holdom, Global Product Manager at graphics materials specialist Drytac – professionals with a wealth of experience in the large format field – and myself, an expert in Ricoh's role in this market. Crucially, two real Ricoh customers, Terry Mills from Gilmex International and Scott McCabe from Appeal Media, also took part in the discussion to give their own unique insights. The webinar, hosted by Simon Isaacs, National Sales Director, CIP, for Ricoh UK, provided a well-rounded set of opinions that will hopefully inspire you to explore this exciting area of print.

The pandemic has changed the world; emotionally, physically and economically. For many businesses this has been a wake-up call: it's impossible to predict the future so we must be flexible and agile. Could large format print offer a way to diversify or evolve? Let's take a look at some of the main points discussed in the webinar.

How to take advantage of the growing demand for large format print

1. There is a developing interest in large format print outside of the traditional markets of retail and exhibitions – which of course were seriously affected in the first months of 2020. Wall coverings is one to watch: the digital wallpaper market has a compound annual growth rate of 23.6%, with a predicted value of $10.4bn in 2025. Currently you're most likely to see digitally printed wall decor in a commercial environment, in offices, hospitals, colleges and schools, often used as signage or to create a welcoming or inspirational space. The consumer market is relatively untapped. It's a different area, and therefore printing services need to be marketed differently, but thanks to transferable skills it's a potentially lucrative field for a printing business to access.

2. Digital large format printing is the perfect technology for customisation – one-offs and low volumes – which is great for both domestic customers and businesses who want to stand out with themed rooms or locations. However, applications drive demand, and it's up to the industry to make these applications known to all sectors of commerce. It's possible to create truly unique wallcoverings that can be applied and removed in a simple, dry process, a world away from messy traditional wallpapering, and we need to shout about it.

The role of large format print in critical communications such as signage

1. It's impossible to overlook the role large format graphics play in critical communications. They have made headlines during the pandemic, with safety signs, textiles, floor graphics and PPE on newspaper front pages. A Q1 impact survey by BPIF found that on average nearly a third of printers' business was dedicated to critical communications, while Ricoh's own metrics find that the technology has been involved in pharmaceuticals, food, health and social care, education, public services and local government sectors over the same period. People are actively looking for signage for direction – where to go, what to do – and as restrictions ease this presents an opportunity. Over the past three to four months there has been unprecedented demand for floor graphics and this application is, quite literally, new ground. Formerly under-utilised, it's now been proven that these signs work to drive engagement and interaction. Marketers and designers know they can present a clear directional message this way, so are grabbing the opportunity to make them fun, bright and effective.

2. Again, the potential for customisation and personalisation is what sets modern digital printing apart from analogue processes. Small format personalised applications, such as greetings cards and gifts, have definitely made their mark but there is still ample room for expansion in large format. Consider billboards: formerly a billboard advertising campaign would probably require a minimum run of a 1,000 on an offset press. Now customers can order a handful, every one unique, perhaps with localised information and contact details – creating not just an awareness campaign but a call to action. Graphics drive behaviour – just consider impulse buying in a supermarket – and this new normal means new opportunities for large format. We're only limited with what we can print by our imagination.

How important it is to use the right graphics media for each unique job

1. Large format digital printing machines are versatile. One device can print wall graphics, window films, floor decals, wall coverings, signage, vehicle wraps and much more – but it is important to use the right graphics media. It's not just about the printer; the correct product will depend on your MIS, W2P processes, print heads, inks and, naturally, the location, installation process and required durability of the job. Get educated in your device and the media available, but do also seek help from recognised specialists. At Ricoh, we know print service providers need to be guided through the systems integration process and offer that support.

2. Environmentally friendly media is a market trend set to continue, but it can be difficult to classify what that means. For example, PVC has a low carbon footprint during its production, while end-of-life recycling needs to be considered for every product. Some printing technologies allow you to print directly onto media, eliminating vinyl waste, but this may not be right for every job. It's important to talk to your customers about what they want, especially if more sustainable materials will result in a higher cost. The market will grow globally but it's all about volume: the more stock produced, the lower the prices.

How organisations are integrating large format into existing print operations

1. So where to start with your large format print service? Take a look at your existing offering. Perhaps you are already a supplier to companies who buy large format. What are your customers asking for? If you're small format print company or paper business you may already be hearing requests – can you print this bigger, can you print a window vinyl, a poster – could you print them, at a lower price? In these scenarios it's more than feasible to grow slowly, by investing in an entry-level system and gradually adding to your gamut of products as customers ask for them.

2. Alternatively, many businesses have discovered that the speed and ease of use offered by digital printing, especially direct to substrate printing, can help them grow quickly. ROI and business growth can come very fast, if you think ahead. Look at your existing infrastructure and workflow: where can you fit it in? Begin with the mindset that these machines are not designed to confuse, they're designed to aid, and thinking forward to improving productivity from the outset can transform a business. Find the right equipment supplier or manufacturer to help you. They'll analyse your requirements to see what you want to achieve, and understand your workflow, including MIS and structure, to get you up and running.

As an industry we're so much more than ink on paper. We can print anything – so stand out from the crowd with large format solutions.

By Yucel Salih, Large Format Specialist, Ricoh UK

For further information on Ricoh wide-format products and services, please click here