At Gardners, located in Cardiff, U.K., being on the cutting edge of printing technology has become almost routine. Recently, Gardners became one of the first companies worldwide to install an HP Scitex XP2300 Printer, a 3.2 m-wide (10.5 ft) UV roll-to-roll printer designed for high-speed production environments. The new printer is dedicated to outdoor signage and it offers several major advantages, including an unmatched combination of high speed and low ink consumption, particularly in billboard mode printing.
Among the first major jobs that Gardners printed on the new machine was a huge order for a special safety mesh wrap. The company received an urgent order to print 18 rolls of material to be used to clad scaffolding on a development in Bristol, UK.
The material was supplied by the customer with each roll being 45 meters long with a printable area of 43 x 2 meters. Timely delivery was critical and Gardners only had 20 hours to produce and deliver the job. The HP Scitex XP2300 Printer produced it in less than 11 hours, using Billboard print mode.
“In the past, the same job would have taken around 23 hours to print,” says Kristel Moncarey, digital manager, Gardners. “Our customer actually preferred the extra smooth print quality of the HP Scitex XP2300 Printer, in particular the strength and brilliance of the colors. More and more customers are choosing the glossy look on this printer for their work.”
Richard Gardner, chairman, adds: “The customer was extremely happy with the fast turnaround and the higher gloss quality finish. The safety mesh is a very complicated material to run on. But the HP Scitex XP2300 printed it extremely quickly and it looked absolutely fantastic.”
In the few months that the HP Scitex XP2300 Printer has been onsite at Gardners, it has proven itself as an excellent solution not just for billboards, but also for other types of applications that require high-quality printing.
“I knew this machine was built for billboards but I didn’t realize how good the print quality would be,” says Gardner. “You wouldn’t expect to have very fine resolution and quality, especially on things where you are reversing lettering out. But you actually get quite high quality, so in practice, we are able to use it for other types of applications in a smaller format, such as banners and some fine interior signage, in addition to billboards.”
Gardner adds: “The machine is built for speed. In essence it’s more than double the speed of a common UV roll to roll printer, so having one of these new machines is the equivalent of having two of the others. The low ink consumption of the new printer is another major benefit to Gardners, saving up to approximately 30 percent. “The situation is that the cost saving is very significant.” Following the successful evaluation of its first HP Scitex XP2300 Printer, Gardners is planning to invest in at least five more machines.
Founded in 1976 primarily as a screen printer, Gardners is now one of the world’s largest digital printing companies, serving many different industries and applications. It has a large and diverse portfolio of products and processes with numerous patents and copyrights, covering the building industry, outdoor advertising media, backlit printing, dye sublimation onto fabrics, metal and aluminum and specialized adhesive technology for use in the financial sector.
The company’s growth has been shaped by a keen sense of market trends, such as the fast-growing demand for printing solutions that reduce environmental impact, in terms of the printing systems themselves and the media they print on. It has been fueled by its near-total adoption of digital printing technologies and its willingness to work with printing equipment vendors to test and refine new technologies and systems. With HP’s growing array of solutions for the large format printing market, Gardners is increasingly adopting HP technologies as a key part of its production floor.
“A lot of what we do is late sold,” says Gardner. “All the ads around the country change every two weeks, so theoretically you have two weeks to print the product. But, quite often a campaign will be instigated in reaction to a competitor, and the customer wants to react very quickly, within two or three days. So digital is perfect for that. And the HP Scitex XP2300 Printer is even more perfect because it allows you to put a lot of material through in 24 hours.”
In general, Gardner sees three key trends shaping the printing market: speed, cost and environmental responsibility. “We need faster machines and lower cost inks,” says Gardner. “The only way to expand the market is to take more work from analogue.”
“At the same time, going green is absolutely critical. We have been looking for environmental solutions for the past five or six years. We believed in it and now all the really big customers are demanding it. The world has changed. Now the majority of work we do is on environmentally responsible materials, like woven polyethylene. In fact, we are trying to phase out PVC.”