Flatbed Printer Boosts Productivity for State In-plant
Over the last three years, the in-house sign shop at the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s Bureau of Publications has flourished.
“The sign shop tripled its output in two years,” remarks Marcie Carr, director of the 65-employee state printing operation.
To do that, though, the sign shop’s two employees had to put in a lot of overtime, which raised costs for the Harrisburg-based operation. To reduce that overtime and expand the in-plant’s capabilities, it recently installed a Canon Arizona 2280 XT flatbed printer. With a print area of 98x121˝, it can print on rigid substrates up to 2˝ thick and has a roll media option for printing on flexible media.
“We were looking for a way to maintain two employees, but continue to grow the sign shop,” Carr says. The flatbed printer will help with that by reducing costs, increasing efficiency and nearly eliminating all of the handwork employees were doing, she says.
The printer was installed just in time; the in-plant recently got an order for 43,000 signs from the Pennsylvania Game Commission. These are being printed on 4x8´ sheets of styrene and cut down to size. Thanks to the new printer, the in-plant is able to save the agency about $30,000 on this single order, notes Ben McAfee, sign shop manager.
The quality is great, adds Carr, and the customer is thrilled.
That quality comes from the printer’s use of eight-channel VariaDot piezoelectric imaging technology with two 636-nozzle variable droplet printheads per color channel. It uses a low-energy UV curing system for printing on thin and heat-sensitive media.
“It also prints textures, so we’re able to do braille,” Carr adds.She expects to get additional sign and display work from various state agencies such as the Liquor Control Board, the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, the Pennsylvania Lottery, and others. The in-plant’s sign shop produces everything from posters, foam board displays, and building signage to framed artwork, name plates, and vehicle decals. It uses a laser engraver to cut out 3D lettering for the walls of state offices.
The in-plant has been getting excellent productivity from the new flatbed printer, which can output up to 682.4 sq. ft./hr. In the first week alone, says McAfee, the shop printed 17,000 signs with the device. Prior to adding it, the in-plant was printing signs on paper and then laminating them with a pouch board laminator. One sign took about 20 minutes, says McAfee. The new flatbed printer can produce 24 signs in less than six minutes, he adds.
“The overtime reduction alone is going to pay for [much of] this,” Carr remarks. She plans to add an automated contour cutter in the near future.Carr advises other in-plants to consider the cost savings they will get from a flatbed printer.
“You have to weigh the personnel time spent on all the manual processes versus how fast this prints,” she says. “It’s incredible, especially if you have signage [work] and a backlog of it.”
Elsewhere at the Bureau of Publications, Carr says the COVID-19 pandemic has kept the operation very busy with mailings for life-sustaining programs. “The transactional printing and mailing [have] become the priority,” she notes. “The marketing work has dropped off considerably.”
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Bob has served as editor of In-plant Impressions since October of 1994. Prior to that he served for three years as managing editor of Printing Impressions, a commercial printing publication. Mr. Neubauer is very active in the U.S. in-plant industry. He attends all the major in-plant conferences and has visited nearly 170 in-plant operations around the world. He has given presentations to numerous in-plant groups in the U.S., Canada and Australia, including the Association of College and University Printers and the In-plant Printing and Mailing Association. He also coordinates the annual In-Print contest, cosponsored by IPMA and In-plant Impressions.