Texas In-plant Re-Equips and Redefines
“After COVID, we moved away from black-and-white printing. So much of that went online,” reveals Anna Morris, supervisor of the Aldine Independent School District’s Print Services Department, which serves parts of the greater Houston, Texas, metro area. “To keep us visible, we started pushing the market to show the great things we could do.”
As a result of such forward thinking, the four-employee in-plant recently enhanced its array of services and products with the addition of new wide-format, production toner, dye-sublimation, and digital embellishment equipment. The impressive list of acquisitions is allowing the in-plant to increase the value it can bring to the district’s 58,000 students and 9,000 staff members.
The re-equipping of the shop included the acquisition of two Canon imagePRESS C950 digital color printers, one of them equipped with a Plockmatic BLM50 booklet making unit. These units, Morris says, have been essential in meeting the district’s needs for high-quality, full-color communications. The Plockmatic unit offers perfect binding up to 200 sheets.
To embellish the products it produces, Print Services also added a Duplo DFL-500 foiler/laminator, which has expanded the shop’s ability to produce specialty jobs, including holiday cards and embossed business cards. Morris says this acquisition helps keep district money within the district by retaining more work in-house.
“We have 84 campuses,” Morris says, “and the ability to offer specialized items is something we look forward to doing for them.”
Further expanding offerings, the in-plant moved into wide-format printing with the addition of a Canon imagePROGRAF TZ-30000 five-color aqueous printer and a 44" Canon imagePROGRAF GP-4000 10-color printer, which can use fluorescent inks.
“We have a lot of arts programs, and this gives vibrant pops of color for displays and advertisements,” says Morris. As awareness of this capability has grown within the district, demand has risen too, she adds. “We get calls every day,” she says.
Wide-format printing has been a great revenue generator for the shop, Morris reports, and is used for parent engagement efforts, carnivals, festivals, and even for a recent “Turkey Trot” held by the district. By promoting that event better with wide-format applications, she says, attendance increased from 100 to 400 participants.
The in-plant also added a Mimaki UJF-6042 MkII UV-cured small-format object printer, which can print on substrates up to 6" thick. The machine is currently being used to direct-print signage, but the shop is working to acquire jigs to enable printing on three-dimensional objects such as golf balls.
“It’s a wonderful machine,” Morris praises. “As we’re learning, it’s becoming more useful to us.”
Like many printers working to diversify their product mix, the in-plant has added promotional products. It uses a Sawgrass SG500 dye-sublimation printer to image items such as tumblers, mugs, and ornaments.
An Epson direct-to-film printer is used to decorate apparel. Morris says that same technology enables the shop to image onto many other types of objects.
Asked how the in-plant funds these new technology acquisitions, Morris says the shop charges a printing fee on each job done. At the end of each year, those proceeds go toward investments deemed necessary by the district. She clarifies that some of the equipment is leased.
A final factor toward success for Morris’ “small but mighty” four-person department, is cross-training. This, she says, has enabled the department to expand services without adding additional labor.