Texas Shop Flourishing With Flatbed Printer, Contour Cutter
Despite boasting a full array of services — from dimensional printing to promotional products, and from mail scanning to document shredding — one thing was missing at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC) General Services: the in-plant needed a flatbed UV printer.
“We noticed that there was a bigger demand for wide-format UV printing,” says former Manager Daniel Morales. “We saw it on the walls, we saw it on the floor.”
Faculty and staff at the Lubbock, Texas, university were ordering wall and floor graphics from local print vendors, says Morales, and the in-plant was losing out on this business, which its roll-fed Canon imagePROGRAF iPF8300 and iPF9400 simply couldn’t handle. Adding a wide-format UV printer was essential — but with such a range of equipment options on the market, how could the 30-employee in-plant possibly pick the right printer?
If only there was a venue where all the flatbed vendors would have their printers on display at the same time.
The PRINTING United Opportunity
Fortunately for TTUHSC, that’s exactly what took place in the fall of 2019 when PRINTING United came to Dallas. Morales and two other managers from TTUHSC General Services made the drive from Lubbock to Dallas and spent three days closely examining the range of flatbed printers and contour cutters on display, asking questions and getting demos.
“That was the main reason we went to that show,” remarks Associate Managing Director Arthur Paré. “There were dozens of machines operating simultaneously, and you could go and see the real live demos on each and every one.”
“I went to a ton of booths because I noticed at the show that there were a lot of flatbed printing options,” adds Morales.
He and Paré talked with product managers and learned about all the new applications their shop would be able to print with a flatbed UV printer. After all the demos and discussions at PRINTING United were over, the in-plant decided on the Mimaki JFX200-2513 UV LED printer.
“One of the main reasons I chose Mimaki is for the size of the actual bed,” explains Morales. “We’re capable of printing a 6x8´ sheet.” He also liked its ability to print textures, as well as Mimaki’s overall reputation for dependable products. At the same time, the in-plant decided to get a Colex Sharpcut SXC1717 contour cutter with a conveyor belt to handle longer pieces.
Flush with funding back in late 2019, Paré was confident the shop would have both pieces in place in early 2020. He put in the order for the Mimaki in late February.
We all know what happened next.
Once TTUHSC shut down in the spring of 2020, the in-plant’s surplus funds were quickly depleted paying salaries for homebound staff while revenue plunged. The shop eventually scrounged up enough money to finance the Colex, which it ordered in June. By the end of August both machines were in place, installed in the space vacated by the in-plant’s decommissioned offset presses.
Then the in-plant caught a lucky break when Paré learned CARES Act funding could be used for purchases already made. He got the entire cost of the COLEX reimbursed.
Since adding the equipment, the shop has kept it very busy. The Mimaki printed COVID safety signage for TTUHSC hospitals and campus buildings, floor graphics, yard signs, and more. “It opened up a lot of different doors for us,” Morales says.
When he retired last year and Jordan Marlar took over as unit manager, Marlar experimented with new applications and substrates, like double-sided prints on corrugated material.
With the Colex contour cutter, the shop has created everything from 1˝ square stickers to 6´-tall body cutouts, such as the ones done of Dr. Steven Berk, dean of TTU’s School of Medicine, for graduation ceremonies. The Colex has scored and cut intricate projects, like foldable cards and unique direct mail pieces, as well as police badges, university seals, boxes, and even promotional pieces, such as a paper megaphone. It can also do 3D routing, engraving, creasing, and kiss cutting.
“It’s the most versatile thing,” remarks Marlar. “It’s incredible.”
Multiple sheets can be laid out across the 5x5´ bed of the Colex and it will read the registration marks on each and perform the creases and cuts automatically.
Despite supply chain issues plaguing the industry, Marlar says the shop has been able to obtain enough Coroplast, foam board, PVC and other substrates to complete its projects.
“I’ve been able to maintain enough of a stock that I’m not having to worry,” he says, “but … I don’t know what the next six months might bring.”
One thing they will definitely bring is the 2022 edition of PRINTING United in Las Vegas. Taking place Oct. 19-21, it will be the industry’s first in-person trade show in three years, and it’s shaping up to be a technology-rich affair, with most major equipment vendors already planning to display their wares.
Paré has fond memories of the 2019 show and looks forward to going back again in October to see what other new ideas he can bring home. “It was fabulous,” he says.
Related story: New NexPress Makes Work Stand Out at Texas Tech HSC
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, co-sponsored by IPMA and In-plant Impressions.