UNH Clears the Air, Cuts the Outsourcing With Hybrid Wide-Format Printer
For a couple of years now, Printing and Mailing Services at the University of New Hampshire has been having great success printing graphics and signage on an adhesive, easily removable substrate called wallNOODLE from MACtac. Walls all around campus are decorated with the in-plant’s work, printed with an HP Designjet L25500 wide-format latex printer. That success, though, came with a small cost.
“The one problem that we had was whenever we were running vinyl or wallNOODLE material, we were getting off-gassing due to the heat,” remarks Paul Roberts, director. “It was making it very uncomfortable for some of the people in the area.”
This odorous obstacle prevented the 16-employee in-plant from taking on large-quantity banner jobs for the Durham, N.H.-based university. At the same time, the in-plant was also outsourcing a number of wide-format projects that required direct printing onto rigid materials, such as construction signage or directional signs for conferences. Roberts was looking for a way to bring this work in-house.
To solve both of these issues at once, the in-plant installed a new Fuji Acuity LED 1600 hybrid flatbed printer in January. Using fast-curing UV LED ink, the printer can print on both rigid substrates — up to .5˝ thick and 63.3˝ wide — and roll media, including wallNOODLE, without the stench. “This really has worked out wonderfully,” enthuses Roberts.
The in-plant recently used the new printer to produce about 400 3x6-foot vinyl banners for the Prevention Innovations Research Center — a $19,900 job.
“We would not have been able to run that in-house just because of the amount of off-gassing that would have caused,” he remarks.
By bringing in new work like this, Roberts estimates a short ROI time of 1.8 years for the Fuji Acuity LED 1600.
Another job required the in-plant to print more than 400 posters for the Undergraduate Research Conference, an event where students showcase the results of their research and creative projects. In the past, staff had to work overtime to get the posters printed, mounted and laminated within a tight two-week period. This year posters were printed directly onto foam core, saving a huge amount of time, which in turn lowered costs for the students.
Unlike conventional roll-fed wide-format printers, hybrid devices cannot be squeezed into a corner. Roberts says his shop’s printer takes up a 12x20-foot area, including the space needed for feeding and removing large rigid substrates. He wanted to place it in the pressroom, but Fuji discouraged that because of the dust.
So the in-plant built a room in its prepress area for the Fuji Acuity LED 1600, the HP Designjet L25500 latex printer and a Graphtec FC8000 cutting plotter. The construction cost was included in his ROI calculation.
Roberts points out that the new printer uses less energy, and plugs right into a 110-amp outlet. Ink dries immediately, he says, thanks to the LED curing. Changeover from roll to rigid stock takes less than five minutes, he says.
So far, the in-plant is off to a great start with the new hybrid printer.
“We’ve done right around $40,000 in four months,” reveals Roberts. “To me, it’s just the next step in wide-format.”
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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 more than 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.