UV Energize Draws Hundreds to Nashville
UV printing took the spotlight in Nashville, Tennessee, this week as 400 enthusiastic UV flatbed users converged on the Weston Nashville for UV Energize, a mini conference and trade show organized by PDS Equipment for its customers. Held for the third year in a row at this venue, UV Energize delivered three days of networking and learning, while inspiring business owners with ideas for new UV-printed products and tips for getting the best performance out of their machines.
“We’re going to do everything in our power to make sure you guys are successful,” said organizer Steve Weist, CEO of PDS East, in his welcome to the packed auditorium. His sincerity was obvious in the way he and his PDS associates made themselves continually available to answer questions and give demonstrations on the 15 or so Mimaki UV printers running on the exhibit floor. They offered maintenance tips, showed attendees how to build jigs to prevent overspray, and demonstrated how to print drinkware, golf balls and other unique items. More than a dozen other vendors ringed the periphery of the exhibit hall showing off UV-printed samples and related technologies like laser cutting and sand carving.
Though PDS is a successful 41-year-old Mimaki, Horizon, and Xante dealer, the intent of the event, Weist told IPI, was not to sell equipment but to build a community of UV printing providers that can serve as a “user support group.” To accomplish that, PDS started the event in its Nashville office three years ago, but when enthusiasm swelled the guest list beyond its capacity, the company moved it to the Westin.
Attendees came from sign shops, award manufacturers, and other businesses that had previously produced their wares using vinyl or laser cutting, before discovering the versatility of UV printing. With UV printing, products are instantly cured, waterproof, and durable, and the process requires less electricity and produces no outgassing. Most attendees were there to learn about new products they could start producing beyond their traditional wares – and the list seems endless. On display were UV-printed cups, hat patches, fishing lures, braille signs, earrings, guitar picks, name badges, lenticular art, and so much more.
Sessions on the opening day of UV Energize divided attendees by expertise level and offered insightful advice to each. Those just starting into UV printing learned about the different ink types (hard versus flexible), the importance of daily maintenance (and shaking the white ink bottles), substrates to avoid (silicone), top applications that can provide a fast machine ROI (cups and hat patches), and the detrimental effects of overspray and light bounce. Attendees were encouraged to focus on high-margin custom products (not signage) and seek business-to-business opportunities (not one-off jobs).
The message throughout the event was that UV printing opportunities are so plentiful the machines will pay for themselves quickly. Several printers on display featured signs with a breakdown of expected margins: name badges cost 50 cents in materials and sell for $12; lenticular art costs $3 for a blank and can retail for $125.
During one session, a Q&A panel of experts offered tips and talked about niche markets they have discovered. One participant sells thousands of ornaments, printed on blanks bought at Hobby Lobby. Panelists advised their peers to test all new substrates by waiting at least a day after printing on them to check durability.
Other sessions delved into the world of licensing, using social media to expand business, and tax strategies to reduce what you owe to the IRS (e.g., hire your kids).
With evening events both nights featuring Nashville entertainers, attendees of UV Energize had plenty of time to network and learn from one another. They couldn’t help but leave the event inspired to expand their UV printing businesses.
Plans are already underway for next year’s UV Energize in Nashville, to take place Sept. 3-5, 2024. For those who can’t wait, PDS is planning an event in Gardena, California, on Oct. 5.
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.