As owner of Florida print provider digitalMomentum, Marc Sitkin had successfully negotiated the changes wrought by digital technology in the ‘90s and built a successful wide-format shop that thrived in the 21st century. With roots in a 1980s Hartford, CT photo lab, Sitkin evolved the wide-format part of the business into digitalMomentum in 1999. In 2001 he moved it to South Florida. digitalMomentum grew to become a major producer of trade-show graphics, POP displays, giclée prints, and vehicle graphics.
However in 2010, with the Florida economy in a challenging state and his Mimaki printer on its last legs, Sitkin was looking for a game changing print technology to provide a competitive edge in tough times. After researching HP’s new Designjet L25500 latex printer and seeing it at the ISA Sign Expo, Sitkin felt confident enough to make the move. Now, with several months under his belt, he credits the new printer for improving his production efficiency and jump starting the company’s competitive edge. In many cases, the new printer has provided the means for attracting new business that would not have been possible without it.
But Sitkin also credits Alex Lochead and the LexJet technical team for providing the products and guidance that allowed digitalMomentum to leverage the new HP technology quickly into a viable production tool.
“LexJet was one of our first suppliers when we went into digital imaging in the’90s,” says Sitkin. “We have come to rely on them as a trusted partner over the years.”
Promoted by HP as the next big thing in wide format, the Designjet L25500 introduced a latex-based inkset with considerably fewer VOCs than solvent and eco-solvent formulations. The versatility of the print technology with regard to indoor and outdoor media range was also cited as an important benefit. But while the non-toxic characteristics of the new inks are obviously an upside, changing ink formulations always comes with a risk factor with regard to media compatibility. Although HP offers a wide range of media for the machine, the last thing a print-for-pay shop needs is to get locked into purchasing media exclusively from the printer manufacturer. Furthermore, nothing is certain about media compatibility until the material has been tested in both print production and in the context of post print scenarios.
“We knew in general that the HP latex ink should be compatible with solvent media, but obviously there weren’t yet a lot of materials developed specifically for this machine,” says Sitkin. “We naturally turned to LexJet and they were able to get us some materials quickly. After we finished testing we sent the results back to them for their evaluation. This was a nice extension of our partnership and we appreciate it very much.”
As a serious player in the vehicle wrap marketplace, one of digitalMomentum’s concerns was sourcing a self-adhesive vinyl for the latex printer. After testing, the solution turned out to be LexJet’s Simple Flo Wrap, paired with with LexJet 2.4 Mil GraphicsGuard UV Gloss laminate.
“The Simple Flo Wrap printed really well, wrapped really well and installed beautifully,” says Sitkin. “It’s a calendared vinyl so it lets us do the job economically without sacrificing quality.”
Likewise, Sitkin found LexJet’s Canvas WallPro SUV to be an ideal media for large format murals printed on the Designjet L25500. “What we really liked about the WallPro was how easily it installs,” says Sitkin. “In fact, we printed out a 4 x 8 ft. photographic wallpaper mural for my office and applied it ourselves in about a half hour. Later, we brought in a client to show her a wallpaper sample, and when she saw the mural she got very excited. We post images of our work on your website, but there is no substitute for the impact of seeing the real thing.”
For the WallPro, Sitkin found it necessary to create a custom profile that reduced the ink laydown. “We were able to use the Wasatch SoftRIP ink limiting utility to create a custom profile for the WallPro and that allowed us to dial in beautiful image quality.”
At present, Sitkin is testing short rolls of LexJet’s Fabric line (Linen, Poly Select and Poly Light FR). Using the Heavy Textile setting on the printer and a custom profile to reduce the ink deposit, Sitkin is nothing less than thrilled with the image quality. “I really like the bright colors and crisp text we were able to render on that material,” says Sitkin. “Fabrics can often be very disappointing: you run them and get a very weak image. But these are an exception. They hold the ink well and lie down flat in the printer. The color we’re getting is really stunning. It pops.”
Finally, Sitkin cites the competitive advantage conferred by LexJet’s short roll program.“This policy has really helped us a lot, because it provides us with the means to suit the media to the job, rather than trying to use up whatever material we have in inventory. You have a little extra freedom to do the job right when your funds aren’t tied up in unused inventory.”
“After 15 years, we’ve come to appreciate LexJet as an important asset in our business,” concludes Sitkin. “We buy from many different vendors, but LexJet is the one that has most consistently provided reliable solutions year after year from the beginning. I think the relationship has been fruitful for both of us.”