Tips for Printshops Before & After COVID-19

We gathered a panel of LexJet team members and asked them to share what they’ve been hearing in the market, along with tips and ideas to help printshops continue to operate, help their communities and weather this storm.

During this free webcast we discuss:

  • Using print to help your communities and collaborating with your peers
  • Marketing ideas to share with your customers
  • Material availability and inventory
  • Have downtime? Use this time wisely to be a step ahead
  • Best business practices for your company
  • Communicating with customers

Watch the Webcast Now!

If you have any questions for our panel, please call 800-453-9538 to connect with our team. We are here to help during this unprecedented time, so please reach out to us. Stay healthy, and let us know how you’re doing!

Best Practices for Printing an Overlaminate with Timothy Mitchell

HP Latex application specialist Timothy Mitchell explores uses and best practices for the versatile HP Gloss Polymeric Overlaminate. This product not only works as a typical overlaminate used to protect prints, it can also be printed and used as a clear media that works with the HP Latex Print & Cut Solution.

Mitchell suggests using the product for a project like a decorative border around the edges of a window. The clear media works well on windows and can be custom cut using the Print & Cut system.

For optimal results, Mitchell suggests raising the ink load to 200%. “If you were to build this at 110%, and you were to put it in a store window with strong lighting coming through it, it’s going to look washed out … because you have what is a translucent material in a window, and that light cuts the color back,” he says. “If you were to switch that same print to 200% and you put it in there, the colors are going to pop.”

He suggests building the ink signature the same way as a backlit. In the video above, he walks through the steps to do that, and shows how the printer color calibrates and then can create a customized or standard ICC profile, based on the type of Latex machine.

Mitchell also discusses other advantages of the product and how to get the best results. Watch the video above for all of his insider tips and tricks.

Make 2020 the Year You Reach Your Profit Goals

As the last decade was wrapping up, we began looking at 2020 as being full of possibility. But we’re not too naive. We know today’s print service providers are faced with lots of challenges, such as rising wages and benefits costs, pressure to enter new markets, a thin workforce of available, skilled workers and more. So we decided to take a look at two areas where LexJet can help, not just as a materials provider, but a business partner as well.

At the SGIA/Napco Research Key Industry Trends & Insights Research presentation during Printing United, we learned a lot about these challenges. While nearly every sector in the print industry saw growth in sales (yay!), the increase in profits didn’t match up. How could that be? Perhaps investment in equipment, wage increases (and more to come), lost productivity, training up staff in new market segments, or maybe you were paying too much for the wrong products.

One of the startling revelations was PSPs who stated they were “so busy, we don’t have time to figure out what would be profitable.” Yikes! So let’s look into two current, major pain points and see how we can help.

Adding a New Product Line or Entering a New Market

You can diversify the products and services you’re offering your customers, but let’s look at some smart strategies. While it may seem like everyone is jumping into vehicle wraps, ask yourself if you’ve got the proper print technology, installers with experience and product lines you trust. If not, that’s a steep climb before you get out of the red. If you are set up to tackle vehicle wraps, consider starting with simpler applications, such as box trucks, before you get into intricate designs like sports cars.

Inkjet Canvas Decor by MyPix2

Another supplemental market that may have a quicker ramp-up, in terms of production, is décor. This segment covers a pretty wide gamut of applications, from canvas prints to wallcoverings to windows treatments. If you’re in the wide-format space now, you likely have equipment that you can use to expand into décor printing. For instance, if you have an aqueous printer, many materials exist for you to print wall art, such as canvas wraps, fine art reproductions or portraits. Wallcoverings and window graphic materials (like Squid) are decor focused, and can be printed on solvent or latex print technology. Dye-sub printers used for fabric open a new door for upholstery, drapery and more. Your capital expenditure may include finishing tools or machinery, so scope those out and plan accordingly.

Some growing interest in customized décor printing include hotels, restaurants, healthcare facilities and corporate offices, so consider customers you already have in these spaces and market your new capabilities to them!

Combating Material Costs

Another ongoing pain point is material costs. This is always top-of-mind for all of us here at LexJet, as we launch new or next-generation products. We are constantly looking for ways to pass on savings to our customers.

One strategy is to opt for multi-purpose, quality products. When you opt for a “Swiss Army Knife” product, you save on inventory space and production set up time as well as costs savings, much of the time. One such material is FlexTek 170g, also available as FlexTek SUV 200g. FlexTek is a budget-beating, non-woven technical fabric that works in a variety of applications, including wall art, banners and canvas wraps. It can be finished with grommets or it can be sewn or wrapped or folded. It’s recyclable and has a long shelf life — talk about an inventory win-win!

Our print specialists at LexJet can also help you fine-tune your materials and supplemental products that fit into your budget and help your profits soar! Call us today at 800-453-9538.

Three Major Wide-format Trends to Watch in 2020

If you’ve been in wide format printing for a while, or even if you’re new here, you’ve probably noticed that things move pretty quickly in this space, from customer expectations to equipment upgrades to new material launches. These changes, upgrades and improvements are never-ending, so here’s a quick list of what we see as the hot topics to watch as 2020 gets started:

Strategic Convergence. You heard a lot about convergence at Printing United, specifically. There was a wave of chatter about diversifying and jumping into different segments to stay relevant, serving at least two segments, like sign & graphic, apparel or packaging. Sales and profitability were both up the most in 2018 for sign & graphic producers, according to NAPCO Research and SGIA. But when diversifying, businesses may have growing pains from adding staff or lacking focus. Working with a good partner who supplies material as well as education and business consultation is key to helping you make the best decisions of material inventory, equipment upgrades and workflow efficiencies. Get a handle on these issues, and your team can converge strategically.

Environmental Responsibility. If there’s one topic on everyone’s tongues, it’s sustainability. At Printing United, some customers who visited our booth were only interested in eco-friendly material options. There’s a generational divide to keep in mind: While Baby Boomer customers tend to embrace their brand loyalty, Millennials and younger are willing to pay more for products made with sustainability in mind. This is true in the consumer world, and growing increasingly true in the business decisions they make. Our industry is working hard to find ways to make materials from recycled or reclaimed items, like plastic water bottles, and, in turn, ways for those products to be recycled or reused to create a circular economy that the print world hasn’t seen previously. Stay tuned for product releases that are better for the earth so you can plan to market them to the customers who are the most receptive to them.

Increased Competition. This isn’t competition from the sign shop down the street. It’s competition from your own customers, who now have access to lower-priced, entry-level printing equipment that’s allowing them to do their own in-house printing — like retail outlets, schools and more. Combat this by excelling in areas they can’t, such as more complex decor applications that require more intense set up and installation; investment in new technology, like dye-sublimation, which can advance you into textile printing; or offer customization in printing with software that allows your team to use variable data to create unique prints (like these serialized decals). Wow your customers with your experience, craftsmanship and innovation, and they won’t want to do it without you.

LexJet brandUP: Supporting Ringling College Students’ VR Game at SXSW

South by Southwest, or as it’s more commonly known, SXSW, is a convergence of creatives across the interactive, film and music industries held annually in Austin, Texas. Marketers exhibit brand roll-outs and new products and applications to attendees.

One brand activation at the 2019 festival featured a group of talented students from Ringling College of Art + Design. About 35 students, studying graphic design, game art, illustration, motion design and business of art and design, launched “Wet Dog Corp.” a futuristic, arcade-style virtual reality game that takes the player through various levels where dirty dogs on conveyor belts are waiting to be cleaned.

“Wet Dog is a zany, fun VR dog washing game that some of our Game Art seniors made in collaboration with Flight School. We thought it would be a fantastic idea to debut the game at SXSW at their Gaming Expo,” says Jamie DeRuyther, a Game Art and Virtual Reality Development faculty member at Ringling College. “It really kind of blossomed into this really, really amazing marketing campaign.”

To attract people to the VR game, the Ringling team wanted to personalize and brand as many eye-catching items as they could. From water bottles to banners to vehicle decals, the Wet Dog logo was everywhere. “It’s real-world stuff with real clients in a real product in real time,” says Jeff Schwartz, Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs & Dean of Undergraduate Studies.

Tallie Malka, majoring in business art and design with an emphasis on marketing, stresses the importance of brand identity. “Branding this company [Wet Dog Corp.] and promoting what we’re doing is what I want to do for a career,” Malka says. “Every touch-point that these people have, they know our brand. That’s why we have branded water bottles, branded everything.”

The students of Ringling and the professionals at LexJet joined together in a collaborative effort to design the graphics, choose the right media, and print the images needed for the project.

LexJet provided the media and offered tips to create many of the large-format printed assets for the experience including banners, displays, vehicle graphics, target boards and water bottles. Here’s a peek into how the students brought Wet Dog Corp. to life:

  • Because the team set up outside, they chose HEYtex Mesh for the eye-popping graphics printed on 60/40 pattern, providing see-through visibility.
  • Easy-to-read graphics printed with LexJet Production Display Film SUV were displayed with banner stands and strategically placed throughout the booth, providing directions and hints to gamers. This durable film was selected because of its excellent image quality and water-resistance.
  • Vehicle branding is one of the easiest, but most important marketing opportunities. The Wet Dog team rented a van for the event and created temporary door and hood graphics using HP Optimal Gloss Air GRP. This calendared vinyl offers a gray, repositionable adhesive and is perfect for fleet and flat-paneled vehicle graphics.
  • In addition to the VR game, a carnival-style game was created with images of dogs printed on HP Prime Gloss Air GP and then installed on backboards. The calendared vinyl with a gray, permanent adhesive is a print service provider’s best asset. This versatile product can be used for indoor and outdoor signage, menu boards, stickers and decals, and many other applications.
  • Using the HP Latex 335 Print and Cut, labels were printed on HP Prime Gloss CP allowing the students to personally brand the water bottles in the booth, on demand. The calendared vinyl with clear adhesive is perfect for stickers, decals and other graphics on clear or light-colored substrates.

The Wet Dog Corp. experience garnered over 900 visitors in a single day. To see more about this successful brand activation as well as see the products in action, click on the video above.

If you are interested in these or other products from LexJet, give us a call at 800-453-9538 or visit LexJet.com, today.

Color, Fabrics & Customization Lead the Trends at RetailX

Our teammates at our parent company, S-One, made their debut at GlobalShop @ RetailX in Chicago last month, showcasing media options hand-selected for retail environments.

Fabrics were a huge trend all throughout the show, and S-One highlighted some tried-and-true favorites as well as brand-new to the market options.

“Fabric was everywhere, and it’s always going to continue to trend,” says sales rep Matt Radauscher. “The guys who don’t have dye-sub yet were happy to hear they had options to print fabrics on latex.”

Our team showcased HP Durable Backlit Fabric, a lightweight option suitable for SEG frames that’s latex-compatible. We also brought the brand-new adhesive fabric, Squid, which generated a ton of buzz. The fabric’s fibers are finished on one side with a special adhesive that is designed for windows. Squid can be printed or used alone to create privacy, block out the sun’s rays and/or display brand messaging. It’s an elegant solution for high-end retail and corporate environments. Stay tuned for more info to come soon!

Throughout the show floor, we were excited to see some emerging trends, most of which played around with dynamic color and customization. SuperColor Digital featured printable blackout fabrics that were enhanced with lighting features that actually changed the colors of the graphics (see photo).

We noticed that many of the exhibits focused on brick-and-mortar retail’s current challenge: competing with ecommerce by using dynamic, sometimes over-the-top displays to create a memorable in-store experience.

“When looking at the booth designs, nearly every one of them had some sort of electrical element in the displays themselves,” says S-One Marketing Director Terry Lynn Belzer. “Whether they were blow-up fixtures, floor fixtures or even animal displays with eyes that lit up. There was also a lot of focus on tactile experiences throughout the show.”

There was even an “Instagrammable” moment with a Game of Thrones-inspired display with a giant throne and sword that was a photo opp just waiting to happen.

Colorful, hyper-customized walls, windows, floors and even ceilings showcased the power of print throughout the exhibits at GlobalShop @ RetailX. To get a closer look at the materials that S-One showcased, please visit our RetailX page for product info or give one of our retail specialists a call at 800-453-9538.