Wide Format Printing has grown up since it debuted in the early 1990s, when the Iris Graphics 3047 inkjet printer was the only machine being used for digital fine art photography. It was expensive to buy and expensive to maintain – and it could only produce short-lasting proofs.
Photographers and artists like rock icon Graham Nash, who saw the potential in this new solution, started looking for ways to make the prints long-lasting. Graham, along with his manager Mac Holbert, opened Nash Editions, which in 1999 became a beta testing site for the Epson Stylus Pro 9500, a ground-breaking large format printer capable of producing long-lasting prints on a variety of materials. By 2002, the quality and appearance issues associated with pigmented inks were being resolved by Epson and other industry leaders, like HP. With the final barriers to adoption – cost and quality – all but removed, the wide format print segment took off for textiles, packaging, home decor, and vehicle wrapping.
In its July 2020 report, amid the COVID-19 crisis, Report Linker forecast the Global Wide Format Printers Market will Reach $4 Billion by 2027 – up from original projections of $3.4 billion.
What began as a need to offset a shortage of critical medical PPE, has led to large format print providers helping businesses open safely and in accordance with new social distancing guidelines. They’re producing face shields, protective barriers, floor graphics, signage and more – and re-inventing themselves to attack new markets – and new revenue streams.
One such company is Pennsylvania-based Ace Designs. Prior to the pandemic, they specialized in visual merchandising, picture framing, and display needs. When they were declared an essential service, the entire company went to work manufacturing and donating over 10,000 face shields to local hospitals, nursing homes and frontline workers. Even furloughed employees gave up their time to lend a hand. Their goal: to help everyone they can at this time.
If you visit their website today, you will not see production equipment, printing presses, or anything that even remotely resembles a print shop. Instead, you’ll see statements like: “Do good!”; “Be Well!”; and “Together we can do anything!”. The company’s VP of Awesome, Sheri Roberts, shared how they made the shift from being 95% retail-focused, to being safety-focused – with a line of social distancing solutions spanning curbside pickup graphics, glove & mask disposal boxes, and custom printed plexi faces (ears optional).
She admits the company recognized quickly that they needed to take a step back, look at what they did really well, and use that as a foundation to re-invent themselves. After they re-tooled their manufacturing equipment to produce essential PPE, they did what they do best: they looked for ways to break it. Sheri had learned that pushing equipment to the max is like red-lining a car – it’s the only way to see just how far you can go. Then they revamped their homepage and began building solutions that not only served a purpose, but provided a relief from the “icky virus graphics” that everyone else was doing.
The company continues to innovate creative solutions that keep people safe and healthy. They produced 4,000 lawn signs for graduations and discovered ways to make cost-effective, custom one-offs. Coupled with the success of their new line of safety solutions, the company is getting ready to launch a direct to consumer line of business – complete with a revamped e-commerce website.
When I asked Sheri what advice she’d give other printers in the space she puts it simply: “Get out of your head.” Other tips include:
Armed with innovation, re-invention and creativity (seasonal floor graphics anyone?) wide-format printers can keep the revenue taps flowing – and tap into a 4 billion-dollar market opportunity.
#Innovation #Reinvention #Creativity #SocialDistancing #WideFormatPrint #Print #Printers #Marketing #Tips #Strategy #Revenue #Sales #AceDesigns #B2B
Portions of this article were published with permission in Graphic Arts Magazine.
Image credit: Pixabay