Taking business to the next level with EFI

With over 30 years’ experience in the Canberra region, Screenmakers prides itself in the delivery of quality products with rapid turn-around times. That is why when the company was faced with the need to boost its press line-up, it prioritised features, such as lower production costs, colour consistency and speed, the ability to print on a wide range of media, and increased production capacity, which it recently found in an EFI VUTEk h3 hybrid flatbed/roll-fed printer. As a first-time customer of EFI, Screenmakers director Rick Gulliford said one of the main reasons for choosing the EFI VUTEk h3 printer was its faster turnaround times, speed, and Fiery Command WorkStation capability. Gulliford also said he was impressed with the EFI VUTEk h3 printer’s capability to perform multi-layered jobs seamlessly.

“It’s the biggest investment we’ve made in a single piece of equipment; it’s so sleek and robust. We got our machine configured with eight colours – CMYK + light CMYK – and white. We didn’t take up the option of ‘clear’ as it wasn’t something we were after. With the multi-layer capability on the VUTEk h3, we can print up to nine layers, whether it is white under-print or white over-print,” he said.

“We do a lot of white graphics onto clear film for window decorations, mainly in commercial buildings for privacy. We can do all of that work now seamlessly on the VUTEk h3. This has also allowed us to create some work with tactile feel to it, with textured printing. We’ve been experimenting with that as well and some customers have shown interest in it.”

The install of the EFI VUTEk h3, along with Fiery Command WorkStation capability, also meant that Screenmakers was able to achieve a unified workflow system within its business.

“EFI offered us a complete unified workflow solution. With the Fiery Command WorkStation software, we were able to run our existing printers on the same operating system,” Gulliford said.

“In the past, we had two main manufacturers and two types of RIP, which were very different in the way they were. This resulted in colour inconsistency across output devices.

“Now, with the Fiery proServer Premium digital front end, we have been able to achieve the same result across the different printers that we own.”

The analog to digital move

The EFI VUTEk h3 was installed at Screenmakers with the Fiery Command WorkStation capability
The EFI VUTEk h3 was installed at Screenmakers with the Fiery Command WorkStation capability

Screenmakers has grown from a small screen-printing company since its inception to become a very dominant force in the graphic reproduction market.

It was started in 1979, in Queanbeyan. Gulliford joined the business in 1981 and has been its director since the mid ‘90s.

Gulliford has seen the business go through much change, especially in the last 10 years. The most prominent one, for him, was Screenmakers phasing out screen printing and moving solely to digital.

“We’ve had digital type printing from the first pigment-based printers, into eco solvents and dye sublimation then to flatbed UV printers. It was a transition from long-run, quantity-driven work to shorter-run quality-driven work,” he said.

Screenmakers has opted for a very diversified operation, rather than a specialised set-up to offer customers complete in-house production and services. This, Gulliford said, has allowed the company to cover a wide range of client requirements and deadlines.

Its services include digital printed graphics, computer-cut vinyl graphics, mounting and laminating, sandblasting, plastic fabrication, general sewing and finishing, welding and sheet metal work, basic joinery work, spray painting, routed and laser-cut graphics, amongst others.

“We create solutions for sporting events, conferences like the G20 Summit, and other graphic fit-outs, including the Australian Submarine Base in Cherbourg, France. We also do a lot of commercial building signage, statutory signage, national parks signage and commercial printing,” Gulliford mentioned.

The Screenmakers team gather outside their premises in Queanbeyan, near Canberra.
The Screenmakers team gather outside their premises in Queanbeyan, near Canberra

“We have a skilled fabrication side as well – which is a point of difference to other sign and printing shops – services include laser cutting, folding, in-house spray painting, and welding.

“During our time in business, we’ve embraced new technologies and updated our printers to keep ahead of the game and provide the best for our customers.”

Picking the right printer

Early last year, Screenmakers realised it had five different printers and their speeds weren’t comparable to some of the newer technologies available in the market

Gulliford understood that the printers were getting outdated, which resulted in his search for a single new machine that could do the work of three.

“Rick started on his journey to look for a new printer, initially focusing on only a new UV flatbed printer,” EFI sales development manager, Darren Massey said.

“As strategic consultants, EFI undertakes a very rigorous sales discovery process with its customers to provide the right solution that suits their needs. I carried out an extensive discovery process with Rick, assessing Screenmakers’ needs and found out that his business would be more suited to a true hybrid printer due to his workflow evenly split between rigid and flexible media.

“I presented Rick with two options to choose from – our VUTEk 32h hybrid printer that was suitable for mid-volume production and our high-end VUTEk h3 for high-volume quality production.”

To make an informed decision, Gulliford looked at every manufacturer’s product offerings in detail and did a comprehensive printer comparison, including an apples-to-apples print sample challenge. Each print service provider presented the same media files and the print samples were then scored on the quality difference in solids, text, photographic and gradations. Each printer was also benchmarked on print speeds, ink usage and running costs.

“To convince Rick, we worked closely with our global team of product, colour management, application and service specialists, and used Screenmaker’s print and financial data to build a compelling TCO model,” Massey said.

“EFI came out top in every single category for Rick: colour consistency, sharpness of text, image quality, speed and running costs.”

Gulliford said the VUTEk h3 install has given him the confidence to further develop the Screenmakers business.

“The VUTEk h3 is one of the most flexible machines I’ve come across. When we saw demos, even of multiple EFI machines, what we liked that was unique to the VUTEk h3 was its ability to go from printing on roll media to a rigid board quickly and easily – it can be done in a couple of minutes,” he said.

“I chose the VUTEk h3 for its latest high-end technology, automation, image quality, speed and the ability to upgrade it in the field to a VUTEk h5 which would future-proof our business, should volumes grow. With EFI, I have the confidence to take my business to the next level – to go hard and gr

A boost to capacity

Screenmakers now operates at an increased capacity with just three machines, with the ability to take on more jobs since the install of the VUTEk h3 printer.

A sample printed on the EFI VUTEk h3

“In the past, we have turned away work where we couldn’t print it in the time needed. But since we got the VUTEk h3, that is not a problem,” Gulliford said.

“With its speed and automated capabilities, it has alleviated any challenges and has equipped us for a modern-day printing world. It gives us the opportunity to look for more work as well as chase new and different markets that we may not have had a strong presence in previously.”

Gulliford said Screenmakers has started considering tapping into the large-format textile market following the purchase of the VUTEk h3.

“We’ve not had a printer where we could print 3.2 metres in the past and within weeks of putting the machine in, we had our first 3.2-metre wide job come through. It was good for us, as a business, to be able to do it in-house where we would have outsourced it before,” he said.

Screenmakers sees its investment of the VUTEk h3 to last at least five years, with the option to field upgrade it to a VUTEk h5 printer.

“If we do choose to upgrade it to a VUTEk h5, it will give us a gain of 40 per cent increase in speed. So, we have planned for an upgrade path, should we need it,” he said.

Gulliford also said running the VUTEk h Series inks has its advantages of highly vibrant colours and conformable inks. Screenmakers has used it to print panels, outdoor metal signs, corflute signage, posters, banners and vehicle fleet graphics, proving its flexibility.

“This has been a plus for us. It’s definitely our go-to machine and we put most of our work on the VUTEk h3. The other machines are now there for complimentary or back-up purposes. Some other manufacturers restrict you to a particular ink set when you buy a printer. The only way then to get a more durable or vibrant ink is to get a new printer. That’s not the case with EFI – it has multiple ink sets and is constantly developing its ink technology,” he said.

Having run the VUTEk h3 printer for a few months so far, Gulliford said he finds the machine with very few limitations.

“The VUTEk h3 is a great workhorse which has transformed our operations. Having Fiery on the front end has also made it easier on our staff as it is a simple, automated program for them to run with little or no training required,” he said.

“The support we have received from EFI has been great – from inception all the way through to install and service. If we had any questions, EFI would respond to them quickly. EFI also has an inkjet online portal of videos and technical documents, as well as online training courses, which are all handy.”

EFI Asia-Pacific vice-president of sales Rodd Harrison said he is happy that EFI has partnered with Screenmakers in its digital transformation journey.

EFI APAC vice-president of sales Rodd Harrison.
EFI APAC vice-president of sales Rodd Harrison

“The VUTEk h3 is a result of our continuous product innovation and is one of the best hybrid printers there is, with a compelling TCO. We are not just selling a printer but a complete digital printing workflow solution to help our customers reinvent their business through new creative applications and improve their profitability,” he said.

“The support structure that we build for our customers does not end at the sale. We are committed to partnering with our customer every step of the way, backed by our global team of dedicated field specialists and service infrastructure.

“The response from Rick and the experience that he has shared with us about the VUTEk h3 printer, since install, has been a pleasure to behold. It is very gratifying to see how it is helping him streamline and grow his business. It’s great to see the EFI family expanding.”

A competitive edge

The EFI VUTEk h3 high-volume hybrid printer

The EFI VUTEk h3 is the future of digital printing, right now. The EFI VUTEk h3 includes features such as:

• Next-generation, 3.2-metre wide hybrid roll/flatbed LED inkjet printer

• Print resolution up to 1200 dpi

• Four (optional) or eight-colour modes plus white, and up to nine-layer print capability in a single pass

• Productivity of 74 boards per hour

• Field upgradeable to the VUTEk h5 model with productivity up to 109 boards per hour

• UltraDrop Technology with 7pL greyscale printheads

• EFI cool cure LED technology

• Automated media handling options to meet production needs, including new 3/4 automated media loading, stacker systems and super duty winders

• EFI Fiery proServer Premium digital front end with Fiery Command WorkStation, FAST RIP, enhanced colour management and screening

• Cloud and diagnostics, including EFI GO mobile management application

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