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Screenprint finds portal to new opportunities with Meital 304D

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Press release from the issuing company

As its name suggests, a major element in Yorkshire, UK-based Screenprint's display production process is the production of long runs of myriad signage and advertising components for large retail and high street banks using screen-printing lines, but wide-format digital ink-jet has become an intrinsic part of the process. The acquisition of the Meital 304D 2.5m flat-bed from MTL Print via exclusive UK distributor Digital Print Innovations (DPI) has opened up a cornucopia of new production options, with traditionally screen-minded customers migrating to the machine to take advantage of its high quality and productivity offering. But, in addition, Screenprint is combining processes to realise unusual, bespoke designs for a variety of international brand clients.

The UV-curable four-colour Meital 304D, which incorporates greyscale drop-on-demand ink-jet technology, was selected to refresh existing wide-format digital printing facilities for its ability to meet the fast turnaround required while maintaining the standards of output upon which Screenprint has prided itself for the past 27 years. It's exceeding expectations for both the company and its clients, and is poaching work from other processes. Previously, many display jobs had been output on the NUR Tempo, with some taking advantage of a solvent printer for work at a smaller width requiring higher durability. Some photographic prints are produced on an aqueous machine which doubles as a proofing unit. However, the goalposts are moving and more clients are demanding that the Meital 304D be used for a variety of display production tasks.

"When we invested in the Meital 304D we expected clients whose short-run, outdoor display work was printed on the NUR Tempo to come across because of the improved definition on offer," explains Chris White, managing director at Screenprint, which now has some 60 employees. "However, we've also convinced screen-printing clients to take advantage of it to use thicker substrates and specific short-run jobs, and in these cases we're saving ourselves and our customers money. For much of the work, the media and the job requirement is choosing the Meital for its suitability. It's also leaving our screen-printing lines freer for longer runs of solid colors."

The demands of Screenprint's clients have infinite permutations, ranging as they do between high-street and luxury brands, national retail banks and large supermarket chains. Improving turnaround and workflow were vital to maintain the profitability of these accounts, as well as maintaining the professionalism and output standards that they had come to expect of the company. "One banking customer used to specify our solvent machine to print to a thin PVC material for a window banner system," explains White. "This would then have to be matte laminated. Now, it's all produced on the Meital 304D because it prints direct-to-substrate onto a thicker, more suitable material at rich quality and powerful production speeds. We remove an extra step in the process, meaning that we can produce the job more cheaply, which keeps us competitive."

Screenprint is no stranger to challenging jobs and demanding clients and needed from its investment a machine which would fit into its ethos of originality. The Meital 304D generated excitement at the company during a three-month selection process which put it up against the VUTEk GS2000 and the Inca Spyder 320Q. "The modular format of the Meital 304D made it more future-proof and, therefore, more of a sensible purchase," explains digital print manager Guy Spandler, who was charged with finding the right machine, "but there were other factors that made the machine better value for money. Against its competitors it can produce the quality we need at the speeds we need and with economical ink usage. Combined with the dual-table format, the MTL Print machine was by far the most cost-effective and efficient, and that's why it was chosen."

The company is one of few which can claim to be a true display manufacturer, with the Meital machine joining plastics manufacturing, heat-bending and screen-printing lines for sign and display production, as well as shipping and logistics. Screenprint's plastic fabrication facility means that it can produce unique displays without having to bend to the limitations of bought-in fixings and other small parts. It also boasts an in-house pre-press and design department which creates or develops ideas for high-profile clients, who include high-street retailers and national supermarket chains, but relishes the opportunity to force the boundaries of what can be done by fusing techniques - as demonstrated by a recent project for Adidas, with which the Meital 304D came into its own.

"We were approached by a top project designer to design and build a bespoke stand for Adidas's Adi5 range of five-a-side football branded footwear, and we decided on a combination of display processes to make it stand out," explains White. "The client wanted the point-of-sale unit to reflect the design of the shoe itself, which incorporates a shiny, tactile finish against a matte fibre, as well as giving a strong presentation of the brand. The background of the display, with its detail of both the shoe and its context, was printed on the Meital 304D, before the high-build spot varnish elements were screen-printed to create its eye-catching effect. The shelves and base were also manufactured at Screenprint and assembled here before making their way to point-of-sale locations around the country. The Meital 304D has become a key part of our line-up and the client was absolutely delighted by the quality and originality we were able to provide."

This type of three-dimensional engineering for the sign and display market required a machine constructed with that in mind. MTL Print was founded by two people who were key influencers and developers from the primordial moments of digital ink-jet, Kobi Markovitch and Moshe Nur, and their knowledge of the industry extends from innovation in engineering to the application of technical knowledge to a production environment. The Meital 300-series of printers can be run by a single operator, much facilitated by the dual-table interchangeable bed format, and its UV-cured output makes it suitable for a variety of indoor and outdoor uses. With no out-gassing or other process standing in the way before finishing, the printed media is ready for platening or finer finishing on Screenprint's EskoArtwork Kongsberg iXL44 cutter.

The acquisition of the machine did not come without tribulation, however, due to the fall of Litho Supplies, with whom it had originally agreed the deal, early in 2010. "As an early adopter this put us in a tricky situation, as we lost our support and supply network in one go and, as with any installation, there were teething troubles that had to be sorted," White says. "However, DPI's Stewart Bell stepped in right away to make sure that it wouldn't undermine our situation, and has been instrumental, along with MTL Print's specialist engineers, in helping us discover the machine's full potential. Today, he is our first contact point and a tower of support, and together we have a deep technical understanding of the Meital 304D, its operation and its benefits."

With 20 years in the printing industry and six spent at Screenprint, Guy Spandler has worked as an operator and manager for screen-printing, digital ink-jet and a number of finishing processes. "The Meital 304D and its technology looks and feels new," Spandler concludes. "It's clear from the operational level that it was conceived and constructed by senior technologists who know the industry inside and out. The Xaar heads are incredibly precise and, due to their broad print swathe and variable drop-on-demand technology, we are producing quality prints quickly that stand up to scrutiny from managers of top-of-the-line brands. Best of all, we are turning those jobs around quicker and better than ever before, meaning that we're attracting more work and servicing more demanding contracts."

[meital-1] The Meital 304D from MTL Print is a robust machine with a broad print swathe, enabling fast turnaround of high-quality graphics
[meital-stand] This stand for Adidas's Adi5 range of sports footwear relied on the Meital 304D's quality production capabilities in conjunction with a high-build screen-printed spot varnish

Established by digital ink-jet bastions Kobi Markovitch and Moshe Nur in 2008, wide-format printer manufacturer MTL Print (www.meitaldp.com) brings robust, high-quality solutions to the market in the form of its Meital 300-series production machines. With a series of configurations suitable to all types of print service provider, the Israel-based company embodies unmatched standards of engineering and an understanding of the market's needs, growth and innovation that stretches back to its inception.




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Wide Format Editor

Richard Romano

Richard Romano, Section Editor/Senior Analyst
Richard has written about communication, graphics hardware and software trends for the past 15 years.

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