West London signage company FD Signs successfully delivers nearly 100,000 social distancing floor graphics for use across the London transport network
"We do jobs for TFL [Transport for London] fairly regularly," says FD Signs founder and director Fintan Delaney. "But we've never done anything for them on this scale. We were delighted to get the opportunity and all of our suppliers really stepped up to make sure we had everything we needed to finish the job."
The Acuity LED 1600 was used alongside anther roll-to-roll machine to produce the work, which was printed to Polar Grip vinyl supplied by Drytac. "As our ink and media requirements went up exponentially during this job we were really impressed that, despite the logistical challenges posed by the coronavirus lockdown, our suppliers managed to get what we needed to us. Our distributor, CSL Digital, was reliable as always, and Fujifilm also stepped in to send ink to us directly when our requirements exceeded what CSL was able to supply within the very tight timeframe we were working to."
FD Signs' five permanent staff normally work a nine-to-five, five-day week. This job turned that on its head. "We were all working 18-hour days for ten days straight," says Delaney. "And we had a guy coming in at three o'clock in the morning to change the rolls on the printers every night - so they could keep printing right through. I even celebrated my 50th birthday on the job!"
By 20th May, the FD Signs team had delivered 6,000 graphics a day, for 10 consecutive days, to 30 different installation teams around the capital who installed them in London Underground stations during overnight closures. On top of this, similar graphics were created over the same time period for other parts of the London transport network, including the Croydon Tramlink and Network Rail.
Though FD Signs have had their hybrid Acuity LED 1600 for nearly two years, this was the first time they had used its roll-to-roll function, and Delaney was suitably impressed: "We bought the Acuity for printing to rigid board primarily, as we have a separate, dedicated roll-to-roll machine." he explains. "We've been very impressed with its quality and reliability (we've never had a customer complaint about an Acuity-printed sign) but this was the first time we'd used its roll-to-roll function for a big job.
"It is a little slower than our other machine - but the quality is noticeably better, the ink is more durable and it is also very well-built and reliable. We were working it extremely hard - 24 hours a day - for ten days straight, and we had no problems with it whatsoever. We'll certainly be using the roll-to-roll function much more in the future. I would even be tempted, with hindsight, to have bought this machine alone and not have bothered with a dedicated roll-to-roll printer, given how well it handles both rigid and flexible substrates."
With the TFL job delivered, FD Signs is now working on other, similar jobs for major retailers and brands as they begin to anticipate an easing of the lockdown. "Clear signage to ensure people keep their distance from one another is going to be increasingly important as people slowly return to everyday life," says Delaney. "We're anticipating quite a few jobs like this in the coming weeks and months and we've also been providing some of this sort of signage free of charge to small local businesses and to the NHS."
Andy Kent, Divisional Manager, Fujifilm Graphic Systems UK says: "The lockdown has posed enormous challenges for all of us, but we're proud of the service we continue to provide our customers who are doing such important work. We're also delighted that FD Signs has had the opportunity to put the Acuity LED 1600's roll-to-roll function to the test, and we look forward to supporting the company in future projects."