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Armor Manufacturer Offers Higher-quality Custom Designs with its EFI VUTEk QS2 Pro UV Inkjet Printer (Commentary by Cary Sherburne)

Press release from the issuing company

Editor's Note:  See commentary from Cary Sherburne below this announcement

FREMONT, Calif. – EFI™, a world leader in customer-focused digital printing innovation, announced that armor systems manufacturer Hardwire LLC has purchased an EFI VUTEk® QS2 Pro UV inkjet printer. The newly installed, two-meter wide printer gives Hardwire the ability to meet growing demand by improving the company’s custom decoration processes.

For over ten years, Hardwire’s product lines focused on armor for government and military vehicles, boats, aircrafts, personnel and infrastructure. Hardwire began expanding into new markets about three years ago, after a spin-off of its military products, the Bulletproof Clipboard and Ballistic Tactical Shield, became popular with police departments and SWAT teams. Then, after the Sandy Hook School Shooting, the company again adapted the product line to develop bulletproof whiteboards, backpack inserts, and point-of-purchase shields for a growing base of customers that includes schools, office buildings, business travelers, health clubs, and retail and convenience stores. 

These colors don’t run

The company manufactures its products by applying a significant amount of pressure to the ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene fiber Hardwire uses in its armor. The colors in the inkjet-printed graphics Hardwire utilized previously did not hold up under those conditions, so the company had to apply graphics to the outside of its products post manufacturing. Now, with the VUTEk QS2 Pro printer, Hardwire can incorporate durable, UV inkjet printed graphics in the actual armor manufacturing process.

“EFI’s UV inks solve the issues we had before,” said Hardwire’s CEO, George Tunis. “With our new VUTEk device, we can print directly on the armor or on our specialty film layers, and the colors in the graphics don’t run in our manufacturing process. Not only will the graphics last longer during use, our decorated products have a cleaner, higher-quality look that allows them to blend into their surroundings in a non-militarized way.”

Tunis will discuss his new print technology today in a panel session at Connect 2014, EFI’s users conference in Las Vegas.

Hardwire installed its VUTEk QS2 Pro, along with an EFI Fiery® proServer used to drive the printer, in December 2013. The upgrade in decoration capabilities will help the company’s marketing efforts as it introduces new products.

High-end imaging opens the door to new product offerings

The more-advanced graphics capabilities Hardwire gained with its VUTEk QS2 Pro UV inkjet printer opens the door to increased business in these new, commercially focused markets. The company is currently developing shields for retail stores, advertising agencies, and schools that incorporate high-end graphics. The printed shields serve as advertisements and welcome signs on a daily basis, but provide ballistic protection in emergency situations.  

The VUTEk QS2 Pro is a robust, production-level UV printer combining true grayscale print quality, color accuracy and consistency for businesses looking to grow by offering color-critical and higher-premium products. The printer offers point-of-purchase image quality with six-color process and three-layer white inks. The VUTEk QS2 Pro’s user interface allows users to run multiple jobs at once without RIPing larger layout files. The printer, which now comes standard with roll-to-roll functionality, prints on rigid, sheet and flexible media up to 80 inches wide and up to 2 inches thick. 

“The EFI VUTEk QS2 Pro printer has a mix of features designed to give customers new options for innovation,” said Scott Schinlever, senior vice president and general manager of EFI’s Inkjet Solutions. “Hardwire’s creativity with the QS2 Pro speaks to digital printing’s promising growth potential in unique, high-quality product applications.” 

Hardwire’s new Fiery proServer includes a parallel-processing production RIP and comprehensive color management tools, as well as default media profiles, pre-installed presets and other automated workflow features. Hardwire’s production personnel can use the Fiery proServer to manage important details like printing mode, carriage speed, curing and shutter modes while receiving real-time printer status, job status and consumable usage updates.

For more information about EFI VUTEk and Fiery products, visit www.efi.com or contact 800-875-7117.

Commentary by Cary Sherburne

I had the opportunity to have a fascinating conversation with George today, and see samples of his work.  Please watch for the video interview; you will find it fascinating.  We’re also including some photos with this commentary below.

While the samples of the shields he had with him had a Las Vegas theme, these shields can also be less decorated, perhaps with a school logo or class name, or the word “Police” and the local police department shield. They can be used as a whiteboard, so they are readily available in the classroom should the need to use them arise, which, of course, we hope never happens in a school near you. And they are lightweight, easy to handle, even for a little person like me.

Another facet of their business, which is developing rapidly (the VUTEk has only been installed for two weeks) is printed electronics.  He showed us a sample heat strip that might be used for heated automobile seats.  He is able to print the decorative covering of the printed electronics on the VUTEk and he sees almost unlimited possibilities for this across a number of industries.

It is exciting to see new uses and applications for industrial print coming from outside the industry, and to be able to bring these ideas to our readers so they might also enhance their own businesses.  To say that George is excited about this new turn of events in his business is an understatement.  It is also wonderful to see developments that helped us in some of the unfortunate conflicts we have been involved in throughout the world translated into peacetime uses that will, in the end, benefit all of us in one way or another.


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