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Getting to the Cutting Edge

(April 2012) posted on Tue Apr 17, 2012

Getting the most out of digital finishing sometimes requires hardware and software decisions.

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By Bill Hartman

Add another dimension
The real challenge is what is your business model? How do you make money? Are you involved in projects that encompass everything, from design to print to cut? Where do you meet your customer and offer value?
Much of the P-O-P/display industry sells its projects by the square foot. You print a job, perhaps make a square or rectangular cut, and sell it as a commodity. However, the more complex a project becomes—the more a print provider meets the customer higher up in the value chain—the more value that can be added to the cost of a project. No longer are you selling by the square foot, but by the unit piece.
The challenge for a printer is not necessarily to broaden the range of substrates, but adding a dimension—the third dimension. Using a finishing table and the right software allows a screen or digital print provider the opportunity to receive higher margins for project work.
A 3D display isn’t a few dollars a square foot, but perhaps $50 each. It’s the perfect opportunity to escape the cost per square foot pricing model.
The finishing table facilitates the transition but the owner’s creativity can bring higher margins. Installing a cutting device should just be a start. There is no talent required to cut straight lines, nor is that much talent needed to program contour cuts. The real challenge is to be creative with the design of 3D projects.
What are some of the things you could produce? Just a few ideas are boxes, podiums, stands, chairs and tables. Start thinking about marketing communications and events and the materials that could be produced to support them. With a digital service, you can produce materials very quickly. Imagine an open house, kickoff meeting, or trade show. Instead of a flat wall sign, create something that stands with feet. How about boxes that contain hand-out materials from the event? You can build a podium from a paper core board product and add your logo. All you need is a start with structural templates, and then get into the design work.

Designing structure
into 3D projects
For 3D projects, there are typically two types of design software: one for graphics (typically Adobe Illustrator), and one for structure. These design software solutions can significantly help sign and display shops do an exceptional job creating structures for 3D displays. For starters, some solutions have created P-O-P display standards to their style catalogs. Users browsing a P-O-P library can find parametric design templates from which to either design P-O-P displays in minutes—with the freedom to resize or redesign components or stimulate the creative design process.
Structural software also offers tools to ensure designs do, indeed, work. Some tools allow for the simple assembly and (3D virtual) visualization of connected folds and parts. V-notches can be easily visualized as angle cuts. Designers can work with curved folds and cuts by allowing them to visualize designs with curved creases as part of its 3D module. Using 3D visuals, tab and slot assembly tools can help to assemble components of a display with just a few clicks. Some design solutions will even create automated bill of material reports for the accounting department.

Get it finished right
So, without a finishing table, your work is limited in range, shape and substrates. They are just tougher to work with. And, it is harder to consider working with three-dimensional P-O-P or displays. You are limited to flat, two-dimensional work.
With a finishing table, your range of projects expands. You can continue to work with 2D graphics. You are able to design and create 3D structural graphics, P-O-P, and displays. And, you can also help with packaging and boxes.
All print providers print. And, one way or another, they cut. Thus, the challenge is to evolve your business model to make money rather than to squeeze away by very tight, competitive pricing—and risk tougher times.

Bill Hartman, VP Business Development, Esko digital finishing, has more than 40 years of experience in sales, marketing, and business development. He is currently responsible for North American sign and display channel partner relationships and marketing programs. In 2006, he started as a consultant for MGE, acquired by Esko in 2008. Previously, Bill was a co-founder and  VP of sales and marketing of Reed Business Systems Consulting (RBSC), an SAP Enterprise Software Solution National Implementation Partner.



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