The use of screen-printing for P-O-P and retail graphics declines as orders for short runs of customized materials continue to rise.
It’s hard to believe that it’s only been about 15 years since the first flatbed inkjet printers to use UV-curable inks hit the market. So much has changed since 2000, both for firms that started out as screen printers and their clients in retailing and brand marketing.
Those first flatbeds were primitive by today’s standards. But they did open the door for large-format graphics firms, commercial offset printers, and others to compete with screen printers for short runs of large-format graphics on rigid, display-ready materials. Now, the throughput speeds and print quality of high-end digital flatbeds have advanced to the point where they have become economically viable options for producing longer runs of high-quality large-format graphics for P-O-P signage and retail displays.
According to SGIA survey data, about 98 percent of the association’s members who started out in screen printing now use digital technology, and some have retired their screen-printing equipment altogether. “The primary driver has been the low set-up costs for shorter run work,” says Ford Bowers, general manager of the graphics center for the Miller Zell in-store marketing firm. “The economies of digital print are too attractive to pass up.”
Scott Crosby, owner of Holland & Crosby, a P-O-P and retail-signage production company, says, “Screen printers are looking at run length, number of colors, and lead time to determine where the screen-versus-digital breakeven point occurs.” Depending on which digital flatbed press you buy (and how automated your prepress, printing, and finishing operations become), it can be more cost-effective to digitally print jobs of 500, 1000, or even 2000 large-format sheets than it is to set the job up to run on a screen press. The cost advantages of highly automated digital workflows will become even greater as labor and material costs rise.
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