Category Archives: Technical

What to consider before buying new equipment

The thumbnail version:

  • The prospect of buying a new piece of equipment is always exciting
  • Excitement should not overshadow planning

The full version:

Governments are bending over backwards to encourage a post-pandemic economic recovery. Regardless of the politics and where you might stand on this, the fact is that the pandemic and the recent supply chain disruption is bound to have created a pent-up demand for all kinds of stuff. And that demand may encourage you to acquire new equipment for the shop.

That being said, it’s well worth re-visiting some of the planning points you should consider in depth before buying into the hype of the equipment manufacturer. Stanley’s encourages you to consider these points because the last thing they want is for you to end up with buyer’s remorse.

So here are your homework questions:

  1. Who will operate the machine?
  2. Will you have to hire more people and will there be a cost of training involved?
  3. What about maintenance costs?
  4. What does upkeep involve (regular services etc.)?
  5. Do you have enough power to run the equipment?
  6. What additional equipment will you need to make the new item run?
  7. Are you going to run into safety issues?
  8. Do you have the space for the new equipment?
  9. What is the depreciating factor? Will you be able to recover your money if you sell it?

Okay, now call Stanley’s.

Roland has updated VersaWorks

The thumbnail version:

  • Version 6.12.2 now available.

The full version:

Roland has updated VersaWorks (6.12.2) to change some items and add others. First of all, the remaining media length has been added for roll-to-roll devices under “Media Status”. This means that if you set the media length when you load a roll, VersaWorks will now show you the remaining length. Another addition is the file name of your job to the “Job Property Label” section of  the job settings. This allows you to add the file name to your annotation during printing.

Changes include the relocation of the “Overprint” function from the “Print controls” to the “Quality” section, and the ink quantity unit of measure from cubic centimeters (cc) to milliliters (ml).

It’s these kinds announcements that make an occasional visit to the Roland website a must. Getting the most out of your equipment with the latest software updates makes business sense.

A tip for you

Roland offers a suggestion on their site that seems just obvious enough to be overlooked – clean the inkjet heads. It turned out to be the solution to a printer’s hiccup on a Saturday when he couldn’t find technical support.

A tip for you

A new profit center?

 

You have a small sign shop? Ever thought of using your vinyl cutter and clam shell heat press to apply graphics to Tees? What about numbers for  sports uniforms? Think about it.

The purpose of colours in signs . . .

Which colour? Depends what you’re trying to say.

How many times have you seen a sign or billboard and wondered how the designer chose the colours? How many times have you wondered if the choice was deliberate according to some scientifically-determined formula or simply reflected the designer’s mood that day? How many times have you wondered if the reason for the colour combination was to simply be funky or whether there was a deeper purpose?

Colour theory is a vast topic. In the business of marketing through signs and billboards, the use of colour is mostly very deliberate and according to a theory about how they impact viewers, a.k.a. targeted customers. This is something that should be of particular note to smaller sign shops who may not have the trained graphic designers big shops can afford to employ.

Marketers will tell you that colours should be chosen for their impact. For instance, red is an emotionally intense colour associated with energy, danger, strength, and power. Then there are subtle variations such as light red representing joy, sexuality, passion, sensitivity and love. Pink denotes love, romance and friendship. Dark red is associated with willpower, rage, courage and leadership.

And so it is for other often-used colours such as orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, white, black and their variants. Each is associated with specific characteristics and therefore used for very specific reasons in designing signs and billboards.

The bottom line here is that if you own a small sign shop and are not a trained graphic artist and do not have one on staff, you have some colour research homework to do. Customers are entitled to expect their graphics printer to advise them on colours appropriate to the message they want to convey and the audience they want to target.

A tip for you . . .

Keep it simple and bold!

 

 

 

It doesn’t matter what you’re designing – pop-up banners, billboards, vehicle wraps, window graphics – avoid clutter. A simple design, a clear message in large font, and minimal contrasting colours will convey the message quickly and effectively.

A tip for you . . .

Make your billboard text visible from afar.

 

 

When designing a billboard remember that the greater the distance from which the text can be seen, the more time the passing viewer has to get the message. Three foot tall (and even taller) text is not only more visible but it can add design value to the billboard.

A tip for you . . .

Check the warranties.

Check the warranties.

 

 

 

 

If you’re having lighted signs retrofitted with LEDs, you’re going to ensure that the LED manufacturer warrantees the product. But don’t forget to also have the installer warranty the labour.

A tip for you . . .

Be aware of the more exposed areas of a vehicle . . .

Be aware of the more exposed areas of a vehicle . . .

 

Remember that various areas of a vehicle are more exposed to the elements. For instance,  the hood, roof, and trunk lid take more of a beating from the sun than the sides of the vehicle. This can reduce the expected durability of a film. A ten-year film might not even come close to lasting as long as its rating implies. You may want to consider special premium laminates specifically for these more exposed areas.

Vinyl plotter film – monomeric or polymeric? Part 2.

MACtac rolls

MACtac rolls

In the previous post we discussed the two more popular MACtac films, MACal 8300 and MACal 9800. We found that 8300 was better suited to shorter-life exterior and interior applications whereas 9800 was better suited to longer-life exterior applications than 8300.

Polymeric films (MACal 9800 is a polymeric film), like monomeric films, are known as calendered films. Calendered films start out as a lump of plastic that is flattened by being passed between a series of rollers. The difference between the polymeric calendered film and the monomeric calendered film is that extra polymers are added to the plastic to produce the polymeric film.

Polymeric film does better than monomeric film in exterior applications including slightly curved surfaces but does not do well over irregular surfaces such as corrugations or protrusions such as rivets. If you find yourself with an exterior corrugated or riveted surface you will probably have to go up a notch from these two popular films and consider a cast film. At that point you should consult Stanley’s for assistance.

So what about the meaning of “calendered” in vinyl talk? I said we’d unearth the origin of the word. Well, it’s the name given to the manufacturing process of polymeric and monomeric film on what is known as a calendar machine.  The calendered process begins with the mixing of the vinyl “dough” which is passed through a series of rollers until it is reduced to the required thickness. The film is then treated for the required gloss level before the final winding process. It’s of course a much more complex manufacturing process than can be explained in the limited space here, but that’s where “calendered” comes from.

A tip for you . . .

This is important! Do not unplug your Roland over the holidays.

This is important! Do not unplug your Roland over the holidays.

 

If your Roland printer/cutter is going to stand idle for some time such as over a holiday period, DO NOT unplug it or turn off the power. Even while it’s idle the Roland automatically recycles the ink every twelve or thirteen hours to prevent clogs. Unplug it for any length of time so that it can’t recycle itself and you could have a clogged ink problem when you return to use it.

Vinyl plotter film – monomeric or polymeric?

MACtac rolls

MACtac rolls

Stanley’s two most popular vinyl plotter films are MACtac’s MACal 8300 and MACal 9800. The question is, which to use in different circumstances? And why would that be something you’d care about? Well, price, for one thing.

The two films are different in their structure and features – this is what accounts for the price difference. Whereas both films are known as calendered vinyls, 8300 is  monomeric vinyl film whereas 9800 is a polymeric vinyl film. If you’re wondering why you should know this, I’d suggest that it’s helpful, if not essential, to know all there is to know about the materials best suited to different applications.

For instance, it’s useful to know why MACal 8300 can take care of less demanding applications and is best suited to short-term exterior and interior applications, whereas MACal 9800 is the preferred choice for outdoor applications. And, for some, knowing just this might be sufficient, but a serious professional will want to know the whys and wherefores.

Nest post we’ll explore more differences between the two MACtac films and consider some of the consequences of using the wrong film in certain applications. We’ll also explore what that curious word “calendered” means in film talk.

A tip for you . . .

A small but important vehicle wrap tip.

A small but important vehicle wrap tip.

 

 

 

 

When installing a vehicle wrap, work from the back to the front. That’s because you want overlaps to face the back so that dust and rain skips over them rather than hitting them when the vehicle is being driven.

A tip for you . . .

Get your LED rebates . . .

Get your LED rebates . . .

 

 

Keep in mind that in Canada some utility companies and local governments offer rebates for retrofitting signs with LEDs. Your sign shop might be entitled to receive these rebates. The company installing the LED’s should be able to provide details. Remember to ask.

A tip for you . . .

Consider this in your billboard design . . .

Consider this in your billboard design . . .

 

 

 

Want to know if your billboard will have an impact on passing motorists? Show the design to someone for five to ten seconds and then see if they got the message. How much can they recall? Did they get the important stuff like the brand name, the product and where to find it? If they don’t get all that at first glance then it’s time to re-design until it passes the drive-by test.

Looking beyond speed, force and price for your new vinyl plotter/cutter.

Roland vinyl plotter/cutter.

Roland printer/cutter.

Deciding which vinyl plotter/cutter to buy can be a dilemma, particularly for a first-time buyer. We instinctively know not to expect all equipment brands and options to be created equal and to therefore expect them to have different features and capabilities. And therein lies the dilemma – which plotter/cutter to choose?

The first step is to resolve to not be tempted to buy the first and cheapest one you see. The second step is to decide which features and capabilities you are going to need, not just now but down the road a bit too. A common mistake is to buy equipment for your current demand or scope and then when demand or scope increases you’re stuck with a machine than can’t cope. And turning away work because you made a hasty or short-sighted plotter/cutter purchase, will become very frustrating.

Thorough research online and talking to plotter/cutter owners or operators is a great way to help you address the second step I mentioned above – deciding on the features and capabilities you might need. By the way, its also a great way to develop products and business ideas.

Whatever you find during the course of your research, there are a few “musts” on which you should not compromise. Go for a cutter/plotter with a servo drive for it’s superior tracking (keeping long lengths of vinyl on a straight path) and better precision when cutting smaller characters. Other “musts” include: tangential emulation; the ability to turn printed pages into contour-cut decals; the ability to cut and perforate; built-in media sensors; and the ability to automatically advance a pre-set amount of media.

You may decide that you don’t need some of the “musts” but it’s much better to reject them at the time of purchase than to not consider them at all and regret it later.

And don’t forget to check out Roland plotter/cutters on Stanley’s site by clicking here and then talking to Rob or Graham about your options.

A tip for you . . .

Problems with vinyl ears?

Problems with vinyl ears?

 

 

If you encounter lifting corners with your vinyl plotter/cutter (known as ‘vinyl ears’), three of the most likely causes are improper offset, a worn out or dirty blade holder, or a graphic smaller than the blade arc.

A tip for you . . .

 

Wrap printing needs a controlled environment . . .

Wrap printing needs a controlled environment . . .

Wrap printing

When printing wrap graphics a big challenge is keeping dust away from the substrate and the print-heads. It helps to use gloves for handling the material in a well-ventilated, controlled-humidity (45 to 60 percent), and temperature-controlled (20 to 24 percent), environment. Static electricity is your enemy; use an appropriate method for minimising it.

A tip for you . . .

 

It's easy to calculate your cost of ink per square foot.

It’s easy to calculate your cost of ink per square foot.

 

Ink cost . . .

 

Knowing your sign shop ink costs is essential to proper costing and planning. A good way to calculate your ink costs is to total the cost of your ink over a period of time (a month could work but the longer the period, say three months, the more reliable the result). Total the square footage printed and divide it into the ink cost to determine a cost per square foot.

Kiwo about to release XTS (Xerox To Screen) direct imager for graphic screen printers.

KIWO XTS

KIWO XTS direct imager.

Following their success with the KIWO XTS direct imager in the textile screen printing industry, Kiwo is about to release a model for the graphic screen printing industry. It will simply be a bigger version of the textile machine which currently handles frames up to 42″ x 42″ O.D. The graphic industry version will handle screens up to 60″ x 60″.

This is how it works . . . The art room computer sends the file to a computer attached to the XTS. A coated, unexposed screen is fitted in the XTS and a black wax is melted by the machine and sprayed onto the screen to create the image. The wax immediately cools to solidify on the screen. The screen can then be exposed by a LED bar right on the XTS or removed and exposed in the traditional way on an exposure unit. Then it is washed out. The wax over the image area melts and the unexposed emulsion washes out in the usual manner.

One of the attractive features, aside from eliminating film, minimising pin holes, reducing exposure times by 40%, and setting up faster, is that the XEROX inkjet head (that sprays the wax) is capable of 1200dpi. This makes it suitable for graphic screen printing applications.

Kiwo expects to have its first graphic version in the market by the end of October.

Doug or Wendy at Stanley’s can tell you more about the KIWO XTS.