June '20

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1 6 G R A P H I C S P R O J U N E 2 0 2 0 G R A P H I C S - P R O. C O M and generally built to withstand outdoor conditions. Similarly, Jay Roberts, Roland DGA, discusses the thought process behind hybrid technology, citing the company's LEC-300 model. "That 30-inch-wide UV printer was origi- nally designed for the packaging market, allowing for both printing on rigid materials up to 1 mm thick as well as roll-to-roll materials," he explains. Since then, Roland, along with other companies in the industry, has expanded the hybrid print- ing technology with printers that offer larger print materials like 64-inch rolls as well as capabilities to print on thicker, more rigid materials. In the apparel decoration market, hybrid printing usually refers to the merging of traditional screen printing with digital printing like direct-to-garment (DTG) technology. Michelle Moxley from The M&R Companies ex- plains that the setup often consists of an automatic screen-printing press matched with a digital printer that prints on top of a screen-printed underbase. As an example, M&R's DS-4000 Digital Squeegee takes the high-volume output of a screen-printing press and matches it with the capability of digitally printing on sub- strates like synthetic and performance fabrics. TOOLS OF THE TRADE In addition to printing equip- ment, Taylor Landesman at Lawson Screen & Digital Prod- ucts says shops decorating gar- ments with hybrid printing should have an ample dryer. If a shop is using water-based inks with hybrid printing, "…you want a dryer with a lot of air movement," contends Landesman. "Look for a dryer with a high CFM (cubic feet per minute) rate. Unlike plasti- sol ink, just heat alone will not dry hybrid prints." Parties recommend humidifiers to accommodate water-based inks for screen printing and inkjet print heads, custom platens for smaller print areas, an efficient registration system, and, if pos- sible, a computer-to-screen (CTS) imaging system. For wide-format and UV, Ru- gen suggests a cutter strong enough to slice through rigid media and slice the material into smaller parts, as well as a laminator to improve the longevity of printed goods. Other recommended finishing tools include straight- edge rulers and grommeting devices if a busi- ness is considering printing large banners and outdoor signs. Roberts stresses the importance of a trans- port system, contending that it is crucial to any hybrid printer regardless of manufac- turer. "The biggest concern when it comes to such systems is the weight of the material," he adds. "(For exam- ple), Roland's transport system was designed to accommodate substrates weighing up to 45 pounds without print skewing or print quality loss." NICHES AND ADVANTAGES Getting involved in hybrid printing can open up avenues to new customers, but Moxley also points out that taking the leap helps tighten up over- all efficiency. "Hybrid (printing) shortens supply chain timeline, reduces inventory, and standardizes aesthetic across various markets as well as offers new market po- tentials," she contends. T he proc e ss, Mox le y say s, streamlines production time on smaller orders that might usually be hard to justify at a screen-printing shop because of their cost-to-profit ratio. A hy- brid printing setup also provides a more sustainable approach since it helps reduce water use and con- sumption of labor materials. Rugen also suggests that the meth- od can provide business owners more versatility. "The hybrid (printer) is just one step away from a full flatbed printer but offers greater flexibility in the type of applica- tions that it is used for," he contends. "The same hybrid printer can, for instance, print flexible signage for a politi- cal campaign while at the same time be used for printing political signage to coroplast or other rigid media." Having a suitable dryer is crucial for garments embellished with a hybrid printer. (Image courtesy Lawson Screen & Digital Products) Regardless of make and model, businesses will want to ensure they have a transport system for any wide-format hybrid printing setup they purchase. (Image courtesy Roland DGA) Hybrid printing opens the door to a wide set of flexible and rigid media types. (Image courtesy Mutoh)

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