Start Here November '21

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Page 85 of 102 81 S T A R T H E R E 2 0 2 1 What is the estimated cost of entry? "In most cases, a shop can get started with about a $50,000 investment in equip- ment. That would include a printer/cutter (or a printer and stand-alone cutter), a lam- inator, a heat press (for dye-sublimation applications) and any other required hard- ware," says Daniel Valade, Roland DGA. Dave Conrad, Mutoh America, says you can get a 54" or 64" printer, lami- nator, RIP software, start up sign mate- rials like vinyl and banner and laminate, your PC/monitor and ink and materials for under $40-50K. "If you are looking at high production printers with better features like dual print heads, faster print speeds, wider print widths, or even dye sublimation where you may need other heat presses or calendar devices or steamers that can run the cost up quickly," he adds. What are the basic equipment needs? "Remember input, throughput, output and finishing. You'll need a PC with a heavy-duty processor for ripping files. You'll need a good RIP to process the files and manage your workflow. You'll need a reliable printer to handle the workload you plan to send it. You will want a stand- alone cutter for all your cut jobs, do not get a print/cut all in one. The only time that makes sense is if you physically do not have space for a printer and a cutter. You'll also need a laminator to finish the work as well as a nice multi-function work- table, maybe a tabletop trimmer and some straight edges. That will get you started," Conrad explains. How much total space is required? Valade says this will depend upon sev- eral factors, including the square footage needed for equipment and workspace, space required for finishing and design, storage space for media and other supplies, etc. "Give yourself plenty of space to work around the printer, cutter, laminator and table," says Conrad. Michael Maxwell, Mimaki USA, says, "Though there is no strict rule. The gen- erally accepted range described as 'large- format' falls between 24-96" wide. For roll-based printers, 54" and 64" printers are the most popular sizes. Room for the printer, a computer and software to drive it, plus space to store rolls or sheets of media will be required. A finishing area may also be needed for trimming, lami- nating, grommeting, etc." How much time is needed to be- come proficient? "You best be proficient within the first three months," Mahmoud suggests. Conrad says everyone will learn at their own pace and "repetition will make the learning process much shorter." Maxwell says most printers can be up and running within hours of installation, and a basic operation tutorial should be provided before the installer leaves the customers' facility. "Shops should use all the tools available to learn about large- format color printing available from their dealer, printer manufacturer or software vendor, or from industry organizations. Most shops can be up and running pretty quickly — inside of a few weeks — if they're producing relatively simple signage. Mastering more complex signs may take more practice, as shops begin to learn the art and science of color profiling. Knowl- edge of the content-generating software (e.g., Adobe Illustrator, InDesign, etc.) is very helpful," he concludes. Factoids for Getting Started

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