Start Here November '21

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84 S T A R T H E R E 2 0 2 1 Once your hardware and material handling situation is estab- lished, then you can focus on the software. Your printing software is one of the most important pieces of the roll-to-roll equation because it will determine how efficient your workflow is. "Most of the software today that runs the printer (i.e., RIPs) are designed with ease of use and simplicity in mind. This said, you can get training on it from the software suppliers. And with a little work, one can quickly become proficient," Wittenberg says. Getting Up To Speed Even if you have zero experience running a digital printer, most people who jump into the business are able to immediately begin creating sellable products and have been able to become proficient in a matter of weeks. "Most printer packages allow the user to easily produce standard products right out of the box, but specialty items, items that are leading edge, may take longer to become 'proficient,'" says Randy Anderson, Mutoh America. "The time it takes to become proficient on both the hardware and software can vary from business to business based on the amount and range of printing applications," Lopez says. "A safe range is approximately one to three months but can be acceler- ated by choosing a reseller that will provide training both on-site and virtual." Shops will also want to take this time to perfect their workflow and develop the best strategies for material handling and storage. While most materials can be easily stowed for use at any time, many consumables such as ink and substrates have a limited shelf life, and it's important to know use-by dates to guarantee perfor- mance and stay within manufacturer warranties. It's also important to keep in mind the physical location of your printer and items such as your laminator or plotter so that your workflow from design to print to finish is as smooth as possible. Ready To Roll So, once your shop is all set up with its new printer, what can you look forward to producing right out of the gate? "During 2020, we saw a sharp increase in retail and residential signage as society as a whole shifted the way it operated," Lopez says. "Given new state and community regulations, retail shops increased signage and displays to relay information on new busi- ness hours, take-out capabilities, and safety regulations required by the CDC. There was also a big jump in residential signage as families and neighbors practice social distancing, (and) birthdays, graduations, baby arrivals, and more were celebrated by printing and displaying custom lawn and neighborhood signs." Keeping up with current trends and perfecting your ability to create industry staples, such as banners and wraps, should keep your roll-to-roll printer working steadily. The Next Step Planning for the future is always a smart idea, so what will the future of you and your roll-to-roll printer bring? First, you need Adding a roll-to-roll printer means your shop can engage in offering graphics of all kinds. (Image courtesy Mimaki) Today's roll-to-roll printers have years of success on the market and offer print shops a vast number of options, including packaging labels. (Image courtesy of Mimaki) Entry Level vs. Advanced Roll-to-Roll Printers When upgrading your roll-to-roll printer, you can expect increases to most or all of these factors: • Cost • Printing width • Speed • Productivity gain • Operating software • Hardware sophistication • Floor space required for end-to-end processing and the printer itself • Operator training

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