By Cassandra Balentine
As the benefits of digital print are realized, customer demand rises across all verticals. The industrial market integrates digital print technologies to suit needs for everything from decorating to building products and more.
This article profiles two very different uses of inkjet technology for industrial applications in manufacturing settings.
One company accelerates its product delivery by handling product decorating in house as part of its overall manufacturing workflow. Alternatively, the other company digitally prints materials for building products like siding and decking. Digital allows both to offer customers unique products.
Decorating with Digital
Located in Huntington Beach, CA, The Forge Design is a fabrication business within the promotional and advertising industry. Its goal is to bring ideas to life through expert craftsmanship using wood, metal, leather, plastic, and acrylic.
Established in 2005, the company recently moved into a bigger production facility measuring 3,800 square feet. This operation employs a staff of eight.
The Forge Design’s promotional products are generally highly customized pieces designed and manufactured in house using a variety of skills and equipment. Luciano Martinez, owner, The Forge Design, says each job is unique and the company isn’t interested in turning customers away.
Decoration is a major aspect to the shop’s workflow. Approximately 70 to 80 percent of its work requires some type of decoration, and often inkjet is the right solution. It recently invested in a large format flatbed printer to manage more decorating work in house. Specifically, it purchased the Roland DGA Corporation VersaUV LEJ-640FT UV flatbed printer. The 64×98-inch print bed boasts print speeds of up to 133 square feet an hour.
Since its work is so diverse, this versatility is critical for The Forge Design. The press offers the company the ability to print on thousands of different items, including everything from chalkboards to bar caddies. This is in part due to the ability of the device’s printhead to rise up to handle media as thick as six inches.
Prior to the Roland VersaUV LEJ-640FT, the shop would need to stop manufacturing a product in order to ship it out for decoration by a third-party screen or pad printer. This added days to the turnaround time and made for more materials cost, as it would need to provide extra pieces to the third-party printer to accommodate for errors.
The company decided to bring in digital print capabilities when it took a job last Winter that required the manufacturing and printing of 100,000 multi-tool pieces for a customer.
With the use of inkjet, manufacturing workflow is more efficient. In fact, the printer paid for itself with the multi-tool job. Martinez says he designed the credit card sized multi-tool, created a prototype, got one stamped, and completed the tooling. Then the tools were decorated. “The job had so many parts, we didn’t want to outsource. Digital printing became a really attractive solution.”
The shop installed the Roland VersaUV LEJ-640FT and started production before the Roland technician was even out the door. “We learned as we went. We would get about 800 pieces by the time the printhead reached the end of the table,” shares Martinez. The press ran for an entire month, about a shift-and-a-half per day—12 to 13 hours.
“Decorating is important in the advertising industry,” stresses Martinez. Digital printing is now a major component of the company’s business. Sometimes the Roland printer is employed all day, while other times it is available for a quick sample. The ability to print in house allows the company to save more than 50 percent in turnaround time compared to its previous process of outsourcing, which is now completely eliminated.
Digitally Printed Siding
Founded in 2016 by Michel and Louis-André Gaudreau, Dizal is an entrepreneurial family business rooted in the building industry. With more than 40 years of experience manufacturing building products, the company employs a small staff of ten to 25 employees, located out of its 15,000 square foot facility in Quebec City, QC, Canada.
“Digital inkjet printing is absolutely new to the siding industry,” says Gaudreau. He explains that for years, it was looking for a way to replicate wood grain and achieve the feel of wood. “Inkjet printing allows us to offer a revolutionary product and come up with something never seen before.”
Digital print technology is often used for producing flooring rather than exterior applications, but Dizal saw the potential and decided to invest in a solution to do just that. It uses the technology on exterior siding products—like aluminum—with the help of an exclusive UV coating, Z-Clear, which offers protection against the elements.
Dizal is passionate about the benefits of digital print technology. “The company was founded on digital technology and is dedicated to exploiting it to a maximum,” shares Gaudreau. “It’s even in our company name, as the “Di” portion in Dizal stands for digital.”
A major draw is the endless possibilities it brings to the table. “The amazing thing about this process is that digital allows infinite textures and color possibilities, while offering unrivaled realism,” explains Gaudreau.
To achieve these effects, the company chose an Italian printer manufacturer to create an exclusive custom printer designed for Dizal. The technology is based on the same equipment used in the flooring industry. The machine runs on UV cured inks. “We needed great quality inks that would withstand the exterior use of the product and offer rich, vibrant colors,” he says.
For a typical job, the siding is created by first scanning natural wood planks to create a digital image. The planks are treated with linen oil to bring out all the grain’s richness. The wood is then virtually stained to meet market trends and expectations. Gaudreau explains that the actual scanning process of the wood is outsourced, but all alterations to the original scan are done in house by Dizal.
The aluminum is extruded, cut to the appropriate length, and then primed. Fastening slots are punched into the planks and then they are sent to print in the shop’s custom printer. To complete the job, Dizal’s Z-Clear coating is added to the product.
All siding products come in 16-foot long planks and are available in three heights—four, six, and eight inches. The size depends on which of the three available profiles the customer selects.
For Dizal, inkjet technology hasn’t changed the business—it defined it, exclaims Gaudreau. “We started with this technology and we can’t help but to feel proud when we see how it draws attention in trade shows and one-on-one client visits. All we see is amazement at the level of realism and quality.”
Making offerings that truly stand out is an ongoing challenge in every industry. “When people see our product, they immediately understand that they are in front of something different,” offers Gaudreau. However he admits that the benefits come with challenges. “This technology is still very new to the siding industry, so there is a lot of teaching, educating, and introducing,” he comments. “We are happy to do this as we are so proud to bring something new to the conversation.”
So, what’s next for Dizal? Gaudreau says the company is already working on introducing new siding, as well as other building products using inkjet technology. Dizal expects to launch up to three new products in the coming year including decking products.
By utilizing digital print technologies in these very different business models, each company offers unique, custom products at an industrial level. As inkjet continues to penetrate manufacturing environments, expectations rise and customer demands reflect emerging trends towards customization.
Aug2017, Industrial Print Magazine