By Cassandra Balentine
As digital print continues to advance, new products and solutions are available to print on demand. Print to object equipment enables custom decoration on a variety of products, including phone cases, luggage tags, golf balls, and water bottles. As consumers begin to expect access to personalized products in short turnaround times, these applications are in demand.
Accessorize on Demand
The roots of Rancho Cordova, CA-based Graphics and More date back to a partnership that formed in 2008 between Heather Dykes and Dave Nielsen. In that time, what started out as an online automotive accessories business has transitioned into a print on demand maker and online seller of gifts, novelties, and accessories.
About a year after its establishment, Heather Dykes, co-founder, Graphics and More, says the company hired its first employee, and continued to evolve in the early years. About seven years ago, the company’s focus shifted as it saw the potential of print.
Today, the business resides in a 9,600 square foot facility with 30 employees. Rather than an automotive accessories business, the company is a print on demand maker and online seller of various accessories, gifts, and novelties. The company sells and ships to customers worldwide with a turnaround time as short as one business day in many cases.
“We decorate a variety of blank products—more than 100 different types—with quality art that’s either sourced through licensing agreements, such as the United States Marine Corps, the Jim Henson Company, and the Original Lost in Space; in-house artists; or custom creations by clients,” shares Dykes.
She says its core customers are those shopping online for something unique for themselves or as a gift. Most products are listed at affordable price points and ship for free to U.S. destinations regardless of order size. Dykes notes that while customer trends have changed over the years, their desire for affordable products has not.
To help churn out its custom accessories, Graphics and More invested in a Roland VersaUV LEF series UV benchtop flatbed printer in 2014 with a purpose of expanding its product offerings and decoration capabilities.
During the evaluation period, the company did see a smaller LEF device used to print phone cases in a mall pop-up shop, which was one of the first products it expected to produce with its new printer. However, it ended up purchasing the larger LEF-200 because its size would allow it to print many smaller items in one print job. The company also felt it was well priced for the value.
The Roland VersaUV LEF-200 Benchtop UV Flatbed Printer is able to direct print onto three-dimensional objects up to 3.94 inches thick. It features a host of unique ink options and optional on-board primer to enable a variety of promotional products and media substrates.
Dykes admits that the printer sat for a few weeks before they started to use it. “We weren’t completely sure how to implement it into our production workflow at first, but over that first few months we created a good, reproducible system and bought our second printer six months later as our production needs grew. We purchased our eighth printer this last year.”
The company keeps purchasing the same printer model because it allows it to utilize the same jigs and setup in each of the printers. Dykes says the printer also requires very little maintenance beyond regular cleanings and it is able to manage that mostly on its own.
The printer outputs onto a variety of materials, including wood, plastic, aluminum, acrylic, and leather. Some of the products it decorates includes signs, luggage tags, license plate frames, and phone cases.
Graphics and More refers to products produced with its Roland UV printers as print-on-object work. This makes up about 40 percent of its business and has helped the company grow tremendously over the last few years, comments Dykes.
One popular item Graphics and More produces on the Roland VersaUV LEF series UV benchtop flatbed printer is luggage tags for custom consumer orders.
When the orders come in, the team works to ensure they are printed, packaged, and shipped in the same day. “We have a backend system that does the prepress work of laying out the files with all of the artwork needed for a particular day or print run. Our staff fills the jigs with blank product and sends the print files to the printers without laying them out themselves,” explains Dykes.
The orders are placed online through the company’s website or other online marketplaces. Customers purchase items from listings that feature art Graphics and More has created and sourced, as well as from listings that enable customized products with consumer images and text. For items that the staff designs, print files are ready to go. For the custom orders, the artwork is downloaded though an API.
Jigs are utilized to maintain a consistent print layout within each printer and the company is able to fit 16 units of this particular item per jig. The printed products are labeled and packaged in branded resealable bags and shipped.
“We do this same print run every day, so it’s a good example of the power of the speed and workflow consistency we’re able to maintain with the LEF printers,” shares Dykes.
Graphics and More is poised for growth over the next few years. As a top 500 Amazon Marketplace Seller, it reached the top 200 during the 2018 Christmas season, and the top 5000 list of the fastest growing companies in the country in the last five years.
“We expect to continue to grow our online marketplace presence and expand our licensed and custom product offerings,” concludes Dykes.
Its production capabilities and capacities help hit these milestones and reach for more in the future.
Jul2019, Industrial Print Magazine