by Cassandra Balentine
From business to business to business to consumer (B2C) applications, digital print technologies serve a range of industries. Consumer photo printing is one evolving market. With out-of-the box thinking and the equipment and skill set, consumer-focused print companies are set to disrupt the way photographs are viewed and displayed.
Above: Fracture utilizes digital print technologies to provide simple, high-quality photo products for consumers through its ecommerce site.
Established in 2009, Fracture is an ecommerce-based photographic printer based in Alachua, FL. A staff of 80 employees works out of a new, 30,000 square foot, solar-powered manufacturing facility.
The company began with the simple idea of removing the framing process from displaying photography. With consumer budgets in mind, it sought to find a way to produce a high-quality, affordable, and sustainable photo product that is easily displayed.
“Our mission is to help the world focus on moments that matter,” shares Abhi Lokesh, CEO, Fracture. “We felt that the best way we could do that was by reinventing the photo printing and display experience for the digital age.”
Prints that Pop
The company currently offers a range of small and medium prints on glass, including 5×5, 4.8×6.4, 7.2×9.6, 10.8×14.4, and 11×11 inches; and large prints in 15.6×20.8, 23×23, and 21.6×28.8 inches.
Through Fracture’s website, consumers upload their favorite digital images and have them printed directly onto glass. The prints are then shipped in Fracture’s custom-engineered packaging products with everything the customer may need to display them.
Digital UV inkjet printers are used to produce the prints. This method enables ink to be directly deposited to glass for a high-resolution photo print.
Lokesh explains that when the company started researching various printing technologies, it felt like digital prints offered the best combination of high quality and high-volume throughput.
Fracture selected glass as the medium because of its essence. “We thought that glass was a really powerful material to work with. It’s timeless and elegant but also quite minimal and clean,” shares Lokesh.
While there are many print outlets that offer photo products, Lokesh says the main feature that sets Fracture apart from the competition is the level of attention to detail it pays to every part of the process. “We spent years obsessing over small, seemingly trivial details that may seem inconsequential on their own but when you put them all together they make a meaningful difference to the customer experience.”
Everything is assembled and shipped out by the Fracture team in Alachua.
Each product starts out as a piece of durable glass, which is cut and hand-prepared for each print size. Color ink is then sprayed directly onto the glass and instantly cured through a special UV process. For added vibrancy, a bright, opaque layer of white ink is applied directly beneath the color layer. This additional pass adds depth to the overall color. Finally, in the mounting/backing process, a lightweight and minimal mount is affixed to the glass print. This allows the print to stand slightly off the wall and lends an additional layer of strength.
For shipping, the company designed its own packaging that minimizes waste and keeps the glass print safe.
An essential component of a direct-to-consumer print business is an intuitive ordering platform. Print buyers are constantly on-the-go and want an easy way to order images whether on the computer or phone.
With Fracture, customers upload any supported image to its website at fracture.me, edit the image, choose the preferred print size, and then check out. Orders are then processed through its proprietary backend system.
Print batches range in size from three to 16 individual pieces based on dimensions. On average, a print batch takes six minutes to complete, estimates Lokesh.
The capacity at which Fracture can print varies depending on size. “We are currently averaging 2,100 individual prints per day,” shares Lokesh.
Customers expect a turnaround time of two to ten business days depending on how many orders are in the backlog.
Another important feature, customers can see the date an order will ship before they place the order because the system updates information in real-time at the top of the front page of Fracture’s website.
All order images are reviewed by an Adobe Photoshop specialist before being dispatched to the print room. After the printing process is completed, each print goes through stringent quality control (QC) where inspectors verify image accuracy and visually inspect the glass for defects. Following assembly, glass prints go through a third QC station. In this final QC step, glass prints are inspected and cleaned before being sent to the shipping department.
According to Lokesh, customers have always admired the quality of Fracture prints. This is in part because of the company’s commitment to quality.
As many B2C printers realize, it is sometimes challenging to obtain high-quality images. “We encourage customers to use as high of quality images as possible since glass tends to make good pictures look great but also tends to magnify the poor quality of poor resolution files,” shares Lokesh.
In the event that a print isn’t up to par, Fracture strives to make it right.
“We believe in white-glove customer support and offer a ‘Happiness Guarantee,’ which is a money back guarantee. We’ll reprint for free if the customer doesn’t like it for any reason.”
The Fracture Difference
The consumer print market is well suited for digital print processes. Intuitive businesses like Fracture take the time to research and experiment with equipment, materials, and processes until the system is perfected.
The company has its sights set on continued innovation. “Our goal is to try and build upon the powerful brand we’ve created by coming up with new, unique, and curated photo décor products,” says Lokesh. IPM
Oct2020, Industrial Print Magazine