by Industrial Print Magazine Staff
Many of the newest pieces of hardware, namely flatbeds—hybrid or dedicated—feature higher printhead clearance to accommodate for pre-manufactured objects without the worry of them slamming into the printhead and damaging the print and ultimately the printer, which results in unwanted downtime.
The introduction of bigger gaps between object and printhead allows more manufacturers to dip their toes into digital print as a decoration practice. AJJ Enterprises of West Chester Township, OH is one of those businesses. It specializes in custom, affordable, ACA-compliant cornhole sets thanks to 23 employees working out of a 48,000 square foot warehouse.
The company ships cornhole boards to Canada, the Caribbean, Europe, and the U.S. It operates through two main channels—promotional corporate products and direct-to-consumer retail.
More than a Side Hustle
In 2005, Shane Back, co-owner, AJJ Enterprises, and a few friends purchased lumber and started constructing cornhole boards when they recognized demand for the game. At first, custom graphics and logos were hand painted, but this decorative method was eventually replaced with a roll-to-roll vinyl inkjet printer. As business grew it added a UV inkjet flatbed to keep up with demand.
Soon what had started as a side project became a full-fledged business, leading Back and his business partner, Jason Wahl, to both quit their day jobs to operate AJJ Enterprises full time in 2008.
In 2019, the company’s customer base and demand had grown to a level where its existing printers could no longer keep up. Reaching out to Nazdar, the company pointed Back and Wahl in the direction of EFI. The timing couldn’t have been better, EFI was planning to launch the EFI Pro 30f LED flatbed printer to the market and was looking for beta testers. AJJ Enterprises was happy to oblige.
The EFI Pro 30f LED flatbed printer features a maximum print bed of 120×80 inches with bleed printing. It offers four colors plus dual channels of white standard and single-pass, multi-layer printing. Powered by the EFI Fiery proServer Core digital front end (DFE), the printer features FAST RIP acceleration technology. A six-zone vacuum hold down system is ideal for handling all types of boards.
Paramount for AJJ Enterprises is the machine’s ability to output on items up to four inches thick. When decorating the cornhole boards, the fully assembled piece is printed to directly and run right through the device. Printing at the maximum thickness led to modifications to the hardware.
“EFI engineers worked closely with us because we have such a unique application,” explains Back. The printer’s UV LED curing lamps were positioned so they faced farther out. This was to prevent the lamps’ lights from reflecting back and curing inks inside the printheads.
As AJJ Enterprises worked with the EFI Pro 30f the benefits of the device were immediately made clear. The company cited a seven time improvement in throughput compared to using its original printers. With the EFI Pro 30f, a cornhole board is printed in a minute and 40 seconds.
The EFI Pro 30f is especially beneficial to printing white onto a birch cornhole substrate. “The ability to print white at a high speed has been a huge help. It’s a huge cost savings. We can move jobs that we would have first printed on vinyl and then transferred to the substrate to the EFI Pro 30f because of the white ink,” explains Back.
The six-zone vacuum hold down system works well for handling the 4×2-foot boards. It ensures efficient hold down, no unintended media movement, and easy transition between jobs. “What sets us apart from competitors is our wide breadth of designs and the fact that we can print so quickly,” shares Back.
The EFI Fiery proServer Core DFE influences print speed as well, by providing simple job management functionality for the operator. Back explains that since many designs are reprints, once the first print is set up, after that the printing becomes “an easy press-and-replay approach.” And for any custom designs, he admits they “take a little bit of finesse, but it’s just a matter of testing, making any adjustments, and printing.”
Directly after any cornhole board is printed, it is finished with a coat of polyurethane. After an hour of dry time for the polyurethane, the printed cornhole board sets are ready to be packaged and shipped to customers.
Typically, turnaround time for an average cornhole board job, from order submission to shipment, is two to three days for stock artwork and five to seven days for customer-supplied artwork.
Unfortunately, the ramping up of output from the EFI Pro 30f was met with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020. The promotional corporate products side of the business, served though sister company Promotoss, was immediately effected. However, due to stay-at-home mandates and people looking for ways to occupy their time, the direct-to-consumer sales site, ajjcornhole.com, experienced a jump in orders.
Thanks to this growth, AJJ Enterprises added a second EFI Pro 30f to its production site in June 2020. The company’s revenue is expected to grow ten to 15 percent in 2021 to $10M. On average it receives 200 cornhole board orders each day, something its EFI Pro 30f UV flatbed printers are well positioned to handle. IPM
Jun2021, Industrial Print Magazine