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Applications Big and Small: UV Printing for Various Formats

Learn about large- and small-format applications for UV-LED printing

UV printing is dominating the print/decorating space and covers a wide range of applications, both large and small. Let’s take a few minutes to look at the different applications you can focus on to find your shop’s sweet spot within UV printing, large or small:

Sizing

UV flatbed printers range in size — anywhere from 11″ X 16″ all the way up to 8′ X 10′, with many sizes in between. Some UV printers can also print on thicker items — up to 6″ thick.

Large-format printers can be used in a few different ways to take advantage of the bigger bed size. 4′ X 8′ Coroplast is an easy target product if you own a large-format printer. The large-format printer can be used to do full-bleed 4′ X 8′ sheets with one single image or large signs. The 4′ X 8′ application is great for elections, baseball park signs, football stadiums, state fairs, construction sites, and other areas where signage is needed quickly.

Another popular application for the 4′ X 8′ is corn hole boards. With most flatbeds, you are limited to a 2″ head gap. So to do a fully assembled cornhole board, you need a UV flatbed with a 4″-5″ high gap. We also have customers printing on interior doors — both wood and metal. The same UV flatbed can print on furniture during the manufacturing process for cabinets, shower doors, countertop, tabletops, leather for couches, and limitless other applications that would allow you to take advantage of the larger 4′ X 8′ print area. If you need small signs, you can still print on a 4′ X 8′ sheet, then cut them down to size. If you have a table cutter, this is the most efficient way to go: print then cut. Go big; print local.

Timing

Large, high-quality signage on foam board or max metal is great for airports and retail spaces where a higher-quality, longer-term product is needed. This is best if you target your local opportunities where you can deliver instantly and provide service without depending on the freight companies. (If you haven’t heard, the freight industry is not very dependable as of late and could possibly get worse!)

With large-format UV, you are perfectly positioned to go after the event-based, time-sensitive signage due to how fast you can produce products. UV print is instantly cured and — most of the time — will not need lamination. Your customers can walk up with a file and need eight 18″ X 24″ signs and you can produce these in less than 20 minutes — start to finish.

Efficiency

UV printing is an efficient way to produce signs due to it eliminating the need to apply vinyl to Coroplast or foam board. If you are currently having to print on a solvent printer, you most likely have to wait for the ink to outgas, then laminate, then apply to the Coroplast. You are probably getting beat by your competition that has a flatbed UV. Just look at how much vinyl you are purchasing that is being applied to Coroplast or other board material and the amount of labor you are using to apply the vinyl to the Coroplast.

You will be stunned by the potential savings if you go with UV printing direct to the substrate. What you save in material and labor is probably enough cash to purchase two UV flatbeds — one large and one small. You will also free up some labor time and repurpose that employee to a more efficient task than applying vinyl.

Going small on large format?

Just because you have a large-format printer does not mean you can’t print small items. Some of our most profitable customers are doing just that — printing small items on a large-format 4′ X 8′ printer. Printing small items on a large-format printer could outproduce four or five small-format UV printers and lower the number of operators needed.

A true UV flatbed offers preciseness and accuracy — if installed properly and if operated by trained personnel. With the use of alignment jigs for precise alignment of small items, you can basically print hundreds and maybe even thousands of small, high-margin products in less than 10 minutes. I have personally seen bed runs where every 10 minutes over a thousand dollars worth of products were printed. A thousand dollars every 10 minutes is not out of line if you specialize in high-margin products. This could be anything from Christmas ornaments, high-end name badges, business cards printed on rainbow foil, Zippo lighters, or small industrial tags. As you can tell, your mind is the only limit with a large-format UV printer.

Advantages of small format

Small format UV is probably my favorite segment of the printing industry due to the lower entry cost to get into UV printing. We have been able to be a part of some amazing stories where a part-time hobby explodes into a multimillion-dollar operation. We have seen many part-time hobbyists that started with Glowforge, Cricut, and embroidery or DTG devices that got into small-format UV and exploded — enough to replace their spouse’s yearly salary in 30 days.

When you are targeting small, lightweight personalized products with small format UV, your customer base is national or even global. You can ship the small, personalized items cheaply and quickly to the other side of the country overnight if needed.

Popular products

I will list a few of the products that our customers have been able to go after with the small format UV printers:

Name badges

Name badges are probably the most profitable product to go after. All name badges are personalized and bring a super high margin when printed on a rainbow foil, metalized badge, or leather badge. One name badge can sell for $8-$15 per badge.

On a small-format UV printer, you can print many name badges at one time. For example, with a 1″ X 3″ name badge on a 24″ X 16″ print bed, you can produce about 100 name badges in less than five minutes. Your cost to produce these badges is less than $100 for the blanks and the magnets that go on the back of the badges. The retail value of this five-minute bed at $12 per name badge is about $1,200. This might not sound believable to you, but we see this often.

Christmas ornaments

Next, another amazing opportunity is Christmas ornaments. Christmas never sneaks up on us — it happens every year at the same time.

Personalized Christmas ornaments retail anywhere from $10-$25 per ornament. On a 24″ X 16″ print bed, we can produce 35 3″ X 3″ ornaments with a retail value of an average of $20 per ornament — for a five-minute total of $700 retail value.

These are just a few ideas of what’s possible with small- and large-format UV flatbeds. Feel free to contact me anytime with questions or dreams you may have that involve flatbed UV printing. UV printing is my passion and we love helping customers build their UV dreams!

steve weist head shot e1586957529853

Steve Weist

PDS Equipment

Steve Weist is the CEO at PDS Equipment. Steve started as a service technician installing Heidelberg and Komori offset presses. He has brought that level of precision into the UV inkjet world. Steve now focuses his efforts in the flatbed UV market because he feels it is unlimited and is the future of print and decoration. He can be reached at 615-812-3001 or [email protected]uipment.com.

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