By Pat McGrew
When you buy an inkjet press, there is always the discussion of warranties, maintenance requirements, and acceptable practices. Some vendors will tell you that image quality is only warranted on their certified papers, while others will tell you that if you run paper they haven’t approved, they may void your warranty. But in the real world, an inkjet press is a very capable device, and if you are fearless, there may be differentiated products awaiting on the other side of a bit of experimentation.
First, the big caveat. Your vendor may have strong opinions and even some warranty language that limits what you can do. However, if you have a business case, most will listen to your ideas and may even lend you a technician to aid in trials of new ideas. With that caveat in place, let’s look at three experiments to try with your press that may expand your product options.
The Paper Chase
Most hardware vendors offering cut sheet, continuous, and hybrid inkjet presses provide a substrate specification. For some, the specification is a set of certified papers. If you use any other paper, they may invalidate your warranty. For others, it is a set of specifications that may be fulfilled by any paper manufacturer. The reason for the limitations is the nature of the inkjet heads, the inks, and the drying. To ensure that you have the best possible customer experience, they want to limit you to the substrates they have tested. It is completely understandable. The inkjet heads are positioned to optimize jetting the ink on to the substrate, and paper that is too thick could cause a problem with the heads and the ability of the jetted ink to land properly. The inks are designed to a specification for those heads, and the drying capability is also designed to optimize the way the ink dries on the substrates. For companies that use embedded or optional priming systems there are the additional considerations of the chemistry of the primer working with the paper chemistry (yes, paper has chemistry) as well as the ink chemistry.
It’s a complex ecosystem!
With all of that in mind, there are paper options you may want to try in order to extend the nature of the print products you create. Consider wallpaper. Before you giggle, consider that custom home décor products are a fast-growing printing segment. Designers love the option of offering custom wallpaper to their clients, but often need limited quantities that make it hard to realize using conventional wallpaper printing options. Imagine boutique hotels that do regular décor changes or changing out a child’s bedroom with images of their latest favorites. My favorite story was a designer working on a remodel of a home who wanted to recreate the vintage look of a scrap of wallpaper. With a bit of work in Adobe InDesign, a file was created that could be printed on a wallpaper substrate to realize the designer’s goal. Working with other devices, matching textiles were printed for curtains and pillows.
In another case, a designer wanted to test some designs before moving into high volume production using traditional methods. This is an excellent path to expanding business with designers of all types. Beyond printing on wallpaper substrate, consider poster paper! Regardless of the size of your press, you may find a market for printing long sheets for wall banners. Think about the needs of school events where big banners hang in the gym or auditorium. A package that creates banners along with other event collateral could be priced just right for school budgets! Don’t forget events hosted by local chambers of commerce or business associations, car clubs, and sports teams. Many of these events need long-form banners, but they don’t always need the longevity of a vinyl form produced on a wide-format device. Sometimes a heavier weight paper stock will do the trick.
You may be asking, what can I try and where do I get the stock? Talk to your paper merchant or mill to see what they stock. I have worked with print using substrate from Crown van Gelder that was brilliant for banners and giant posters. Most other mills will likely have a weight of substrate that will work on your press and for this type of work. Remember that wallpaper may have heavy ink coverage, so you will want to test your ink usage to dial in your estimating and quoting. Banners tend to have lighter coverage.
Next time we will tackle experiment number two. It’s a surprise.
Remember, there are a million questions in inkjet city! Have questions? Ping me on LinkedIn or drop a note to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor’s Note: Inkjet Insight can provide support with evaluating paper for your inkjet device. Contact us for more information. We also provide free specs on a wide range of inkjet optimized papers and offset papers that have been qualified on a range of inkjet devices. Visit the InkjetInsight PaperFinder app and see what’s new.