Large-format Printing — Size DOES Matter!

Ed Engle, president of Ambassador Press (right), and his uncle, Barry Engle, pose with their 64˝ press.

Branch Smith Printing executives (from the left) Mike Branch, co-owner; Daniel Hanson, general manager; and David Branch, president/CEO, stand with their new 51˝ KBA Rapida 130 perfector.

Strine Printing has four MAN Roland large-format presses, including this 64˝ model.

A SMALL, but growing number of printers are taking a big leap of faith (and finances) to invest in what may well be the commercial and packaging printing equivalent of the Gold Rush. Printers big and small—like Branch Smith Printing, Carter Printing, Ambassador Press and Strine Printing, to name a few—are expanding into large- and very-large-format sheetfed technology and betting the ranch…’er, press…on their ability to boost productivity and expand into new product niches.

Hoping to hit the motherload of profitability, printers are staking their claim by offering up to 81˝ formats to blend the high-quality printing capabilities of sheetfed offset with the ability to output more pages per sheet, to reduce makereadies, to gang jobs, and to enter new markets like point-of-purchase and point-of-sale. Printers who caught “the fever” and invested in large-format presses have struck gold and are discovering immediate success.

And, the golden opportunities aren’t likely to stop any time soon, since large format is a “hybrid” printing process that produces a high-quality product, while maximizing the use of sheet space to output larger quantities. The accuracy, efficiency and high-end results of large-format printing are producing big savings, which translates to bigger profits. And, big surprise: The investment is paying for itself faster than some expected, with various printers reporting estimated ROIs in less than two years.

This is a particularly important milestone, considering the transition to large-format printing can be an expensive one. To support the large formats, an investment often must also be made in prepress and the bindery to accommodate the larger plate and product sizes.

“Large format is a big investment—a big risk. It’s definitely not for the timid,” says Daniel Hanson, general manager of Fort Worth, TX-based Branch Smith Printing, a publications, catalog and book printer. Branch Smith bought an eight-color, 51˝ KBA Rapida 130 perfector, which is reportedly one of only four in North America. The company began installing the press in mid-February, and it was up and running in early April.

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