Ottimo Digital invests in Epson's SureColor SC-S30600


Ottimo Digital invests in Epson's SureColor SC-S30600

Starting a print business is a big decision, especially in today’s uncertain economic climate. If you’re successful, an even harder decision is when to invest to take the business to the next level.

For Lee Crew and Nick Lindwall, decision time on expansion came within just two years of starting large-format printing business Ottimo Digital, based in Newport, South Wales, when year-on-year growth of around 40% regularly tested its existing production capacity to extremes.

“We hate turning work away,” says Nick, “so we coped somehow, even if it meant sub-contracting work out, but we needed to add capacity.  In particular, we wanted to be able to take on high-volume jobs with tight deadlines, a category of work we weren’t confident of handling with our existing kit.”

Guided by Epson distributor Spandex, one of the UK’s largest suppliers to the sign and display industry, Ottimo found the solution in the shape of the Epson SureColor SC-S30600.

Launched earlier this year, the SureColor SC-S30600 is a 64-inch (162.6cm) four-colour roll-fed printer that sets a new price/performance ratio in a highly competitive market sector.  The SC-S30600 can produce everything from posters, signs, banners, backlit panels and POS materials to vehicle wraps, interior decorations and exhibition displays. The printer supports a wide range of media, allowing users to print reliably and cost-effectively on vinyl, PVC and clear film, photographic paper and a range of popular banner substrates.  Print speeds range from 7.3 to 29.4m2/hour depending on printing mode and maximum resolution is 1440 x 1440dpi.

Ottimo (the name comes from Italian for ‘excellent’) opened for business in January 2010.  As is often the case, the idea for the business came from a conversation one evening when the two old school friends explored the possibilities of pooling their complementary expertise in creative design (Nick) and large-format digital graphics (Lee).  Today, Ottimo prints a full range of large-format products — banners, exhibition graphics, retail signage and interiors, vehicle wraps, photo canvases, even custom wallpaper — on a wide variety of media.

Says Lee:  “We print a lot on self-adhesive vinyls, plus PVC and mesh banner materials, canvas, poster paper, stoplight stock.  Essentially, we print anything we can!  A lot of jobs are last-minute, particularly when they’re for exhibitions - a market we’re strong in.”

“When Spandex introduced the Epson SureColor to us it looked perfect on paper,” says Nick.  “It had the print speed we wanted, three times faster than our fastest existing printer, plus larger-capacity ink cartridges and a heavy-duty take-up roll system.  A demonstration confirmed that first impression.  We ran a series of our own test files using all the print modes. The results were excellent.”

Since Ottimo’s SureColor SC-S30600, one of the first installed in the UK, arrived its impact on the business has been dramatic.  “It quickly became our ‘go-to’ printer,” says Lee.  “Now when we get a job, out first thought is, ‘Can we run it on the SureColor?’  It handles around 50% of our workload.”

He stresses that the quantum leap in production speed was just one factor in choosing the SC-S30600.  “Like a lot of large-format printers, our workload is unpredictable as we often don’t know what we’ll be printing on next, so we have to be able to handle as broad a range of products as possible on as many different media.  So we really appreciate how the SC-S30600 not only handles all the media we need but also features really fast, simple media changeover — thanks to a unique jack system loading heavy rolls is a one-man operation that takes about five minutes.

"We also like the way the SureColor handles media tensioning.  This is traditionally only accessible from the front of the printer, but on this printer it’s controllable from both front and rear, so you don’t waste time going backwards and forwards."

The different print modes the SureColor SC-S30600 offers are also a big plus, explains Nick.  “For really high-quality applications like some retail interiors we use the ten-pass mode, while in the two-pass mode — which is very fast!— we can print a banner in minutes, compared to the half an hour it can take on our other printers.  It all depends on the size of the product, and how close the viewers are to it.  That said, we find the six-pass mode perfectly good for most applications.”

Within six months of installing the SC-S30600 Lee and Nick were confident enough to take on the large-volume, high-quality, last-minute jobs they previously thought twice about.  As an example, they cite a rush job they produced for the RAC’s stand at the Goodwood Festival of Speed.  Says Lee:  “It was a big banner job, very last-minute, and high quality.  Without the Epson SureColor we couldn’t have handled it all in-house, but we delivered on time and more RAC work followed.”

They were also confident enough to sign up for new premises that mark the Ottimo’s transition to the next level.  Five times bigger than the first site, the new headquarters provide additional production capacity, extra office space, and showroom facilities where they can hold regular open days.

Looking to the immediate future a priority is to expand the finishing department to cope with the extra volume coming off the new printer.  “The SureColor cleared the print bottleneck,” says Lee, “but moved it to finishing.  But it’s a good problem to have.” 

In fact, they liked the SureColor so much they ordered another one. With two SC-S30600s now in place Ottimo are able to split even larger jobs between printers without consistency issues.  As Lee says: “In this industry you have to stay on top of the technology and keep looking ahead to what comes next.  Thanks to the SureColor SC-S30600 we have the time to make those strategic plans.”