Midcomp, Zünd and HP hosted a free equipment demonstration and Covid-19 applications session on the new Sign Africa LIVE platform. This engaging session featured live demonstrations and an interactive Q&A session with industry specialists, suppliers and leading print service providers.
Sean Davis, who heads Midcomp’s Innovation Hub, guided attendees around the centre, highlighting the company’s signage and print solutions. These include a GoTx textile printer for cotton textiles, JHF V2800 UV true flatbed printer, Klieverik heat press, HP PageWide printer for high volume poster printing, 3.2m HP L1500 printer, HP R-series latex printer, HP Stitch S500, HP Latex 335 print and cut solution, and a Zünd G3 L2500 Swiss cutting system.
The facility also serves as a Disaster Recovery Centre, which supports customers on Midcomp’s Pay Per Use programme, also known as Midcomp PPU. With PPU, customers only pay a set fee for the square metres they print, and only get one bill per month based on the unique production data from their machine.
A significant benefit to being on this programme is that should a PPU customer’s equipment break down, there is no need to miss a deadline, they can just pick up where they left off at the Midcomp iHub. Midcomp will run their disaster recovery production for them, and they’ll also have access to the rest of this equipment to help them develop their market and grow their business. The iHub facility is used as a training facility if required, giving customers training before their new equipment arrives so they can hit the ground running when their equipment is installed.
Davis demonstrated some of the PPE solutions that have been created through the various machines housed in the iHub that include:
– PPE and medical equipment labels.
– Social distancing floor decals.
– Covid-19 health and safety information decals.
– Sanitiser bottle stickers.
– Window information decals.
– Drytac peel and stick removable wallpaper information posters.
– Face masks.
– Face shields.
– Medical gowns.
– Sneeze guards.
– Personal dividers.
– Xanita hospital beds (available through Intamarket Graphics).
– Palram hospital rooms.
The HP Stitch S500, HP Latex 335 print and cut solution, and a Zünd G3 L2500 Swiss cutting systems were all demonstrated, with numerous examples showcased. Midcomp’s customers who have created PPE solutions were cited, such as Bandit Signs, who have made face masks, floor decals and sneeze shields; the Media Shack, who printed thousands of customised face masks, as well as Greensky who have produced oxygen tents.
Director and Zünd Product Manager Sean Greer gave an overview of some of Zünd’s machines and their respective configurations, such as the S3 L1600 that can cut shirts (which includes a camera and cradle feeder), the G3 3XL 2500 that cuts polyester fabric with a 100W laser, D3 with over head cutter camera for registering leather hide, and S3 M800 – which has a robotic arm for picking up and placing items.
Customers don’t have to buy the machines in these formats, but can add on as their business operations become more advanced. Zünd machines come in a wide variety of sizes, all the way up 3.2 x 3.2m, and have many different blades and tools for the right job to choose from, such as lasers, routers, kiss cutters and more. Zünd caters for markets such as graphics, POS, labelling, packaging, apparel, and even the likes of aerospace and composites (namely carbon fibre).
Midcomp CEO Rob Makinson then chaired a discussion with a variety of panellists.
Makinson asked Sign Africa LIVE platform host and Practical Publishing publisher Dyelan Copeland – who is always in touch with the suppliers, end-users and players in the industry – what the general sentiment is for the future.
‘Over the last few weeks, chatting to suppliers, they have constantly increased their sales, which is a good indication. Entering into level 3 with manufacturing opening again is also a positive indication, but we will have to see, as there is no ‘crystal ball’,’ said Copeland.
‘Signage, POS and advertising will also be hugely prevalent due to South Africa’s small online shopping presence compared with the rest of the world. However, while online presence is growing, we can expect to see the growth of personalisation, such as the personal branding of offices.’
Questions from attendees were directed at specific panellists:
HP: Terence Raghunath, HP World Wide Business Development Manager, who streamed live from Spain.
Q. How does latex ink technology compare with traditional solvent and UV from an environmentally-friendly and carbon-neutral footprint aspect?
Raghunath answered that latex inks are beneficial in that they are water-based, odourless, low on emissions, versatile and certified.
Q. Does HP believe the ‘new world’ will look more closely at environmentally friendly technologies, and be more aware of how populations can be affected by viruses, bacteria and hazardous materials. Will HP benefit?
All of us will benefit, not just HP. What is important is awareness and sensitivity when bringing products to markets, such as coatings, materials etc. More than HP benefitting form this will be the whole ecosystems, i.e. all parties involved. The ultimate goal is safety for the users.
Zünd: Lars Bendixen, Graphics Segment Manager for Zünd Systemtechnik AG, who streamed live from Switzerland.
Q .What fabrics can be cut on the Zünd?
There is no fabric that I have come across yet that cannot be cut on a Zünd. With the right combination of tooling and knife blades, practically any fabrics can be cut.
Q. What applications would you use the laser for?
The laser was mainly developed for cutting polyester fabrics. The laser can cut this fabric but also seal the edges to prevent them from fraying.
Q. What tools need to be used for cutting wood?
Natural materials are always difficult to cut. It’s best to see exactly what the expectation of the customer is, then test what is available.
Q. How do you set yourself apart in the market from your competitors?
Productivity, reliability, quality and upgradability are some of the keywords here. With the Zünd, it is easy to upgrade and address new applications. Covid-19 is a perfect example of this.
Robin Sprong from Robin Sprong wallpapers. Sprong has an HP Latex 1500 3.2m wide printer on Midcomp’s PPU programme.
Q. Has Covid-19 negatively affected your business or do you see more opportunities ?
In terms of cost saving measures, yes, we have been affected, especially with staff who work less hours. We’ve looked for opportunities where we can promote our artists and designers. We’ve developed touchless sanitisers and face masks using artwork from our artists and designers.
Covid-19 has forced us to look for new ways to reinvent ourselves, and work differently, realising we don’t have to have to have staff coming in every day – we can brief them over email and they can work from home. There has been the opportunity to create stretched banners for backgrounds for Zoom calls, as well as renting out equipment, such as our flatbed cutter, which we aren’t fully using at present.
Q. How does fixed costs in terms of the PPU system help you?
It helps with our cashflow – we are able to know exactly what our costs are going to be for the job, and we don’t have to calculate everything. When it comes to costing, we know exactly how much ink we are going to use on each of the different substrates, and we can tell customers the cost to print per square metre. With the system, we don’t have to own all of the consumables. We can have stock of all the colours and a full set of heads – everything is available for us. It really has been a wonderful system for us.’
Ugeshanee Moonsamy, production director for The Media Shack. The Media shack have an HP Stitch S500 dye sublimation printer and are also on Midcomp’s PPU programme.
Q. How has PPU made your business more competitive?
It definitely helped us in terms of cashflow, and maintenance on the printer, so we don’t have to pay for inks every month, all we have to pay for is media.
Q. How quickly did your business react to Covid-19?
Working on our e-commerce for customised clothing, we thought that it would also be a great idea to expand into customised face masks. We created an e-commerce website, which was launched before the president had stated that everybody needed to wear a face mask.
Q. What made you choose the Stitch S500?
We did a lot of research for which dye-sub printer we wanted to go with. We chose the Stitch predominantly because of the excellent service we get from Midcomp before sales and after sales, and colour is definitely not an issue. The vibrancy and ink levels that it uses on the paper is minimal. We are getting such great value for money.
Rakesh Rosen, director of Midcomp Consumables
Q. What materials have Midcomp not sold a lot of in the past, that are now selling well during Covid-19?
Its been a very interesting time, especially for Midcomp Consumables, and a trying time for a lot of customers around us. We have been successful in developing new products, especially with fabrics that have been manufactured in South Africa for masks. We’ve been selling a lot of PLEXIGLAS® as well for sneeze guards. Traditional vinyls have not been in high demand, but a lot of the Drytac SpotOn vinyls for social distancing and posters for removability with no adhesives have.
Polls conducted during the webinar indicated that 56% of attendees are involved in Covid-19 production, 19% aren’t and 25% aren’t yet but would like to. Additionally, the polls indicated that 80% of attendees have a positive outlook for their businesses, versus 20% who do not.
A recording of the webinar can be found below:
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