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Printing Industry Exchange ( is pleased to have Steven Waxman writing and managing the Printing Industry Blog. As a printing consultant, Steven teaches corporations how to save money buying printing, brokers printing services, and teaches prepress techniques. Steven has been in the printing industry for thirty-three years working as a writer, editor, print buyer, photographer, graphic designer, art director, and production manager.

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Large Format Printing: After You Print It, What Next?

Large format inkjet printers are all the rage these days, with environmental graphics, vehicle graphics, and point of purchase signage sprouting up all over the nation. The custom printing process seems rather straightforward, albeit increasingly fast and accurate. But what happens after you print your job?

Laminating the Large Format Print

The most common finishing technique is lamination. This involves adding a clear, protective coating to the inkjet print, either in-line, as the printing process is going on, or afterwards, using anything from brushes and rollers to a mop to distribute the liquid laminate over the inkjet print.

Lamination may also take the form of a plastic sheet laid over a large format printed product. Layers of adhesive on the sticky side of the lamination film hold the plastic firmly against the print. One benefit of this method is that it does not involve a liquid. Another is that it does not involve heat, so temperature sensitive inks or toners will not be damaged.

Lamination is used to protect a large format print from sunlight and moisture, and is highly advisable for graphics used outdoors. That said, since sunlight (i.e., ultraviolet rays) also come through the windows, lamination can protect an interior large format print as well.

Like ink, certain liquid laminates can be air dried (with the solvent or the water base evaporating), while others can be cured using ultraviolet light sources. In the later case, the liquid laminate coating polymerizes when exposed to UV lights on the lamination equipment.

Preparing Rigid Graphics After Printing

What happens to the printed piece depends a lot on what it’s made of and how it will be used. For instance, if you have inkjet printed an image of a guitar on thick plastic, aluminum, or wood using a flatbed printer, you would need a digital cutter/router to trim away the scrap (i.e., any part of the plastic, aluminum, or wood that is not the guitar image itself).

Digital router/cutters use the digital information included in the art file to trace the contour of the guitar with a knife, routing blade, or laser. Since the cutting information is digital, it can be changed for each item the router/cutter processes. Like the flatbed inkjet printer that produces the initial image on rigid board, the router/cutter travels horizontally suspended above a flatbed table to which the artwork has been attached (unlike inkjet printer/cutters that are used for roll-fed media).

Easels for Large Format Prints

If your large format inkjet print is light, and has been printed on litho paper and then laminated to a corrugated board, it may be ideally suited for a cardboard easel back. In this case, a folded cardboard (or chipboard) panel can be added to the print with hot melt glue, such that the printed piece will stand up on its own. You may have seen printed images of famous people, such as the president, cut out of a flat board and mounted on an easel back.

Sewing Flexible Large Format Banners

Let’s say you’re producing a large promotional banner you plan to hang from the ceiling at a trade show. After the banner has been printed, you will need to hem (or sew) the edges. This will keep them from fraying. In addition, you will probably also want to add grommets around the edges of the large format print. These will keep the ropes used to suspend the banner from the wall or ceiling from tearing through the vinyl or fabric material.

Installing Banners and Signage

You’d be surprised at how heavy some of these large format graphics can be, so it’s no wonder that there are companies dedicated exclusively to installing them. This may take the form of wrapping huge panels of an environmental graphic around the exterior wall of a building, installing billboards, or using heat guns to slowly apply adhesive vehicle wraps to the edges and contours of buses, trucks, or cars. This is specialized work, which requires not only patience and a steady hand but also a knowledge of the adhesives used to adhere vinyl graphics to motor vehicles. In most cases, all of these large format print applications involve carefully stitching together (metaphorically) various panels of printed signage into a complete image.

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