Forging Ahead with Roland’s Flatbed Technology
His dedication to providing clients with what they need has propelled the success and growth of The Forge in the highly competitive Southern California design and production market.
The Forge specializes in designing and creating custom promotional products and accessories for the action sports and distilled spirits industries. They design and manufacture everything from belt buckles to retail displays, including giveaway items such as keychains, napkin caddies and barware.
When The Forge first opened, Martinez began using a Roland DGA (Booth 1137) cutter his dad had at his shop to incorporate art and text into designs, models and molds. “At that point, people started asking for more complete items,” says Martinez.
To fulfill his clients’ needs, Martinez purchased the Roland MDX-650A benchtop milling machine. “With the MDX, we could branch out to milling full models and molds from wood and acrylics,” he says.
Martinez’s last step was being able to provide in-house printing and decoration. In 2016, The Forge added the Roland VersaUV LEJ-640FT UV flatbed printer, which can print on materials up to six inches thick. “First of all, the LEJ-640FT was a Roland, so I knew I could count on it for quality and reliability, but it also has that high head clearance,” says Martinez.
Martinez appreciates that the LEJ handles everything from very small to very large runs, allowing both prototypes and full runs. “It’s a critical difference for us to be able to control all aspects of our production,” he says. “Concept to drop shipping — now we can do it all.”
The Forge has used its flatbed to print on metal, stainless steel, aluminum, acrylic, license plates, chalkboards stands for hotels — even corkboard. “The corkboard was for an old-school style map and it came out beautiful — a real vintage effect,” he says.
Recently, a long-time customer approached Martinez asking for 100,000 custom-designed credit card-sized multi-tools. Martinez and his crew designed the multi-tool, then developed the graphic concepts and sharpened up the art. When the design was approved, they started cutting metal and sandblasting the surface to a lightly textured shine.
Martinez then used the LEJ-640FT’s Gloss ink feature to create a custom jig for printing on the multi-tools. He then ran the acrylic through the LEJ-640FT and laid down layers of Gloss ink, creating a raised surface that held the multi-tools precisely in place. “We ended up being able to fit 800 parts in each run — all locked in exactly the right spot,” says Martinez. “It was completely accurate and so simple.”
Martinez and his crew were able to complete the job on time, printing up to 10,000 units each day. “The print quality on the flatbed is really good, and the learning curve is easier than I thought it would be given the advanced technology,” says Martinez. The Forge uses Roland’s ECO-UV inks exclusively to ensure optimum graphic results and ink efficiency.
“Now we are a do-it-all shop. Even if it’s not something in our wheelhouse, we make it something in our wheelhouse,” he says.
The Forge has staff of eight, with several part-timers who come on as needed. The shop has expanded twice, growing from 1,600 sqft to 4,000 sqft.
“The hardest part is getting the customer in front of you. Once they’re there, you want to give them everything you can,” says Martinez. “With our Rolands, we’re ready to say yes.”