So You’re Dreaming of a Flatbed Printer
For those looking into fulfilling the dream of a flatbed printer, Elizabeth Bowden of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, participated in a session titled “So You’re Dreaming of a Flatbed,” in which she detailed some of the key areas to pay attention to: need, budget, integration and upkeep.
When starting this journey, you really need to know if your shop can utilize a flatbed to make the purchase worth it. Ask questions such as: Will it bring in new streams of revenue? What will we use it for? And can our revenue support this purchase?
With flatbeds having a price range from $50,000 - $160,000, justifying this purchase to the business office may take some time, and ROI will take longer as well. Fortunately for our shop, funds were allocated and we didn’t have to deal with a justification process. Additionally, the price of the machine doesn’t necessarily equate quality. It really comes down to what will fit in your shop — both footprint and production wise.
Integration and upkeep are essential areas to thoroughly pay attention to because the learning curve and added maintenance is more intensive than with roll-fed printers. Is your current staff able to overcome the learning curve and adapt to a new process? The daily, weekly, monthly and long-term maintenance is essential to keeping flatbed printers functioning and lasting for years to come.
Finally, despite all the research you may have done, be prepared for the unexpected cost of additional consumables on a flatbed printer. I honestly was not prepared for a small spit pad (an absorbent pad that enables the head to clear ink after printing) to cost $15 apiece with a recommended usage of two per day, let alone replacing 20 $32 push rollers one to two times a year.
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