Gigantagram solvent ink sign printer on vinyl Print

The Gigantagram banner system is an innovative manner of doing vinyl banners with solvent ink. It uses "magic markers" instead of inkjet cartridges. It's fascinating to watch this machine work, sort of like a vinyl cutter except that it also prints. Claims 3 to 6 months outdoor longevity without lamination though it does not use pigmented inks.

The whole system evokes the concept of old-fashioned traditional sign shops. Yet in real life every day traditional sign shops are trying to figure out how to get out of the old-fashioned concepts and move into the digital world. Today we are in the 21st century, the new millennium, a digital millennium. So if you intend to keep up with your competition, you might want to be aware of the following tidbits of reality.

Your competitors are using standard software, everything from Adobe Photoshop, Adobe PageMaker, QuarkXpress, Illustrator and all the other design programs. So the crucial aspect is not how cheap a printer can operate but whether it can accept a TIF (TIFF) file or any of the files produced by Adobe, Corel, Macromedia, or other major brands of software. Independent software simply does not offer the wide range of options that are needed for the digital era.

Today is the year 2003; plenty of courses can teach you digital imaging (we started with a basic course you can take at your home or office via the Internet). That's all it takes. You can get other courses from your community college or at a trade show. Your competition is probably already setting up their 60" inkjet printer. Every month vinyl cutting sign shops tell us they are losing business to inkjet printers. Actually, you can get both vinyl cutter and inkjet in a single machine: we describe this machine in the FLAAR report on printing signs, banners, and posters.

The other crucial factor is whether your sign system can handle color matching? What if your client has a trademark color they need matched? This is a reason that you need actual digital system, a full digital imaging system. This implies an inkjet. That's the downside of vinyl cutting, or magic markers. A vinyl cutter can cut only one color at a time; a magic marker can print only one color. Can't mix and match. Otherwise, its an ingenious system, if you are a traditional sign shop that wishes to avoid the reality of digital imaging and return to the rote manner of producing basic signs. I do not know what the Gigantagram system costs, but you can buy an entry-level inkjet printer for $3,000, that is, a real inkjet system that can produce millions of colors, can do photo-realistic quality, and also can do banners. You can buy a 42” laminator for $4,000 (just ask for our free report on lamination).

The Gigantagram costs over $10,000 and is a turnkey system. I can see positive features for such a low-cost solvent ink printer. But you also have to consider the limitations (no photos, little color matching, plus your competition is probably moving to full inkjet). You can get an Encad or Hewlett-Packard inkjet printer for that cost. Positive feature claimed for the Gigantagram is the low cost of media and inks.

A true solvent ink inkjet printer produces output that lasts 3 to 5 years outdoors. So three to six months is not enough. You can get that by laminating regular output from any Encad or HP printer.

On the subject of solvent ink printers, be aware that Epson piezo printheads (such as in Roland printers) were not designed to withstand solvent inks. Thus be very careful with retrofitted solvent ink printers; you might wish to obtain the free report from FLAAR on solvent ink printers. And in any event, always be sure to ask other print shops. Your needs may be totally different than ours. What does not work for us, may actually work just fine for your sign shop. But check with a successful and growing sign shop; someone who knows the future.



Last updated, May 12, 2003.
Previous updates: July 11, 2002, Oct. 20, 2001.