Print farming is growing in popularity – and it’s paying dividends

Print firms are increasingly investing a number of smaller, high quality printers

Print farming is growing in popularity – and it’s paying dividends

Print farming is growing in popularity – and it’s paying dividends

I travel around Europe a great deal visiting commercial print companies, who offer a wide variety of services. I’ve noticed a significant trend starting to appear – print farming. This is where companies invest in smaller, high quality, highly reliable printers of the same design to deliver calibrated and consistent performance, instead of buying one very large, high-volume printer.

Our professional print customers are increasingly searching for flexibility in terms of what they can print, in order to maximise potential sales. At the same time, they want the most efficient ways of managing production costs. As a result, I see a growing number of companies investing in technologies that are scalable, can use multiple inksets or run a number of substrates at once, and that are highly reliable.

This approach gives companies the flexibility not only to spread one job across multiple printers, but to run multiple jobs across multiple printers with the confidence that the quality will be exactly the same. Some of our wide-format customers are operating a fleet of 6, 10, 14 or more printers. We’re also starting to see the same trend in the industrial label sector as companies multiplex their SurePress units.

The beauty of print farming is that companies avoid making a single significant investment in one machine, which has to work hard for many years to achieve ROI. Instead, they can make incremental affordable investments in new printers on a regular basis, to take advantage of developments in technology.

PhotoBox is a perfect example of print farming. The company uses over 20 units of just two Epson SureColor printer models of a very similar design to create all their personalised photo canvases, at all requested quality levels. They produce thousands of prints a day, seven days a week – peaking at over 12,000 individual canvases every day over Christmas!

Inevitably, canvas printing at PhotoBox is a highly streamlined operation. Images received via any of the 18 regional websites are automatically nested prior to printing in full-roll batches on a SureColor printer, before cutting to size and finishing. The entire process – from order receipt to dispatch – typically takes less than 24 hours.

The print farm model is perfect for this type of environment. Production can be scaled up or down over multiple units, using a choice of media, and printer downtime time for any reason has minimal impact.

It’s not just in signage, photo canvas printing and label production that print farming is growing in popularity. The largest customers for the Robustelli MonnaLisa direct-to-fabric printer are farming more than 10 systems. The same trend is starting to be seen with the new SureColor F9200 dye-sublimation printer, and retailers are replacing analog photo labs with multiple units of the SureLab D700.

At Epson we’re now incorporating these needs into the design of our printers at the earliest planning stage. Our core principles of compact form, high precision and energy efficiency are particularly suited to designing printers that are ideal for print farms.

For more information on Epson’s professional production printers, click here.