Digitally printed traffic sign production continues to be the fastest growing production method of new industry start ups and public works sign shops looking to update and modernize.
If you’re still waiting to jump on the digital bandwagon, there’s never been a better time. Multiple suppliers offer not only standard, but custom color options too. One supplier, Avery Dennison with CMSpot6™ inks, also provides nearly limitless custom color options with a warranted durability up to 10 years. So here’s my top 5 steps to getting up and running the right way.
1. Pick the Right Print System
First and foremost, you need a platform capable of printing specification compliant traffic control signs. And not just a handful of signs limited to only two or three colors - but signs in all colors. With each sheeting manufacturer supporting dedicated systems, be sure you align yourself with a supplier that offers the full range of all sheeting types you’ll encounter - either as you sell signs to the industry, or support your own agency’s inventory. What is the warranty? Not only for traffic signs but custom colors too? Read the warranty - don’t be caught by surprise.
Operationally, how much space do you have in your shop? Are you constrained by working space or energy supply and cost? The size of some units may prohibit access through doors and hallways, so do your homework first - and if building modifications are required, be sure to include this in your overall cost assessment.
2. Use the Right Inks
Just like screen printing and cuttable overlay films, each sheeting manufacturer has carefully developed digital print inks that are receptive to the chemistry of their retroreflective films. And in most cases, the inks are developed specifically for the printer for which they accompany, meaning you shouldn’t interchange brands or types like you might when running a screen print or computer-cut sign operation.
When considering inks, think about the types of signs you’ll produce. Only standard traffic signs? Your options are larger, as each sheeting manufacturer supporting digital printing has an ink set that will satisfy this limited criteria. Going beyond standard traffic signs and want custom color options? Most also supply CMYK inks that offer color flexibility. However, the durability - and sign warranty- may be limited. Ask these questions of your supplier upfront, and get your answers in writing. Your widest options that include an industry-leading warranty are right here with Avery Dennison
3. Use the Right Media
Media considerations start with the ASTM “Types” of retroreflective sheeting that you’ll need. That’s just the start, remember that protective overlay films are a critical part of not only sign warranty, but performance of the sign itself. In many cases, it’s the combination of the right overlay and printed ink that allows a sign to meet specification. Will you need standard overlays that protect against UV, or do you also desire an overlay film that offers easy clean up of graffiti and stickers?
Don’t forget to ask your supplier about the availability and support for other compatible media. One of digital’s draws is your ability to go beyond traffic signs - your platform should readily accommodate printing on media suitable for vehicle wraps, wayfinding, wall and building graphics too. Avery Dennison can provide you with not only a wide range of materials, but training on how to print and apply.
4. Demand Training & Support
Digital printing in the traffic industry is still relatively new to most sign fabricators. Who is providing your support? Is it a technician that visits to install the printer then leaves you with only a handful of rudimentary instructions on how to turn it on and off? I’ve heard my share of horror stories, so protect yourself by clarifying expectations before you buy. My advice is select a unit supported by the company that will be with you in the long run - your sheeting and ink supplier. How many days of training will they support during the installation? What does support look like after the technician leaves? Can they support the operating system? Do they offer follow up support in the form of additional visits or telephone specialists?
5. Seek and Participate in Certification
Although the signs coming off your printer appear to be the proper color, how do you know the color is within specification, and will allow proper nighttime performance under reflected light? These are regulated traffic control signs, so guessing is not a wise option. How can you have confidence that your production process stays within the proper operational capability window?
With a robust certification program, not only can you put your mind at ease, but you can also assure your customer that your production complies with all applicable specifications. Avery Dennison’s Certified Digital Traffic Converter (CDTC) Program is one example - and it’s the first such program tailored to the digital needs of the traffic industry. Enhanced training, production audits that include laboratory testing of print samples analyzed against specification requirement, are all features of the program that add value to any sign shop.
Don’t delay your decision another day. Let one of our experts walk you through the process so that you’re sure you’re making the right decision for your shop. Samples, cost-consultations, in-person and web-based life demonstrations are all available to help you with this decision. Read more digital traffic sign printing or contact Avery Dennison Reflective Solutions to set up a demo or answer questions about any of our traffic sign production products.
To learn more about our Reflective Solutions, visit us at: reflectives.averydennison.com.
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