Avery Dennison Reflective Solutions Blog / Digital Printing and Printer Maintenance

Digital Printing and Printer Maintenance: What the Traffic Sign Industry Needs to Know

"Simple, but proper, maintenance will keep your printer at its best, and leave you smiling, knowing you’ve made the right investment in technology."

In many areas of the country, stepping into a traffic sign shop is something done at your own risk. Shops located in small public agencies are often located in the back of the general maintenance shed. Yes, behind the dump trucks, the snow plows and maintenance benches. I know, I’ve visited my share over the past thirty years and have a stack of oil-stained slacks to prove it. Don’t get me wrong - our industry also has a number of impressively organized - and clean - facilities around the country - private and public agency alike. And done right, all are capable of producing long-lasting, quality traffic signs.

And viewed in today’s eyes, our traffic signs have roots in some pretty unsophisticated production equipment. Remember the “one-arm-bandit” squeegee tables and steel-rule dies for cutting Highway Gothic letters for street name signs? The industry has evolved, but we still look at computer-cut overlay film production with wide-modern eyes in the same way that cro-magnon man viewed fire, or the way Mr. Watson expressed surprise at hearing "Mr. Watson - come here - I want to see you" at the other end of Alexander Graham Bell’s first telephone call on March 10, 1876. And all the while forgetting that the commercial graphics industry largely walked away from both forms of production in favor of wide-format digital printing years ago.

In fairness, reflectivity and durability demands of today’s traffic signs coupled with digital ink limitations have largely prevented production methods from evolving sooner. Only recently have advancements in ink and overlay films been achieved that make the production of specification compliant, and durable digitally printed traffic signs a reality. We’re here now, so welcome to the modern era of traffic sign production!

Digital printers, whether our own TrafficJet™ or other dedicated traffic sign printers, differ from common desktop inkjet printers in many respects. While “plug and play” is a hip and appealing phrase, it’s really out of place in the context of our industry. Call it aspirational, but don’t call it reality. Wide-format digital printers are more complex - far more moving parts with more complex ink and delivery systems, as well as substrate varieties, than your office desktop printer pulling from a stack of office supply copy paper.

Unfortunately, some shops getting into digital printing for the first time are often given an incorrect understanding of maintenance needs, hearing descriptions that some are “maintenance-free”. But as airplanes love to be airborne, printers are happiest when they are doing what they are designed to do, print. And the more the better. But downtime, and maintenance, are a reality for all printers. Each printer manufacturer provides instructions for daily, weekly, and monthly maintenance. And in many cases, daily maintenance - as short and simple as 10 minutes a day, is often the most critical to perform.

Many factors go into selecting the right printer for your operation. Remember to make a commitment to follow the manufacturer’s maintenance schedule. Maintenance procedures are not difficult to understand or follow, nor should they intimidate or prevent you from adopting this new technology. Simple, but proper, maintenance will keep your printer at its best, and leave you smiling, knowing you’ve made the right investment in technology.

To learn more about Avery Dennison Reflective Solutions, visit us at: reflectives.averydennison.com.

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