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Inkjet rules at Melbourne’s Peak Digital

There’s an aura of excitement around Peak Digital at Carrum Downs, in Melbourne’s south, as the company adds the finishing touches to the refurbished premises it moved to in January this year – from an older building in nearby Seaford.

Managing director Andrew Robertson says the six-year-old family business – his wife Melanie is the accounting manager -- is embracing digital printing to usher in new opportunities in display graphics, and is expanding its services in display installation and store packouts, and also on-site storage and warehousing from its 1,200 sq m floor area.

Andrew in front of new building
Andrew in front of the new building
Andrew Robertson with DYSS GF2616
Andrew with his Scimitar Clamshell Press
Adam Leach with HP FB700 UV-v2
Adam Leach at the DYSS GF-2616 Terminal
Kate Hick Peak Digital receptionistKate
Kate Hicks, Peak's receptionist
Tthe  DYSS GF2616
The DYSS GF-2616 UV Flatbed
DYSS X7 cutter-router
DYSS X7 2630 cutting table

Intent on finding its niche, Peak Digital avoided taking a ‘me-too’ option in leaping wholly on the point-of-sale (POS) bandwagon. Instead it is blending a degree of POS work with its main thrust into exhibition graphics for high-profile shows such as the International Motor Show and the Melbourne Herald-Sun Home Show at the Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre, and industrial printing.

Peak Digital prints a comprehensive portfolio of exhibition graphics, including signage, windows, shelf stripping, wobblers, wall graphics – full-wall treatments are now becoming popular, says Andrew.

The company’s origins lie in screen printing, with Andrew, a veteran of the screen industry since 1980, starting at a company called Simplex Labels, and later forming a partnership with his brother Brian to run Screenpak.

Peak Digital was established in 2006 in anticipation of the trend to wide-format inkjet and Andrew and his dedicated team of eight staff, including digital print manager Adam Leach – some of whom also hark back to a start in screen printing and have the skillsets and contacts – are not looking back over their shoulders. His philosophy is that sometimes it takes a screen printer to explain to a client just when a job is better off being printed inkjet.

With advertising campaign cycles reducing in time, and the growth in the number of shorter, site-specific print runs to suit these new imperatives, Peak Digital has expanded its fleet of digital presses, and includes a variable-data component in some of its projects.

“Instead of  a run of identical 500 posters, there might be 20 different posters and 25 copies of each. While there will always be a role for screen, with its richer inks and its ability to print to Pantones, and vibrant, durable solid colours, most of our client and trade work is now digital,” reflects Andrew.

The company recently beefed up its print hardware, with the purchase of a DYSS GF2616 flatbed, sourced from South Korea by Australian agency Production Distribution Australia (PDA).

“I joined Keith Scott of PDA in a visit to Korea last year. We were going there to look at a DYSS cutting table for Peak, to add to our Graphitec cutter, but the printer was so impressive that I bought it as well.”

Andrew explained the synergies of acquiring the DYSS flatbed bundled with the X7 cutting/routing table. “It’s enabled us to provide finishing and fulfilment services inhouse that used to be outsourced, so now these can be coordinated in a far better way with the printing itself.”

When WFOL visited Peak Digital, the X7 cutter/router was going through its paces diecutting a facia for an electronic in-store promotion that invites customers to push a button to sample a branded light-globe product’s brightness. Not so many years ago, such a job would have been a prime candidate for screenprinting, but the work was actually printed on the GF2616, using its ability to print white -- for the opaque sections and leaving other sections that allow the globe to shine through.

The X7 can work with acrylics, MDF, foamed PVC, v-cutting x-board, vinyls, aluminiums, composite panel, as well as all paper and board products.

Andrew says the company’s 1,600 x 1,200mm Adco Scimitar manual clamshell press and 1,000 x 760mm Adco Svecia semi-automatic sliding-table machine still have roles to play in the printing of longer runs, spot-colour work, golds, silvers and fluoros, and specialty work, such as acrylics and rigid plastics and coreflute, metal sheeting, aluminium plating, and jobs in which corporate colours need to be matched with extreme accuracy. Screen inks can be specially formulated for a job, particularly if it is a moulded form using rigid substrates.

There will probably always be a screen press on the premises for certain markets and applications, with some screen jobs outsourced. However digital has taken over the lion’s share of the printing at Peak, and hardly any POS jobs are printed on screen nowadays.

Inkjet is now the preferred technology for exhibition displays and billboards. A six-to-twelve month billboard will have done its service long before the digital colours deteriorate. But something like an illuminated sign, with an anticipated seven-to-ten year lifespan, is better screenprinted.

“The advantage of going direct from the file rather than making up screens is considerable,” says Andrew .“We don’t chase screen work nowadays, but we’re prepared for it when it comes in.”

The DYSS GF2616 dedicated flatbed printer joins an FB700 UV hybrid flatbed/roll machine and an HP L65500 aqueous roll-to-roll using latex technology to provide rugged finishes for exterior applications -- “Aqueous is a ‘green’ way of printing that is very much in demand from clients, now that it’s become durable due to the latex process” -- and two Mutoh ValueJet eco-solvent roll printers.

“You have to have a broad range of equipment to work effectively in wide format, and it’s a considerable investment in capital equipment to do it properly. We find that one machine works very well with a range of substrates, while another performs better with another group of substrates. With one machine only, you’d get lost in all the corners, where you can’t do everything that’s required by your customer.”

Inkjet has adapted remarkably in recent years, says Andrew, with the ability to print on an incredibly versatile range of substrates, including vinyls, foam, polycarbonates and acrylics – and ‘green’ stocks, such as biodegradable banners.

Peak’s clients include a number of large retail and exhibition companies. Jobs are also sourced through ad agencies, print brokers, and array of trade work from  screen and offset printers.