Myla Graphics, located in the Brisbane, Queensland suburb of Darra is owned and run by Ken Thorne, a print industry veteran of over thirty years’ experience. With the steady decline and lowered profit margins in offset printing, Ken decided to sell off his three offset presses in 2015 and concentrate on digital signage, banners, backdrops, displays – in fact anything that can be produced using PDF files ripped to inkjet printing devices.
|Ken Thorne with one of his OKI H3-104s ColorPainters|
He retains some print finishing and overprinting production such as Müller Martini stitchers and MBO folders since Myla’s trade-only customers appreciate his reliability, knowledge and ability to deliver. Myla’s name comes from its original location in Myla Terrace, Tennyson; a Brisbane riverside suburb where the streets are named after characters from Alfred Lord Tennyson’s Arthurian stories, ‘The Idylls of the King.’ Myla was the wizard Merlin’s sister and, in Ken Thorne’s reception, is a life-size statue of Merlin. Such colourful association with King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table is fitting for a business whose business is fine colour.
Myla Graphics rapidly outgrew its original premises and relocated to Darra around 1988, retaining its name and reputation.
“Finishing jobs such as overprinting and localising retail catalogues used to come in by the hundreds of thousand, sometimes millions but we saw a steady decline in volumes, halving then halving again. I could see we had to diversify and use our knowledge and contacts in signage and display, which is a healthy growing market,” says Thorne.
From offset printing to digital printing
The mainstay production product for signs and displays are banners, window graphics and self-adhesive vinyl so Myla Graphics invested in two ColorPainter eco-solvent printers, back then made by Seiko I Infotech (SIIT) of Japan, a company acquired by OKI Data in 2015.
“We really put a lot of work through our original ColorPainters,” says Thorne who installed both the M-64s (64-inch) and H3-104s (104-inch) models. “They were the only printers we could find that could take the workload, produce excellent colour and run reliably at fast speed. When it came time to replace them, we knew we would stick with ColorPainters. I attended the Brisbane Visual Impact exhibition in April 2018 and saw the OKI ColorPainters on the Starleaton stand, we did the deal for both a 64” and 104” models and they were installed in July.”
Since his first ColorPainters, OKI introduced a generation change in the inks, now designated eco-solvent SX inks, they offer an increased colour range, lower odour and high outdoor durability (up to three years) without the need to laminate. OKI eco-solvent SX inks are also Gold certified by Greenguard and approved by the Nordic Ecolabel and contribute to the creation of more healthful indoor environments.
“The brilliance of the colours is excellent,” says Thorne, “Nothing I’ve seen can come close to them on vinyls, banners, polyesters, polypropylenes etcetera. We use the seven-colour inkset which is CMYK + light cyan, light magenta and a special gray for excellent monotones and smoother gradations in colour. Latex has its place but can’t match ColorPainter eco-solvent for colour brightness, durability and speed.”
Myla Graphics is a trade-only printer. Sign installers, national display companies and leading retail brands use Myla for their signage production destined for Australia’s eastern seaboard from Port Douglas in the north down as far as Ballina, NSW and beyond – a distance of approximately 2,000 km.
“We don’t install the signage ourselves,” says Thorne, “our job is to get the signage printed at top quality and on-time. Our customers are all sign ‘tradies’ large and small. If a major retailer rolls out a new campaign, we’ll have thousands of them ready for the installers to do their work. If a single sign is vandalised or a window broken, retailers such as Aldi or Woolworths want it replaced immediately – we will work all night if needed.”
While many sign printing machines claim impressive top speeds, these are often ‘draft’ modes where colour is weak and resolution poor. With Myla Graphics’ OKI ColorPainters, they can operate at full rated speed and deliver sellable results. Operator Richard Rivett says: “It depends on the file received and the type of sign but we often run at full tilt, which is 66.5 square meters an hour on the M-64s and 56.6 square meters an hour on the H3-104s, using banner material.”
The printheads on OKI ColorPainters are industrial-grade piezo greyscale units with 508 nozzles each and printing at 900dpi with Dynamic Dot control that varies the ink droplet size according to image area needs and eliminates ‘banding.’
The H3-104s model has an extra eighth channel for a light gray ink that produces stunning monotones and smooth gradations. Both printers feature Smart Nozzle Mapping that compensates for clogged nozzles and improves uptime. Both are running the OKI edition of Onyx Rip Center as the input controller.
Ben Eaton, CEO of Starleaton, an OKI ColorPainter reseller and supplier of Myla Graphics' two machines, says: "We are delighted to have retained Ken's business with the two new ColorPainters and supply of the Eco SX inks. Pure trade printers like Myla Graphics require high service levels because they can be subject to demanding deadlines. Their equipment needs to be bullet-proof and the OKI ColorPainters fit that bill - they have earned a reputation as the most reliable high production workhorses in the sign industry, and deservedly so."
Walking through Myla Graphics is like seeing an Aladdin’s cave of graphic technologies past and present. Ken Thorne has kept every Apple Mac computer as he upgraded through the years – including one of the very earliest Macintosh Plus machine from the 1980s. There are historical photos, print-down frames, a film imagesetter, light desk – a veritable history of graphic reproduction. But, the wideformat digital area has its own climate-controlled zone in a custom-built room.
A motor racing enthusiast, Ken sponsors Sprintcars Queensland where many of the cars sport graphics printed on Myla’s OKI ColorPainters. Sprintcars can reach over 300kmh and are powered by 950 horesepower methanol-fed V8 engines. OKI ColorPainters are a good partner for such high performance!