The Schiele Group’s motto is “Print Smarter,” but with its recent acquisition of an EFI™ VUTEk® h5 superwide-format inkjet solution from Electronics for Imaging, Inc., it could easily become “Print Faster.”
Founded in 1948 by Henry Schiele and now headed by second-generation family member John Schiele, the Chicago-based company prints nearly a billion pieces of printed materials each year using multiple formats, including sheetfed, large- and small-format digital printing, as well as sheetfed and web offset.
The Schiele Group services a broad range of industries, and no job is too big, too small, or too detailed. In fact, according to Patrick Page, vice president of The Schiele Group’s national sales team, “Our whole staff is always up for a challenge.”
Those challenges can include large-scale fulfillment of superwide-format graphics for national entertainment and retail accounts going through much-anticipated re-openings across North America.
The Schiele Group often prints on media as varied as styrene, Sintra®, and aluminum composite board, which makes the versatility of the VUTEk h5 printer even more important. The 126-inch-wide device is a hybrid flatbed/roll-to-roll printer, and it features EFI’s “cool cure” UV LED imaging, which helps ensure excellent adhesion and premium-quality imaging on the extensive range of substrates The Schiele Group uses for display graphics production.
Executives at The Schiele Group considered other manufacturers’ devices for a new hybrid device, but production and reliability advantages of the VUTEk h5 made it the only choice.
“We went with the VUTEk because it’s fast, and more efficient,” explained Page. “There’s never any downtime and the print quality is amazing.”
While this is The Schiele Group’s second EFI superwide-format printer after the VUTEK GS3250, the company has long relied on EFI’s MIS/ERP workflow software solutions to run the business. The company handles its production workflow using an EFI Midmarket Print Suite MIS/ERP offering, with integrated EFI MarketDirect StoreFront software handling The Schiele Group’s web-to-print capabilities. The company also uses EFI Fiery® digital front ends to drive its cut-sheet digital printers.
The newly installed EFI VUTEk printer, which is being used for production as of this month, offers The Schiele Group more with premium-quality features, such as a clear ink spot gloss, a persuasive selling point when pursuing new clients.
“The spot gloss feature gives prints an extra pop,” said Page, adding that the smaller, reversed-out text the printer can produce is great as well.
The company’s new printer also has three-quarter automation, which automates loading and unloading on sheets and rigid substrates and “will help us be more efficient,” said Page.
The EFI VUTEk h5 with three-quarter automation is part of EFI’s super high-speed portfolio of high-volume display graphics production solutions. The printer’s UltraDrop™ Technology 7-picoliter grayscale printheads feature true multi-drop addressability, high-definition print, and crisp text quality with outstanding smoothness in shadows, gradients and transitions.
Offering superior imaging in resolutions up to 1,200 dots per inch, the VUTEk h5 prints with an eight-color inkset or—using its extended-gamut four-color inks in a CMYKx2 configuration—delivers high-quality output at speeds up to 109 boards per hour. The cool cure UV LED imaging on the VUTEk h5 reduces the amount of energy needed for curing or drying compared with conventional UV or latex printers, plus it allows for printing thin or challenging substrates that cannot withstand the heat required with mercury-arc UV or latex printers.
While many print businesses struggled with slower business during the COVID-19 pandemic, The Schiele Group experienced a major uptick in large-format digital work, while web and sheetfed jobs remained steady.
“We pivoted to COVID-specific offerings, so a lot of things that we weren’t doing before there was a massive need for, like dividers and other safety-related products,” said the company’s senior marketing manager, Shannon McNealy.
The increased demand for superwide-format digital printing has continued as event- and entertainment-related work returns.
“That’s why investing in large format was key to keep pushing the business and pushing boundaries,” Page added.
And while the average run length for jobs is trending down at The Schiele Group, the overall number of orders continues to grow. The highly efficient VUTEk h5 printer and its three-quarter automation feed and delivery features will help the company keep ahead of demand.