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Need help with equipment purchases for school

Discussion in 'Newbie Forum' started by Clayton, Aug 22, 2011.

  1. Clayton

    Clayton New Member

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    Hi All,

    I teach graphics & photography in a very cool high school media academy. For years we've mostly had to stick with a computer design emphasis with some outsourced printing/production. I now have about 15-20K to spend on a plotter/cutter/rip and accessories to do this and more in house. I want to be able to create a type of yard sign as well, where vinyl is adhered to a backing like aluminum or 'gasp' MDF. Gotta get that cost down on that project!

    Suggestions to get into basic banner, sign, decals, etc?

    I've been leaning towards the Roland SP-540i, 54". Suggestions there? I have to buy new, no used.

    Can somebody look around their shop and list a bunch of stuff I don't want to forget that is essential to get the ball rolling (grommet setter, etc?) I need to put a lump bid together for some vendors and would like to create a 'kit' for getting us started, all from one vendor. I realize it is a low budget, but I can add other stuff with revenue we'll be generating...so maybe one list of 'essentials' for now and another list of 'add it later'? Also, if there is a thread I've missed on the forum that answers part of this, please feel free to direct me. This forum rocks. :glasses:
     
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  2. petepaz

    petepaz Major Contributor

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    i would go with a roland printer/cutter unit and a laminator that would be the basics and fit in your budget
    (which unit probably not so critical for what you are using it for, probably get away with a 30" set up)
     
  3. signguy 55

    signguy 55 Member

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    I think the first thing you need to do is introduce yourself to every sign shop in Sugar Land Texas and then a 25 mile radius from that. Tell them flat out what you are going to get into. Be honest and tell them that you are not out to "steal" their customers from them, but your customers are going to have to come from somewhere.

    Parents of students wanting a banner for a weekend festival are probably business owners in your home town.

    Find out what the going rate is for the type of signs you are interested in doing. Established shops don't mind another competitor coming in to a saturated market as long as the playing field is level, if you know what I mean.

    You are not going to make very many friends by having high school students doing yard signs, banners and such, not that there's that much profit in that stuff anyway. But your labor is going to be free. You may have a rocky road ahead of you.

    We've got prisoners doing signs in this part of the country.

    Hope it works out for you.
     
  4. cajun312

    cajun312 Active Member

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    Since it's a school environment you might look into a latex printer to avoid any issues with ink fumes.
     
  5. petepaz

    petepaz Major Contributor

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    missed that line in the post about generating revenue the first time. just ASSumed it was more for a learning tool and internal signage for the school
     
  6. Clayton

    Clayton New Member

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    Thanks for the replies. The primary purpose of what we do is education. But the nature of what we teach lends itself to fundraising. Many of the products we have created in the past are new and not currently being provided by any local business. For example, there is currently no yard sign vendor at all. And a lot of what we do is for internal usage (logo development, sports posters, etc). Is there some overlap? Sure. And I don't see a problem with that. I also own a photography business, but teach photography to students at school. Many of them go on to work full or part time in the industry. In a sense I'm training my competition. But If my skills aren't vastly better than a second year kid with a digital SLR I'd have gone out of business long ago. I guess what I'm saying is that we just aren't much of a threat to business here. In fact we often work closely with businesses (dozens of kids in internships in local businesses ranging from the fortune 500 companies to TV stations, and studios).

    I am hoping for some specific equipment suggestions?
     
  7. d fleming

    d fleming Very Active Member

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    Spaghetti dinner at a local church was the best money maker I ever had teaching. Various organizations in school, sports program, cheer squad, band, etc, can pay for your supplies for production of their products once you are setup to fabricate. The sports programs were our biggest client. They also had the most expendable cash from their own fundraisers. Car washes mostly. As a vocational program we were allowed to charge 10% over our raw cost of materials. Vendors to the sign industry in your area would love to sell you damaged boards, etc. that could be cut down to usable sizes for smaller signs or even repaired for full size. These are products they would most likely write off anyway and should be able to donate or sell to you at a greatly reduced price if you hit them up right. Ask the shops in your area what skill set they need for apprentices and see if you can start some job shadowing and mentoring programs or even employment for students on a part time basis. The vocational programs in my area are so out of touch with what is needed it's a crime. They teach photoshop and that's it. Hiring one of their kids from votech is like hiring someone off the street who has no idea what you do for a living. Didn't use to be that way. Glad to hear your program is more varied in it's approach. On equipment, see if you can get a small latex printer, maybe Bigfish or another vendor here can help you get the most for your funding $. The machines are not maintenance hogs like some of the others. If not, even a large format aqueous printer with laminator might be the way to go. You'll get about a year in the sun before fading and these machines are better at producing photo quality. Most of the work you'll be doing will be short term anyway. Very little maintenance on this type of machine compared to stronger inks and a smaller price tag as well.These also do not require special ventilation and will get you by the yearly inspection easier.As I recall the inspector that came through my classroom once a year was a real PITA.
     
  8. Clayton

    Clayton New Member

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    Thanks d Fleming, I appreciate the feedback. Any body else have equipment suggestions, especially for a plotter/cutter (especially latex, it is so new I feel out of my element with it)? I'm looking to order pretty quick here.
     
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2011
  9. signguy 55

    signguy 55 Member

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    Since you're in Texas, you may want to contact Sign Warehouse. They sell plotters and printers.

    Also Fellers sells complete systems. Both have websites, they can send you some catalogs.

    Be aware you will definitely need a dealer who will provide support. If you search the forums you will find that there is quite a bit of things not quite running right when it comes to printing and different members are looking for help. Running a plotter and cutting some vinyl is one thing, printing is another animal.

    You may have an entire period in school where you are dealing with a head strike or an inkhead that's not firing right. You're going to have some bored students quick if that happens.
     
  10. MikePro

    MikePro Major Contributor

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    15kmight not go very far if shopping new... Plotter, 54" printer, laminator, and enough media to get started cost me 40k
     
  11. MikePro

    MikePro Major Contributor

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    Honestly, a Cricut wouldnt be the worst thing to look into for educational intro to digital print/cut, and well within your budget. Running a 54" printer for "class projects" doesn't seem economical when you're on a budget. Not only that, but wideformat printers cost about 1k just to fill with ink, burns ink even when idle, and costs a LOT to service even when properly maintained.
    A 48"+ plotter, however, would be a great investment as you can do vinyl, paintmask, and screen printing for little startup. $$$
     
  12. summit graphics

    summit graphics New Member

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    I wouldn't recommend a printer/plotter. If you are printing you can't be cutting and if you cutting you can't be printing. Plus if the printer happens to be out of commission, you can't cut and visa versa. Definitely go eco solvent, you won't have to worry about venting or clogged ink lines as much as you would solvent.
    Here is the link to sign warehouse for a 48 inch printer, plotter and laminator package
    http://www.signwarehouse.com/color-printers/mutoh-valuejet-48packages.html. Looks like you can get all for under 17k.
     
  13. Jim Doggett

    Jim Doggett Very Active Member

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    Thanks for the recommendation, Summit Graphics. Also, Sign Guy 55!!!

    Hi Clayton,

    Just a thought would be if you have a curriculum developed that our product manager might take a look at in determining what would best fit within your objective. (We can sign an NDA / Jerry's eyes only, if need be.).

    Meanwhile, I think a 48-inch machine is ideal. Wider panels are great, but with novice users, it can be an ogre to deal with wide, adhesive-backed vinyl images. You might even find you'll print, as a rule, on narrower media, for ease of handling when registering (accurately) multiple panels.

    Also, a laminator might not be needed. Unlaminated,the images will hold up an entire school year, no problem. Only if the images require longer life or will be walked-on or frequently handled, would I recommend lamination, which adds cost ... and is a whole new learning curve to get right (not trashing what's been printed.)

    The good news is that our Mutoh and Mutoh-based printers use a unique Wave Printing that makes it much easier to get unbanded prints without a month or two of experience. I think that's key in a revolving student population. All the major printers use Epson micropiezo, drop-on-demand printheads (Roland, Mimaki and Mutoh). But the Mutoh's wave printing is a huge advantage.

    Plus, stick to four-color; six color (CMYK + Light Cyan and Light Magenta) is nearly of no use, due to variable droplet size with the new generation piezo printheads. And it adds cost, IMO, unnecessarily.

    Lastly, and maybe a biggy, is what the platform will be for your student-deisgners, i.e., sign software, akin to FlexiSIGN, or Adobe Illustrator / Photoshop ... Mac, I assume, or are you running Windows workstations? Then it becomes a question of whether you need multiple site licenses of if one computer will run the printer and cutter, which should be separate. Printing posters is great, but your students (and the athletic dept.) are going to love cut-vinyl sticker and text. The vinyl cutter will probably get as much or more use than the printer. Just guessing.

    All my best,
     
  14. Clayton

    Clayton New Member

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    Apr 2, 2010
    Hi Jim,

    Thanks a bunch for the insights. This specific program/track of our program is newer and we don't have curriculum finished for it yet. Up to now we haven't been able to print/create large so this will actually change the curriculum.

    We use Illustrator, Photoshop (and InDesign) extensively in the graphics section. Some labs have Macs and some PCs, but this will be going in the PC lab. It would be a dedicated station so no site license needed for software.

    I've checked out your website/packages and will be giving you guys a call soon.

    Clayton

     
  15. cajun312

    cajun312 Active Member

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    In the Houston area you will want to get quotes from Reece Supply and Graphics Solutions Group, I've gotten good dependable service from both of those companies.
     
  16. ricksoccer5

    ricksoccer5 New Member

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    Clayton:

    The Roland printer/cutter is a proven device that many sign shops are running. If you are looking for an easy solution with a very small learning curve this is what I would be looking at. The SP-540I is a great machine and would serve the purpose well. Graphic Solutions Group is a great place to buy these and the support is great. Our rep in Houston is Jimmy Ellis. Please call their branch and ask for him, you will not regret at least seeing what he has to offer
     
  17. night eagle

    night eagle Active Member

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    Sorry but isn't this site for resellers only.


    Mark galoob
     
  18. Steph_Stamm

    Steph_Stamm Member

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    I recommend calling a manufacturer to see if they'll help you out. You might be surprised by what you find. SAi has helped several schools in the past years. A manufacturer can turn the good deed into nice publicity for themselves, and you will probably get a smoking deal.
     
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