Avenue banner production questions


New Member

I'm a graphic artist and have been doing design work for a client creating avenue banners for some time now. The banners are typically digitally printed onto vinyl and are either 60"hx30"w or 72"hx30"w. My client has worked with several printers since I've done design for them and I know how to put the files in correct format for the printers.

Here's what I don't know: My client has offered me the printing contract for their projects - in the time I've worked for them they've cycled through 5 printing companies and are always complaining about price.

They're offering a good fee per unit and production will be about 3000 units/year. Here's what I don't know: I'm looking at a Graphtec Signjet JX2100 printer w/cutter, but have absolutely no idea what other equipment I need to get these units done. I have no interest in setting up a shop, or doing any other type of work beyond the production of these banners for my client. The banners are outdoor, 2-sided and hang for 12 months before being replaced with new.

Any suggestions on equipment, vinyl choice, and a better understanding of the production process would be GREATLY appreciated. I really enjoy working with my client and am excited about the opportunity to handle this part of the project - I want to learn what needs done to produce it and focus on doing that well.

Thank you in advance for any information!


New Member
I don't know the exact specs of the Graphtec JX2100 but I'll go out on a limb and assume it won't be able to keep up with that kind of production... You're talking about printing up to 90,000 s.f. per year (assumign 30x72" double-sided banners, 3000 qty), That's serious volume that an entry-level printer may not be able to handle. If I were you I'd go back to the drawing board and start looking at printers like the Mimaki JV5 or Roland AdvanceJet, both are pricey setups ($50-70k once all is said and done) but they are also pretty heavy-duty machines more suited to that kind of volume. It sounds like you do not need built-in contour cutting, so avoid that option, it's usually only found on the lower-end units.

As far as finishing, a double-needle walking foot industrial unit will work well, a welder will be better but may be out of your price range. Consider outsourcing finishing. We just broke into this market and have done a hundred or so of these banners this year so far, having good luck with herculite 13oz and 18oz double-sided blockout matte vinyl. Good print quality, durable, and no fraying or fuzz on the edges that we've seen yet.

Here's my concern with your idea, and please don't take this the wrong way. It sounds like you are putting an awful lot of eggs in one basket. If you commit to doing this, and buy a low-end printer that cannot handle that volume, you're setting yourself up for alot of heartache not too far down the road when your machine breaks down and you cannot produce (or dies for good and you still owe $10k on it) your customer's product. If you invest in a higher end machine that can handle the load, you just invested a whole hell of alot of money on one client. If they ditch you in favor of a cheaper vendor (which you've already said they have a habbit of doing) you're stuck with a big lease payment to cover. What guarantees do you have from the client that they will use you tomorrow? Next week? Next year?

You may be better off finding a good reliable vendor to outsource all of the production to, add a healthy margin and resell the finished product to them until you establish with them that you can perform as they expect for the price they demand. Once you have that kind of relationship in place, then start looking into bringing the production in house. You should be able to offer the same product for the same (or a little less) price, once you know the work will be there to cover your investment.

Sorry if I sound like I'm raining on your parade, but I immediately saw quite a few red flags in your post, and I've been around this block a few too many times to ignore them.


New Member
I gotta agree with insignia. Although the offer sounds promising, I wouldn't waste my time with a client like this. As soon as I hear someone complaining about the price, there's no doubt in my mind they're getting what they're paying for.
However, if they are serious about their offer and you know you can make good money at it, tell them to put it into writing, hire a good attorney and draw up a contract. In theory, the commitment will cover all your expenses (you own the equipment free and clear) and make a profit well before the end of the contract.
The contract should contain a minimum commitment per year and be valid for "X" number of years. You'll need to negotiate pricing based on what you're paying for materials now and cover any raw material price increases for the length of the contract. There's a lot more to cover, but that's why you should hire an attorney, if you don't already have one.
Although Graphtec makes good plotters, I can't comment about the printer you mentioned because it's not listed on www.graphtecusa.com. If this is a used printer/plotter, don't waste your time unless you know that you can get fast and reliable support, because you'll need it. Just with this contract alone, you'll need to print more than a dozen banners a day. Although it doesn't sound like a lot, just go without a printer for a few days, and try to play catch-up.



New Member
I don't know anything about Graphtec or digital printing, but I have ordered Sunbrella avenue banners in the past from Nabco and was VERY pleased.
These were screened, not sure about their digital offerings, but both their service and pricing was great.
They deal wholesale to the trade.
I would worry about someone who has ran through several printers too. What Checkers has said about contracts is very sage advice. That avoids the old "If I order such and such amount of banners do I get a discount?" and then they order one run.