Allmaster invests in its first EFI VUTEk 5r+
The Singapore company has installed its first five-metre EFI workhorse to boost production speeds, efficiency, while widening product offerings with unmatched quality.
Based in Singapore, Allmaster Pte Ltd has upgraded its production capabilities, significantly increasing speed and efficiency without compromising premium quality with the recent install of the EFI VUTEk 5r+ five-metre UV LED roll-to-roll printer.
The EFI VUTEk 5r+ is Allmaster’s first foray into the EFI portfolio. Allmaster, with about 120 employees, has an arsenal of printers housed in its almost 4,000 square metre production and warehousing facility.
Established since 1975, Allmaster had its start in traditional screen printing. Over the years, it branched out its services into sports and events branding, visual displays and large format printing. In the last couple of years, Allmaster went into the signage market. Its clientele is wide ranging; from governments to town councils, marketing agencies, and building and construction companies.
“Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, we did a lot of exhibitions and sports events. Although most events were put on hold, we are actually still doing a fair bit of work for the construction industry. Recently, we even managed to get governmental contracts and that’s been keeping us busy over the past few months. We’ve also been busy with open houses that we support with event branding,” said Felix Chew, director at Allmaster Pte Ltd.
The Search for a Digital Workhorse
Success was a double-edged sword for Allmaster. While the company experienced growth and scored multiple projects despite the pandemic, it consequently began encountering a backlog issue. To meet with the growing orders and tight deadlines, Allmaster began shopping for a digital printing machine that would be able to handle the additional workload.
Chew saw the EFI VUTEk 5r+ first-hand at the Shanghai Ad and Sign Expo tradeshow in Shanghai, China. Being able to see the printer in person allowed Chew to scrutinize the machine more, while looking at other brands.
“However, after we did comparison tests with the other brands, none were able to match the speed, quality and overall efficiency of the EFI VUTEk 5r+. I was impressed by the quick and precise turnaround from the EFI VUTEk 5r+. It is a real workhorse and the ink yield is fantastic. It was the clear winner,” said Chew.
Installed in February 2021, the EFI VUTEk 5r+ printer was put into full production almost immediately: “It was able to handle all of the urgent works that I needed. It fits me perfectly,” Chew continued.
Speed and Efficiency Without Compromising Quality
Designed for producing high-volume graphics, the EFI VUTEk 5r+ can print up to 487 square metres per hour at true resolutions of up to 1200 dpi. The VUTEk 5r+ model features a completely reengineered printing algorithm that enables higher ink density and an overall quality improvement.
“Before installing the machine, I used to have to run two to three Epson printers for the same capacity. And we have to log a lot of overtime hours for just one or two projects. One project could easily be about 300 to 400 square metres, and they all want it urgently and fast,” Chew continued. “Now, I could print three rolls all at one time, and I could finish a project in a very short span of time compared to before. Since it’s a UV printer, I don't have to do lamination. This saves me even more time and labour.”
The inkjet printer uses proprietary 7-picolitre UltraDrop Technology which provides high definition image quality and smooth skin tones, shadows, gradients, vignettes, and transitions. The EFI VUTEk 5r+ produces premium imaging with high ink coverage, high colour density and a wide colour gamut.
“A struggle that we used to have was with the quality alongside the slow turnaround times. Primarily, I was looking for speed and efficiency. If you can achieve the speed that I want, and with the quality, it makes the whole investment worthwhile,” said Chew.
The EFI VUTEk 5r+ offers superior throughput with a low total cost of ownership and the most available options. The VUTEk 5r+ printer also offer several new options, including automated backlit, automatic blockout printing and an inline finishing system.
“It has a camera positioning system that allows you to do double sided prints accurately and precisely. Instead of the traditional way of printing two sides of the banners and then stitching or stapling them together, right now we can effectively print on a single sheet of blockout,” said Chew. “Firstly, it allows the prints to be crisper, tauter, and less prone to creases. It also helps to save the labour which was required to do all the stitching and whatnot before.”
The inline finishing system for all-in-one printing, slitting, and collecting was another key decision factor for Chew. “I like that the inline finishing was able to cut the two strips and print three rows at one time. I have not seen any printer that can print three rows at one time. At that time I was even skeptical, until I tried it myself. The tiling and registration is perfect and accurate for every print. That was attractive to me, and we’re really able to handle our prints now effortlessly, compared to previously.”
“With other printers, you have to compromise speed with quality, and that is not the case here,” Chew continued. “I could print holding stickers with just one pass, and achieve rich and vibrant colours. People can’t tell that this was done in one pass. That’s a great advantage that I have.”
Widening Application Offerings for a Competitive Edge
Allmaster can now expand their offerings with the versatility of the VUTEk 5r+ printer, which can handle a variety of flexible substrates and be utilised for an extended range of applications.
Since being put into production, Allmaster has been using the superwide printer primarily for holding graphics, retail prints and for vinyl stickers. A feature that Allmaster is keen to take full advantage of is the automatic backlit option which supports multi-roll, cutting and slitting, and enables printing each side with a different print mode.
“The lightbox pieces are very vibrant. When you print at different passes, it still gives you the same richness. The lightbox printing feature is one of the major selling factors as the colours are rich. It’s actually very difficult to print for lightboxes. More clients are demanding about the quality of lightboxes, so EFI has this unique positioning of being able to print lightbox graphics very well,” said Chew.
“That’s one area we would like to pitch because the quality is good. We can also support mega prints for advertising lightboxes. The ability to print five metres is a great sell for us because not many companies in the market right now are able to do that,” Chew continued.
The printer is equipped with newly developed white printing modes that offer an increase in speed and enhanced quality. The modes can support multilayer printing of up to five layers, improving versatility and range of projects.
“The multilayer printing is really good too. The whites are so opaque that you can literally print two different images with the white in between. The white lets you get a really nice, dense colour when it’s backlit during the night, and during the daytime, it’s still a nice colour,” said Chew.
The Environmentally Friendly and Cost Saving Solution
Allmaster’s new VUTEk printer features EFI’s LED "cool cure" curing technology which has cost savings and environmental benefits. The technology widens the range of supported substrates, including lower cost and specialty media. Uptime and productivity can be increased with instant on/off and less maintenance, while driving down operating costs with significantly less energy consumption and fewer consumable parts.
“Besides speed, we also considered ink yield, because running costs is also under consideration,” said Chew.
The new printer is able to significantly reduce waste with consistent colour output and simple operation. In addition, it utilises quality 3M SuperRange XF ink, including white, which are GreenGuard certified.
“The fact that EFI develops its own inks is an advantage. There is an element of control with the colour consistency. We’ve had past experiences where the ink is sourced from a third supplier and the colour consistency is just not there. It becomes a source of headache for us,” Chew continued.
“The environmental factor is a major plus point for us because we do a lot of outdoor prints. These days, especially in Singapore, everyone is talking about going green. A lot of corporations, and especially government agencies, place a lot of importance on sustainability. They place priority on partnering with print service providers that are going green, so this gives us an edge over the competition too,” said Chew.
Partners in EFI
“The after-sales service EFI provides is fantastic. We’ve never had a problem with their service, we could always call on them, even though now it is all remote support,” said Chew.
“The engineers are always available when you need help and are very responsive. “Service reliability is very important to us and you want to have that added peace of mind that you will have the necessary service support in place. That’s one of the reasons we chose EFI as our partner,” Chew continued.
“At EFI, we learn to be creative and flexible about how we help and support our customers, especially in these times,” said Rodd Harrison, Vice-President of Sales, Asia Pacific for EFI. “What EFI has done is that we’ve set up a service network. Let’s say a customer sends an email to the service community. There might be 10 people who are monitoring that email from the service director to an application specialist in China to a product specialist in Australia. You can have a problem resolved in 15 minutes, without even requiring a service call.”
What’s Next for Allmaster?
“At this moment we’re still trying to use our VUTEk machine to clear our backlogs, but we have been experimenting too. A good thing about the VUTEk 5r+ is the branding and positioning, because EFI is a well-known brand,” said Chew.
“Of course, when the opportunity arises and the time is right, we may invest in another machine. We are also possibly looking at the hybrid series of flatbed/roll-fed printers, because we do quite a fair bit of that in some of our projects and we do not have a vacuum platform,” said Chew.
“Allmaster is cautious, so we respect that. It’s a very big investment, and they wanted lots of assurances about what they were doing. They did a lot of homework, talking to our customers, then getting tests done and comparing different technologies. I'm happy to say that now you know that you’ve made the right decision. We’re happy that the machine has delivered what they were expecting,” said Harrison.
“We’re excited to explore new creative application possibilities with the VUTEk 5r+ and EFI has also been helping us to utlise this printer to its full potential. We look forward to a very fruitful, long collaboration with EFI,” Chew concluded.
First published in the June 2021 Issue of Print Innovation Asia.