A Thank-You to Remember
Inkjet International outputs 60 x 60-foot mesh billboard for Chevy.
In commemorating its 100-year anniversary, Chevrolet embarked on a 12-month celebration by offering deal promotions across the US, being the focus of a feature-length documentary, and creating online hubs for fans to share their favorite Chevrolet memories. Healthcare insurer Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Michigan wanted to join in the celebration and wish the Detroit-based car manufacturer a happy birthday in a big way with an oversized birthday card – a 60 x 60-foot billboard to be exact.
Contracted by billboard owner CBS Outdoor Detroit, Dallas-based Inkjet International, Inc. signed on to output the graphics for the thank you. “We have a standing relationship with CBS Detroit; they buy from us on a daily basis. The Detroit market is especially fascinating. It has some of the largest billboards I have ever seen,” says Jittu Sarna, Inket International’s CEO. Atop this particular billboard are a few permanent fixtures: a digital clock and three-dimensional Blue Cross and Blue Shield logos. The graphics are changed out about every six to eight weeks.
CBS Outdoor designers delivered the billboard files to the Inkjet International team. “Usually the CBS files come out almost perfect because they are so used to creating them. They send us hundreds of files and very seldom do we experience any problems,” Sarna explains. “But, files this large always require in-house prepress work to suit the printers, plus the addition of bleed and trim marks for overlaps and finishing.” The shop used Adobe Creative Suite 5.5 to get the files printer ready.
With its HP Scitex XP5300 UV printer, the shop output the billboard in four panels onto proprietary 8-ounce coated mesh using HP XP222 Scitex inks and Caldera RIP. “For whatever reason, CBS loves when we print billboards onto mesh instead of vinyl,” says Sarna. “With mesh, we print using 360 dpi, but at half the speed. Usually we print 3000 square feet per hour, but we send mesh through at 1200 square feet an hour for much better ink saturation.”
The most challenging aspect of a job this size, explains Sarna, is the finishing, which included seaming the panels together and adding pockets: “With regular 14 x 48-foot billboards, the material comes sized enough, so all you really have to do is print and create pockets and you’re done. But oversized billboards like this one always have to be printed in panels, so color matching becomes an issue. You can’t have even the slightest difference in color or the entire billboard will look awkward.”
Aside from color matching, seaming the panels is also a complication that comes along with a job this size. “Being the size that they are, it’s very important that the panels are seamed strong and double checked to be sure that the panel will not fly off onto a car and cause a wreck. With mesh, we don’t only seam them, but we also sew them for added reinforcement. The panels are hot-seamed with a Miller Weldmaster 112 hot air welder, then sewn with thread. If everything is done correctly, from a distance you’d never know the billboard was originally produced in panels.”
CBS Outdoor handled the installation using four installers. Inkjet International continues to output for CBS Outdoor regularly and has developed a forte for large projects thanks to markets like Detroit and its super-sized billboards.
“The Detroit market is always a fun challenge because they have so many over-sized billboards. For instance, one of these measures 50 x 70 feet,” says Sarna. “To do these is very labor intensive, quite a bit of wastage goes along with that, and because the billboards are so high up – some even on top of buildings – you have to be extra careful making sure the seams are secure.”
Sarna credits his shop’s superwide success to his staff longevity: “The average time our employees have been with us is eight years, so they certainly know what they’re doing. Their expertise allows our small staff of about 24 to compete with larger companies with more resources. To our staff, producing huge projects has become as routine as eating food.”
INKJET INTERNATIONAL, INC.