Smashing Competition

How one shop wins clients by pairing wide-format 2D and wide-format 3D printing.

Out-of-home advertising, P-O-P displays, interior décor prints, and vehicle graphics are applications that make the wide-format digital print world go ’round. As a print service provider, it’s your job to bring innovative and inspiring ideas to your customers so they continue to choose you over your competition. How do you keep these tried-and-true offerings fresh and prevent your approach from becoming stale? One way of doing this is by combining what you know best – 2D wide-format printing – with 3D wide-format printing. Think lifelike, 3D-printed basketball players wrapped in printed material adhered to a billboard promoting the local NBA team, or a giant pair of sunglasses next to a digitally printed retail display luring in customers for a weekend sale.

McGowans Print in Dublin, Ireland, has done just this. The large-format print shop purchased a Massivit 1800 wide-format 3D printer in August 2018, and has been pairing 2D and 3D ever since. “Every customer we have wants to differentiate themselves from their competitors, and we felt the Massivit would allow us to offer that differential,” says Dave Fogarty, marketing manager, McGowans Print. “It didn’t hurt that it was a really cool-looking machine producing fantastic products.”spiderman

Being able to offer 3D prints alongside their 2D wide-format services has set the shop apart from their competitors. “It allows us to offer brand managers and marketers the element every brand desires: uniqueness,” he says. “It provides a pathway for new clients into our business where we can introduce them to the rest of our services, and it gives our existing clients another reason to stay with us. We’ve never really sat still when it comes to new technology; we’re always looking for the next thing to excite us and our customers.” This mantra has been instilled in the 100-plus-employee company by the owner, Mal McGowan. “When he saw the Massivit, he knew he had to bring it to Dublin as he could immediately see how it would add value to our existing offering,” says Fogarty. 

Adding the new machine to the completely 2D print shop did present some challenges, so McGowans hired a 3D print expert, Bruno Pinheiro, product designer, “all the way from Brazil, whose talent and knowledge has been vital in making this project the success it has become for us,” says Fogarty. “We also partnered with a company called 3D Eclipse that has been producing three-dimensional, experiential print projects for several years in Ireland and again has been instrumental.”

Training and education were needed for McGowans customers, as well. “We had to introduce the possibilities of 3D print or additional 3D protected elements to our existing customers, but once they saw the results, they also recognized the possibilities and embraced them,” says Fogarty. “By showcasing the resulting projects, we were able to attract new customers and convert existing customers to using 3D as part of their projects. Who wouldn’t welcome the addition of something that makes anything you can imagine possible?”

Fogarty knew Coca-Cola would be the go-to company for the new technology. The brand has been a client of McGowans for more than four years. “We have produced a lot of point-of-sale work for them and they’re always looking for ‘something different’ to make their brand stand out in the marketplace,” says Fogarty. When they acquired the Massivit 1800, they were immediately flooded with ideas for Coca-Cola. 

When Coca-Cola became sponsors of the English Premier League they wanted to draw attention to the new partnership. They created competitions and special offers advertised throughout 40 Tesco branches and cinemas across Ireland. “We came up with the concept of adding three-dimensional lions heads to the side of their free standing display units,” says Fogarty. “The lion head is the Premiership logo, and it’s instantly recognizable in this part of the world. The addition of the 3D element to a relatively standard point-of-sale item was a huge success.” Fogarty says the concept alone won the shop the job. 

santaMcGowans used the same tactic for seasonal Coca-Cola Christmas trucks placed in 20 retail stores and supermarkets to enhance user experience and create a special photo op for customers. The shop produced 3D-printed wheels and Santa stands to add to the corrugated prints. The tires, 24 inches in diameter, took five days to model, one day to 3D print (10 hours), two days to make the texture for printing, two days to post process, one day to print the colors, and five days to thermoform. “The client was delighted and went as far as calling the finished piece an ‘award-winning display,’” says Fogarty. Coca-Cola is so impressed they’ve asked McGowans to incorporate a 3D-printed element into every project they complete. “The budget doesn’t always allow it, but the desire to use this feature is always strong,” he says.

That being said, the material used to print 3D pieces is expensive. “It would be difficult to put an exact number on a piece, but to produce something like the Hulk, it easily runs into thousands of dollars,” says Fogarty. “This is why, to complement our existing devices in point-of-sale, which could easily have 1000 units in a campaign, we employ thermoforming as a solution. It’s cost-effective as you only need to 3D print one or two molds, and it’s much quicker in terms of production.” 

The Massivit 1800 isn’t the only machine McGowans got their hands on at an early stage. The shop was one of the first PSPs to install EFI’s Nozomi C18000 single-pass digital corrugated printer. They used the machine to print the Coca-Cola cardboard display pieces; the 3D elements were printed on their Fuji Acuity 15 wide-format UV inkjet press.

The team recently highlighted their offerings at EuroShop 2020, a global tradeshow for retailers in Düsseldorf, Germany, to showcase the extraordinary opportunities that are available for brick-and-mortar stores. The Hulk character they 3D printed with the Massivit 1880 is six-feet wide and took almost a week to print. The printed brick frame the Hulk breaks through was printed onto Re-board via the shop’s Durst Rho 1312 UV flatbed printer. The other graphics on the stand were printed on a variety of machines including their Nozomi C1800, Durst Rho 1030, Durst Rho P10 250 HS Plus, and Canon Océ Colorado 1640 roll-to-roll printer. McGowans also recently purchased a Dimense textured wallpaper printer (another early buy-in) and displayed samples at their booth. 

The only constant is change. By adopting new technologies and providing unparalleled applications their clients hadn’t even imagined, McGowans proves that it pays to try something new.

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