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Panel Solutions expands synthetic tile production and design capabilities with SPGPrints’ DSI® digital UV-inkjet press

Panel Solutions, a leading supplier of synthetic tiles for recreational vehicles (RVs) in North America, has increased output and widened its design offering after installing SPGPrints’ DSI® UV-curable inkjet press and a new converting workflow.

The six-colour 330mm (13in.) stand-alone DSI (Digital System Integration®) press, featuring CMYK process colours, opaque white and digital primer, complements three existing toner presses. As a result of the investment, the Elkhart (Indiana, U.S.A.)-based company is well-placed to meet rising demand from a customer base of more than 200 major retailers and RV manufacturers.

Tom Zurek, founder and president of Panel Solutions, comments: “SPGPrints offered a high-performance press, exhibited clear communication and a professional, U.S.-based service network. With its minimal setup times, wide colour gamut, ability to deliver perfect colour from start to finish, the DSI has enabled us to offer greater design creativity and shorter lead-times.”

The DSI’s high specification has been crucial in helping Panel Solutions expand its panel portfolio to offer the aesthetically appealing wallcovering, which is a powerful differentiating selling point for RV manufacturers.

Intermittent pinning between print stations instantly cures the ink, allowing crisp reproduction at higher resolutions than was previously possible. A water-cooled chill drum to maintain the stability of plastic substrates at higher speeds allows the company to print on more substrates. These include 96g/m2 (65lb) papers, clear and white polyesters between 0.25-0.76mm (1 and 3 mil) thickness and metallised products.

Panel Solution’s RV wallcovering solutions are made from polyvinyl or paper materials and laminated with a temperature-resistant, slippage-preventing hotmelt adhesive. The material is the customers’ preferred choice of décor because it is easy to apply, light and durable. It avoids the risks of breakage associated with ceramic tiles as a result of vehicle movement or changes in temperature.

“We are easily matching and maintaining the earthy colours - like beige greys - and shadowing, which used to be very hard to do by four-colour process,” says Zurek. “That means we can create photo-realistic tile effects that, when mounted, are almost indistinguishable from real tiles. The fine detail we achieve has led to customers specifying this press in particular for their jobs.”

The DSI’s minimised setup times and fast throughput are enabling Zurek and his team to deliver half the company’s orders within 48 hours. The press usually performs between 40 and 50 orders during each day’s 12-hour production shift. Dozens of jobs can be programmed consecutively, and the scheduling of repeat orders is simplified as the software allows easy recall of the 500 design profiles that as of August 2015 have been uploaded on to the company’s system.

Panel Solutions runs the DSI at up to 27.5m/minute (approximately 90ft/min). At this speed, the longest runs, of approximately 36,500 metres (40,000 yards), can be produced in no more than a day and a half.

Thanks to fast setup times, samples can be printed on demand, thereby speeding up the prototyping stage. Furthermore, increased productivity and minimised manual input allows the five press operators more time to focus on the high-value design work.
SPGPrints also helped Panel Solutions specify a faster, streamlined converting workflow, including a single-pass rotary screen-coating and die-cutting line. Finally, the resin doming process creates the tile-realistic effect. The new converting operation has twice the productivity of the DSI press, to minimise the footprint requirement when new press investments occur.

On the support received, Zurek says: “We have had full training from SPGPrints during the installation phase, regular visits by technicians to make sure we’re running as effectively as possible and strategic advice on modernising our workflow. Their commitment has been total and continuous.”