MD Erik Wiegman: Now it’s my turn.

When Carolyn shared her plans with me to start a blog I first had some doubts. My first question was how a blog can contribute to help you growing your business.

Now we are a couple of months later and I can tell you that we have received multiple positive reactions from many of you, telling us that the information we have provided did enable you to look for new opportunities to expand and grow your business.

This is very encouraging and I want to thank Carolyn, Steven and Charles for their 3-weekly contributions. I also want to thank our guest bloggers for their interesting, positive and very helpful stories.

Now it’s my turn. Carolyn asked me to close each quarter with a blog sharing some information about our business. As so many things are going on, it fortunately is not difficult to pick a subject.

For my first blog I have opted to provide a quick overview of the period from the start of Universal Woods EMEA in July 2011 till today. Universal Woods is the company that manufactures the Unisub, ChromaLuxe, SwitchCase and Resindek brands.
I can tell you that this has been a very exciting period full with interesting adventures.
A journey I wouldn’t have missed!

Universal Woods with Headquarters in Louisville, Kentucky USA was till July 2011 represented in Europe by a distributor. As sublimation was growing very fast and required a stronger focus on the many new markets and applications, the decision was made to establish a European entity looking after the business in EMEA (Europe- Middle-East and Africa). From our EMEA office in Schelle, Belgium we also provide customer service and marketing support to Japan and South-Korea.

This was the best decision that could have been made, which has been proven by the fact that since the start in 2011 our business has grown significantly. In July 2011 we started with 3 people, today we employ 15 people. Due to this growth we already have moved one time and are planning for another move to larger premises early 2016.Featured image

Of course we have worked hard, but we also have a group of fantastic people to thank for our success! We are very grateful that we have so many dedicated and loyal partners, distributing and using our Unisub, ChromaLuxe and SwitchCase products.
Without all of you out there, making the efforts promoting, selling or and buying our products, we would have never been where we are today.

Our road to growth however didn’t come for granted. We also face challenges that we need to tackle and overcome.

One of the major challenges today is the volatility of the euro versus the dollar rate. Since the beginning of 2014 the euro has lost 28% of its value to the dollar.

As a company, we support our customers with all our capabilities to deal with this in their markets.
With all the investments we have made to further improve our quality and reducing the costs of our manufacturing processes, we are very confident that we will be able to protect the business that has been built up so carefully.

We are very busy preparing the Fespa which takes place in Cologne, Germany from May 18th till May 22nd.

We will have a +100m² booth and will show a lot of new materials and applications. You can find us in Hall 7, booth number K15.
At the Fespa we will also have our 2015 EMEA catalogue ready for you.Featured image

I hope to have the opportunity meeting many of you again, catching up and sharing thoughts and ideas how we can further grow our mutual business. If you have never visited our stand before, please make sure you do in Cologne so we can introduce you to the exciting world of sublimation.

Thank you all for your business and I sincerely hope working with you in the coming years and take advantage of the fast growing market for sublimation.

Please keep reading this blog, sharing it and reacting to it. As we all know: feedback is a gift! We highly value your input.


Erik WiegmFeatured imagean’s career in the Sign and Engraving industry started over 30 years ago. With experience in signage and personalization for many years, in 2005 Erik got involved in sublimation. In 2011 Universal Woods established its own affiliate in Belgium of which Erik became Managing Director. Together with a dedicated team he successfully worked on further expanding the Unisub brand in the EMEA region and bringing ChromaLuxe to the market.
You can contact Erik at erikw@chromaluxe.com.

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Conquering the Middle East: Guest Blogger Stephanie McGehee makes her Arabian dream come true

Being in the small country of Kuwait and because of my passion to get the perfect print, It has been a challenge for me to build my business, since I opened 3 years ago. As a professional photographer, there has never been a print medium that has intrigued me as much as the Aluminum prints made on Chromaluxe materials.

I opened Metal Fusion in Kuwait, having a dream of creating the bFeatured imageest photographic prints, and only after months of trial and error, I am now confident that we are producing the best quality of prints on the world market. Our market spans the whole Arabian Gulf including Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Dubai. In Kuwait we have had many photographers adorn their walls with Metal Fusion prints.

Not only the photographers love our product, but also many commercial and private institutions. One of our first clients was the National Bank of Kuwait which one of the 50th Best Banks in the World. We outfitted their entire The National Bank oFeatured imagef Kuwait Museum project with our Metal Prints. We reproduced their historic documents, and their collection of historic black and white prints were printed on matt substrate and displayed on one of their museums wall, where people can touch and talk about the prints without any fingerprint damage.

This was the first of many projects that we successfully completed.

Just recently we printed for the His Excellency Mohammed al Zubair, an Omani renowned photographer and Economic Advisor to the Sultan of Oman, also a author of over 12 photographic books on Oman. His exhibit in February consisted of 67 large format Featured imagewhite glossy prints for a photography exhibition called “Moments”, held at the prestigious Bait al Oud in the Bait al Zubair Complex in Muscat, Oman. The metal prints overwhelmed the audience and we were even mentioned in the magazine article that did a wonderful write-up about the exhibit.

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The Ruler of Qatar, Father Emir Sheikh Hamad al-Thani praised the photographer Moudhi Al-hajari on her images printed on Aluminium by Metal Fusion during an exhibition held at the Qatar Islamic Museum earlier in the year. The Qatari ruler was extremely impressed with the quality of the prints, so much, that he insisted that she make a book of her images and the Aluminum prints are a permanent part of the museum’s collection.

This was not the first time Qatari Photographer Moudhi Al-hajari used Aluminum prints, for her solo exhibition named “Images of Yemen”, we printed half of her collection for the exhibition held in the prestigious KatFeatured imageara Heritage Center in Doha, Qatar.

We are so proud to be a part of the success of so many photographers.

In Kuwait we also sponsored a photo exhibition for young photographers group from the Al-Mawahab Group. A collection of 60 prints amazed visitors to their exhibition. We always try to encourage youth and we are happy to support them when we can.

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In Amman, Jordan, the French-Jordanian Business Chamber used our products to give away to the dignitaries that attended the French Week held in Amman and Aqaba. We made wonderful coasters for them in elegant boxes.

We are constantly trying new methods in our printing and production; each day creates a new challenge and success story.Featured image

We are now expanding our business and hope to open our Metal Fusion Dubai office before the summer. A large SEFA heat press -120 x 180 cm – will be installed shortly. I am so excited and our life will never be the same anymore. Sefa has, through their relationship with Chromaluxe, developed a press that will surpass all the others, because they have solved the problem of any bending or stretching of the Aluminum when it is heated. This is revolutionary in our business.

Chromaluxe really has developed wonderful partnerships and that is paying off, for us. That is why I am truly elated to write on this blog.

I would like to tell all of the people interested in our medium: If we all share our ideas, we will help our own market grow.

I am so happy to be asked to be the guest blogger because I am so passionate about our wonderful Chromaluxe printing. I am one of the first owner/operators of this wonderful process, thanks to Metalography of Temecula, California. They were the wonderful company that introduced me to Magnachrome in the US and that is what started my company rolling. I will always be grateful to them for their generous help in introducing me to Chromaluxe and other suppliers. Because of the evolution that has happened in so little time, I sometimes think that we started a bit early in the business, because just when you thought that you could not get a better print… then Chromaluxe outdoes themselves and improves on their product.

Thank you, to the wonderful team at Chromaluxe for always supporting me, and constantly raising the bar.

Stephanie McGehee

Metal Fusion Kuwait

Owner-Operator

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Do I need a RIP? The answer is YES.

Almost every day I receive the following questions: ‘Will a RIP software make your colors brighter and improve your image quality?’ – ‘Is it really necessary to run your printer with a RIP?’ – ‘Can’t you achieve the same results simply by using the included print driver?’ … “Do I need a RIP?”

wasatchWHAT IS A RIP?
RIP stands for Raster Image Processor. A RIP program is similar to the print driver included with your printer, but with much more control and features. A RIP is designed to handle many files, file types and file sizes without limiting your print capabilities. A RIP efficiently processes your files faster and more consistently, resulting in faster print times and less waiting.

‘Have you ever tried to print 20 large format images (100 x 150 cm) with a file size more than 300 MB at once ? ‘

Through the standard print driver, this can be stressful and time consuming. With a RIP you will have the capability of processing and printing multiple files simultaneously and you will be able to store all of the processed data (the files that you’ve printed), making reprints a breeze. Having this capability will greatly improve printing production and efficiency. A RIP software will give you complete control over handling your files including: scaling, rotating, color correction, color profiling to a wide array of media types, multiple copies, nesting, and much more. Have you ever wanted to maximize the use of your paper roll? do you want to cut back on waste? Do you want to print 250 copies of the same image (in a nice grid) at the same time? The nesting function allows you to combine many different files in one print job.

‘Let’s do the calculation: try to make 250 copies of a 20 x 30 cm image in Photoshop on a canvas that is 111 cm (42″) width with a gap of 1 cm. Indeed, this is time consuming in Photoshop … A RIP can do this in 5 seconds. And if you are unable to do that in Photoshop, then calculate the amount of time it needs to print this big file that contains the 250 copies.’

NEED FOR ACCURACY ?
In addition to above handy functionalities, there are some more important factors to start using a RIP, because a RIP does 3 important things:

1. it can linearise your printer(s):
This means, if you ask to print 50% of cyan, the printer will put the exact amount of ink on the paper, so it will give you 50% of cyan on the Chromaluxe panel. Because the sublimation paper is only an intermediate phase of the total workflow, the printer needs to know how much ink he needs to print that 50% of cyan.
LINEARISE2. it can handle the total amount of ink:
This means, if you print for example a dark grey background, it will use 95% Cyan + 95% Magenta + 95% Yellow + 95% Black. That’s a total of 380% ink on your paper. This will be too much ink for the paper and you will have a pooling-effect. You’ve got the same effect when you drop too much water on a sheet of paper. LINEARISE2A RIP will be able to reduce the total amount of ink (from 380% to 340% for example) without reducing the total amount of colors (also known as color gamut). This makes that you will not have a ‘wet’ output (certainly when you print a lot, or big pictures on the full width of your printer).

3. Color Management is more accurate:
Photoshop or other graphical applications do render (calculate) their colors in 8-bit mode. RIP software, like Wasatch SoftRIP, calculates every color in 16-bit mode. This means 4 times more data to calculate all colors, certainly for the difficult colours like skintones, solid greys or gradients. Do the test: print the below image on your current system (click on the image to download the files). If you see anything other than a perfectly smooth gradient, you need to use a RIP solution.

sixteenBitChallenge


stevieSteven Roesbeke has a huge experience in the graphical industry with a lot of expertise in color management and output solutions. Since 2013 he is the Technical Support Field Engineer at Universal Woods EMEA. Read his technical blog posts to discover helpful tips & tricks and learn more about the do’s and dont’s of (large format) sublimation. You can always contact him at stevenr@chromaluxe.com

Do it yourself! Return on Investment (ROI) for Large Format ChromaLuxe

One interesting task that I recently undertook was preparing a comprehensive MS Excel sheet which would allow our clients to calculate the expected ROI time and Profit & Loss for their investment in a large format ChromaLuxe system. You start with the basics like hardware investment cost and compare it with material costs and selling prices. But that is just the start, there are many other factors to take into account.

The good news is that, in the end, you can only come to the conclusion that even a modest volume of work can generate some interesting profits.

Hardware and Software Investment

First you have to look at the hardware investment cost of a printer and heat press. The heat press is the largest cost element and will control the maximum size that you can print. It also needs to be top quality with very even heating and pressure. Some of the presses designed for textile simply do not meet this standard. Prices for a good larger format prFeatured imageess vary from €6.000 to €45.000 depending on the size. €30.000 will provide a good press, delivered and installed, for printing 1.1m x 1.75m plates.

A 44inch (112cm) printer from Epson will cost around €5.000 including a RIP software, depending on local offers. The only other hardware cost may be some colour management hardware and software, if you don’t already have it, at about €2.000. A percentage should also be included for maintenance costs.

When we look at the investment costs, whilst they may seem quite high at first, they are much lower than costs associated with purchase of UV printers, CNC routers and wet chemical silver halide print processes. Given the high gross profit margins available, this is an excellent investment.

Consumable Costs

The next stage involves looking at the cost of the ChromaLuxe plates – easily calculated from our price list, less any applicable discount. In a ROI, I look for the total square metres per week and I have created a mix of standard product sizes in order to calculate this.

Paper and Ink – for printing hard metal substrates, this is a cost but not a high percentage of the total cost. We are looking at between €3.00 and €5.00 per square metre depending on the printer, ink used and most importantly the image. As with all inkjet printing, an image with a lot of white background will use much less ink than a full colour image. WFeatured imagee use a medium-high level image for our estimates.

Sales Prices

Next is your sales price. This has to reflect market prices, best assessed by checking competitors’ web sites! But also take into account your service level – do you offer a high end professional service with test prints, colour management, proofing etc? The prices that should be used here are without VAT tax.

Other factors to consider

Substrate, paper and ink wastage. If you print on a 112cm wide roll but the image is only 30x40cm, there is obviously a lot of waste. Print head cleaning cycles also use ink.

Then there is the electricity cost for the heat press which can be substantial if it is on all day but only limited production is done. Set this up efficiently.

Labour costs are another aspect. One of the great advantages of sublimating prints is the production process which, once a good workflow is set up, is very easy, very fast and very reliable. Calculating labour costs means making some accurate assumptions on print estimates.

But when you look at the ROI, all these extra items have less effect on the total costs than the investmeFeatured imagent cost and main consumable costs.

We offer our clients the opportunity to use our Excel ROI sheet that comes with full instructions. However, we recommend to complete it together so that each item can be confirmed and discussed if necessary. This is a major investment and it is important to be accurate.

One of the great things about owning a sublimation system and heat press, is the opportunities it opens up to create other products – we often say that your imagination is your limit! Gift items, kitchen interiors, tables, whiteboard products, textiles are all items that can be produced with the same equipment.

The Final Result

Our Excel sheet allows you to look at the expected ROI time. You can also choose the write down period.

A second step allows you to enter your own estimated weekly print run with a combination of sizes and to looFeatured imagek at the full P&L calculations. Contribution to building and other overheads can be added.

Sublimation carries a healthy gross profit which at the end of the day can give a fast ROI from just a few prints per week.

Contact us to find out more!


Featured imageCharles Henniker-Heaton has over 30 years experience in the imaging industry, first at Durst and then at Fujifilm as a senior manager involved in retail photo, chemicals and since 2006 as European Marketing Manager for large format printing. He joined ChromaLuxe EMEA in 2014 in charge of European Business Development for large format.

A whole new world: European Photographers in Trieste

When I was about 8 years old, I read the book ‘The Witches’ by Roald Dahl, a truly terrifying but magical story about an annual convention of witches from all over. Not that I expected photographers to be similar to potential dangerous creatures, but the comparison sprung into my mind when I was travelling to Trieste last Friday for the Photography Masters Conference of the Federation of European Photographers. I was on my way to attend my first FEP event.

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I must admit that it wasn’t an entirely black hole to jump into. As ChromaLuxe has been partner of the Belgian National association for Professional Photographers who are a very active and interactive group of photographers, for a few years now, meeting up with the European Federation didn’t seem a very big leap. Being a partner of the Belgian association had taught us a lot about the profession of the photographer, how they think, what they need and how many differences there can be between all those who call themselves photographers. We’ve introduced ChromaLuxe over the last few years to the Belgian members and were able to convince them of the quality of our product. The positive feedback of our fellow countrymen made us decide to become a partner of the Federation of European Photographers: one step beyond!

This was what happened before. Now, in Trieste, I was entering a whole new world and I had one official objective and one personal. The official one: networking. The FEP represents 17 European countries; in some of them we’re very active already with ChromaLuxe Labs. The others were the subject of objective n°1. I’ve met people from Georgia, Russia, Slovakia, Ireland, Denmark, Portugal… Different backgrounds, but all great, interesting people.

My second objective was personal: suck in as much information as possible. In between the networking opportunities during breaks and dinners, there was an actual event going on: speakers from the photographic world followed one another talking about lighting, portraits, photo manipulation and photo combination. I’ve learned by listening, by talking to photographers and by being honest: I don’t have a background in photography, but I want to build a sound understanding. It was amazing how far you get by doing these three things. If you want to sell a product to someone, first get to know them. Then become a partner, and prove to them that you don’t just want to sell.

A thought on networking:

The key is: take your time. Don’t throw your cards around; never give one when people simply aren’t interested: better wait for the next occasion. It’s like dating, really, if you’re too keen you’ll end up alone because they will simply run away from you. When you enter a room, don’t jump the first person you see, go and take an interesting position, by the bar for instance: a place where people will end up anyway and mostly are open for an introduction. Don’t work your way around the room, don’t let yourself get caught as business card sponger. Take your time: never move too fast from one to another. Treat your potential business partners as friends, don’t interrupt them when they are talking to someone else, don’t give them the impression you want to make the deal tonight but get to know them. Take. Your. Time.

One free extra tip: Use your LinkedIn! What I do when returning from an event like this is connect to my ‘new friends’ on LinkedIn. This is when they become business relationships.

I went home on Monday with new friends, their business cards, the promise to be in touch to talk about ChromaLuxe but above all a mind filled with new insights in photography. Thank you members of FEP for the warm welcome, for the interesting weekend but mainly for the acquired knowledge: it will surely help us become even better partners.

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Featured image Carolyn Krekels is jr Marketing Manager at Universal Woods EMEA, in Schelle, Belgium. She has been taking care of the EMEA marketing for the Universal Woods products for 9 years so far, first working for the EMEA distribution partner of Universal Woods. In 2012 she joined the Universal Woods EMEA team. In Carolyn’s posts, she will give you insight in the marketing actions organised by Universal Woods EMEA and can give you useful hands-on tips on how to bring your product to the market. Contact her via carolynk@chromaluxe.com