Flash-cured UV inkjet lets an MDF store fixture  convincingly simulate a rail and stile hardwood panel door with contrasting wood inlay.
Flash-cured UV inkjet lets an MDF store fixture convincingly simulate a rail and stile hardwood panel door with contrasting wood inlay.

If you decided to launch a wood products firm, how would you approach it? John Johnson and his partners at MarketCraft, a Newberg, OR, store fixtures and commercial interiors firm, created the ultimate lean recipe: minimal floor space — just 8,000 square feet — a skilled and productive staff; and by becoming vertically integrated, from the fabricating of the metal hardware and fasteners to plasma cutting of stone in-house.

Oh, and they run a full-scale woodshop, that can produce and ship 150 complete retail store fixtures, each with seven pieces, in one week. All with just five people.

MarketCraft does most of its volume in retail store fixtures for national brands such as Intel, Calloway and footwear firm Keen. It also fashions complete retail interiors, such as manufacturing and installing the complete interior signage and display fixtures for three New Seasons Market stores, a local grocery chain.

Johnson and several of his team worked together at another firm where he was a partner. He sold his interest and started MarketCraft after the non-compete ended.

Sign of the Times: Digital Printing Helps MarketCraft ShineWhen the company opened in January 2011, it established all operations under one roof. Like other wood products firms, MarketCraft offers complete woodworking services, with equipment including an SCM CNC router, Striebig vertical panel saw with Digitron digital sizing control, a Holz-Her Genesis edgebander and Delta saws. For material handling, the company uses a Schmalz vacuum lift.

MarketCraft also has a complete metal fabrication and welding operation. This allows it to handle all types of mixed material production for retail displays. It can also build custom hardware. “This way we can meet custom design specifications exactly,” says Johnson. “We never have to compromise dimensions with off-the-shelf hardware components.”

A signage area includes a Summa roll-fed vinyl sign cutter; a Universal Laser engraver able to etch wood, metal and plastics; and a CNC plasma cutter. MarketCraft also boasts a U.S. first: an Anderson Cojet industrial inkjet printer, brought online in February.

Painting and finishing take place in an industrial-style, large-scale painting room, one that would be at home in a large automobile body shop. The company uses water-based and low-VOC finishes which it obtains from Sherwin Williams, Rudd and Miller paint.

One challenge for fully integrated operations like MarketCraft is maintaining a clean environment. A centralized dust evacuation system was designed and engineered as the first step in establishing production flow. “We put a lot of thought into dust control,” Johnson says. “We can produce as much volume here as we used to do in 45,000 square feet.”  

Digital Printing Delivers Jobs
MarketCraft uses software to power  its unique business proposition, including Autocad and Planit Alphacam for driving cutters. The Anderson Cojet printer is controlled by graphics printing software like Onyx, Illustrator and Photoshop.

Sign of the Times: Digital Printing Helps MarketCraft ShineThe Cojet has a heavy-duty base,  robust register pins and a 10-horsepower Becker vacuum pump that can hold and print heavy MDF boards and workpieces up to 3.5 inches thick. “It’s the only one in the world with a 10-horsepower vacuum table,” says Johnson.  “We can put items weighing a couple thousand pounds on it, and it will hold them.”

The Cojet, which uses a five-color Konica inkjet head printing at 720 dots per inch resolution, eliminates the need for MarketCraft to outsource its screen printing to other vendors, Johnson adds.

Using the printing software, MarketCraft imprints MDF or cardboard to simulate wood grain; plywood and reclaimed wood also can be imprinted with weathered or distressed looks. Custom designs, including logos and artwork, are also possible.

The inkjet heads, bracketed by dual UV curing lamps, are situated within an imprinting housing; the latter is mounted on a gantry that progresses down the workpiece as the head imprints in lateral sweeping motion. A fifth color white ink is frequently used as an underlay to cyan, magenta, yellow and black inks to provide precise color matches to clients requiring accurate brand identity. The pigmented inks hold color and are formulated with a water base.
The addition of the digital printing capability helps fulfill MarketCraft’s model of single-source production. “The key advantage is that all processes are in house,” Johnson says.

A 250 fixture project with CNC routing, finishing, painting, and direct two-sided printing was done in 10 days. “Designers like this,” Johnson says. “With lead time compressing, a key advantage to customers is one vendor to manage it all.”

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