In the signmaking business, appearances are everything. Market Craft, builds displays, signs, and fixtures, and a new UV printing capability has helped boost what it can offer customers.
“Customer service is the foundation of our success,” John Johnson of Market Craft says. “We listen closely to the customer’s needs and adapt our services to meet their expectations. We are very innovative in our approach and not much scares us. We have almost every manufacturing process in house, and if we don’t, we have partners who do. Our ability to provide single source manufacturing is a real value to our clients.
Market Craft, located in Newberg, Ore., has customers in retail grocery, clothing, and sporting goods stores. “Primarily we serve the retail and trade show markets, along with designers and architects,” Johnson says. “MarketCraft also provides many varied services to other shops that may not have all the processes we do in house.
“We can take a project from concept to completion. We have everything in house, including basic woodworking, CNC woodworking, cabinetry, finishing, printing, UV printing, and metalwork including CNC plasma cutting, sheet metal bending, welding and fabrication.
“We’re trying to minimize the number of vendors that a prospective client has to go to.”
Digital UV printing
The addition of an Anderson 2412 Direct UV flatbed printer upgraded Market Craft’s printing capabilities. Market Craft does a lot of non-traditional printing on a wide variety of substrates. A lot of the work is adding logos to tables, desks, informational plaques and other surfaces. They also do a lot of traditional digital graphics on Sintra and Styrene for displays and signs.
“Typically for wood products we apply a light sealer, print, then finish with a clear coat,” Johnson says. Other substrates are typically just cleaned with alcohol and put directly onto the machine, which can be used like an automatic screen printer, so quantities don’t matter as much, and only one sign can be made if that is what’s needed.
“We chose the Cojet because we were able to specify the type of backing system, and also the height of the gantry and that allows us to print on nontraditional materials,” he says.
“We have printed directly to plywood, MDF, sheet metal, perforated metal, stone, six-panel doors, every plastic imaginable, styrene, plexiglass, foam board, Bio Board, cardboard and chipboard. The printer uses UV-cured ink so it requires no finishing or laminating. If a finish is required we typically use a waterborne clear lacquer.
“The Anderson printer can be used for any type of graphic where color, consistency, and durability are important. The printer can print up to 4-inch thick material and 50 x 100 inch panels. We also asked Anderson to build in a true CNC router type vacuum table capable of pulling curved or irregular panels flat. This is what allows us to print on such a wide variety of substrates. Typical flatbed printers are unable to print on irregular materials due to the risk of head strikes.”
Many of Market Craft’s customers want materials that are natural or reclaimed. Customers like to have the grain of the MDF, plywood or bamboo actually show through on the sign, because it shows they’re not making something out of plastic.
“We’ve made a lot of signs out of recycled fence board, and print directly on it,” Johnson says. “It looks like old-time screen printing but is really quite technical.”
Only limited preparation is needed. A light sanding will prevent the finish from penetrating too deeply, and gives it a more consistent surface.
“The printing is good outdoors for three years, so (having a topcoat) isn’t an issue,” Johnson says. “It’s more what the customer wants. We’ll do anything from satin-based clear coat to many coats of gloss, depending on the sheen they’re looking for. Typically it’s one or two coats of clear UV sealer.”
The Anderson Cojet has multiple heads inside of a moving gantry, to produce CMYK, all four colors. Market Craft’s Cojet also has the ability to lay pure white on any substrate, which can help match color-specific corporate logos. “Having that white capability is pretty rare,” he says.
Improved the process
Overall, Market Craft has improved its training. “We have worked hard to automate processes, and cross train our team,” Johnson says. “We schedule jobs in a manner that virtually eliminates work in progress. Once an item starts through the process we move it through to completion and delivery. This has allowed us to maximize our output, while minimizing our space requirements.
“We have more than twice as many machines as we have people but we have people who can run multiple machines at one time.
Everybody can do a little of everything. I think the biggest improvement to our process has been simplifying from the quote to the order, and not doing anything that doesn’t add value to the process.”
Market Craft has several manufacturing cells that work together depending on which processes any given product requires. These are planned based on customer requirements such as lead time, and work cell capacity. Everyone is cross trained to run at least three operations so the company can be very flexible.
The company has only six fulltime employees. “Don’t let size fool you, though,” Johnson says. Before Johnson sold his previous company, he had 75 employees and 45,000 square feet.
The company uses many sophisticated software systems to adapt files and run machinery, installing Tradesoft shop management software to automate estimating and material purchasing. This has made an impact on the ability to quote and turn jobs quickly.
In the shop, Johnson says that the SCMI Pratix CNC router with push-off rake is the workhorse. In addition to the Anderson UV printer, equipment used daily includes a Universal X2-600 laser, Binks spray booth w/Kremlin spray equipment, Striebig panel saw, Holz-Her edgebander, CNC plasma cutting table, Bantam sheet metal brake, 72-inch metal shear, HP Design Jet large format roll printer and Summa Graphics vinyl plotter, along with smaller woodworking tools.
“We can do a lot of finishing for other companies, even when we’re not doing the whole project, like cabinet companies and fixture companies, because we have a spray booth. We do a lot of CNC routing for trade show companies that don’t have that capability. We do a lot of third party work.
“We spend a lot of time listening and collaborating with our customers and their construction teams,” Johnson says. “Our team is very deep on experience and we share that with our customers as much as possible. We also produce a lot of samples and prototypes to alleviate surprises and help customers envision the finished product.”
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