The business simultaneously installed a Durst Rho 1330 flatbed press and an HP Latex 3500 roll-to-roll printer at its main Cardiff facility in January.
Gardners managing director Richard Courtney estimates that the highly automated Durst will have paid for itself within two years and said that it will save the company around 6,000 working hours a year.
In terms of flatbed firepower, the 1330, which accounted for most of the spend, joined two existing HP Scitex Turbojets. Amongst its battery of 18 wide-format machines, the firm also runs a brace of Durst Rho 512R roll-to-roll machines and last year invested in two 5m-wide reel-to-reel EFI Matans, the first to be installed in the UK, and an EFI Vutek GS2000 LX Pro.
Before signing for the flagship 1330, Courtney was initially looking at mid-range Dursts, but said: “It just made more sense to go for a high-end machine, and look to the future.”
Part of the Rho 1300 series, the 2.5m-wide Durst prints at up to 1,250sqm/h. It takes a range of media including hard and soft foam sheets, aluminium and acrylic glass, and uses UV-cured pigment inks.
It has a Gradual Flow Printing mode, which includes a wider transport belt, meaning the advancement of the media is minimal during the printing process.
Courtney said the Durst investment would spearhead growth in the retail sector.
While retail has always been a cornerstone of the business, he said that in recent years a lot of its growth had been in other wide-format markets.
“Previously we were very much a point-of-sale printer, like most of the herd, but over the past 10 years we became very much a ‘complete’ wide-format printer. This new machine as good, if not better than, than anything available on the market, so it’s taken us a back into the mainstream retail market.
“We never really left retail, it’s always been one of our heartlands, but this [the new Durst] significantly boosts our firepower in the sector, the technology leap it offers and the quality levels means we can compete with anyone in the UK, if not the world. It very much competes with the large-format litho machines.”
Indirectly, the purchase will also free up some capacity on the roll-to-roll machines Gardners uses to produce Agripa Fleet Graphics products. The business won the Agripa license back in April 2016.
Separately, the new 3.2m wide HP Latex 3500 machine joined an HP Latex 3100 to produce work for Gardners bureaux business.
Courtney said the firm would be making further investments later this year, but that after spending getting on for £2.5m in the past 12 months on print technology, the focus for the remainder of 2017 would most likely be finishing kit.
The £13m turnover businesses main 16,000sqm manufacturing plant in Cardiff employs 90 people, with 14 currently in its Agripa Glasgow office and six in a sales office in London.