Interview – Nico Desmedt, Founder of Digital Dot: “the challenges of large format print providers”

We discovered Digital Dot for the first time during the introduction of Massivit’s 3D printing system in Belgium. The Belgian company attaches great importance to provide a complete offering in both 2D and 3D printing.

It has been founded in 2007 by Nico Desmedt. The latter had observed that the market did not have a full-service company that could meet the different needs of users of large format printers. Today, the company’s portfolio integrates large format 3D printers, its own certified second-hand super-wide format printers and print production software.

Digital Dot offers its services to professionals that want to strengthen their foothold in the retail, advertising, entertainment and interior decoration markets. Furthermore, the company distinguishes itself from others of the same range via its preventative machine care programme for large format print systems that offers businesses greater protection and financial flexibility compared to the manufacturers’ standard model.

However, despite this interesting offering, the niche market of large format printing has its own challenges which Nico Desmedt discusses in this Q&A.

What do you feel are some of the main challenges for today’s large format print providers and how does Digital Dot address these?

The printing industry remains a competitive environment in which to operate and I think that, in the battle to win new business, one of the main challenges is to stand out from the crowd. Print providers can achieve this by investing in solutions that allow them to differentiate their offering and provide customers with unique applications.

Another challenge that print providers are facing is the need to preserve the lifespan of their hardware. As you can imagine, after investing hundreds of thousands of euros in a super-wide format printer, these companies expect their devices to be productive for a number of years, although this may not always be the case.

This is exemplified by one of our Dutch customers who, after several years of manufacturing curtains for heavy-duty trucks, discovered that his preferred system was soon to be discontinued. He approached us having heard about our certified second-hand systems, where we completely overhaul existing systems with brand new parts. Using our close network of suppliers and customers, we have built an extensive inventory of spare parts as well as source second-hand systems to undergo our extensive upgrade cycle. For him, this service ensures that he can extend the lifespan of his printer and crucially maintain throughput with minimal disruption. For others, it means that they can integrate new solutions into their workflow that look and function like new.

You have an established and solid expertise in serving the graphic arts market. Have you noticed any changes in recent times insofar as the supplier/customer relationship, demands from end-users; the relevance of price as a driver etc.

 

Yes, I have. Looking at each of those in turn, I’ve noticed an increase in print providers being tied down to stringent service contracts when purchasing hardware. Typically, these service contracts only get activated in the event of a machine break down. If no claims are made, the contract doesn’t carry over to the next year This can often prove an unnecessary expense for these companies.

As regards demand from end-users, customers will always want their print jobs to be of the highest quality, but increasingly, they expect their orders to be turned around faster and cheaper than ever before. This is an inherent problem that places enormous pressure on print providers.

And finally, I think price is key. This is a cutthroat industry for many print providers and if a customer thinks he can get the same job at a cheaper price elsewhere, then I think in most cases he will.

It is crucial for print providers to ensure that they stand-out from the rest. That means not only offering a responsive service but enabling customers to source unique creative graphic arts applications, perhaps using different ‘off-the-wall’ substrates or finishes – all from just one supplier. By doing so, these companies make it an easier and more logical decision for customers to continue directing business their way.

You have just been appointed as the Benelux reseller for the Massivit 3D Printing Solutions. What do you feel this technology offers large format print providers and sign & display companies?

I believe that large format 3D printing will transform the face of signage and displays. This is quite simply because the technology offers something new and exciting. With the capability to produce 3D printed models and displays or combine 3D enhancements with 2D applications, Massivit 3D’s solutions are igniting new levels of creativity in the production of high-level marketing, advertising and themed projects.

For print providers, this means that they can exceed their customers’ expectations by propelling traditional signage and display applications to new heights and genuinely engage audiences. Crucially, this enables these businesses to enjoy new revenue streams. In fact, our first customer is testament to this. After purchasing the Massivit 1800, we provided him with a database of €50,000 worth of business leads from companies requiring large format 3D printed applications. This demonstrates how we as a company go above and beyond to offer our customers with genuine business-generating solutions. In this case, the database will equip our customer with the foundations to kick-start this sector of his offering and realise his goal of entering into the world of larger-than-life, outdoor 3D signage for a variety of markets.

Looking back on your business since its creation, is there anything that you would have done differently? What is your vision / objectives for Digital Dot in the next five years?

I think we should have known from day one that we would be a success and invested in a bigger facility from the off! Due this success, we’re already looking for larger premises to house our growing business and team.

Looking ahead, our aim is to continue to provide our customers with a full-service solution.  One day, Digital Dot will be THE knowledge and technology center for super wide format printing, whether it concerns 2D or 3D printing.

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