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Charlotte Observer article on Artisan Graphics

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Article by Lukas Johnson-Charlotte Observer

High-tech machine solidifies printer’s growth

Company pushes printing boundaries with cutting-edge equipment

Every Wednesday, employees at Artisan Graphics explore personal projects while pushing the limits of a new $185,000 flatbed printer.

One of the more striking recent creations depicts the company logo among clouds in a blue sky. It was printed on highly textured florescent light panel and installed in the break room. They’ve also printed their logo on a standard ceiling tile and the machine can even print on concave panels, such as a home’s entry door, or virtually any material less than 2 inches thick.

Rich Dagenhart, production manager for Artisan Graphics, has a grand idea:  He wants to create a ceiling-tile version of the Michelangelo’s painting on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.  He has a somewhat less ambitious idea to print something on tiles for a backsplash in his kitchen.

The Oce’ Arizona 480 XT UV Flatbed printer prints at speeds up to 368 feet per hour, at up to 1,400 dots per inch.  It uses eight independent ink channels to produce vivid colors and double-opacity white, a challenging feat in the printing world, said Dagenhart.

Scott Crosbie, owner of the 20 year-old Cornelius-based company, believes the new technology will ensure that his company grows for decades to come.  He’s considering buying a second machine. Crosbie grew up in Cary and attended UNC Chapel Hill before moving to the Charlotte area, finally settling in Davidson.  He said the high-tech printer will help his business attract bigger and more unique clients.

Without it, he said, his business could’ve plateaued. “It’s opened our horizons a little bit,” said Crosbie.  “We’re really expecting a lot out of this printer.”

While better technology is inevitable, this printer will help the company expand and maintain its level of service more efficiently.

“I guarantee there will be something better, because that technology will continue to evolve,” said Crosbie.  “But the good news is (that) just like we’ve been able to use our older printers, we’ll be able to use this one for years to come, because the quality is going to stay the same.”

The company started in 1993 as a sign company to service the home industry, said Harrisburg resident David Keith, who has handled sales for the company for 18 years.

It moved from Charlotte to Cornelius about a decade ago and since then has expanded from 5,500 square feet of warehouse and office space to 10,000 square feet.  It created 24 local jobs, including seven graphic designers, sales personnel, printers and other office staff.

About two years ago, the company re-branded itself as Artisan Graphics, dropping the “Signs &” portion of its former name.  The change better reflects its customer base and more accurately depicts the services it offers, said Keith.

“Our goal is to put a company’s logo on as many things as possible,” said Keith.  “We want to take their brand and work with them to do interior and exterior signage, graphic design work, logo creation, apparel and, now, with this new printer, whatever else they can think of.” Word about the printer has began to spread, said Keith.

A theater company in Asheville inquired about a job it had planned on getting done from a company in California.  Artisan Graphics’ staff had not yet been fully trained on the printer, so it passed on the project.  But a major restaurant chain has become a new client because of the new printer. “Only a handful of companies in this area have similar technology,” said Keith, “But for right now, ours is top-of-line.” The new printer has a printing surface of roughly 80 square feet.  Older machines pull lighter printing surfaces through the print jets, whereas the new printer passes across the printing surface.

“We’ve been looking at this brand since 2006.  We went to a sign show in (Las) Vegas, and this was the machine we wanted back then, and it has not stopped winning awards,” said Keith.