Introduction: Using the TechShop Canon IPF 750 Oversized Printer to Make High Res Color Vinyl Signs!

I volunteered at silicon valley code camp to create some signage for the event, which has about four thousand people registered.  We decided to go the more expensive route - using vinyl media - because it was more durable.  We will re-use the signs many times in the upcoming years.

Because techshop has menlo park this printer, the vinyl stock, and knowledgeable dream coaches this was easy to do.    The Canon iPF (image prograph) oversized printer is a great machine.  Unlike the smaller models with capstan drives it has a large drum.  Once I got the job set up it was smooth sailing - but there were a few key points (in the setup).

for more information on the printer contact

Step 1: Project Overview

>  The first thing i did was to drive the campus and determine signage requirements.
     It does pay to plan this out - as there are a lot of changes in the process

>  Decided to use 18" x 24" as well as 36" x 36"

>  Used Corel Draw to create the artwork - with a custom size (as above)

>  Exported to pdf

>  Printed

>  Mounted signs to 5mm ply (underlayment was $12/sheet) using rubber cement

> sealed with acrylic spary

Step 2: Corel Tips - Techshop

I'm sure that some people would try to do this in a program like word.  It's great that TechShop had the training for this because some of the features made it especially easy.  Make sure to set the papersize and orientation correctly at the outset.

Add small registration lines if you are going to cut or work with the material later.

When working with fonts - think inches and not point size.  Switch to artistic text so you can resize.  I used layers so that the logo and background info that stayed constant wasn't touched as I generated all 12 pdf files. 

Key here is to export to pdf and NOT to try to print from Corel. 

Step 3: Printing Two Up

here is a sample of a sign that is printed two up (18" high). 
Note the teeny registration marks - makes it easier to cut.

Here - the font size could have been larger. 

Step 4: Printing From Acrobat - Guideline for a Test Print

These instructions are for vinyl - with 20 lb or 40 lb paper  your mileage will vary.
Make sure the power is on and you can see the printer on your network.
Look at the front panel on the printer - it has some valuable info including length of time to print (Mine was 8 min)
Pull down the canon manual.

Open the pdf in acrobat
From acrobat select print to be iPF 750(1)
From the printer setup box click properties; click main, set media type to 'matte' for vinyl
From the same printer setup box click advanced setting and set "between scans" to 7 seconds.
    If the first run comes out unblurred you can back it down to 3 seconds which will bring your print
    time down from 22 minutes to 8 minutes.  With heavy bleeds and colors you will need to bump this up.
    My signs were very sparse - I could have probably run at 2 seconds.
Click page setup and set paper size orientation, and paper source.
Do a print preview.
Click 'ok' to print.

Go over to the printer and you should see the 'roll feed' light on.

Step 5: Finished Printing on Vinyl

the lighting here doesn't do the print justice.  i've seen a portrait of a person that looked really great.  the vinyl is so tough you can't rip it. we had birds poop on the sign and found that it cleans easily.  no more signs under trees!   care in transporting is advised - putting a moving blanket or sheet of paper between the signs is a great idea. 

also - grommets can easily be attached so that they can be hung.

i took this a step further by attaching the sign to 5mm (underlayment) ply which is cheap and easy to work with.

Step 6: Mounting on Ply With Rubber Cement

pretty standard stuff but i'll go over anyhow.  rubber cement is strongest when applied to each side, let to dry - and then mounting the two materials.  it worked just fine on vinyl and ply.  i used a pint for each sheet of ply (48 sq feet).  get an inexpensive (but wide) brush.  clean the work area first so there is no sawdust around.   it dries in about 5 minutes but i left it for about 40 minutes because Idid it in batches.  Also available as a spray - but much more expensive - you won't have to worry about brush strokes.

I created a 2" wide frame around the sign and did not glue the inner area.  on the 3x3 signs i also put a 6" circular patch on the sign and the ply and then attached.

Use a board or piece of paper to keep the two halves separate.  Start at the top and get that even, gently remove the board and push the air bubbles out and burnish.  It's not a pretty site when you pull it off - but you can do d this if you want to reprep the surface. 

rubber cement on the front of the vinyl cleans off - like a bunch of lil boogers.

Step 7: Applying Rubber Cement

take your time - and avoid getting flies, sawdust or the footprints of small children on your work.   also if small children are stuck to the work you will have to remove them.

Step 8: Cutting Vinyl

here is how i set up the vinyl to cut.  in corel i printed registration lines.  put a straight edge on the vinyl and use a sharp matt knife.  here - you've put so much work into it.  don't start with a dull tool!

Step 9: Cutting the Ply

i'm a big believer in guess work.  measure twice, cut it three times - and throw it away.  so i got the plywood oversized and cut it down to fit.  i had home depot slice up four sheets of this on their panel saw in less than 10 minutes in all the sizes i needed (18x24"; 36x36").

I then laid each sign on the plywood and marked the ply to fit.   i used a framing square which is 1.5" on one side to align the cutting guide.  use a sharp saw blade with at least 40 teeth.  Guide the saw slowly.  If you really are not wanting splinters on the edge put a sacrificial board under the piece of wood you care about.

I bought a two piece aluminum guide years ago and it really helps keep the cuts straight.  I would never use a table saw for this type of cut.

Sand with 100 grit - using a palm sander

Step 10: Sanding

plan your work - this should be done BEFORE mounting and dealing with adhesive

Step 11: Finished Signs

here are some of the final signs.  probably the main thing i would do differently is to use a larger font.  moving from 18x24" to 36x36" made an enormous difference in visibility.   when transporting an a-frame (sandwich board) fold the board over itself to protect the vinyl from scratching.  they store better this way.  i used tie-wraps to form the hinge.