Whether it is the New York skyline in digital photo print quality or a spectacular nature panorama image in XXL format: automated canvas stretching is an important step in the mass production of photo prints. To make this process as fast and cost-effective as possible, producers worldwide rely on the high-tech machines from Berlin-based company MH&P. MH&P’s different machines cover the entire spectrum of automated canvas stretching, serving all needs from individual orders, to small and medium-sized series, as well as mass productions of over 100,000 stretched canvases.
CEO Kay Montag explains to us how the technological innovations from MH&P are changing the industry and how business is developing on the other side of the “pond”:
The stretched canvas market has experienced a positive development over the last ten years, both in the US and worldwide…
There is a major variety on today’s market regarding formats, batch sizes, and materials used. The typical challenge our clients face is the desire and necessity of a very fast delivery time, particularly in the print-on-demand industry. Industrial manufacturers have to manage major production fluctuations. At the same time, they must cope with different materials and conquer challenging price segments. That is why our customers need maximum flexibility for varying production quantities and format changes. And that is exactly what our machines guarantee. As a result, the demand in growing markets such as the USA and Brazil is steadily rising.
You consistently optimize your machines and offer products that are highly attractive for growing markets in digital printing…
Overseas, similar to Europe by the way, we have many customers from the photo industry, who offer all kinds of print products. Sales to big players, who produce interior decoration for department stores like Ikea or Walmart, are increasing. Due to immense cost pressure, these companies require powerful automation. Our fully automatic machine “Speedmaster” and semi-automate “Speedframer” are state-of-the-art machines with an unbeatable efficiency and high hourly frame output.
Our semi-automatic machines are capable of processing multiple frames at once in just one cycle. The MHP SF, our allrounder, stretches up to 220 stretched canvases per hour with sizes up to 160×160 cm (63×63 in). Format changes are continuously variable and done in seconds with no extra tools. Depending on the overall production volume, product variety, and typical order sizes, a combination of fully automatic (MHP SP) and/or semi-automatic (MHP SF and/or MHP ST) machines may be the best solution for an efficient production line.
What makes your machines unique? What does the typical production process look like?
Whenever you must guarantee high quality mass production under high cost pressure, there are several technical challenges to overcome. Our machines need to detect and handle various types of canvas and their different textures. Additionally, a variety of woods, stretcher bar geometries, and frame formats are used across the picture frame industry. Our machines scan the materials and stretch the canvas drum-tight in a complex compressed-air process. Sophisticated automation takes care of feeding the material into the machine, stretching the canvas, folding the corners, and so on. All these steps are computer controlled – no programming is necessary. The machines are extremely easy to use and only one semi-skilled, non-technical operator is required.
You are observing the trend of more and more industrial customers taking their orders from China and Asia to Europe and the Western Hemisphere. Is this trend related to product quality?
Product quality as well as delivery time and the desire for more flexibility in the mass production of custom products. In view of the high cost pressure and increasing quality demand on the international markets, the main focus of our engineers is to ensure a quick return on investment. Some of our customers produce up to 40,000 units per day – a machine that offers a 500 percent quality increase with just 20 percent price difference is a huge step. Particularly our MHP SF and MHP ST models can also handle small and medium-sized series well due to their ability to change frame formats in just seconds and with no extra tools. All MHP machines stretch frames drum-tight and ready to deliver straight out of the machine. No additional work with wedges is necessary – perfect artist quality!