Launched an online store for Photography Background Sheets: Maekawa Printing Inc.

Want to expand the business type that has grown during the COVID pandemic.
The company has expanded the scope of its operations through the introduction of the UCJV300 and other equipment. They plans to continue to grow its digital printing business.

Product installed

A case study of Maekawa Printing Inc., which has installed the UCJV300, UJF-6042MkII and UJF-3042MkII was published in the printing industry magazine "Digital Printing Business Book Fall 2023 ."

The following is the published article in its original form.

Launched an online store for Photography Background Sheets, Focus on "printing on everything but water and air"

Maekawa Printing Inc. (based on Hiroshima-shi) opened an online store for "photography background sheets" using synthetic paper in June 2023. The products are used for photographing products, and based on its transaction experience with about 100 photographers, the company has now expanded its services to small businesses, stores, and individuals. The company has been focusing on printing on materials other than ordinary paper for about 15 years under the slogan of "printing on everything but water and air".
The photo background sheet using synthetic paper is a part of it. Mimaki's UV inkjet printers support the direction of this strategy.

Mr. Kiyokawa, President of Maekawa Printing Inc.

Mr. Kiyokawa, President of Maekawa Printing Inc.

Started with printing products for food delivery, quickly becoming a "Mimaki fan"

The company was founded in 1968 as a letterpress printer and has since expanded its business with a focus on slips. Today, as a general printing company, it meets various demands for commercial and office printing, and has also incorporated printing of acrylic products, wooden tags and wooden products, can badges, and T-shirts.

One of the businesses that performed well in the midst of the COVID was a food delivery service. The ability to easily order from a PC or smartphone has captured the people's demand and rapidly expanded their use.In 2021, the company received a request from a foreign food delivery service that had just entered the Japanese market for a background sheet for food photography to be used on their website.

"It is used to make the food look good, and they were going to order the sheets from their home country. The photos were to be taken by their exclusive photographers in Japan. But it would take a lot of time and effort to order the sheets from the home country each time, so they asked if they could do it in Japan."

The company's president, Norifumi Kiyokawa, spent a month working with a exclusive photographer to develop a photo background sheet for food delivery service companies, selecting materials, laminates, etc. The sheets were shipped to photo studios in each area.

The photo background sheet was to be used for food photography, so it had to be water and oil resistant. The company printed on synthetic paper containing resin as the base material and applied a matte PP finish to suppress light reflection. This makes the sheets less prone to wrinkling than disposable photography sheets printed on ordinary paper, and they can be rolled up, stored, and reused.

On the other hand, photographers are unable to use the photo background sheet printed for other shooting. President Kiyokawa received requests from some of the photographers wants to use them for other shootings as well, so he conceived the idea of taking orders and selling them online. In June of 2023, he launched an online store and began offering photo background sheet to photographers all over Japan, as well as to small businesses, stores, and individuals.

The online store offers 45 different patterns (as of October 19, 2023), priced at 4,800 yen (tax not included) for the 70 cm x 100 cm size. Original sizes are also accepted. The website includes lectures on photography by professional photographers, divided into a digital camera section and a smartphone section. For those who are unfamiliar with the process, the site provides information on how to apply lighting and take pictures.

For the launch of the photo background sheet service, Mimaki's UV-LED inkjet printer "UCJV300" was introduced.

The existing solvent-based inkjet printer had unstable colors. We had no complaints because most of the products were one-offs, but color stability was essential if we were to provide the same products repeatedly for food delivery services. After consulting with the photographer, we arrived at Mimaki's UV printer. We had no problems with color stability and were able to start the service. We also use two desktop UV printers and are Mimaki fans."

The "UCJV300" is equipped with a cutting function, so it can meet the demand for stickers, and is also active in printing for panels. The machine is almost in full operation, and the initial investment has already been recovered.

Mimaki's UCJV300 outputting a sheet for a photo background sheet

Mimaki's UCJV300 outputting a sheet for a photo background sheet

Self-made jig with laser cutter

The reason behind President Kiyokawa's policy of "printing on everything but water and air" is to expand the company's business domain by incorporating media other than paper. Anticipating a decline in demand for paper printing, President Kiyokawa made a strategic move in July 2010 by introducing Mimaki's UJF-3042 desktop LED UV-cured flatbed inkjet printer.

The UJF-3042, which was introduced in 2010 and is compatible with A3 format, has now been replaced by the UJF-3042MkII, and in 2021 the UJF-6042MkII, which is compatible with A2 format, was established to strengthen the production system for original souvenir and novelty products.

"We have been saying internally for a long time that we want to print something other than water and air. Since we revamped our website last August, we have been receiving more and more requests for consultation from various quarters."

The company's website has a QR code to access Maekawa Printing's official LINE account. More than 170 people have registered as friends, and the company receives various consultations from individuals via the LINE, such as the printing of a letter plate for a clock to be given to a family member to celebrate a happy birthday, or the imprinting of a name on a chair for a donation and the company has responded to each consultation on a case-by-case basis.

Samples are printed and processed on actual materials for customers to check. In addition to being easy to visualize, customers who see the samples often comment on the excellent workmanship and request delivery of the product as-is. The company has a laser cutter and liquid laminator, so samples can be made in-house immediately.

"We do not limit the use of each machine. We make things in cooperation with other machines. We make jigs with a laser cutter, print with a flatbed inkjet printer, and apply liquid laminate to stickers. We also made our own jigs when we were asked to print on power distribution boards."

Taking advantage of digital printing, President Kiyokawa took the liberty of making acrylic stands with logos for restaurants he knows and placed them on each table in the restaurant. When visitors to the restaurant take a picture of the stand with their food and upload it to SNS, it becomes a PR tool for the restaurant. The restaurant owners, who were skeptical at first, said that when they felt the effect, they appreciated it. The company is also uploading the photos to its own SNS to raise awareness of its slogan.

The digital printing business has not yet reached the volume of the existing printing business. However, a seed sprouted more than 10 years ago and is growing. President Kiyokawa says, "We are still in the process of trial and error," but the company is steadily moving in the direction of "innovation.

UJF-6042MkII" (front) and "UJF-3042MkII" (back) printing acrylic goods, etc.

UJF-6042MkII" (front) and "UJF-3042MkII" (back) printing acrylic goods, etc.

Acrylic key chain produced by UJF and laser cutting machine

Acrylic key chain produced by UJF and laser cutting machine

User profile

  • NameMaekawa Printing Inc.
  • IndustryPrinting business
  • Address1-1-14, Nagatsuka, Asaminami-ku, Hiroshima-shi, Hiroshima, Japan
  • Phone number+81-82-875-2113
  • URL

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