Acuity Ultra R2Fujifilm
How does the world’s leader in print technology start designing their own award-winning industrial digital printers?
This three-year project involved observational research, brand stragegy, GUI design, and intensely detailed design development to solve over 30 separate technical and usability challenges. The results met the manufacturing requirements and exceeded Fujifilm’s expectations. The new Acuity Ultra has had a tremendous reception from the sales teams, distributors and now customers around the world.
Fujifilm’s Inkjet Systems Global Development HQ in Broadstairs, UK is responsible for the design and development of their wide format printers, the massive industrial equivalent of a home inkjet. These machines offer print factories phenomenal print quality, speed and return on investment; with the flexibility to programme a complex mix of jobs into their high-volume workflows; jobs which typically range from thousands of stickers of varying designs, to signs, billboards or even building wraps.
We’d like to tell you the design story behind their all-new mighty machine...
So how did this come about?
Fujifilm have historically led this market based, not on gimmicky features or marketing budget, but their deep comitment to developing the very best print head and ink technology.
They clearly did a great job, building one of the most loyal fanbases amongst print shop owners and managers, with many of these machines unique in still operating profitably two decades later.
Three years ago however, even their most loyal customers were starting to be swayed by the major competitors’ heavy investment in design and marketing. Fujifilm realised they needed to think bigger and made the bold decision to redesign their entire range from the ground up, to ensure that the best, cleanest print technology could again be an easy choice.
Recognizing their core expertise lay in the technology, they set about finding the right creative partner to bring fresh perspective and expertise in design thinking.
Aside from learning the machines and technology, we interviewed and observed a cross-section of real people from the service engineers to print house owners to gain a huge range of insights, developed into a set of personas that informed decision making throughout our design.
Definedthe brand strategy...
Great products are based on strong brand strategy. In this case we developed the brand strategy, including the key customer benefits, the brand essence and core values. We turn these into the visual brand language that enable us to drive real meaning into the product aesthetics.
Aiming to creatively push thinking, we explored the machine architecture and brainstormed around key requirements to create hundreds of ideas, which we extensively sketched and crafted into multiple printer concepts.
After assessing concepts against the brief, we compiled the best ideas into a few rationalised combinations. These were further refined and visualised in CAD to communicate with the wider Fujifilm team and users, gaining valuable feedback, to help select the best route forwards.
Exciting new concepts aren't of any value if they don't work in reality. Taking great ideas, making them work and ensuring they are delivered by the manufacturers is what we do best.
In this case, it took three years of continuous detailed design - problem solving, prototyping and testing for every piece of structural framework, mechanical action and functional component, both testing ideas in the UK and working closely on-ste for long periods with the Manufacturers in the Far East.
The result was The BETA Prototype, that answered all the requirements in the brief, was the right solution for customers and ready for production".
A good example of caring about the detail - we'd noticed that ink spills and mess were the norm in the old ink bays. Further questioning revealed one of the causes was putting a 5L refill in a 5L tanks resulted in lots of messy half empty bottles. So we redesigned new 6L, easier fill, no spill bottles, which had enough space to take a whole 5L refill.
CAD and simulation are great, but we know that physical real-world testing is essential to find problems, facilitate new ideas and validate designs, which you can't achieve working on a screen.