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Carving Up History: On-Site Systems

Glass-etching meets digital printing to create unique timeline wall



Richard and Michael Lindeborg began the Suwanee, Georgia-based On-Site Systems ( in 1985, doing decorative glass etching for designers, corporate offices, retail stores, and restaurants. The name derives from a technique the two men developed for doing etching and sandblasting on site without creating the mess of dust that the process usually entails. The company still uses its etching process, but recently it also acquired a digital printer to expand the shop’s capabilities.

On-Site began looking at digital printers a couple of years ago, but didn’t think the technology was up to snuff. “We were not sure about the quality of the print or how well it would adhere to a nonporous substrate like glass,” Lindeborg recalls. By last December, though, the picture had changed, and On-Site took delivery of a 122-inch Mimaki JF-1631 flatbed printer, which can print six colors (CMYKcm) plus two whites or one white and one clear.

In a recent job for Saltz Michelson architects, On-Site mixed white-ink digital technology with its more traditional methods. The plan was for a 36.5-foot-long glass wall, about 4.5-feet tall, for a Florida hospital. The wall would depict a historical timeline with text and photos, and it would be illuminated from the edges so that the images would glow.
On-Site’s art director, Henri Ellison, recounts: “Saltz Michelson sent us a Photoshop file. I took the file and adjusted the levels to get the blacks as dark as possible, then converted it to a negative with the Invert command. I saved that as a TIFF and took it into Mimaki’s RasterLink Pro RIP. There’s a function in the RIP that allows you to tell the printer to print the white rather than leave it clear.”

Some of the text in the file would be carved into the glass rather than printed, which required some further preparation on Ellison’s part. The carving was done first. “If we carved afterward, we were afraid it would remove the white,” Ellison recalls, “so, I had to remove all of the text that would be carved from the TIFF file. Then I put my glass on the bed and put a piece of plastic over it. I kept printing the file on the plastic until it lined up perfectly with the carved text that was already on the glass.”

The final result: Nine freestanding panels for the Saltz Michelson Florida hospital timeline project.





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