How Canon large format printers produced an undersea wonderland for one of North America’s best aquariums

GlasPro for the Aquarium of the Pacific | Long Beach, CA

The Aquarium of the Pacific is one of Southern California’s signature destinations. Located on Rainbow Harbor in Long Beach, it features a collection of more than 11,000 marine animals representing 500-plus species. The exhibits occupy a range of aquarium tanks, measuring up to 350,000 gallons in size.
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Not long ago, the Aquarium wanted to provide visitors with a new feature—without adding any new water-filled environments. The goal was to give visitors the immersive sensation of free-diving into a kelp forest in the Pacific Ocean. A tough ask? Sure.

GlasPro, a California-based glass fabricator specializing high-quality structural, architectural and design glass, took the challenge on. Specifically, they created a super-high resolution, panoramic view of an oceanic wonderland consisting of 1,200 individual photographs printed on clear polyester and laminated into glass.

To do this, the company’s team of graphic artists and digital photography experts used a system of complex techniques and specialized imaging equipment to produce all 1,200 background, mid-field and foreground images. They digitally “stitched” together these elements to create a photographic composite, which was then printed on a clear background—using a 12-colour, 60” Canon imagePROGRAF large-format printer. These images were then adhered between glass and laminate to produce 16 individual, aligning panels.

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The 100-foot–long kelp forest at the Aquarium of the Pacific, printed using a Canon imagePROGRAF large format printer. Courtesy GlassPro 2013

The project demanded extreme precision in image reproduction, as well as an architectural scale that was formidable. Spanning more than 100 feet, the finished installation is a panoramic, seamless view of the kelp forest along the California coast. The project curves through the aquarium and into the on-site gift shop—which earned it an award for innovation in gift shop interiors from the trade publication Glass Magazine.

Above all, the photography had to be extremely convincing: real enough to faithfully conjure the marine habitat. Even though this project was conceptualized around the most breathtaking photographs, the result hinged heavily on the printing technology. Even the slightest misstep would result in lost quality and colour. Canon imagePROGRAF delivered unbeatable vibrancy and energy.

“Canon’s large format printer was the only device for our team that could print such a large amount of square footage in a relatively short time, all while maintaining extremely high levels of detailing and precise colour matching,” says McNeil Bishop, Director of Marketing and Product Development at GlasPro.

“Clients come to us looking for top-of-the-line glass displays that will represent their brands and attract customers,” says Bishop, noting that GlasPro has been a Canon customer for years. “In the past, we’ve experimented with competing printers and ultimately, their pigments and ink fade over time—since our work is shown in both interior and exterior environments. Thus far, we’ve never had a problem with our Canon large format printer. Canon’s imagePROGRAF device has all of the qualities that a company of our size needs—its competitive cost, convenience of service and its ability to produce large quantities that match the exact colours we’re looking for.”

To date, GlasPro has created more than 100,000 square footage of printed material for various projects around the work—all of it on Canon imagePROGRAF.

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