Using air to print on your turf

We ran across an item on the Internet about a company called New Ground Technology, which provides green-tech equipment and creative services that might enable turf managers to create promotional imagery. In an effort to understand better how the technology works, we asked a few questions of the company’s owner and founder, Pete Davis of Pleasanton, CA,

SportsTurf: How does the technology work (without getting too info tech-y)?

Davis: High contrast stripes seen on sports fields are simply organized reflections from blades of turf that are typically generated with striping rollers which continuously tilt the blades of turf in the direction of a mower’s path. New Ground Technology’s Terra Print system uses air to gently enable or interrupt this natural lay into 5 x 5-inch square “pixels,” much like a dot matrix (fax) printer.

SportsTurf: Does it require a special type of machine or computer to attach to a mower or utility vehicle?

Davis: Our machine is based on a commercial Cub Cadet PRO-Z tractor model. It is fitted with a blower that delivers air to the machine’s printing module. Our production models have three printing modules located where a mowing deck usually resides. Each module has four channels that are controlled by an on-board processor. The processor uses an image file to direct each channel while interpreting Topcon GPS information to track the machine’s path and position. All the operator has to do is monitor the display’s position “light bar” and steer to keep it centered whole printing each track.

SportsTurf: How is the technology “sold”? By each separate design? Does it start with a photo or image of what the customer wants the final to look like?

Davis: More about your sold question below but NGT will provide customers access to a library of “standard” images such as baseball, football, soccer, players, kind of like clip art. Other, easily acquired optional graphics including lettering, numbers, symbols will be available for the end user to build a semi-custom image file. Current and future options include custom imagery created through our creative suite. Our target is to have 1 hour, worldwide service.

The customer provides Google Earth location, desired image location and orientation, as well as providing ideal viewing direction for cameras and/or spectators. This data is related to the sun’s position or lighting configuration. Our geo-positioning software app is used to determine the printing (machine) direction. The direction of printing is critical for producing maximum viewing contrast. Today we load geo-positioned image file, set-up our graphic boundaries and print, say, a 120 x 120-foot graphic within about 1 hour.

SportsTurf: Do you or one of your reps need to be on-site to produce the grass graphic?

Davis: No, the simple file upload process is straight forward. Pacing off, or the machine’s on-board GPS system, can be used to lay out the field. Hop on and drive the machine to a corner, headed in the general direction and hit GO. Easy, just like mowing

SportsTurf: Can you provide a typical cost of the service?

Davis: Our current model is to lease the complete system to venues or regional service providers on a yearly basis for less than $6K a month. Venues with limited needs or budget can contract projects through a future network of NGT providers.