No longer limited to the world of fashion, large format digital fabric printing is producing everything from casino gaming table tops to elegant banners to corporate flags to well, the possibilities are virtually endless.
There's little question that sign makers can generate significant revenue through digital fabric printing. Experts say upscale department stores, exhibit companies, sports stadiums and schools are among those beginning to realize the unique benefits of fabric versus vinyl, paper or canvas signage.
“Clients spend so much money on their point-of-purchase and trade show graphics,” says Nora Norby, president of Banner Creations in Minneapolis. “Vinyl banners don't hold up over the long-haul. Fabric printing produces banners that you can wash repeatedly over several years and they still look good.”
Sign makers also tout the soft look and feel of lightweight fabric banners with their flowing movement that catches the eyes of people passing by. That attention-getting motion is a key selling point in retail settings where consumers are inundated with buying options. Then there's the sheer beauty of a soft fabric signage.
One digital fabric printing method, however, does not fit all. Dye sublimation technologies are the traditional means of digital printing onto fabric. Dye sublimation is a two-step process: printing onto paper and then transferring it onto fabric through a heat press, which embeds the ink into the yarn. But some shops are experimenting with direct printing approaches.
the dye sublimation process to print digital images on glass, wood, carpet, plastic, T-shirts - just about anything. Company president and chief executive Craig Miller says printing digital wall coverings is a big growth industry for his shop.
“We are doing miles of custom fabric wall coverings,” says Miller, who recently switched from an electrostatic printer to a Mimaki MJ-4 with proprietary modifications. “We also do thousands of roulette tables and Black Jack tables.”
Matthew Lederman, president of Clifton, N.J.-based Dye Into Print could use either method to print fabric banners, which are the staple of his shop. Lederman chose dye sublimation because it offers longevity. The biggest drawback, he says, is being limited to polyester-based substrates. Since the clarity and sharpness of the image depends on the thickness of the fabric, polyesters do not offer the same level of crispness as pure silk or cotton fabrics that direct printers use. Lederman calls dye sublimation a “weird science.”
Website:www.sublimationstar.com & www.hitransfer.com