June '16

For the Business of Apparel Decorating

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2 0 1 6 J U N E P R I N T W E A R || 79 At a recent trade show, Check took im- ages of a triple patty hamburger, fries, and a drink and turned it into a T-shirt to show off the capabilities of his company's dye- sublimation printers. "Who would buy a shirt that looks like a giant burger? When I was looking up stuff, I found sites that sell these," he says. That's when the creativity starts flowing. Why not produce original socks and leg- gings too? "There is good demand for a product like that. There is a group of people out there who love it. There are definitely people that don't; but if you don't like it, there are other designs people can buy," Check says. The new technology makes it almost as simple as using a desktop printer, he says, except that the design needs to be fixed in place with a heat press. The advancements to wide-format print- ers has helped make a process that was once very difficult much more open and acces- sible to any designer. If a company doesn't want to do cut, sew, and stitching, they can start with precut prefinished T-shirts, Check says. A small mom and pop shop or mall kiosk could get into the apparel decorating busi- ness for less than $25,000, including a small heat press, he says. "The barrier is not nearly as high as it used to be. People had to have special agreements and contracts with textile companies world- wide. Now they can do it on their own for not that much money," he says. Check adds that he doesn't believe wide- format dye-sublimation printing is 100 per- cent mainstream yet. Some people have em- braced it but he believes that in the next few years, this industry will continue to grow at a very fast rate. ENDLESS OPPORTUNITIES Digital, wide-format printing has com- pletely changed the fashion industry. Now instead of using ink layers to cre- ate a pattern, someone can take images from an iPhone, and manipulate them and place them in the correct spot on a dress, for instance, before printing them out on the printer. It is easier to make a unique, one-off print with this technology. Many retailers don't want to stock hundreds of the same item. This tech- nology allows them to make smaller print runs to test out a design. If it turns out to be popular, it is simple and quick to order more. It also allows someone to print various sizes on demand instead of printing hundreds of pieces in vari- ous sizes. curate ink droplet placement, says Tommy Martin, product manager for textiles and apparel products at Mimaki USA. "This is particularly useful when using thin transfer papers, which are desirable because they of- fer more square footage per roll; however, they are susceptible to cockling that can result in media transport problems, uneven results, and potential head strikes." The higher head gap enables high-quality printing on thin transfer paper without concern for cockling, he says. Large-format direct-to-textile printers are another option. These printers often-times utilize high head gap technology, allowing users to print on thin and thick textiles, plus woven patterns or raised fiber surfac- es, while maintaining accurate ink droplet placement, Martin says.

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