Equipment suppliers showcased a variety of innovative imprinting techniques at the SGIA Expo in Orlando this week, offering decorators the opportunity to experience and invest in the latest decorating equipment.
One of the top trends from the show is UV Ink. Among its bevy of unique printing solutions, Roland has brought a new printer to the market that uses UV light to dry ink. "You don't have to print on a special substrate," Group Product Manager David Hawkes told Counselor. "You can print on anything you can think of. The printer even has to ability to produce clear inks that gives everything from iPhone covers to wall decals a shiny layer of texture."
Another trend is personalization as decoration companies have created a multitude of ways to quickly and easily provide personalized decorated garments. Hirsch International (asi/14982) is offering new embroidery machines from Tajima and screen-printing presses from MHM that can personalize hats, shirts and more with just a few digital inputs. Stahls' ID Direct (asi/88984) has created capabilities for heat presses that can decorate shoes and accessories. The potential is huge for athletic teams. "We can put numbers on shoes to coordinate with the actual team uniforms," said Andrea Pietrowsky, marketing and communications specialist for Stahls.
More and more decorators that offer embroidery or screen printing as their primary service are turning to sublimation as an affordable way to be more of a one-stop shop for clients, since a wide variety of products can be sublimated. These include polyester-based apparel, drinkware and glass items, iPhone and iPad cases, canvases and more. "Sublimation is a very low-cost application for decorators, but it offers an extremely good mark-up," said Jimmy Lamb, manager of communications and education for Sawgrass Technologies. Lamb also gave the example of a decorator that embroidered uniforms for a hotel; if that decorator also sublimated, it could imprint linens, do-not-disturb signs, room keys, door tags, posters and more, opening up an additional revenue stream.
Finally, automation is also getting lots of play at the SGIA Show. Imprinting equipment has come a long way in terms of imprint quality, speed and ease of use, so decorators are able to produce high-quality embellished apparel and hard goods. "What's happening beyond that is how decorators can now automate these processes in their shops," said Paul Gallagher, CEO of Hirsch. "This means that shops are creating a better workflow through technology."
Ed Levy, director of software products for Hirsch, cites the example of a shop that embroiders 50,000 monograms via automated workflow – using little to no human intervention. Hirsch also has released a tablet-based product, Sidekick, which allows a machine operator to troubleshoot design issues and thread breaks, for example, in real time.