Expert advice and inspiration

The iQ Oval with the Tesoma Drylight in the background

Screen printers both big and small can always learn new tricks of the trade and that’s where a training academy has its advantages. Ones such as MHM Direct GB’s new facility enable printers to step away from the day to day running of their print shop to improve upon their skill set. P&P editor Melanie Attlesey reports.

MHM Direct GB invited Printwear & Promotion along to its recent open house of its new showroom and training facility in Stanton by Dale, Derbyshire.

Nearly £1m has been invested into the building, the showroom and the equipment to create what has been described by managing director John Potter as the UK’s newest and most technically advanced working showroom and training facility.

Work on the purpose-built building began in July last year and after months of hard graft the training facility was finally opened to customers to visit and utilise in April.

The training facility comprises of four rooms where visitors can hone their skills, experiment with inks and equipment, as well as seek advice and inspiration from industry experts.

The main room

Within the main room sits MHM’s iQ Oval Press, which is described as MHM’s flagship screen printing machine. In the two years that the oval machine has been on sale in the UK, MHM has already completed many installations throughout the UK and has many more sales in the pipeline. The machine offers screen printers a modular system that they can expand as their business grows. It features no heavy chains or belts and no drive motor or gearbox to drive the pallet arms. The system’s iDS drive motors stop immediately upon sensing an obstruction, eliminating the need for any safety barriers. John claims that no other showroom in the UK has an oval screen printing press on display, let alone one for customers to experiment freely with before making a purchase.

Also in the main room sits Tesoma’s Drylight gas dryer. MHM Direct GB has been recognised as Tesoma’s dealer of the year for the last five years, which means the team has plenty of knowledge to share when it comes to these dryers. For the team no question is too silly and garment decorators are encouraged to come and put these dryers to the test with any ink and any material.

Sample away

Offset from the main showroom are three smaller rooms; the ink kitchen, the Brother DTG Studio and an amber light-safe screen room.

The ink kitchen

The ink kitchen provides the perfect setting for anyone who wants to sample inks away from the hustle and bustle of their own print shop, because, as John says, screen printers are often guilty of being too busy to use ink samples on their own accord. Customers can match Pantone shades with inks from International Coatings and Magna Colours using MHM’s unique internet linked formula scales. MHM has worked with a leading global scales manufacturer to create a set of scales that allows users to accurately weigh and measure inks to meet exact Pantone formulas, making colour matching simple. Being linked to the internet enables the scales to constantly download and update the latest Pantone formulations for both ICC and Magna Colours. At present five MHM customers are trialling this new system and so far John says the response has been very pleasing.

The ink kitchen even comes complete with a washing machine to enable printed samples to be washed to test their wash fastness. And what’s more ink expert Tony Palmer is on hand to offer advice or to lend a hand to visiting customers. Tony has 30+ years’ experience when it comes to inks, so if he doesn’t know the answer it’s not worth knowing.

The Brother DTG Studio

As one of Brother’s leading European dealers it was only fitting that MHM installed a modern Brother DTG Studio as part of its training academy. Visitors can bring their own designs and test them out for themselves on the Brother GT-3, while seeking advice from technical experts who are on hand to answer any questions. The basis of the studio is to help customers get the most from their current or future DTG operation. Direct to garment printing is the perfect add on to any screen printer’s business for it targets a different market, allowing a screen printer to increase their portfolio and boost their revenue.

Last but not least, the showroom also features an amber light-safe screen room. This room enables visitors to see how direct to screen imaging can be utilised to increase efficiency and streamline the workflow of any busy screen making department. Products within this room include the Spyder II DTS System, an LED exposure system and screen developing and reclaiming equipment. Utilising this equipment, one user can produce over 300 screens a day, de-skilling the process and reducing error rates at the same time.

Putting skills back

John says that one of the main reasons MHM has invested so heavily in this new showroom and academy is due to a distinct lack of training for new operators coming in to the industry. Print shop owners are struggling every day to find new or additional staff and there is no facility for training away from the production area where mistakes cost money. It takes time to train somebody to work in a print shop and time is a precious commodity that most screen printers wish they had more of.

John explains: “By opening up our training facility we aim to give something back to the industry, by putting skills back into the market. We hope that screen printers will use this facility along with our expert knowledge to their advantage and send their new recruits to us to be trained before starting out in their print shop.

The amber light-safe room

“We also actively encourage established and experienced screen printers to remove themselves from their production environment, come here and produce a sample that they can actually use.

“This training facility is not just about selling machines, but about creating long-term, working partnerships with our customers. We have made such a huge commitment to the industry by opening this training facility and as far as we are aware there is nothing else like it in the UK.”

While at the moment visitors are welcome to come and visit the facilities (booking an appointment in advance is advised), John says the ultimate plan is to run a series of organised training sessions, including guest appearances by industry leading figures.

Needless to say, MHM Direct GB’s showroom and training facility is definitely worth a visit.

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