Pioneering digital printers offer new opportunities for printing on fabric says ANDREW HALL, OKI Systems UK.
It’s not often that something as straightforward as buying a new printer can change the course of a business. However, new digital printers that include white toner in the CMYK colour process and are particularly flexible when it comes to printing on different media are currently doing just this for businesses looking for new revenue streams.
This is happening now because these printers are affordable for small businesses. They also have a small footprint so don’t need too much space. For the first time, small firms can contemplate short runs and customise for individual clients. And because they are able to keep the entire print process in house they can experiment and tweak as much as they wish and find their own special way of printing – and with it their own selling point.
At OKI we have been working on developing these printers to give small firms an alternative to the dye sublimation route. We work closely with our partner TheMagicTouch on an ongoing basis to continually push the boundaries, especially in the area of printing on specialist substrates including glass bottles and especially on fabric.
Typically our customers start off printing mugs or iPhone cases as an extra source of revenue to mainstream business printing. However, some have even based their entire business on printing T shirts and other clothes.
TheMagicTouch is an expert in image transfer paper and applications. They recommend the award winning OKI C711WT to their clients – an innovative LED printer that, for the first time enables white print to enable the decoration of dark coloured substrates.
They provide the basic tools and often spark the imagination when individual businesses recognise that they can print and bond onto almost anything using the transfer paper and the OKI printer.
For example, Surefire’s leather jackets have become legendry. However, the Surrey-based company was an ordinary print house before a request for printed matt mugs prompted them to contact TheMagicTouch. Their subsequent discussions and investment in the C711WT set them thinking.
Surefire founder, Simon Garrett, said: “Most people assume that you can only print on flat items. But if you know what you are doing, you can print on virtually anything. In my opinion digital printers such as the OKI C711WT give you that freedom – and it’s enabling us to differentiate ourselves as a business.”
As a result, Surefire has found a way to get the print to sink into leather jackets and now produces distinctive customised jackets for TV programmes and fashion shoots. “I believe this printer could help increase turnover by at least 20% for any small business,” added Simon.
Surefire and other customers like them typically keep the finer details of their methods close to their chests – and understandably so. However, we have found they all emphasise the same points. First businesses need to put the work in first to get new methods right – breaking new ground means mistakes are inevitable and although you may waste products to start with, a consistent quality will be worth it in the long run.
Next, they need to concentrate on having their own ideas rather than looking to others for their lead. The important part is that the tools are available to bring their designs to life.
These days many print shops have found they need to diversify to compensate for the fact that some businesses now print their ‘bread and butter’ materials in house. These new advances will give food for thought and a practical and proactive way to move forward.