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Learning the basics of printing on fabric


Learn all about the basics of printing on fabric: the technologies, the benefits and the opportunities.

Fabric Graphics | September 2013

For the Brooklyn Plantology garden center in New York, Capitol Awning of Jamaica, N.Y., created a custom awning that showcased a logo, text and a leafy design that captured the essence of the space. The shop printed the imagery directly onto white Weathertyte™ awning material from Cooley using a Roland eco-solvent printer.

“Years ago, we would have painted that job, and it would have taken close to three weeks to complete it,” says Mike Catalano, president of Capitol Awning. “Instead, we printed 200 feet of awning in two days using all custom colors.”

The project illustrates the possibilities of fabric graphics. “We are in the digital age and people are very conscious about their identities,” Catalano explains. “Years ago, if you owned a store, you bought a green awning and put white graphics on it, and you were done. Now, it is a different world with computers and desktop publishing. Anyone can design. Fabric printing has allowed a lot of flexibility and capacity to do things out of the ordinary.”

Whether they’re fabricating a tent or producing signage, end product manufacturers (EPMs) are expanding their business offerings with textile printing, and the market seems ripe for development. “A recent marketing survey predicted 8-percent growth year over year in the wide format print market,” says Mike Richardson, director of sales and marketing, print media, Aurora Specialty Textiles Group Inc. in Aurora, Ill. “This is an average for all substrates, but for textiles in particular, the growth is even higher.”

Fabric printing offers a multitude of advantages to EPMs. “Adding graphics capabilities allows fabricators and end product manufacturers to bid on more jobs and increase margins on their current work,” says John Evans, vice president of sales, graphics media, for Herculite Products Inc., Emigsville, Pa. “Printing adds a new dimension to the type of client that fabricators can market to.”

From a customer’s standpoint, “utilizing fabric for a project allows clients to choose from a broad range of pricing and aesthetics,” notes Elaine Allen-Milne, marketing and communications manager for Eventscape in Toronto, Canada. “Also, textiles are an economical way to cover large areas, such as ceilings, are lightweight, and have the ability to create complex organic forms.”

Endless opportunities

When it comes to printing on fabric, applications are seemingly endless. End uses can range from an awning with a company logo to corporate branded tents to custom wall treatments. One of the leading applications for fabric graphics is soft signage. At Mimaki USA in Suwanee, Ga., the segment is one of the fastest growing businesses for the print manufacturer, says Paul McGovern, marketing and promotions manager.

Many trade show organizers and exhibitors, he notes, prefer printed fabric banners over traditional signage because they are cheaper to ship, easier to handle and can be reused often. Public institutions also are gravitating toward fabric graphics. “Rather than having a giant vinyl dinosaur outside, museums now have billowing fabric,” McGovern says. “Not only is the fabric more elegant, it won’t act like a sail that’s going to blow down in the wind and take people down the steps with it.”

Moss Inc., Elk Grove Village, Ill., which specializes in tensioned fabric structures, produces exhibit displays, event shapes and signage, sports venue and event branding pieces, and retail design graphics. “These can entail everything from fabric walls and banners to lightboxes and extreme-scale customized designs,” notes Mel Marzan, marketing communications manager for Moss Inc.

From a graphics standpoint, Marzan says customers “want everything from supersized logos on color fields to extremely larger-than-life photo walls, or text that can come in a really wide range of sizes.”

Not only do fabric graphics help end users communicate a message, they also have the ability to create a memorable encounter. “So much messaging can be drawn from the visual experience, from brand identity association to specific of-the-moment emotions that can be created,” Marzan says. “You also get more of the sense of a permanent piece of art compared to something that might have a sheen or simply doesn’t pop with nearly the same effect.”

As counterintuitive as it may sound, sometimes fabric printing doesn’t have to involve graphics at all. Case in point: Capitol Awning recently completed a project for a large healthcare provider that could not find a shade structure available in its corporate colors, so Catalano and his team printed the company’s exact hues onto the awning material.

Intro to print technology

With so many opportunities available for producing fabric graphics, it’s imperative to pick the appropriate printer, ink and substrate. Several types of print technology exist for fabrics. Dye sublimation, a process that uses heat to transfer dye onto a material, can be achieved in two different ways: printing an image to paper and then transferring it to any polyester-based fabric, or printing directly to the fabric. (Some machines can do both.)

With dye sublimation, color infuses the material, rather than prints atop it, making it ideal for applications that require a vibrant image viewable from both sides.

Another common fabric printing method is direct to material, a process that applies an ink directly to the surface. It does not require heat to transfer dye onto a medium as with dye sublimation. Direct-to-fabric printing works on natural fibers, while some machines also are capable of printing on synthetic substrates.

In June 2013, Hewlett-Packard released the third generation of its direct-to-substrate HP Latex printing technology, which dries and cures the water-based inks within the printer, rather than requiring a separate steaming or drying process. The HP Latex printers produce odorless prints, which allows for fabric graphics applications “in many more indoor spaces that you couldn’t otherwise be, like hotels, museums or healthcare,” says Oriol Gasch, director, Americas, large format printing for HP.

In the case of Glen Raven Custom Fabrics, the fabric manufacturer created the Sunbrella Graphics System (SGS), which uses heat and vacuum to bond pressure-sensitive and thermal-activated adhesive vinyl cut graphics to Sunbrella and other fabrics. The SGS Thermal Digital Print Film can be used in applications such as pop-up tents, umbrellas, car covers and other applications where a more flexible film is required. (The films may be printed using most printers used for fabric.)

“Perhaps the greatest opportunity has been bringing graphics into the marine market in the aftermarket as well as the OEM market,” says Mike VonWachenfeldt, technical service manager for Glen Raven Custom Fabrics in Glen Raven, N.C.

What’s more, Mimaki is partnering with Glen Raven to print on substrates—even those with fire-resistant or waterproof coatings—via dye sublimation paper transfer. “That is a real breakthrough for us,” McGovern says.

When it comes to ink selection, many choices exist from both the original printer manufacturers and third-party suppliers.

To determine which type of printer is right for your shop, consider not only the applications you are most likely to produce, but also markets into which you want to expand. To that end, Evans encourages fabricators to join the Fabric Graphics Association, which holds workshops throughout the year that help members learn about new markets.

Understand the challenges

As with any new technology or process, fabric printing requires a learning curve. With dye sublimation, for example, “the challenge is to create an environment that is consistent and under control to produce repeatable, high-quality color, time after time,” says Mike Wozny, strategic project manager for Forest City, Calif.-based printer manufacturer EFI. “Dye sub is not terribly hard, but you have to invest the time to learn it.”

Some outdoor fabrics have been weather tested to determine the longevity of printed graphics, and may even come with a warranty, but Catalano notes that inks will fade. “I am comfortable making an awning for someone that in five years my people can recover,” he says, “but even then I don’t like to do south-facing light. It is going to be in the blazing sun almost all day, and you’re just asking for trouble.”

When dealing with critical specifications such as flame resistance and spread, smoke development, stretch and UV resistance, “printed graphic projects have the added dimension of color and art fidelity, resolution and how the artwork will distort,” says Allen-Milne.

As Marzan of Moss Inc. notes, “Fit and finish is everything, which is why quality throughout the production process is held very high here.” 

Opportunities for growth

The future is bright for the fabric graphics market, says Evans, noting that “the industry has just begun to scratch the surface on the number of new markets that it can enter.”

“Fabrics will continue to become more dominant in the graphics market due to their physical advantages and features over traditional flexface,” says Eric Tischer, president of Verseidag Seemee US, Randolph, N.J. “A product’s look, makeup and stretch characteristics allow for fabricators to be more creative and develop more custom, eye-catching displays. Fabrics have become the norm for interior retail, exhibition and display applications and will continue to expand as new, innovative fabrics and ink-receptive top coatings are developed.”

For some fabricators, fabric printing may open the door to expanding opportunities. Eventscape, for one, has broadened its offerings from fabric to materials such as polycarbonate, steel, aluminum, Corian, wood and acrylics. “The more choices in material, technology and process options the fabricator is able to offer, the better it is for the client, providing more choices and ultimately making better informed decisions,” Allen-Milne notes.

Industry insiders believe that fabric graphics will continue to give fabricators an advantage in the marketplace and provide an opportunity to improve the bottom line. “It’s all about innovation,” Gasch says. “Can I do something that my competitor is not doing, and do it at a lower cost?”

Dell is a freelance writer and frequent contributor to Fabric Graphics. She splits time between home bases in Pine City, Minn., and Joshua Tree, Calif.

Original Article Link:

Big Wallscapes Tell Big Stories - Wide Format Printing? You Bet!


 Here's a great article about a building wallscape that shows the range of uses for a wide format printer. Original article can be found here:


Giant building wraps and wallscapes create unusual and fantastic visuals. They are used all over the world for all sorts of promotions. What makes these enormous wallscape projects successful is the element of surprise that they can provide.

We dipped into our project archives and found a couple of cool wallscapes that demonstrate just how fantastic these oversized giants can be.

Wallscapes: Life Comes at You Fast

Wallscapes: Nationwide Insurance - Life Comes At You Fast

Wallscapes: Nationwide Insurance – Life Comes At You Fast

May 2009: Imagine a giant can of paint overturned onto a parking lot. The creative team at TM Advertising did just that for Nationwide Insurance.

This super-sized promotion featured three, eighty foot wallscapes with a photo of a paint can spilling out toward the viewer. The installers used a special removable ink to continue the spill effect that ultimately covered the parking lot below. The spill covered a few parked cars as well as the ticket booth. Watch the time-lapse installation.


The TM creative team said the campaign included both traditional and non-traditional media, including this larger-than-life paint spill, located in Nationwide’s hometown of Columbus, Ohio.

It was the perfect blend of outdoor, viral and guerrilla marketing. It stopped traffic — literally — and generated unprecedented attention and awards.

Wallscapes: Miracles at Play

Wallscapes: Nationwide Insurance - Miracles at Play

Wallscapes: Nationwide Insurance – Miracles at Play

February 2011: This twelve story building wrap project was installed on the same building face in Columbus Ohio. The wallscapes kicked off a collaborative fundraising program for Nationwide Children’s Hospital called “Miracles at Play.”

The three giant wallscapes, which were designed by Enguage and installed by Orange Barrel Media, appear on the side of the building like an over-sized children’s playground complete with monkey bars, a seesaw and an over-sized slide.

The wallscapes with all their associated construction weigh in at 15,000 pounds and include more than 12,000 square feet of printed vinyl material. The seesaw alone weighs approximately 5,000 pounds. Watch the time-lapse video of the actual installation process.

What do you think? Be sure to visit our wallscapes page, here, if you’re thinking of installing one of these monster signs. We can guide you through the process.

Please share this article on your favorite social media sites.

Improved Wide Format Laminators Hit The Market

Wide Format Lamintor
New features can help sign shops’ competitiveness

As the sign industry continues to advance at such quick rates, many sign shops are finding that they need to upgrade their equipment in order to keep up, and laminators are no exception. Laminators have seen many improvements in the past five years, and these new capabilities can go a long way in increasing a sign shop’s competitiveness. With faster turnaround times and more flexibility in substrates, a sign shop can provide its clients with better service and products.

When It’s Time To Buy A New Laminator

Of course, sign shops commonly enter the market for new laminators when their current units break, but many are also interested in purchasing a second or third laminator even if there are no problems with their original equipment, says Jerry Hill, vice president of new market business development for Drytac, a graphics finishing equipment and supplies manufacturer and distributor in Richmond, Va. Tight deadlines are the reality of the industry, and with an extra unit or two, a sign shop can greatly increase its productivity for a higher profit.

Most often, though, Hill finds that sign shops are ready to move forward with another laminator because their current units lack the required capabilities to operate in today’s business environment. When a sign shop first opens its door, it typically makes the minimum purchases to run the business. The laminator may have been serviceable in the early years, but as client demand increases, the lack of capabilities doesn’t always cut it.

“You basically have a bare-bones unit in the beginning, but once you’re in business for six months, you start looking around and wondering why you’re wasting a lot of time and energy with this laminator,” Hill says. “It’s taking two people to do this operation, and if you had a better laminator, you could free up a person. That’s when you have to look at the expense you’re paying for a second laminator with more capabilities in comparison to the labor costs and your profit potential.”

New Available Features

The new laminators on the market now offer new films and adhesives to account for improved inks and toners, says Bob Elliott, product manager for lamination equipment at GBC, a laminator manufacturer in Lincolnshire, Ill. Many inks and toners contain additives to help them pass through print nozzles without clogging; however, those additives also made it more difficult for laminate adhesion.

This is especially true for UV inks, and there are laminators designed specifically for that application, says Francesco Romanello, co-founder and CEO of Rolinx Performance Products, a laminator manufacturer in Irving, Texas. With this laminator, a new grade of steel and silicone are used on the rollers in order to apply additional pressure, which helps achieve the proper bond between UV inks and the adhesive or laminate.

Roll-to-roll laminators are playing a large role in the market, especially as wrap applications continue to grow, and more sign shops are finding that heated laminates are necessary, Hill says. In the past, sign shops typically relied on cold laminates, but the trend is moving toward using a heat assist. With a heat assist, the top roller is warm rather than hot like some laminators, and this improves the performance of the lamination.

“The heat assist softens pressure-sensitive laminates and helps with the flow,” Hill says. “It can eliminate silvering, which is a visual effect that basically traps a little air in the laminate and keeps the pressure-sensitive adhesive from flowing into the nooks and crannies, but if it’s a little warm, it flows a little better to eliminate that silvering.”

For some roll-to-roll laminators, drifting can be an issue, Hill says. Sometimes this is a result of a poor setup while other times this is due to poor shifting capabilities. Whatever the reason, this causes the print to the side by a few inches. This may not be a problem for a 30-inch graphic in a 60-inch laminator, but this can cause major problems for a wide-format print.

“When drifting happens, you’re dragging the side of the machine, and you get wrinkles as a result,” Hill says. “It’s not a pretty picture, so you have to evaluate a machine in terms of how is it set up and whether it is beefy enough so that you don’t get these drifting issues.”

To keep the print straight, roll-to-roll laminators now include an auto-calibration feature, Romanello says. Before auto-calibration was available, an operator had to manually ensure the print remained straight, but that wasn’t an easy process and often caused creases and air bubbles.

“Auto-calibration has pretty much eliminated these concerns,” Romanello says. “It’s a very easy step; it just requires pushing two buttons on the control panel, and the machine does everything else on its own. The whole process takes about two minutes.”

Some of the new features on laminators also greatly reduce setup time, Elliott says. For example, today’s laminators come with more unwind and rewind shafts.


When purchasing a new laminator, a sign shop should not only look at its current needs but also evaluate future requirements. While determining what the future holds is hardly a science, a sign shop can prepare for multiple scenarios by purchasing a laminator that offers add-on features, Elliott says. The initial laminator offers more basic options, and as business grows, a sign shop can buy the appropriate features for its specific line of business. For instance, a new upgradeable laminator can offer the capabilities of adding more unwinds and rewinds to work better with pressure-sensitive adhesive and side slitters for increased efficiency for trimming.

Often, sign shops simply buy laminators on price, but this can cost them in the long run, Romanello says. Many laminators are offered as generic bundled packages that do not consider possible future needs. But without the right capabilities, a sign shop cannot take on larger projects and will have to either turn down work that could lead to more business in the future or farm it to another shop, missing out on the potential profit.

“If you just buy on price, you may find yourself stuck with a unit that is extremely difficult to run that creates a lot of waste, loss of money, down time, print time and frustration,” Romanello says.

Ultimately, purchasing a laminator should be a strategic business decision. Price is an issue for every business, but the initial cost is only one part of the picture. New laminators are an investment, which requires a greater upfront cost for longer-term rewards.

Free SEAL Easy Dot Webinar - Get Free Samples!

On November 21, 2013 Tyrelltech, a valued SEAL reseller will sponsor a free webinar on SEAL Easy Dot, the easy to apply, printable vinyl that is causing a stir in the wide format print business!

Do you struggle with Window applications? Do you spend lots of time popping bubbles that form under the vinyl when you apply it to glass? Do you find it almost impossible to remove vinyl from glass without special cleaners and tools?

SEAL Easy Dot VinylSEAL Easy Dot is an innovative new product that will save time and money when creating and installing wall, window and trade show graphics. The key to its ease of installation is the special dot patterned adhesive which creates air channels that allow for a bubble and wrinkle free installation. No special tools are needed - not even a squeegee!

In this webinar not only will you  learn about the unique features of Easy Dot, but also how to use this innovative new product in numerous applications. You will also be able to order free samples of this product when you register!

  • Owners who want to save money, 
  • Production Staff who are tired of struggling with Vinyl Applications!
  • Anyone who struggles with window graphics now.
  • Creative minds. 
This is one webinar that will change the way you do business!
To register for this exciting, free webinar, use this link:



TyrrellTech Home Page

Best Large Format Laminator as Ranked by You!

Best Large Format Laminator

SEAL Supports Repurpose America


SEAL, formerly Neschen Americas, is a big believer in conserving the environment. Sometimes that means recycling, but sometimes it simply means "repurposing", finding a new home or purpose for the side effects of products used at a tradeshow.

For instance, at the 2013 ISA tradeshow, SEAL participated with Repurpose America to find new homes for some of its products. 

"Everything has a purpose. Sometimes, items have more than one. It's up to Zachary Delbex and his team to figure out what those other uses might be. It's not recycling, it's finding a new purpose and making it happen. Delbex is the founder and CEO of Repurpose America." - Las Vegas Review Journal 

Maybe a better way to understand how all this works is by watching a short video.


"We are proud of the fact that we not only are helping our environment but also wounded vetrans and those with disabilities who use these items to make new products for the folks that get them.

Finding new ways to use the discards, Delbex said, means forgetting what it was and looking at what it can be.

"You have to think out of the box," he said.

Magnetic material has become learning tools for young children. Wood laminate flooring became part of a traveling church play. Hollow Roman-style pillars are now planters in a meditation garden.

Since vinyl signage is a major component to any convention, Repurpose America has a plethora of it. About 4,000 feet have been used to provide a shade canopy at a preschool playground. The colorful vinyl was pieced together but wasn't bleached of its original verbiage. The result: It promotes an edgy, yes-I've-been-recycled kind of message." - Las Vegas Review Journal 

If you have a convention in Las Vegas, why not participate and help our environment and fellow Americas!

Thanks Repurpose America! 

For more information about Repurpose America, visit





Make Money with the SEAL Roll-Up Deluxe Banner Stand!

Any sign shop can tell you, you can make money with a roll-up banner. But they may also tell you that if you get a cheap banner stand, you may be headed for trouble. Cheap stands can arrive broken or worse, they can break in the hands of your customer. Not a good way to get a repeat customer.
SEAL has a banner stand called the Roll-Up Deluxe. This stand has the quality you expect from a SEAL product but also the economical price that makes it a money maker! Some of the features of the stand are:
  • Clamps to hold the banner rather than messy adhesives.

  • A telescoping/adjustable pole.

  • Easy tensioning system.

  • Deluxe carrying case.

Watch this video and make your own decision. 

See the Roll-Up Deluxe Banner Stand

at SGIA Booth 1428!

Before You Buy a Laminator - Read This!


SEAL Offers "SEAL guard Advantage" Warranty Program

SEAL lamiantorsIf you are considering buying a laminator now or at the upcoming SGIA show in Orlando, Florida Oct 23, 25, 2013, then you should read about the new "SEAL guard Advantage" program. While SEAL equipment has long been known to be trouble free for years, over time, it may still need some adjustments. More importantly, as an operator you may just need help figuring out  how to acomplish an application. 

In either case, the SEAL guard Advanatge program could be the right choice for you, extending the normal 1 year warranty by an additional 2 years AND providing VIP access to the SEAL experts.

One additional feature of the program is FREE entry to any of the SEAL training & education seminars held throughout the USA. These sessions include hands on training from SEAL experts!

  • Get FREE hands on Training,
  • Access to a special VIP tech support line,
  • Affordable Health Care for your Laminator!

Read more by downloading the PDF summary of the program. The SEAL guard Advanatage warranty program starts at just $19.99 per month!

Click the image below to get the summary of the program!


SEAL guard Advantage Warranty


 Going to the SGIA tradeshow? Be sure to visit us in booth 1428!

Free VIP Pass to SGIA Tradeshow, Orlando, FL


Get a FREE VIP pass to the SGIA show in Orlando Florida Oct 23-25,2013!

Click anywhere on the image below!

SEAL Laminators and wide format media

BOOTH 1428

5 Killer Reasons to Visit Our Booth at SGIA 2013


SGIA 2013There are many reasons to visit us in booth 1428 at the upcoming SGIA trade show in Orlando, Florida Oct 23-25, 2013. However, let's talk about just five.

1) SolvoPrint(tm) Easy Dot - The revolutionary new printable vinyl that can be installed bubble and wrinkle free with no special tools!

2) Fresco AdTex(tm) - The textile removeable wall graphic that really works!

3) Pure Color(tm) Samaba textile - A textile that has the look of a million dollars but costs just pennies!

4) SEAL(r) 65 pro MD - The fastest, most technologically advanced laminator in the world!

5) Experts in Graphic Design, Printing and Finishing (cl) - REAL experts not sales people!

 This year we are showing off some very cool products that will provide you with more profit making power. By the way the (cl) after item five means - cool!

trade show marketing resized 600Not only will you get to see, touch and take home samples of products, but you will also get to see live educational seminars that will show you how to use them. These demonstrations will be hosted by industry leading experts in large format printing and graphics. 

If you have questions about print media, laminating, layout, design, software, printers or maybe just the future of the busniess, our experts may be able to assist you. 

What about details on the above products? 

Search our blogs because we have talked about them all, or just come by and spend a little time with us.

We will be waiting for you in booth 1428 !


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