Growth success for Imaginators as it switches to PONGS

UK outdoor events and superwide format champion migrates multiple applications to German-made digital textiles exclusively supplied by CMYUK.

For the fourth consecutive time, Imaginators has won Best Branding at the Festival Supplier of the Year awards. This adds yet another trophy to its impressive cache of accolades that include multiple wins for Best SME Business of the Year, Best Wide Format and Best Superwide Format Digital Print Company of the Year and several others including IoD Director of the Year for founder and Managing Director Matt Tydeman.

Founded in 1976, Imaginators is a privately owned highly creative large, wide and superwide digital printing production company with an enviable reputation across the events industry. Live music festivals take a large slice of the business, with the company servicing pretty much every music festival of significance in the UK – both front of stage and back stage requirements. Then add in experiential branding and retail product launches, television, film and sports to the mix where the creation of an immersive landscape is required.

One of the key components to the company’s recent growth and success is its extensive use of the German-made PONGS digital textiles, and in particular the DirectTEX SoftImage Contrast Black Back.

The company started using this product two years ago, and now uses it extensively. “Contrast Black Back has helped us grow significantly,” says Tydeman. “It runs on our printer virtually daily. It's a regular and our clients really like it. We find ourselves adapting it to many different areas of use. Our installers love it as its easy to handle, it doesn’t ripple and it stretches whilst maintaining stability,” he adds.

The company came to Black Back almost by error that coincided with the installation of its 5m UV Durst 512r printer three years ago. Customers started to ask for Black Back rather than the canvas backed materials that Imaginators supplied. The company was using alternative black back material from another manufacturer, but was experiencing quality problems with the black opaque lining offsetting onto the print -- a technical issue where the Durst ink adhesion was too strong causing the lifting of the lining. Imaginators tried to get round the problem by reducing the speed of the printer, and thereby reducing its temperature

“This solution seemed to defeat the object to have a printer that could run so fast at such high quality only to slow it down,” says Tydeman.

A long-standing relationship with Robin East, Director at CMYUK, the UK’s largest independent supplier of digital wide format printers, cutters and materials, led Tydeman to a comprehensive introduction to the PONGS portfolio at FESPA.

“It seemed to be the natural progression on the substrates side for us to partner with CMYUK. The depth of product range, the broad sweep of the different materials, which are very good. PONGS is a name you know you can rely on,” he says, adding, “The knowledge base at CMYUK is very helpful. Sometimes we don't have the answers to the problems put to us by our clients - there are times when we are faced with something that is a little bit obscure that we haven’t worked with before, we can talk to CMYUK and there’s always some examples of where and how a material has been applied, and how you can apply it.”

The PONGS Black Back is delivering on its reputation. It’s quality and versatility means it is being applied to numerous applications. “I often find myself saying, ‘what we do today we never do again’ and ‘tomorrow will be completely different from today’. Our clients often fire at us very random, very varied projects that they will task us to do,” says Tydeman.

Recently for example, the Contrast Black Back was used for the popular BBC Proms in the Park series of events across London. The backstage build involved multiple modular broadcast and VIP areas and Contrast Black Back was perfectly suited to this high profile project.

“We’re not just supplying print we’re more of a production company,” says Tydeman. “We go in, build the set and produce the graphics which we apply to the set. We go away, then come back to take it all down.

Extensively we find that the PONGS materials are used for instances like that – lots of backdrops, press backdrops and media boards but also decoration. We’re noticing now that we’re also using it for drapes an awful lot. Its very complimentary to many of the other things that are going on.”

Another topical job was for the launch of the new Beats headphones in Shoreditch. Contrast Black Back was used to dress what is referred to as flat walls or flats, often modular in configuration to create the immersive space experience.

“An event space is taken over and then completely rebranded,” says Tydeman. “It can be a basement setting in Shoreditch that appeals to a certain demographic or a five-star luxury hotel. We’ve just transformed a hotel for a new basketball game on X-Box. All the basketball players were flown in to a posh London hotel, and the whole event space was transformed with the Contrast Black Back.”

Imaginators is finding that it is also doing more photoshoots. Work for a recent online video for H&M saw the company wrapping various flats and surfaces for a studio shoot. “We were there for a week, we built a room in a studio and continually changed the set to provide a different appearance. We didn’t use wallpapers or vinyls – we just used the Contrast to keep swapping the flats in and out,” he says.

Recently the company has bought sewing services in-house with the purchase of an automated industrial sewing machine. This affords it high quality finishing to fabric and PVC textiles, ensuring flat seams for applications such as Silicone/PVC Beading, Keder or SEG attaching, hemming and velcro.

This capability has led Imaginators into producing graphics for Tension Frame Systems (TFS), but rather than installing these in traditional retail environments, it is repurposing them for its wide spectrum of events.

The use of PONGS DirectTEX SoftImage Contrast Black Back has rocketed the growth of soft signage at Imaginators, and says Tydeman, is the stepping stone into digitally printed textiles, which is the logical and natural next step.

Imaginators at a glance 

• Started in 1976 in Stratford, East London with 3 working Directors.

• 16,000 sq. ft. facilities in Nazeing, Essex

• 21 staff. £2.5m turnover

Plant List

1x Durst Rho 512r 5.0m wide roll –to-roll UV printer
800dpi 6-colour (CYMKlclm) 348m2/hr

1x Durst P10 160 1.6m wide hybrid UV printer
1000dpi 6-colour (CMYKlclm + white) 100m2/hr

1x HP Scitex XP2750 3000x2000mm hybrid UV printer
800dpi 8-colour (CMYKlclmlylk) 134m2/hr

1x HP L370 1.5m wide Latex/Textile printer
1200dpi 6-colour (CYMKlclm) 24m2/hr

1x HP Z6800 1.5m (60”) photographic roll-to-roll printer
1200dpi 8-colour (CMYmblmlcpblg) 20m2/hr

1x ESKO Kongsberg XN 44 flatbed robotic cutting table
3000x2000mm bed. 3kw router with roll autofeed & conveyor

1x SummaCut D160 1600mm Vinyl Plotter
1x FIAB 900 20kw High Frequency welding with 8m table
1x AE Sewing Systems Automated Sewing Line
1x Joyce Automated Eyeletter
1x Seal Pro 62s 1.6m Automatic