Eighteen months ago, dye sublimation didn’t even register on the dial at Manchester Print Services, the wide-format digital printing company set-up by Lee Egan and Andy Lambert in 2010.
Sixteen months ago, a Mimaki JV5 320-DS dye sublimation printer bought through CMYUK, the UK’s largest independent supplier of digital wide format printers, cutters and materials paved the way. Today the company is the proud owner of the UK’s first HP Stitch S1000 dye sub printer installed at its Manchester-based premises three weeks ago.
Twelve months from now, the company expects digital textile printing to account for 100% of its output.
Central to its dye sublimation ambitions are premium digital textiles from PONGS, supplied in the UK and Ireland exclusively by CMYUK. The German manufacturer has produced a number of profiles for the HP Stitch for its best selling materials.
Manchester Print Services uses PONGS, Softimage Creaseless Premium for its new printer, a widely renowned material, recognised as one of the highest quality textiles for displays and banners on the market. It had previously been using this material for its Mimaki JV5 -320-DS, a printer purchased to market-test the viability of dye-sublimation for the business. The arrival of the Mimaki attracted a great tranche of retail work, resulting in the win of a large European retail account for which the HP Stitch s1000 was purchased.
Manchester Print Services is a big fan of PONGS materials. It predominantly uses PONGS PrintTEX Artist Mambo for all its UV work output through its EFI VUTEk GS 3250 flatbed and roll fed hybrid printer – praising it for its stability under UV heat lamps and vibrant colour reproduction.
When selecting materials to run through the Stitch, Lee Egan Director agrees it was a no-brainer sticking with the PONGS Softimage Creaseless Premium fabric.
“It's a bit tricky with dye sublimation because once you’ve got the sizing right, and you put the material through a heat press, it can shrink and stretch at different ratios. When you’ve got a material you trust, you stick with it,” says Lee Egan, Director at Manchester Print Services.
“PONGS Creaseless is very stable. The sizing is exactly the same through the whole batch. This can be an issue with other suppliers – roll sizes can be different due to moisture or humidity issues or the way the fabric is wound in the factory.
“As soon as we got the HP Stitch, (S1000) we decided to stick with the Creaseless Premium. We loaded it straight onto the machine and it’s never let us down. I’ve just printed 100m straight this morning,” he adds.
PONGS Creaseless Premium is used by well-known brands for campaigns, visual merchandising and retail space design. With a fluid soft feel and high opacity, it's a highly versatile display medium. It is lightly elastic, crease-free and can be cold cut. It is also fire retardant and completely recyclable.
Apart from servicing the traditional sign and graphics market, the move into dye sublimation has taken Manchester Print Services into Upholstery, using its JV-300 160 machine to service this sector. Upholstery is proving to be a growth area, which doesn’t require any finishing just roll-to-roll printing. In the next year Egan believes the company will move further into non–traditional textile markets. “We can expand by 15 to 20% in these new areas without needing any new dye–sublimation equipment or any additional staff. The margins are less but it's a definite growth area, and one we didn’t anticipate,” he says.
As Manchester Print Services continues to grow and diversify, Egan is adamant that PONGS materials will be part of its service solutions.
Manchester Print services at a glance
• Founded in 2010 by Lee Egan and Andy Lambert
• Staff of 7
• Expected turnover £1m next year
• Retail, exhibitions, furnishings and upholstery
• HP Stitch dye sublimation printer S1000
• EFI VUTEk GS3250 hybrid flatbed & roll-fed UV printer
• Mimaki JV5 3200 DS
• Mimaki JV3 1600 DS
• Blackman and White laser cutter
• Monti Antonio heat press
• 2x Sewing machines