ImagesMagUK_September_2022 SEPTEMBER 2022 images 51 IS COMPANY PROFILE T-shirt printing on the Epson SC-F3000 at Xpres mid-industrial machine, but it’s not an industrial full-level machine like the Aeoon Kyo Link, which is ten times the price. We have partnered very successfully with Epson since day one.” George works with potential customers to work out which DTG solution and workflows would work best for them, based on conversations and site surveys. “I’ve always seen it as more like a consultancy,” he adds. Wider portfolio The DTG machines fit well within the wider portfolio of products that Xpres offers, ranging from heat presses and dye sublimation printers to printer/ cutters and flatbed printers. “We can sit neutrally,” Damon explains. “We don’t switch-sell people. It’s more the customers’ requirements that we find the fit for.” Part of the larger Charterhouse Holdings group, which also includes Kustom Kit – the clothing brand for corporate, promotional and sportswear –Xpres also has its own premium blanks brand, Vanilla, which was specifically created for printing. The garments are mainly made of either 100% cotton for digital printing, or 100% polyester or a polyester-rich fabric for dye-sublimation printing. “Vanilla was designed round our know-how of what print technologies are and designed to work with them, not the other way round,” Damon explains. “It has been designed primarily as a print medium.” A perfect fit The partnership between Xpres and Aeoon was about three years in the making, delayed by the Covid pandemic. But Damon was aware of Aeoon long before that and feels the two businesses are a perfect fit. “We are companies with similar cultures, with a lot of fairly young staff.” One of the catalysts was the emerging demand for industrial-scale DTG machines, driven by Kornit. “We were getting calls from customers asking if they could buy a Kornit through us,” Damon recalls. “It was becoming more apparent that we really needed to fix that and build our range. We supply into some of the largest decorators in the country – Kornit’s biggest users – and a lot of our other customers have been growing too into large production. We think this is a proper, viable alternative to the powerhouse of Kornit.” However, Damon points out that Kornit machines, which have an integrated pretreatment system that applies a wetting solution automatically during the pretreatment process, are “a completely different production method”. Meanwhile, Aeoon’s PTB pretreatment unit uses up to 13 individually controlled nozzles to apply solution which can be specifically profiled and dialled in to provide the best results across a variety of different garments. The Aeoon Kyo Link also has integrated heat presses as standard at the back of each axis of the machine, allowing customers to choose to run their print with a press before, mid-way through – after a white underbase – or after the print is completed. “Even with no heat presses activated, the finished garment straight from the Aeoon printer is far drier versus the wet-on-wet process of other manufacturers,” George explains. “The wetter the garment coming off the printer, the longer it takes to dry through the tunnel dryer, thus slowing output.” Technical support Founded in 2011, Aeoon had some teething troubles in its early days, Damon admits, but these have been ironed out by the engineers in Austria. “The first Aeoon machines were in their early stages of development and evolution and there were little foibles that were probably quite finicky to look after. But as they have developed, they have been fixed. Everything has been ticked off, and then some. The old Aeoon machines which might have had problems in the past and required upgrades are still out there and still running.” Damon is also keen to point out that Xpres is able to offer a higher level of technical support and training than Aeoon’s previous UK distributor, Sanco Technology, which has supplied the dryer installed in the new production showroom. Damon has nothing but praise for Sanco but, with nine technical specialists plus George on hand, he says Xpres is “significantly bigger” when it comes to sales, technical services and customer support. He hopes this will reassure any garment decorators who are nervous about investing in larger DTG machines generally. “At the moment, people are holding back a bit, but that’s just the state of the current consumer confidence across the board. For DTG, and print on demand especially, there’s a lot of opportunity. The capacity and the appetite is there. There is still a lot of interest from people reaching out so they are ready when confidence returns.” Vibrant colours printed on the Aeoon Kyo Link Vanilla garments and Adkins heat presses in the Xpres showroom The Apparel Lab where visitors can consult Xpres specialists Epson’s SureColour SC-F2100 and SC-F3000