Marshall Atkinson presents his pick of the exhibits at the SGIA Expo 2015

With a solid 23,000+ attendees, this year’s SGIA expo was packed with people looking for the latest technology, assistance or edge over their competitors. So what stood out more than anything on the show floor?

Brown Firefly Dryer

This remarkable piece of equipment was getting a lot of attention. What makes this dryer so interesting is that it uses infrared technology to control the heat temperature on the shirt to cure inks at a faster and more consistent level.

The Firefly is available in multiple belt configurations too. This is the interesting part, as print shops have long positioned multiple presses around one dryer. It comes in one, two or three belts, and each belt is available in 27” or 36” widths; so now you can print different ink platforms with multiple temperature curing requirements simultaneously.

Thermal imagers provide real-time analysis to the machine and it regulates the exact amount of energy needed for the garment to reach the optimum temperature for curing. The thermal imager photographs all items inside the chamber three times per second and the dryer will add or remove energy in each of the zones to only apply enough heat to cure the ink. This is a great option for shops looking for a sustainable edge.

Brown Firefly Dryer
M&R i-Image STE II

The I-Image STE II system came out last year and won the SGIA Product of the Year Award for it’s efficient system. One year later, usually jaded print shop owners are still gawking at the equipment in amazement.

What makes it so unique? It solves a workflow problem. Even with traditional CTS systems, you imaged the screen and then walked it over to an exposure unit to complete the work. Now, with LED light units built in, the task is complete in one step.

As the screen is pulled into the device, specially formulated UV-blocking ink is applied through advanced high resolution CTS inkjet printer technology to quickly generate opaque images on emulsion coated screens. Once the screen is imaged with the opaque ink, on the outward pass the screen is exposed using a bank of UV LED lights. A full size standard screen 23”x31” screen can be imaged and exposed in about a minute.

The keystone to screen printing will always be screens. How would this revolutionise your productivity in your shop?

M&R iImage XE
Screen sealant system

GSF has introduced a new system that eliminates the task of taping the insides of aluminium screens before printing. It applies a border onto the mesh when stretching the screens that fits neatly around the perimeter of the screen. When you coat the screen with emulsion, this seals up the mesh so ink only passes through where it’s intended.

Where the mesh and the frame meet, GSF has applied a special caulk that sticks to both the mesh and the aluminium. Nothing gets in this gap. Both the border system and the caulk withstand the reclaiming process.

How much masking tape do you use a year? Think about the labour and time applying the tape and taking it off. This system eliminates that task, mess and expense forever.

3D digital printers

Even though I spent most of my time walking the show looking for garment decorating trends and equipment, you can’t help but notice other booths and equipment they have to offer. One such amazing device is a digital 3D printer that is used for the sign industry to print braille signage.

Direct Color Systems has a print system that prints flat stock, including flexible material such as vinyl or leather, and the results have a dimensional effect. Talking to the show representative, I couldn’t help but imagine the digital garment ramifications of this system.

While Direct Color Systems doesn’t have anything on the market, another person at the booth I spoke to indicated he believes that this is something that could be a marketable idea.  He had already been doing some testing on apparel. 

Marshall Atkinson is the owner of Atkinson Consulting, LLC, a service firm focused on the decorated apparel industry for process improvement and efficiency, sustainability, employee training, social media marketing, and long term strategic planning. He has over 20 years experience in the decorated apparel industry and has championed two companies to become SGP certified sustainable printers. A frequent trade show and webinar speaker, he also publishes his own weekly blog.