Marshall Atkinson braves the cold and rain of California (no, really – it was British weather all the way) to report on the latest products and trends at the Long Beach Imprinted Sportswear Show

At the Imprinted Sportswear Show (ISS) in Long Beach California from January 20-22 this year, comfortable shoes were definitely a must. There was a lot to see. You could stroll by the Gildan booth and jokingly ask for the new American Apparel 2017 catalogue (they didn’t have it). You could touch and feel everyone’s new product line up for the year. The booths with the biggest crowds naturally attracted even more people. A good many were packed continuously throughout the show.

Is the global economy on the rebound? While it’s probably too soon to tell, packed trade shows like ISS Long Beach may be an early indicator. The show floor was buzzing with optimistic entrepreneurs.

The Action Engineering Platen Taping System

Best New Gadget:

Action Engineering Platen Taping System

Let’s face it, taping your platens can be a time-consuming chore. Depending on your frequency of applying platen adhesive and the garments that are being printed, the lint and threads can really build up. Applying a sheet of platen tape to the surface has long been the solution to cleaning the platens with messy chemicals and rags. This can, however, still lead to press downtime challenges.
Action Engineering’s new idea is a transformative one that should help minimise that press downtime. A great system for retaping your platens, it comprises a standalone jig that allows you to slide in your platen. You peel off your old tape, and then new tape can simply be rolled out from the tube and stretched in place. Seal it down and trim. Easy.

Action Engineering had more great items at the show too, such as Peel and Stick Platen Rubber, which is as easy as it sounds. Need to replace your platen rubber and don’t want to glue? This may be your next magic trick.

Other attention-grabbing items included two types of small Squeegee Scrapers. One was for single blades and the other was for double. These look like a shoe horn, but with a groove on one end for the squeegee blade. You simply run these down the blade and it shears off any excess ink from both sides and the bottom of the blade simultaneously. This can definitely reduce your downtime during job changeover.


Best Problem Solved:

Emulsion for High Humidity

One of the biggest challenges to solve, especially for shops still using film for image output, is an screen emulsion that dries fast and won’t get sticky in humid conditions.

Chromaline has released a new emulsion named ChromaTech TD. TD stands for ‘Tropical Duty’. This is a fast-drying, pre-sensitised, ready-for-use emulsion. It’s blue, so shops that like a red emulsion will have to adjust. Gone are the days of dusting baby powder on your film so it won’t stick to a coated screen during exposure.

For shops that work and live in geographic areas with a high humidity, this is a problem solver and game changer.


Best Packaging Product:

Dekken T-Apparel Folder

The Dekken T-Apparel Folder is an eye-catching machine. Not many folding machines had people talking about them at the show, but this one grabbed your attention. It’s fast and offers a lot of flexibility to shops that need this type of equipment.

This folder can be linked with another folder machine to feed one polybagging line. Limited on space? The T-Apparel folder can be configured to have the garments exit either the back of the machine or on the side.

The machine is also very flexible in fold set-up changes as these are programmable in the machine’s interface. You don’t have to manually change them over with plate adjustments.

The Digital Squeegee from M&R

Biggest Impact:

M&R Digital Squeegee

The definite talk of the show was once again a new product from M&R. The new Digital Squeegee system provides a discreet glimpse of the future of this industry. This equipment was still in beta testing, but Rich Hoffman and his team were brave enough to show it to the eager crowds.

Here’s how it works: An underbase and second white screen are printed and flashed with a high solids acrylic white ink. These are traditional screens and ink. The Digital Squeegee unit is mounted in one screen head area. The digital print head travels over the shirt just like a traditional squeegee and with the same speed – it’s blazingly fast.

The CMYK printed colours were a little muted in the test prints, and the M&R team stated at the show that it is still working on developing the ink system to work with the machine. At the show, the Digital Squeegee was mounted on one of the company’s Stryker units, but it can be used with any M&R press.


Best Updates on User Support:


Flexfit has been a staple for many garment decorator shops the world over. After visiting its booth, I was impressed with the incredible array of new fabrics and colours. Especially wonderful was the new Peached Cotton Twill Dad Cap, which has a velvet-like hand, and the new Melton Wool Snapback with the flat brim, which should be a huge hit with fashion-forward streetwear brands.

What’s really great though is that Flexfit has updated its website. You can download spec sheets on each hat, along with the Pantone TPX number for each colour.


Best New Embroidery Feature:

Wilcom EmbroideryStudio e4

This new and soon to be launched software from Wilcom works with CorelDraw Graphics Suite X6, which comes included in the bundle. The software’s major benefit is that it is modular: as your business grows you can add elements to the package so you can ensure you are only paying for the functionality that you need. This allows you to get the digitising tools and add the creative effects for your decoration as you need them.

The software modules are divided into three sections: Creativity, Productivity and Decoration.

Each has six different core attributes that you can add:

  • Creativity includes Shading & Open Fills, Curved Fills, Custom Splits, Motifs, Freehand and Photoflash.
  • Productivity includes Offsets Advanced, Auto Shaping, Team Names Advanced, Auto Digitize Bitmaps, Vector Drawing, and Auto Arrangements.
  • Decoration includes Bling, Virtual Decoration, Alphabet Creator, Sequin, Chenille, and Schiffli.

Whether you are just starting out or an existing embroiderer, this new package from Wilcom is sure to please.

The MagnaColours MagnaAcademy offers a free modular webinar course for screen printers

Marshall hanging out with the Fruit of the Loom fruits

Best Supplier of Industry Education:


Suppliers training their customers isn’t anything revolutionary. Developing a standardised webinar system and dividing it up into ten half-day modules just might be. Especially when it’s available free.

MagnaColours has developed a series of half-day modules for printers that want to dive deep into their craft. A learn-at-your-own pace system, the MagnaAcademy is developed for anyone who is serious about raising the bar on their printing skills. The ten modules cover a lot of ground, from colour matching to troubleshooting via printing with high solids and soft base printing onto light garments.


Best Apparel Booth:


Distributed by Alphabroder, Econscious is a company that believes in creating an apparel line that embodies the best in sustainable design. All of the pieces in its apparel line are well made and produced in ways that are good for the planet. Some use organic cotton. Some use recycled polyester. Some even use both. The trucker hats and tote bags even use hemp.

A great example of its new line is the Men’s Sueded Jersey Longsleeve T-shirt (EC1588). It has a great soft, suede-hand feel, neat V-stitch shape in the neckline detail, and is made from 60% organic cotton/40% recycled polyester.

These people care about the planet, and have developed their business philosophy to help protect it. The company supports 1% for the Planet, donating 1% of its sales to non-profit environmental organisations around the world.

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.