Use your wide format printer to its full potential with some expert advice and production tips from Brett Platt of Hybrid Services

When businesses invest in production kit, it’s typically to meet a specific need. The new kit fulfils that need and so becomes the go-to machine for that particular type of job. However, with the breadth of capability that a wide format dye sublimation printer has to offer, it’s important to look beyond that original requirement to uncover the machine’s true potential and the sales opportunities it can help you to realise.

“It’s not unusual to find businesses barely scratching the surface when it comes to what they could be getting fromtheir print hardware,” says Brett Platt, textile product manager at Hybrid Services, Mimaki’s UK and Irish distributor. “With the increase in speed of the latest generation of printers, the capacity is there to allow companies to investigate themany other profitable product opportunities that the systems can offer – and frequently with minimal additional outlay.”

For garment decorators, the most obvious first step is into other apparel lines – and this highlights a common theme: the process to produce these new products is fundamentally similar to what businesses are already doing.

“For a company that specialises in corporatewear to move into fashion, it simply requires them to strike up conversations with a new type of customer,” states Brett. “It’s highly likely the skillset is there, so it’s just about extending your reach and maybe tweaking your proposition slightly and new doors will start to open.”

Mimaki’s TS30-1300 dye sublimation printer

Brett is alluding to the fact that in every town that has companies which require branded workwear or uniforms, there’s a good chance there will be independent clothing designers, home-based artists and burgeoning fashion brands crying out for a print partner to take on short runs of work. “The same logic can also be applied to the décor market,” he asserts. “If you’ve got sewing machinists in your team, they should equally be able to run to producing finished cushions or furnishings fabrics and with some of the beautiful new polyesters, it would be very easy to offer a bespoke, short run fabric printing service for those buyers who want to make the products themselves.”

The ever-growing desire for personalised goods has led to a growth in blank sublimation products, and these offer, perhaps, the easiest route to diversification. A dye sub printer with a flatbed heat press suitable for garment decoration will be just as able to imprint bags, placemats, decorative panels, textile point of sale or other small items – extending a product range with items that can command a strong profit margin too. “Add a convertible heat press and it’s possible to print more complex shaped items such as mugs or even baseball caps,” suggests Brett. “The software, printer, transfer paper and ink can remain the same – and more often than not, the finishing process; it’s an ideal opportunity to grasp new customers or better serve existing ones with a broader, more attractive product range.”

Apparel and décor: “A good press is a must and a rotary heat press means you have no restrictions on the length of fabric. My best tip when it comes to the fabric is to check if the fabric shrinks when heated. If this happens when you’re transferring your image, you can get distortion or even ghosting on the fabric. In an ideal world, I’d advise buying fabric that has been heat-set but if that’s not possible, put the fabric through your press before transferring the image onto it in order to pre-shrink it.”

Mouse mats and bar runners: “Again, a good flat press will work best and selecting a high quality blank in the first placewill help you get the best results. They need a polyester fabric face and not be too thin – they should have a minimum thickness of 3mm.”

Bags: “Use a flat press and try and get bags with flat seams as this will allow you to print as close to the edge as possible. White coloured bags will give you the brightest colours but you can also get natural-coloured tote bags that give a more traditional look.”

Mugs: “You need a mug press and getting one that allows you to control the pressure is very important. Mugs with a straight side rather than shaped ones will always work better. Mugs must have a polyester coating on them for process to work.”

Sewing machinists can easily produce bespoke cushions

He advocates targeting existing customers with new offerings for a couple of reasons. “Businesses should use the trust and rapport that builds up over time to approach their existing customer base with exciting new products. More often than not, they’ll be happier dealing with a supplier they know, producing at a quality they trust and may already have an account with – so why not be proactive in approaching them?”

Dye sublimation transfer printers, such as Mimaki’s TS30-1300 that is capable of producing all of the above and more, start from only £7,495 and include almost everything required to start creating a suite of profitable product lines. “With the addition of a suitable heat press – which our specialist textile printing resellers will help customers determine, depending upon their requirements – you’re ready to go,” Brett says. “Wherever we can, we try very hard to help companies see beyond that original need and expand the opportunities they have of not just increasing their sales, but in many cases, protecting their core business. By keeping customers close, it reduces the potential for them to look elsewhere – the last thing we want is a customer moving all their business away because someone else is offering a wider choice.”