At the end of April, MHM Direct GB officially opened its brand new showroom and training centre. Images took a look around the impressive new facilities
Tucked away on an industrial estate in Ilkeston, Derbyshire, is a large yet unassuming building with an MHM sign above the door. Step inside, however, and it immediately becomes clear that this is no run-of-the-mill business unit: it’s home to MHM Direct GB’s brand new training centre, showroom, warehouse and offices.
Intricate designs printed with MagnaColours inks, a brand taken on by the company in March this year, cover the walls of the reception area, vying for attention with the centre-piece – a full-size pool table – and the multiple industry trophies and awards in the corner.
The main attraction for printers, however, is to be found behind a set of double doors on the far side of this area. Walking into the gleaming new showroom and training centre feels like walking into the clean room of a science facility – all bright lighting, crisp white walls and spotless glass partitions. The space is dominated by an 8-colour/10-station MHM iQ Oval. “It’s the only showroom in the country with an oval that customers can come and see in action,” confirms MHM Direct GB’s managing director John Potter. Behind the oval is an equally impressive, fully operational Tesoma Drylight tunnel dryer.
Along the left hand side of the main space are three glass-fronted rooms, the first of which is an ink kitchen with MagnaColours inks on one side and International Coatings Company inks on the other. Wash tests can be carried out here, although pride of place goes to the set of digital ink weighing scales. “We’ve designed the software for these scales with a leading global scale manufacturer – they’re just fantastic,” says John. “The software checks the latest formulations from the ink manufacturers and the latest Pantone colours so users have always got red hot colour information. The formulas are sent straight to the scales – no need for a paper print out.” John demonstrated just how simple and accurate the scales are to use, along with the accompanying label printer, which ensures that every pot of mixed ink is marked up with the precise details of its contents.
The next room along is a dedicated Brother DTG studio, the domain of Luke Mitford, MHM’s DTG specialist. The room contains a Brother GT-3 series printer, a heat press and a Schulze Pretreat Maker IV, and is where Luke will carry out one-to-one training sessions as well as group training seminars for customers.
The final room is one that screen printers dream of: a light-safe screen-making area featuring the latest technology. On display – and available for visitors to try out – is the latest launch from Exile Technologies, the LightSpeed CTS/DTS LED Exposure Unit which is capable of exposing a screen in 10 seconds compared with the usual three minutes. To help customers further, John’s screen print expert, respected industry veteran Tony Palmer, has calculated and logged the different exposure times needed for the various emulsions. “We want to automate the screen making process as much as possible so as to eliminate human error,” explains John. For shops with high staff turnover, this level of automation and controlling of the different variables is invaluable.
The room is also host to the MHM Spyder II computer-to-screen system along with an auto-coater and, of course, a wash-out unit. John reveals that they’re also designing a new automatic developing unit that will automatically wash-out the screens. “The current £26,000 model is too expensive for most people so we’re in the process of building a smaller one for a lower price that we think will smash it,” he confides.
The Brother DTG demo suite
MHM Direct GB has the only showroom with an operating oval press according to the company’s MD, John Potter
The iQ Oval remains the star of the show, however. Tony, who joined MHM last year, demonstrates the press using Magna’s non-drying, water-based inks. “There’s an independent motor on every arm rather than a chain so it can’t go out of registration,” he says, before leisurely resuming printing to emphasise the point that despite the water-based inks being left in the screens for more than an hour since our arrival, they haven’t dried in.
The main aim of the new unit is to act as a training centre for an industry where there is still an absence of certified training courses. A lot of skilled printers moved out of the industry in the late ‘90s when work started going overseas, but production is starting to increase again in the UK thanks to fast fashion, says Tony. “Demand’s coming back, but finding the skilled staff is difficult,” he confirms.
MHM’s state-of-the-art centre should be on every screen and DTG printers’ must-visit list, and it has the potential to go a long way towards solving the problem of how to reliably train print shop staff to a consistently high level.