MHM has begun offering a smaller-format version of its screen print presses after creating the first for Kent garment printer Signal UK.

The Austrian manufacturer tweaked the design of its S-Type Xtreme automatic machine so it used up less space, allowing Signal UK to upgrade to a press with 12 colours and 14 stations.

By reducing sizes of the print heads and frames, MHM has produced a carousel with a diameter of 4.90 metres instead of the standard 5.42 metres – a reduction of nearly half a metre.

The new machine was installed at Signal UK in January but MHM has already started selling models with a smaller footprint, planning to extend the principle across its range.

MHM was set the challenge by Gary Rose, co-founder of Tunbridge Wells-based Signal UK, which specialises in T-shirts for bands but decorates garments for all kinds of uses from workwear to fashion.

Gary needed a press that could print more colours than Signal UK’s existing six-colour MHM E-Type but, because of four pillars in the ground-floor print room of the 150-year-old building, space was limited.

“The E-Type had served us well for over 10 years but, as time has gone by, bands have been asking for more and more colours and more complex designs, so six colours wasn’t enough,” Gary explained.

Signal UK also has a Brother GT-3 direct-to-garment printer, also from MHM Direct GB, and offers transfer printing and embroidery, but it was not what these customers wanted.

“We tried to convince them to go down the DTG/hybrid route but these bands wanted to stick to traditional screen printing. It was apparent we had to invest in something that could do the job.”

Gary contacted consultant John Potter, formerly managing director of MHM Direct GB, for help in persuading MHM in Austria to create a press with more colours but a smaller footprint. “I told him I would have to go for another make with smaller machines but I didn’t want to change”.

“We like the machine and the way it is laid out and we’ve never had a problem with it. If something does come up, I just need to phone them and they help me. It was also good not to have to learn a totally new machine.”

John recognised the potential of smaller-format presses. “The smaller footprint will appeal to a lot more people, particularly in the US and the UK,” he said. “As a machine builder, you can’t be all things to all men or make too many bespoke items but the smaller footprint is a sensible addition to the MHM range.”

He pointed out that a “huge percentage” of certain markets, particularly the US, still use 23 x 33 inch frames but most MHM presses will take up to 25 x 36 inches.

“The bigger the frame, the bigger the diameter so I said that if we use a narrower frame, we could bring the diameter down, making machines that were smaller, stronger and faster, with no negative effects. All they needed to do was alter the print heads by reducing the length and width, along with the pallet arms.”

John said that, since adapting a machine to Signal UK’s specifications using Gary’s scale drawings, MHM has already sold another two in the UK. “Now that we have a format, we can build this in any size from six colours up to 16 colours.”

For a 14-colour machine, the difference is 5.28 metres instead of 5.85 metres. “It also means you can have machines with extra features in a smaller space, like the SP5000 with auto registration.”

Gary is delighted he was the catalyst for creating a new version of MHM’s presses. “I feel quite proud that it was all down to me going on at them. But without John, it wouldn’t have been built.

“To go up to 12 colours is quite a big jump for us. It allows us to print 10 colours with two flashes, or 11 colours with one flash. It will help us to get more work. We are now open for more business.”

Signal UK team: Gary Rose (centre) with daughter Sophie Rose and fiancé Callum Puttock