Digital Print Update

UK Textile and Wallpaper Production moves up a gear, as leading companies invest in high-speed digital technology.

In an event attended by local business partners and the MP for Loughborough Nicky Morgan, Managing Director Barry Forrester cut the ribbon on Anstey’s latest investment into digital print for wallpaper.

During the ceremony Anstey Wallpaper Co. Ltd unveiled the latest addition to their digital print department, the HP LX600. Driven by AVA, this environmentally friendly latex printer and its successor models produce revolutionary top quality, high resolution, vibrant and durable wallcovering. Anstey are not alone; the last 12 months has seen increasing numbers of top companies investing in state-of- the-art digital print technology and turning to AVA as their natural software and support partner. Digital print gives companies like Anstey new creative opportunities for customization and short run production or sample prints.

Another company moving into digital printing with AVA is the well established ‘The Silk Bureau’ owned by Doug Davies. The Silk Bureau distinguishes itself amongst competitors as the UK’s leading digital textile printing company for individual designers, textile design studios and international retailers.

The decision to go digital was a simple one for Doug. “We moved into digital print from screen because it offered less restrictive costs for samples and short runs, along with greater flexibility. Over the years we have added more printers and offer a wider range of coating lines.”

As testament to the advantage that digital print can give, The Silk Bureau was very busy when I spoke to Doug: “Today alone we are serving 60 different clients. We offer print runs from 1000 to 10,000 meters plus, and hope to continue to grow a loyal customer base with the dynamic product and service range, fast turn around and high quality we can offer.

As Silk Bureau say on their website, ‘You can now achieve what was, until recently, considered impossible in the realm of printed fabric’.

Moving away from textiles to the wonderful world of wallcoverings, John-Mark Watson of John Mark Ltd didn’t really consider digital print as an option until he had had a conversation with one of his suppliers;

I’d heard about digital printing, but had not considered it as an option. The digital print I’d seen up to that time was all very flat, shiny, and offered little in way of substrate options. I had been advised about a particular machine that had previously been used in mainly in the sign and graphics world.

Having seen the printer in action, John-Mark bought the biggest model available and came to AVA for the specialist software and support so crucial to success in the digital field. From there John Mark Ltd has continued to expand, investing extensively in additional printers over recent months.

As with the Silk Bureau, John- Mark sees the future of his company as continuing very much along the digital print path, “ Once we are at capacity with our current machines, it’s a case of buying another, and I know that the process will just get faster.” In the early days it was a struggle to convince apprehensive customers to consider that digitally printed wallpaper could compare to traditional methods, “I have used my considerable experience to get the best out of the process to accommodate the demands of the market. This has been evident where customers who had already had digital printing produced elsewhere just couldn’t believe the improvement in quality, aesthetic look and standard of reproduction that we were able to achieve. Things like being able to offer a fine hombre from the top to the bottom of a length of wallpaper without a bar mark!”

Even in the past 18 months, the technology available has improved beyond recognition. “I believe” said John-Mark, “that digital print technology, could one day replace traditional methods. Sometimes you can have 28 colours in a design produced as a single pass. It gets more exciting every day, and that’s what it’s all about isn’t it? Making wallpaper that gets people excited.”

Turnbull Prints were amongst the first companies to establish high-speed digital printing in the UK, and are a leading independent commission producer of furnishing fabrics. The company has a unique production profile, with a specialist unit in Thailand producing the craft-based and labour intensive products, and the latest digital printing and AVA CAD/CAM technology at their European factory near Manchester. At Turnbull, complex hand-blocks and ‘wet-on dry’ flat-screen prints using vat-dyes and innovative ‘warp prints’ mix with the latest digital technology.

Paul Turnbull, MD of Turnbull Prints, says; ‘Digital production complements more specialist areas, and our machinery portfolio and interpretational skills enable us to provide a refined level of product, at a variety of price points.’ As Paul explains, Turnbull see the main impact of digital as being upon ‘continuous’ printing such as flatbed or rotary, rather than replacing more specialist production areas, and are excited by the design and production possibilities. But it’s not all about technology, as Paul explains “Our customers come back to us because of the personal experience, and the skill of the product development teams is derived from a ‘corporate DNA’ that comes from over 100 years of experience in creating beautiful products. Our aim is not simply to print, but to understand and collaborate in the creative process. It is an exciting time for fabric printing, for designers as well as manufacturers, and we are thrilled to be at the forefront of this process.’

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