By Olivia Cahoon
Textiles are used for a range of applications across many industries, from sign and display to fashion and home décor. Digital printing helps print service providers (PSPs) take fabric to the next level. With an eye for detail and the right printing equipment, PSPs transform textiles into custom backdrops and displays.
Above: Heritage Printing printed on Fisher Textiles GF 7110 X-Out fabric—in addition to many other materials—using its EFI VUTEk GS3250LX Pro for the 2019 NBA All-Star event in Charlotte, NC.
Established in 1977, Heritage Printing, Signs & Displays is a veteran-lead visual communications company. The shop started business as Gass Printing Services, a quick printer located in rural Southern MD and operating in the Gass family garage and living room. It originally offered traditional printing and copy services.
Heritage Printing moved into its first commercial space in 1985 in Leonardtown, MD and in 1988 Joe Gass Jr. took over leadership of the company from his father Allen after serving six years in the U.S. Navy and rebranding the company as Heritage Printing & Graphics. In the mid-1990s its services evolved into printing mail publications and marketing materials for associations, non-profit organizations, federal agencies, and defense contractors. Today Heritage Printing employs 27 full-time team members at production facilities located in Charlotte, NC and Waldorf, MD, as well as a sales office in Washington, DC.
In 2009, Heritage Printing launched into digital wide format graphics, expanding its offerings to banners, signs, and displays. Although it took a number of years to learn this new industry and its unique client needs and expectations, Heritage Printing quickly became an industry leader in a little more than a decade. “Wide and grand format printing and installations now represent 65 percent of our company’s overall revenue,” shares Joseph A. Gass, Jr., president/CEO, Heritage Printing.
Heritage Printing primarily supports clients and venues in the Carolinas and Mid-Atlantic region but also works with companies all around the U.S. and other parts of the world. The company provides a variety of commercial and wide format printing, finishing, and installation services to its clients, which include architectural/construction firms, convention centers, distributors, event planners, government agencies, manufac-turers, marketing firms, museums, non-profits, retailers, and venues.
Wide format products are produced using UV-curable and latex printing technology. Direct imaging is available up to 126 inches wide for rigid and roll materials made of plastic, metals, woods, textiles, and vinyl. Printed textiles create backdrops, backlit displays, banners, column wraps, event displays, silicone edge graphics, tablecloths, and table runners.
Digital & Textile Investments
Heritage Printing started offering wide format in October 2009 in Charlotte, NC. Its first presses included a 64-inch Mutoh America, Inc. eco-solvent printer and an Agfa Anapurna M2 UV-curable hybrid printer that handles up to 5×10 foot rigid boards and 63-inch roll materials.
Soon after, the company received its first wide format client—Nautica—supporting 105 U.S. outlet stores. “In the late 2000s, while experiencing a down economy, we looked to diversify our production capabilities beyond offset and digital small format publications and marketing materials printing. Wide format proved to be a great direction for us to go,” shares Gass.
It now operates a 126-inch EFI VUTEk GS3250LX Pro with UltraDrop Technology, two 126-inch HP Inc. Latex printers, four 64-inch HP Latex printers, two CNC routers, and one laser cutter.
For printing to textiles, the shop uses UV-curable and latex printing technologies. According to Gass, latex printing with HP equipment is environmentally friendly, fast, and offers great image quality. Heritage Printing also direct prints to fabric with its EFI VUTEk GS3250LX Pro printer. Brent Thompson, wide format production manager, Charlotte, NC production facility, Heritage Printing, notes “an advantage to using our VUTEk printer is its speed and weatherproof ink.”
Heritage Printing sources textiles based on the digital press and the application. The company often uses Ultraflex Systems, Inc. UltraPoplin Soft Image D240 fabric on the latex printers. “This fabric doesn’t have much stretch and has the best print registration out of any of the ones we tested,” notes Thompson. UltraPoplin Soft Image D240 comes in 63- and 122-inch rolls.
For UV printing, the shop uses 126-inch opaque fabric rolls from Fisher Textiles. Heritage Printing selected this fabric after testing several. “This fabric prints best for a reasonable price and met the requirements of a particular big job we had that needed to be fire rated,” adds Gass.
The shop operates Onyx Graphics, Inc. software, which runs all files through to the printer, including banner, vinyl, paper, and film.
NBA All-Star Game
In 2018, the creative service provider (CSP) for the NBA approached Heritage Printing to produce signs for the 2019 NBA All-Star event held in Charlotte, NC. The CSP is tasked by the NBA to design graphics and then identify local companies to produce and install the signage.
“It was a big event with dozens of hotels, meeting venues, and arenas to install and uninstall soft and rigid signage over a five day period,” explains Gass.
Heritage Printing accepted the job, which entailed creating thousands of rigid custom contour cut signage, life-sized cutouts, mesh banner materials, and fabric graphics to pull over the existing arena and venue graphics, backdrops, light box graphics, displays, directional materials, and banners. This included replacing the underbelly of the scoreboard at the Bojangles’ Coliseum arena with backlit vinyl banner material, wrapping stairwells and windows throughout the facility, and hanging mesh banners around the coliseum’s entire perimeter.
For the fabric applications, Heritage Printing used the EFI VUTEk GS3250LX Pro printer and Fisher Textiles GF 7110 X-Out polyester fabric with a viscose/rayon flocking. The fabric was selected based on the client’s request for an affordable blockout material that printed well. According to Scott, the company’s main directives were to find an affordable, available, local, and UV-compatible product.
The EFI VUTEk GS3250LX Pro proved to be an excellent device to print to both rigid and roll materials for the All-Star game. “This machine is built to be a workhorse and we put that to the test running fabrics, adhesive vinyl, banner materials, foamcores, PVCs, acrylics, and other specialty products throughout that week,” says Lamar Scott, senior project manager, Charlotte, NC production facility, Heritage Printing.
Fabric cutting was completed using a hot knife and a Gerber Technology MCT cutter with fabric cutting capabilities. In total, over 25,000 square feet of soft and rigid signage were produced for this event.
According to Gass, having this type of project in the shop’s portfolio is instrumental in allowing the company to access bigger and better opportunities in Washington, DC and Charlotte, NC, as well as other custom interior branding projects of offices, facilities, venues, and storefronts.
Taking on Large Projects
Heritage Printing relentlessly pursues ways to meet the unique needs of each of its clients and their specific applications. To remain successful, the shop’s team is always seeking the best ways to leverage technology to maximize its resources and results for its customers.
Jan2020, Digital Output