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Fabric Leads the Way

Innovative forces join together to promote environmental responsibility.

By Kim Crowley

In comparison to other forms of media, fabric provides unique opportunities. Fabric texture brings a sophisticated look and feel to a number of applications. Material is durable and stretchable—allowing for easier setup, less creasing, and an opportunity for contour and 3D details.

A testament to the benefits of using fabric, a recent project for adidas’ U.S. retail stores utilized textures and instituted a worldwide trend of environmental responsibility.

A Print Shop Gone Green
Infinity Images, Portland, OR, spent over seven years establishing itself as a leading provider of large format output. Projects include building scapes, window graphics, displays, event booths, and signs for retail, trade show, corporate, and museum use. Infinity Imaging prints on VUTEk grand format and flatbed machines, Hewlett-Packard (HP) 5000 inkjets, Seiko I Infotech Inc. large format printers, and Durst Lambda photographic machines. Services also include design, finishing with mounting, laminating, sewing, and die-cutting, as well as fulfillment and distribution.

"Infinity Images is committed to the ‘green’ movement and has been working towards ‘green’ product offerings for the past several years," says Dirk Jamison, president, Infinity Images. The company is making a strong effort to install many "green" practices into its daily workflow, including recycling materials—whenever possible—and printing direct to substrate to reduce release liner waste. According to the company’s Web site, "Our future depends on being ‘green.’"

A Step Ahead
Launched in 1920 when founder Adi Dassler crafted his first pair of shoes, adidas is a leading provider of shoes, apparel, and accessories for sports and fitness. adidas operates 12 Originals stores, seven SportPerformance stores, and 67 outlets in the U.S.

Infinity Images was and continues to be involved in dozens of adidas’ retail store campaign projects. The adidas company, which employs over 25,000 people worldwide, is very committed to "green." The company’s clientele lead active, healthy lifestyles and typically reflect adidas’ desire to preserve the outdoors and create a small environmental footprint.

"adidas is a German-based company," notes Sonia Collier, senior sourcing manager, adidas. "And with that comes stricter European laws regarding recycling and environmentally friendly living." She adds that in the U.S., "We are fortunate to be able to take advantage of the knowledge and requirements we get from adidas Global in order to make a difference in our own backyard."

"In early 2007, adidas expressed an interest in investigating and implementing the use of ‘green’ products for their retail location graphic programs," explains Jamison. "The goal was to develop cost effective, environmentally friendly in-store signage."

"The Evergreen Jet 220 offered by Dickson Coatings—a division of Tri Vantage—is a great ‘green’ alternative to the canvas banner material that was previously being used, a perfect solution for our client’s needs," says Jamison.

Dickson Coatings, a French company, introduced Evergreen fabrics two years ago. The Jet 220 is one of four items available in the line, others include the Evergreen Eclypse, Jet 210, and Jet Tex. Perfect for high-traffic areas, the fabrics are highly flame retardant.

The adidas group chose Infinity Images to produce its vibrant Holiday 2007 displays for the Originals stores on Dickson Coatings’ Evergreen Jet 220. Featuring clean-lined drawings of Christmas lights and snow scenes with non-traditional holiday colors, the project was designed by Colleen Malmberg with illustrations by Jesse Hora.

Each of the adidas stores received between ten and 15 signs at sizes from 8x10 inches up to 8x10 feet. A combination of large fabric wall signs, smaller point of purchase (POP) signs, and 3D gift packages completed a cohesive holiday look throughout the retail stores.

The project was printed on Infinity Images’ Durst Lambda 130 and 131 photographic printers, which combine classic silver halide photographic printing with a patented, single beam, RGB laser full continuous tone exposure system. They also printed on their Seiko I Infotech Inc. 98- and 64-inch wide printers. The Seiko ColorPainter 64S 64-inch fabric printer uses Seiko oil-based inks for dye-sublimation on a range of fabrics.

Substrates used for the adidas project include 3M Comply Adhesive 3552 vinyl, Matte Lam, Lambda Print, Dickson Coatings Jet 220, Gatorboard, and E-flute corrugate. The 3D packages, placed on display tables and shelves, were printed with the Seiko ColorPainter on 3M 3552 vinyl with Matte Lam. They were mounted to E-flute corrugate, cut with a Zünd cutting device, and then scored. 

The unique no-curl quality and available fabric sizes made it the substrate of choice for the large format wall mount prints, says Eric Balderas, director of business development, Infinity Images. Additionally, fabric is easily to handle. Setting up the displays was as simple as retail managers stretching the fabrics over frames.

The matte Evergreen Jet 220 fabric meets adidas’ "green" standard. Made free of volatile chemicals traditionally found in coated fabric, the Evergreen line uses 50 percent less raw material than PVC banner and represents 80 percent savings in energy use for production. Also, the decomposition time in the ground is half of a standard PVC banner.

In addition, the Jet 220 helps achieve a canvas look and a bright color that adidas strives for when creating marketing campaigns. "For the holiday campaign, we were a little worried whether the brightness of the colors would come through the way we wanted," explains Marije Peek, producer, adidas. "Infinity did a great print job and everyone was really happy with how the campaign looked in our stores."

Color management from store to store, from printer to printer, and from substrate to substrate was essential, to keep a consistent package. "It was very important," says Balderas, "that all materials use common creative. Color had to match from substrate to substrate."

Since the fall of 2006 adidas used the Jet 220 for each of its campaigns. "Our vendor, Infinity Images, has thoroughly tested it and found a good way to use the material on the walls in our stores."

Friendly, Functional Fabric
The use of fabric in digital printing presents exciting, creative, and flexible options for a variety of markets. As we see in this project, a commitment to the environment from textile provider Dickson Coatings, print shop Infinity Images, and retail corporation adidas, brings a fresh, responsible strength to digital printing. Additionally, the use of fabric media in signage is user friendly.

May2008, Digital Output

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