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Stay Safe, Go Green

Fabric Manufacturers Help the Environment

by Melissa Tetreault

Part 3 of a 6-part Series

Soft signage is in demand for its many advantages. A major benefit is that it is eco-friendly. Gianluigi Rankin, worldwide PSP segment manager of large format media, Hewlett Packard, believes that the majority of soft signage consumers are noticing this as well. He confesses, "People are becoming more environmentally conscious, and textiles are a much more healthy solution for the environment overall. They are a lot easier to recycle."

Not all of the following fabric manufacturers offer eco-friendly solutions yet, but most agree it is the next big thing. Guillaume Massard, sales manager for Dickson Coatings, comments, "Every big brand is looking for a green product. It is an amazing trend and it will just get more important, it is just the beginning."

What’s Out There
Thomas Poetz, director of marketing and product development, 3P Inkjet Textiles, agrees with Rankin. The company’s Value Textiles line is 100 percent environmentally safe and although it has been in production for the past ten years, just recently people are asking for it. He comments, "The big global warming question really makes people more sensitive and it is our responsibility to offer a media that helps rather than hurts." The fabric is pre-coated, flame retardant, and prepared for direct to print mechanisms, although it can also be used in transfer presses.

The Astrup Company distributes Glen Raven’s Vivitex Inkjet fabrics. According to Ron Paratore, branch manager, Astrup, these are some of their most popular selling fabrics because they are woven textiles. Paratore explains, "Woven textiles offer a soft look and an added depth dimension to printed fabrics. This certainly gives our customers a distinct advantage in presenting options in the marketplace." Astrup also distributes the EverGreen fabric line, an environmentally friendly media, by Dickson Coatings. All of Astrup’s products are used in direct to print applications only.

Just recently Dazian Fabrics introduced a new series of eco-friendly products that work with dye sublimation printers. These include the Eco Trapeze, Eco Janus, and Eco Celtic polyester fabrics. All of Dazian’s fabrics are made with either permanent flame resistant (PFR) or inherent flame resistant (IFR) yarns. Steven Weiss, director of sales/west, Dazian, believes that this is a huge factor in durability, "This allows the print to be cleaned/washed and reused unlike other substrates that cannot maintain their FR characteristics." It also helps people to understand how committed fabric manufacturers are to safety. Stan Szpilka, director of sales, fabrics/east, Dazian, explains, "Every fabric on our print line has been tested and passes NFPA 701 Small Scale and has been tested using the NFPA 705 Field Test to insure compliance with on-site testing."

Likewise, Dickson Coating, a division of Glen Raven, has fabrics that are all flame retardant. According to Massard this is "highly appropriate" for applications soft signage is used for. This includes retail areas, airports, museums, and train stations. Dickson also provides eco-friendly products for soft signage creators. Their EverGreen Fabric line, including Jet Tex, Jet 220, Jet 210, and Eclypse are about a year old. Uniquely, they protect the environment from creation to destruction. During production they do not create any volatile organic compounds (VOC) and during destruction they cause 77 percent less carbon monoxide in the air and 83 percent less acid.

Drytac currently provides Fredrix brand canvas for a majority of its soft signage customers. A woven product, the canvas is offered in both a glossy and matte version. According to Jerry Hill, VP of sales, Drytac, this type of fabric is primarily used in the fine art market. Hill also shares that at the beginning of August, Drytac introduced a new line of fabrics that can print on aqueous inkjet and solvent printers. These fabrics are targeted toward display resellers because of the popularity of portable display fabric stands.

Variety is key when it comes to Fisher Textiles’ offerings. Scott Fisher shares that the company offers fabrics for every type of printing, some of which are flame retardant and water repellant—allowing any soft signage created with Fisher products to hold up in outdoor conditions. The GF 4417, a soft knit fabric, is their most popular seller. Marketed toward indoor trade show applications it is used with dye sublimation printers. Soon, Fisher Textiles will be introducing a new line of environmentally friendly fabrics made from 40 to 60 percent recycled yarn.

Tiffany Guard, North American product manager for the ink jet division of Neschen Americas, explains, "We offer a full range of textiles to meet the demands of virtually any graphic textile application." Their products are used in trade show graphics, fine art, retail signage, and banners to name a few. Neschen also offers green products. The SolvoTex Cotton Premium Light and SolvoTex Cotton Premium Heavy are 100 percent biodegradable, made out of 100 percent natural cotton, and usable with solvent and UV inks.

Ultraflex offers Artex, a coated canvas, and Wallscapes, a 20-ounce wallpaper, for textile printers. The Artex canvas is one of their more popular products according to Jaime Giannantonio, marketing manager, Ultraflex, because of its versatility. "It can be applied in design and architectural applications or upscale retail and hotel installs." Besides versatility, Ultraflex also credits itself as one of the first companies to introduce green products into the industry. They offer a biodegradable PVC vinyl called BIOflex, which biodegrades in the landfill in three to five years.

Some hardware manufacturers, such as Hewlett Packard, Leggett & Platt Technologies, NuSign, and TexPress, sell their own brand of fabrics to use with their textile printers.

Finishing Your Fabrics
Soft signage has unique protection needs due to water, fire, dust, and customer handling. There are two options when it comes to protecting your fabrics from all of the above—lamination and coating.

Fabrite Laminating Corporation is both a textile laminator and finisher. They have two coating methods—Durable Water Repellent (DWR) with Stain & Soil Repellency and Non-Fray. DWR coating protects the fabric from stain and repels water. Non-Fray coating is done on the cut edge of the fabric to prevent it from unraveling. Laminating can be done by either Flame Lamination or Adhesive Lamination. In Flame Lamination, soft foam is bonded to any type of fabric. In Adhesive Lamination, two substrates are bonded together such as a Urethane / Vinyl Films to Cotton, Polyester, Linen, or any other fabrics.

Fabrite laminates silks, laces, woolens, and other delicate and specialty fabrics besides regular fabrics such as canvas, knits, spandex, nonwovens, etc. One of the most popular products is FabBac, a knit used for backing on upholstery. Sid Sharma, director of Technical Sales, Fabrite, believes his company is as flexible as the fabric they sell. "We do not try to limit one type of product for a particular end use as we understand that each customer has a different requirement," Sharma states.

Different requirements are what the signage industry is about. It is reassuring that textile manufacturers are recognizing this and working with their customers to create safe and environmentally friendly products.

Click here to read Part 1 of this exculsive online series, Soft Signage Ushers in a New Age of Digital Print
Click here to read Part 2 of this exculsive online series, Designing Digitally

Aug2007, Digital Output

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