Fabric flags and banners are a common sight outside businesses and are also popular indoors in restaurants, banks, and retail locations. Dye-sublimation (dye-sub) printing allows businesses to create lightweight, customized fabric products that feature vivid color at reasonable costs. This presents an ideal opportunity for print service providers (PSPs) who offer these services to their clientele.
With an abundance of solvent and UV print providers, it is less common to find a printer that specializes in fabric dye-sub. Realizing this need led to the creation of Kansas City, MO-based PSP, Insight Print & Display. The business currently operates from a 25,000 square foot shop with 25 employees.
Doug Murray, president, Insight Print, celebrates 15 years in wide format printing, mainly producing solvent and UV wholesale products. For many years he outsourced dye-sub projects, until 2008 when the company was formed to take control of the process. This presented the opportunity to produce flags and banners using fabric instead of vinyl, which offers an eco-friendly, lightweight alternative.
Specializing in dye-sub provides a competitive edge, but it does not come without challenges. “First you print the fabric, than apply heat, which makes the process of color management and finishing more complex,” explains Murray. “You do not truly see the end color until the fabric is put through the 400 degree process.”
Insight Print maximizes its color management knowledge with Tony Quinn, representative, Nazdar. In addition to helping implement a fabric-friendly ErgoSoft AG RIP, Quinn serves as an ongoing expert in all phases of color management and project workflow.
PSPs often rely on all-in-one printers and heaters when it comes to printing textiles, but Insight Print deliberately chose to invest in separate machines. With an all-in-one device, PSPs are limited to what fabric is used. For example, with stretch materials such as spandex, images may be distorted.
Direct-to-fabric printing also provides increased saturation, which creates vivid color on the front and back. “If customers have the color red on the front, they want it to appear red on the back as well—not light pink,” states Murray.
Insight Print became a loyal user of Mimaki USA, Inc.’s textile inkjet printers after serving as a beta site tester. The shop also relies on several Mutoh America, Inc. dye-sub and direct-to-fabric printers, as well as multiple thermal heat presses from Strategic Edge Imports LLC.
Full Color Flags
At Insight Print, clients customize flags and signage with a name, logo, or image for a range of marketing purposes. Flags are water resistant and offer an eco-friendly alternative to vinyl.
Dynamic Displays, also based in MO, is one of Insight Print’s active partners, collaborating weekly and monthly to produce projects. These include the production of polyester fabric banners for large events such as the iGate CEO Cup golf championship.
“Our customers require a product with a smooth finish and high-end production value for visible placement,” explains Murray. “In addition, the image printed on the material must be translucent to eliminate show through.”
Flagpole flags are produced in a variety of sizes; 15-, 12-, and nine-foot sail flags are also offered. Each sail flag kit includes a durable polyester flag, pole hardware, heavy-duty in-ground stake for stable placement, and carrying case.
Custom flags are placed outdoors in parking lots, grassy areas, or near intersections, entryways, neighboring properties, or on rooftops. They are also common indoors at trade shows, auditoriums, showrooms, or for directional signage. Fabric flags and banners move without difficulty from one location to another and change out easily with each new promotion or event, creating a versatile marketing tool.
Fabric banners offer an elegant, soft look ideal for indoor installations where lighting may create a glare on vinyl banners. Customers choose from fabric that is semi-opaque to opaque or a matte to satin finish. These are finished with hems, pole pockets, dowel rods, pipe sewn into pole pockets, or hanging hardware systems.
Hone Your Focus
Making the switch to dye-sub printing has been a successful endeavor for the PSP, which now has a booming business in completing wholesale fabric projects. The challenges—acquiring versatile equipment, adding a knowledgeable color management staff, and making a commitment to the finishing process—have not slowed the momentum at Insight Print.