Fabric manufacturers work diligently to create products that withstand weathering, abrasion, and other outdoor obstacles. Advancements in coatings provide heightened durability. The result is the extension of textile-based applications into exterior environments.
One such application is digitally printed awnings. Traditionally, graphics are either screenprinted or applied via cut vinyl onto outdoor-certified fabrics. With advancements in both coatings and ink sets, print service providers specialized in custom awnings present a range of possibilities to customers.
Design, Print, Install—Repeat
Capitol Awning Company was established after World War II in 1947 by Fred Catalano Sr. Based in Jamaica, NY. Its beginnings were fostered in backyard roller awnings and window shades. Today, the print provider specializes in awnings and architectural fabric for a range of clients, from small mom-and-pop shops to large franchises, hospitals, stadiums, and retail. High-profile customers include Dunkin Donuts, Rockefeller Center, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Yankee Stadium. It also offers canopies, banners, shade structures, Mapes systems, custom signs, custom umbrellas, and truck lettering.
Most of its work is done in the Northeast, but that isn’t to say it hasn’t been presented with the chance to branch out. “We’ve had opportunities for national account work, but prefer to manage the entire project from end to end—design, print, fabrication, and install,” admits Michael Catalano, partner, Capitol Awning—grandson of Fred.
A typical awning job takes no longer than two weeks, from concept and print to design of the structure and the install. Even during the height of its busy season, jobs rarely take more than three weeks. The only time a project drags on is when Capitol Awning waits on a permit from a city, which sometimes takes six to eight months, admits Catalano.
Handling the entire process allows Capitol Awning to partner with customers and earn new business—85 percent of the company’s work is repeat business. As most of their customer’s have multiple locations, there is always potential for them to return. Even clients who walked through the door 18 years ago come back asking for help fixing an awning or umbrella, and when that is done, they place an order for a new awning.
Customers flock to Capitol Awning partly because of the versatility of printing digitally directly to fabric. “Customers want more options and digital print capabilities provide more of a creative mindset,” says Catalano. Fabric manufacturers only stock so many colors and digital goes beyond that. As Catalano goes on to explain, one company wouldn’t want the same red as another, so the ability to print a specific red via digital is a great competitive advantage.
Capitol Awning relies on three eco-solvent printers from Roland DGA Corporation to print directly to its awning fabric, which is generally sourced from Cooley Group. When deciding between devices, Catalano considered quality, value, and longevity—and Roland’s ink set provides that.
The Cooley media is an ideal complement, with its durability an attractive feature. The textile vendor tests its media portfolio in extreme outdoor situations; with a five year durable awning product used regularly by the print provider.
Catalano explains that digital also allows the company to become more environmentally conscious. In the past, when creating cut vinyl for awning graphics, it would order a specific color in a ten yard roll and only use about two yards of it. Two years later, he’d throw out the unused roll because its shelf life expired.
Recent jobs at opposite ends of Capitol Awning’s customer spectrum include an awning project for food chain Houlihan’s, Mesh from SheerWeave by Phifer Incorporated was printed on directly and then a Glen Raven, Inc. Sunbrella blue fabric placed behind.
Alternatively, for local garden store, Lapide, based in Brooklyn, NY, awning fabric from Cooley—Weathertyte—was directly printed on to provide a green leaf effect.