By Lisa Guerriero
Part 2 of 2
Digital advancements increasingly affects industrial fabric printing. The ability to quickly create customized prints while still providing a high level of quality in the final graphic is an enticing benefit for many.
Spoonflower, based in Durham, NC, is a unique business that recognized the possibilities of digital fabric printing early on. About eight years ago, Gart Davis and Stephen Fraser, co-founders, Spoonflower, knew nothing about textiles. Then Fraser’s wife decided to design her own fabric for curtains and needed someone to print it, an idea that ultimately led to Spoonflower.
Today, the company is a haven for the crafty and the creative. With a 35,000 square foot facility it employees about 150. It blends ecommerce with industrial fabric printing. Visitors to its website upload their own artwork or choose from designs on file, including an array of options provided by artists and designers. The firm’s printed media is used in nearly every fabric application imaginable—including home décor and furnishing, framed artwork, banners, costumes, and clothing.
Printing with Style
Spoonflower has exclusively used digital printing methods since its founding in 2008. “Wide format textile printing is really the foundation of our business, in particular, digital wide format,” notes Davis.
The ability to design, capture, and print in one smooth workflow with no downstream processes is essential to the company’s success as a print on demand provider. If it used a complicated multi-step production process, it wouldn’t be able to compete with ready-to-shop fabric providers that have huge, constantly-stocked warehouses, observes Davis.
To achieve this, Spoonflower obtained its first Allegro textile printer from Kornit Digital when it was in beta two years ago. Today the company uses two Allegros and installed a third in September. The printers use Kornit’s NeoPigment ink.
The quality of the image—what Davis describes as a brilliant finished product—is a key part of the printer’s appeal. The pigment ink system also provides wash and crockfastness, while offering a more environmentally friendly alternative than many of the dyes used in industrial fabric printing.
Additionally, the Allegro enables single-step printing. Spoonflower starts with a ready-to-print fabric that doesn’t require pre-treatment, supplied by vendor partners. The staff loads the material into the front of the printer. “The ink fixation—and the heater that catalyzes the reaction that binds the ink to fabric—is all a single step,” explains Davis.
Behind the Seams
STITCHED Fashion Camp is a design and garment program for youths ages 8 to 18. Based in NY, it gives children a behind-the-scenes look at the fashion industry.
Every year for the last three years, between 15 and 20 campers have created designs and uploaded them to Spoonflower’s site. The designs arrive around noon and have to be printed and shipped the next day. This year, same-day processing was required, so efficiency was essential.
17 campers uploaded designs, which were then RIPped and run on a Kornit Allegro. Graphics were printed on an organic, woven sateen the company purchases from a converter in CA. Each camper’s order was comprised of two yards of media.
Although sateen can be challenging to print on, Davis says the Allegro’s sticky belt fixes the fabric underneath the printheads, providing a smooth graphic.
Spoonflower’s one-step method was important for this request, enabling same-day completion. “This is really the power of the digital platform,” admits Davis.
The challenge of printing for children is their expectations—with no experience, they are disappointed if the graphic isn’t precisely how it is designed. “The kids expect to see exactly what they’re uploading,” notes Rebecca McCoy, a member of Spoonflower’s marketing team.
The Allegro technology ensures the campers’ designs are just as they intended, with rich blacks and bright, almost neon colors.
Although children have a different understanding of graphics than adults, Davis says all customers are looking for the same thing—fidelity of experience. He suggests pigment systems are the best way to match the print with the on-screen graphic the customer uploaded or selected.
Industrial Print with Quick Turnaround
Customization drives numerous segments of digital printing, and fabric is no exception. Spoonflower allows customers of all ages to realize their unique vision. Using a single-step platform like the Allegro from Kornit enables the company to offer industrial runs in a quick turnaround time.
Oct2015, Digital Output DOIP1510