As digital-graphics producers continue to stake out new territory in places where graphics have never been seen before, the physical properties of print media often make or break the project. Digital Imaging Group (DIG) learned this lesson firsthand during a recent rush project, when long-time client Cellular South ordered 100 custom-imprinted seat covers for the MHSAA High School basketball event the company was sponsoring.
Although the Flowood, MS-based diversified graphics group offers a broad range of services including trade-show graphics, vehicle wraps, POP and web design, the fabrication and fitting of the seat covers was a little out of their normal realm of experience. Fortunately, a suggestion from LexJet sales rep Sean McGettigan solved the materials challenge and allowed DIG to meet a very tight deadline.
“Our original assignment was to install a 14-ft.-diameter corporate event decal on the gym playing floor,” explains DIG co-founder and president Mitch Wolverton. “But as main sponsor of the event, CellularSouth didn’t want to miss any branding opportunities. So a week before the event, they decided to brand the seats in the coaches and players section with the corporate logo. These seats tend to show up a lot during the TV broadcast.”
At DIG, the first thought was to outsource the job. A vinyl seat-cover company was quickly rejected as a subcontractor because they could only produce single color graphics. At this point, the DIG production team decided to produce the covers in-house.
“We figured we know how to sew, so we asked ourselves: Why don’t we print this in-house, contour cut the shapes, and do the fabrication ourselves?” said Wolverton. The DIG team quickly purchased a stadium seat to use in prototyping and initially selected a print material from a supplier of fabrics for banner stands. But while the media printed well, it quickly became obvious that it was too rigid. In the process of trying to form the seat covers, the material wrinkled and the DIG team was unable to get the creases out of it.
“At this point, we called Sean McGettigan, our ‘go-to’ guy at LexJet and told him what we needed to do,” explained Wolverton. According to Wolverton, his company had already worked with McGettigan for four or five years and had always found him extremely helpful. More importantly, his knowledge of specialty print materials had been instrumental in meeting production challenges over the years.
Sean recommended the best choice available at the time: 3P TruColor Dipslay FR, a silk-like, 100% polyester fabric with a matte finish. It is often used for window draperies, flags and custom textile wall hangings. Most importantly, it is also flame-retardant—a requirement for fabrics used in public venues.
“We still had to make a number of modifications to keep the seat covers from gathering in the corners,” said Wolverton. “But the physical properties of the TruColor media made that relatively easy. Because this media hangs beautifully—like clothing—it didn’t wrinkle when it got bunched up and we able to get a great fit on the stadium seats.
In production, the 3P TruColor fabric was printed on DIG’s HP 9000 solvent printer and rushed into post-print fabrication. The DIG production team finished just in time to get the seat covers installed prior to the tournament kick-off, and, according to Wolverton, they looked great on the TV broadcast.
“We are very happy that we were able to help Mitch with this project,” says Sean McGettigan. “Because more and more LexJet customers are dealing with similar types of projects, LexJet recently introduced three additional inkjet-printable fabrics for printing with solvent and UV-curable inks. Today, If Mitch’s client had wanted to print more colorful, detailed logos or images on the seat covers, I would have suggested that he use LexJet Poly-Light FR SUV.”
If you have a project that involves the use of inkjet-printed fabric, call a LexJet account specialist at 800-453-9538 for advice on which type of fabric might best suit the requirements of the job.