By Cassandra Balentine
Part 2 of 2
The evolution of a print provider can stem from a variety of offerings. In the first part of this series, we discussed a home-based husband-and-wife design team that grew to a full-blown sign shop offering wide format printing services as well as direct to garment (DTG) apparel printing. This week, we highlight another sign shop that provides DTG printing services as part of a larger service offering.
Big Idea Prints started out in 2004 as a small retail store in a local mall. Its first applications included airbrushing on t-shirts and license plates. About a year later, the company transitioned to digital production, adding a DTG printer as well as a Roland DGA Corporation wide format eco-solvent printer. Based in Jackson, TN, the company now operates a 2,800 square foot production facility with five employees, and is about to open a new retail operation.
Over the years, Big Idea Prints has continued to add equipment and now operates an automatic screenprinter, a Brother embroidery machine, a Brother DTG printer, the Roland wide format eco-solvent printer, an Epson wide format sublimation printer, and several specialized industrial sewing machines from Brother and Merrow Inc.
Today, the company offers DTG printing, signage, stickers, screenprinting, garment printing, custom cut and sewing, and wide format sublimation. It serves clients locally and across the U.S.
In early 2005, Big Idea Prints decided to make the move from airbrush and explore DTG. “We were intrigued by the ability to switch from being behind the airbrush to behind the computer. It allowed us to create designs that could then be reproduced by employees that had no airbrushing skills just by pushing a few buttons,” notes Marc Bryan, owner, Big Idea Prints.
In addition to employee productivity, the shop also sped up production. “We could produce a shirt on the DTG in less than half the time it took to airbrush. We could also offer products such as portrait shirts that were prohibitive from a pricing and time perspective with airbrush,” adds Bryan.
Since its entry into DTG, the company has upgraded its equipment several times. Bryan notes that this is the shop’s third Brother DTG printer. It started with an original GT-541 CMYK only, but upgraded when Brother released the GT-782 with white ink. “We saw an opportunity to upgrade and increase both our output and product offerings,” explains Bryan.
Over time, the print provider found both of these devices to be reliable and profitable. “When the latest version of the Brother printer lineage, GT-381, was released, we saw an opportunity to speed up our production with the new one-pass printing as well as the ability to offer a higher resolution print due to the fact that Brother had increased the print resolution from 600×600 to 1,200×1,200 dpi.
Bryan notes that DTG currently makes up about 20 percent of its overall business.
“After a surprising early success with the DTG printer, we began to receive requests for larger volume shirt orders,” recalls Bryan. To address this growing demand, the shop added a small manual press and necessary accessories and began offering screenprinting services.
The decision to go to production on the DTG versus screenprinting is a complex one, and is often dictated by the requirements of the design. However, strictly volume speaking, Bryan notes that it chooses screenprinting over DTG at around 24 shirts.
Recently, a specialty clothing retailer approached Big Idea Prints about setting up a line of products focused on the popularity of mixed martial arts, which would highlight a series of fighters.
Each fighter’s line included two-sided DTG prints showcasing the fighter’s nickname, logo, and sponsors—which were sold to friends in family; a “walk out” shirt for a fighter and his corner crew; a banner displaying the fighter’s nickname, logo, and sponsors; as well as a stickers to hand out to fans.
The client wanted a one-stop shop for setting up a specialty line for each of the fighters that they sponsor and needed a quick turnaround, small quantities, and modern, full-color designs. Bryan says the strengths of DTG play into this scenario perfectly.
To commence the project, the retailer provided its own designs coordinated within a template system.
For production of the fighter kits, the shop relied on its Brother GT-381 DTG printer, with Brother inks and pretreatment; the Epson sublimation printer with Sawgrass Technologies, Inc. inks and paper; a Geo Knight & Co., Inc. heat press; Merrow sewing machine with active seam technology; and its Roland VersaCAMM wide format printer and inks for banners and stickers.
Bryan says the response was overwhelming from the fighters, fans, and event promoters alike. “The initial order has been followed up several times and has turned into a long-term mutually beneficial relationship with not only the retailer, but the fighters as well.”
The company is currently constructing its new retail center, which will showcase its line of apparel featuring DTG and custom all-over cut-and-sew sublimation. dps
Jan2016, DPS Magazine