Mimaki technology is being used to process mask material that is both functional and fashionable to wear. In doing so, they are creating high quality masks to meet safety standards and regulations worldwide!
Many manufacturing companies have decided to convert production to contribute to addressing the COVID-19 crisis. In the textile sector in particular, print service providers have started producing masks and other kinds of facial protection, due to the sudden surge in demand and limited supply. So that masks, both medical and non-medical, can guarantee protection while being suitable for contact with the face, the fabrics used must meet specific technical requirements. Often many layers of different fabrics are used, including polyester, warp knits, standard knits and non-wovens. Two fundamental properties are needed to achieve maximum functional and protective efficiency: impermeability and sterility.
Mimaki technology meets these specific requirements with a highly effective solution for fabric preparation. The TR300-1850C pre-treatment unit, originally designed for inkjet printing applications, can now process mask materials, simply by using it with different chemicals. “Appropriate fabric preparation is essential for producing masks. At the moment this remains one of the trickiest aspects for operators in the textile sector”, explains Marco Vanzini, Sales Director at Mimaki Bompan Textile. “Although it was developed for inkjet printing, the Mimaki TR300-1850C coater has demonstrated its suitability for the specific treatments making mask materials sterile and impermeable.”
Part of the TR Series, an innovative range of pre- and post-treatment systems developed by Mimaki, the TR300-1850C digital coater offers a compact design for installation in any production environment. Easy to use, this roll-to-roll unit makes it simple to apply the coating: once inserted, the fabric passes through a padder, where it is implanted with the selected chemicals, then proceeding to successive phases through squeeze rollers and a dryer, before being rewound into a roll.
Using the coater to meet the mask challenge, fabrics can be treated with water-soluble antifungal, antibacterial and antiviral disinfectants, such as salicylic acid and bleach. As for impermeability, this can be obtained by dissolving silicone-based products in water.
“We are convinced of the potential of this solution, not only in helping to optimise mask production today, but also in opening up a brighter, more optimistic perspective for the steps ahead. It is clear by now that masks and facial PPE will be part of our everyday lives even after the worst of the COVID-19 crisis, in what is called phase 2. It will be important to be prepared, adapting production methods to offer accessories that are both functional and pleasant to wear”, adds Vanzini. “Fabrics pre-treated with the TR300-1850C coater can be decorated and personalised using Mimaki sublimation transfer printing plotters, meeting the demand for trendy accessories that is sure to come from the market.”
Covid-19 is no laughing matter!
But hey – why make it more miserable than it is?
C’mon – let’s lighten up a little and have some fun!
While they may be funny as hell these are PROPER personal protection masks! Made from Dual Layer Polyester & Polycotton, they also have a professionally applied Silver Nano-Particle Coating which gives lab tested added protection against bacteria. Yeah we know… Corona is a virus but if we can stop other opportunistic uglies getting in (or out)… Why not!
They have been professionally digitally printed by ARTLAB – leaders in digital textile printing technology. ArtLab, one of Graphix Supply World’s longest customers, makes use of their excellent TXP300 Mimaki textile printers, allowing them to print on a wide array of natural fabrics using the latest pigment inks. These dye sublimation printers have certainly been put to work, printing an exciting series of custom-printed face masks for the prevention of the spread of the Covid-19 virus. The masks are fully washable and the antibacterial coating itself is good for 50 washes!
These hysterically funny “Mad Masks” have proved wildly popular as an alternative to the dreary and dull masks on the market. These masks use the quality technology of Mimaki printers to print onto a synthetic support fabric for the masks outers. This is a high performance moisture wicking fabric that also prints exceptionally well. It is lined with an antibacterial coated polycotton inner and offer great comfort, safety and breathability while raising a bucket full of laughs and good humour!
The Italian company, a specialist manufacturer of functional sportswear, conducted research and began producing masks in response to the COVID-19 crisis. Using Mimaki sublimation printers, the masks can be customised, moving away from their connotation with hospitals and transforming them into a fashion accessory
From functional sportswear to combatting the spread of the Coronavirus: Energiapura, an Italian manufacturer of clothing and accessories for ski racing and snowboarding, has leveraged its know-how and technology to conceive and develop – in a very short space of time – a protective mask that meets the Class I medical device requirements. The EP PA 2020 (Energiapura Pure Air) facial device, optimised for air filtering and breathability, provides many hours of protection while working, and can be reused. But Energiapura has gone even further, branding and customising the masks with sublimation printing. “Bold colouring has always distinguished the Energiapura brand, and we didn’t want to abandon this, not even in the midst of the crisis”, explains Alberto Olivetto, founder and CEO of Energiapura. “Sublimation printing allows us to give a brighter face to COVID-19. Our message is to add colour and a bit of optimism, precisely in these difficult times.”
The EP PA 2020 mask, compliant with 93/42 EEC Medical Devices – Class I washable, meets the essential requirements of UNI EN 14683:2019. Having redirected the manufacturing process, Energiapura is now stepping up production levels to meet the rising demand from hospitals, pharmacies, chemists, companies and even consumers.
A winning brand
In its headquarters at Tezze sul Brenta (Vicenza province), Energiapura employs 25 staff members. A further 80 employees work in Tunisia, where part of the production is managed.
Energiapura’s story began in 1990, when Alberto Olivetto set up his business in the heart of the Veneto textiles district at the junction of the provinces of Vicenza, Treviso and Montebelluna. Focusing from the outset on research and innovation, the company homed in on the niche market of functional sportswear. Initially a subcontractor, it moved from cycling to cross-country skiing, establishing itself as a manufacturer and direct exporter of the Norwegian brand Swix in Europe, the USA and Japan.
In 1994, the company registered the Energiapura trademark, a fundamental step signalling the start of sportswear production in its own name. Schools and clubs for alpine and cross-country skiing were now their main target group. “We had clearly chosen the more difficult path in addressing this market. But then again, we knew we had something more to offer than the competition”, says Olivetto. “Thanks to our extensive use of colour, we were able to offer bespoke items for each specific situation, an added value that helped us get noticed.”
Colour and customisation thanks to sublimation printing, using Mimaki technology, have always been at the core of Energiapura’s manufacturing process. “Backed by years of research, development and testing, it was our expert use of sublimation that allowed us to make a difference. Breaking with the monochromatic tradition, we added colour to the alpine environment, which is dominated by white, and this simple idea has opened up incredible possibilities.” Combining this with research into top-performing fabrics, Energiapura quickly gained ground internationally as well. As one of the leading suppliers in Europe, Russia, Japan and the USA, the company boasts partnerships with ski champions from around the globe: Marcel Hirscher (Austria), Tina Maze (Slovenia), from her début to her retirement, Peter Fill (Italy), Henrik Kristoffersen (Norway), Ilka Štuhec (Slovenia) and Alice Robinson (New Zealand), to name just a few. “In our field, they say that ‘Energiapura brings good luck’. Indeed, whoever wears our brand starts winning. But it’s not really a matter of luck. It’s all about the technical features and performance of our fabrics.”
Sublimation printing makes the difference
Every single production phase at Energiapura is given minute attention – from design to fabric preparation and processing (partly outsourced to external partners) and on to printing and packaging. “At the heart of it all is sublimation printing. With virtually unlimited creative freedom, we can offer truly unique designs to our customers.” On this journey, the encounter with Mimaki around 12 years ago and the installation of Mimaki roll-to-roll sublimation printers – currently four machines, including one JV5 and two JV300s – has brought another leap in quality. “Thanks to Mimaki, we have been continuously improving our quality while also expanding our range of applications. At this point, we even customise our accessories, including shin and arm guards. We were the first to offer colourful shin guards, and arm guards for ski racing are actually our invention.”
But Energiapura goes even further. The company continues to experiment with colour transfer methods, with a particular focus on managing the ink quantities deposited on the transfer paper. “We primarily work with composite materials, comprised of two or three layers of fabric. One of the most important factors to keep in mind is air flow, and we conduct many internal tests on this issue. Sublimation printing helps to optimise air flow, giving the fabric – and therefore the piece of clothing – the ideal technical characteristics and aerodynamics for the intended use”, explains Olivetto. “We have managed to create ‘winning formulas’, playing with the pigments used and their impact on the aerodynamic performance of fabrics.”
Pure Air, Energiapura’s mask
This is how Energiapura came to create EP PA 2020, an effective protective mask based on a functional concept. “It all started with the need to protect our own staff from the Coronavirus. Based on our usual modus operandi, we launched a study phase in our laboratories to identify the three main properties to impart to our devices: protection, breathability and reusability.” EP PA 2020 is made up of three layers of fabric: the first, the outer layer, is DWR-treated polyester, the second is TNT polyester, providing a filtering function, and the third, which comes into contact with the face, is polyester containing special fibres, such as coolmax and carbon. In this way, the mask not only guarantees the necessary protection but, being breathable, it can be worn for many hours while working. And it can be reused via normal washing and steam ironing, which also sterilises it.”
Beyond the present crisis, the Energiapura project is also looking to the future. “We wanted to disassociate our masks from the hospital image. How? Through customisation, by decorating them with company branding and designs provided by customers.” This is where the Mimaki JV300 wide-format printer comes in. Highly productive and optimised for rapid job changes, it ensures the fast turnarounds required in times of increasing demand.
“Innovation is part of our DNA. EP PA 2000 is the fruit of a great deal of research conducted in our laboratories. More than ‘just a mask’, it is a fully fledged facial protective device. In conceiving this project, we thought a lot about the future because we believe that the post-Coronavirus world will be different and involve new ways of socialising. Facial protection will play a critical role in the months to come, so we wanted to create an item that is actually fun to wear – adding a personal touch and a little bit of cheerfulness. Much like a fashion accessory.”
“Last but not least, another main focus was the reusability of the mask, avoiding issues with disposal and working towards a culture of zero waste for the benefit of our environment”, Olivetto concludes.