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Wide format print and signage specialist Group101 has expanded its offer thanks to a recent investment in an MTEX 5032Pro direct-to-textile printer – and it’s using the printer to not only deliver new soft signage solutions, it’s also creating ‘trussing’ for stages at gigs and festivals, and fabric backdrops for theatres.

If the company’s history was written into a play, this latest investment would be the fourth act since it was started up as a canvas printer by chief executive James Sahota in a very small bedroom seven years ago. Its quick growth meant the company moved into a production facility after around a year, then nine months later they moved again into bigger premises and introduced more large scale signage machines including a CNC cutter.

After another move they finally settled into a 10,000 sqft facility in August 2015 which also now houses their new MTEX 5032Pro, installed just before Christmas.

James said: “While we started out serving both trade and direct customers, we’re now a trade-only supplier, working mostly with signmakers, other printers and range of design agencies. It’s a great arrangement as it means our customers know that we’re not a competitor for their business and we can work together with our clients to develop new applications to meet their customers’ requirements.”

With the MTEX 5032Pro, Group101 is now able to print directly onto a range of textiles including Airmesh vent fabric (for fencing banners, cafe barrier graphics, crowd control railing graphics, building wraps, banners, displays, exhibition graphics, point of sale signage and so on), backlit fabric, blackout display fabric for where zero light shine through is needed, and stretch fabric for display frames.

James added: “The MTEX 5032Pro is a totally different beast from your standard wide format printer. It’s a bit like the difference between driving a car and flying a plane – there are more factors to consider than when you’re just loading a roll of vinyl or a board, such as  how the material behaves, and the effects of heat, tension and torque. It was a massive learning curve, but when the penny finally dropped I just had a big grin on my face.”

James and a couple of his operators have learned to operate the printer, and while they offer a range of products, the most popular are the stretch fabric display frames.

James explained: “The stretch fabric display frames and pop ups are like a sock you pull around the frame – and they can have a massive impact at up to 6 x 3m. We do the finishing too so we supply a complete solution, with bespoke display shapes if requested.

“With the fabric we use customers can wash the material at 30 degrees to keep it clean and the displays can be packed up and carried over your shoulder in a bag similar to a rucksack. At the other end of the scale we can also now produce theatre backdrops on fabric rather than a foamex board, with a 15-20m seamless graphic that companies can fold up and put away.

As a fairly small and approachable team we build up a trust with our customers which means they’re able to get us involved as a consultant at the start of a new project and ask us what we can do to help them deliver the best solution for their client.

“Thanks to our new soft signage solutions the MTEX is becoming a firm favourite with our network of trade clients. With our exceptional prices, a comprehensive knowledge of all things print and state of the art finishing department, it’s no wonder our trade fabric printing department is growing month on month.”

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