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Specialised Canvas Group, the textile printer trading as Flagmakers and Banner Box, has taken delivery of a grand-format EFI Vutek FabriVu 340 fabric printer, in a move that will almost quadruple its production capacity.

175-year-old Flagmakers and its sister company Banner Box carry out most of their production from a factory. Between them, the two companies produce a huge variety of soft signage and fabric displays, from traditional ceremonial flags to corporate signs, barrier jackets, the scrim wrappings around building sites, and the huge banners unfurled across sports pitches at international matches.
Flagmakers was an early adopter of digital printing methods, in the 1990s.

The Chesterfield facility has been a loyal customer of Hollanders print systems for at least three generations of kit, and until now its flagship machine was a Hollanders ColorBooster DS XL 3.2m, installed just over four years ago. But commercial director Paul Noble said the two businesses needed a faster machine.
“Hollanders machines are superb quality but their Achilles heel for us was speed – they don’t have a machine that runs at the speeds we were looking for,” he said.
The company also considered devices from D.gen and Mtex, but discounted those because their grand-format printers both incorporate inline fixation.
“That’s something we prefer not to have,” said Noble. “In our experience over the last 20 years we’ve determined that trying to run fixation at the same speed as print creates problems.  A hot process doesn’t work well with a process that involves moisture, ie ink – the two aren’t terribly compatible.”

Noble said the EFI Vutek FabriVu was the best match for the company’s needs.  “EFI recently bought Reggiani and it’s Reggiani architecture, which has long been synonymous with industrial-scale textile printing machines,” he said.
“It’s giving us capacity beyond our necessity but there’s room there for growth and that’s desirable.”
The 3.4m-wide FabriVu can handle a variety of polyester fabrics and papers. It arrived on Friday 10 February and is being assembled now, with production due to begin at the end of the month. Noble said it was so big that a 5m-wide hole had to be opened in the wall of the factory to get it inside.  Once in, a clean, temperate room had to be built around it to maintain a stable atmosphere and ensure optimum quality print.

These construction works, along with the cost of the printer, totalled around R4,500 000.  The FabriVu was supplied by I-Sub.
I-Sub director Nick Davies said the Vutek provides a resolution of up to 2,400dpi and four-level greyscale printing with 4pl to 18pl drop sizes.
“It uses genuine EFI water-based CMYK disperse dye inks to print on fabrics weighing from 40 to 300gsm, and paper weighing from 40 to 160gsm, to produce dramatic, four-colour fabric display graphics with a wide colour gamut and incredibly deep colour saturation,” he said.
Noble said the new FabriVu would probably operate at around 100sqm/hr, though it could probably run twice as fast without sacrificing quality.

“In terms of square metres per hour it’s going to pretty much quadruple our capacity,” he said. “The Hollanders ColorBooster XL nominally ran at 50sqm/hr – it was a commercial-grade machine and this is industrial-grade.”
Flagmakers/Banner Box also boasts three 2.3m Hollanders ColorBoosters and a Roland SJ-740 1.8m transfer due sublimation printer.  A selection of Mimaki wide-format machines are used for printing on PVC and paper.  And there are a number of medium-format Roland machines along with various pieces of finishing kit including Hollanders heat fixation and washing devices, Zünd automated cutters, and several sewing machines.
Noble said Specialised Canvas Group employs around 50 “skilled artisans” and turns over around R81m.