In the swim with dye-sub
By Peter Kohn
Swimwear printing has brought Sublitech, one of Australia’s premier fabric printing companies, a client list that’s a who’s-who of the Australian fashion industry – names such as Anna & Boy, Azolini, Brothers Neilson, Collette Dinigan, Baku, Seafolly and Tigerlily – all of it printed locally on fast turnarounds.
Sublitech is a small outfit located at St Peters and was bought by managing director Peter Faill nine years ago. He had been using Sublitech as a supplier in his own business, and, as the saying goes, he liked it so much, he bought the company.
Peter Faill in the nerve centre of Sublitech
Rotary heat press
Large format backdrop
Seafolly retail signage
Two Mimaki printers have their own clean space
Peter has built up Sublitech into a major design, preprint, print and finishing operation for fashion clothing – mainly swimwear – and large-format panelling for promotional signage at major events and theatrical attractions, building wraps (a 75m-wide banner at the SCG was a recent project), retail point of sale, and stretched-canvas artwork.
Outdoor advertising comes in the form of building, site and fence wraps. These wraps are printed onto a heavy duty, durable fabric with small vents to let the wind pass through, fireproofed if necessary. Sublitech’s largest print to date is a theatre backdrop measuring 15x7m – tile-printed, with the panels sewn together -- with a print resolution of 720dpi.
Sublitech specialises in digital dye-sub printing which is the optimum technology for printing on fabrics. While laser, inkjet or wax thermal printers create a ‘decal’ effect that is subject to cracking on fabric, dye-sub creates a ‘tattoo’-like effect that integrates with the fabric.
Dye-sub transfer offers more detail in the image, and is particularly suited to polyester-based synthetics such as lycra, from which most swimwear is manufactured. It is resistant to chlorine bleaching and to saltwater, and offers around 18 months of UV-stable, colour-fast wear, washable and dry-cleanable.
The company also prints on sportswear (rashshirt and peachskin microfibre are used for boardshorts), and uniforms. Sports uniforms, uniforms, polo shirts and t-shirts can all be customised and printed using this process. All sports uniforms, including netball, soccer, cycling, football and athletics can be printed on for a vibrant quality result.
Sublitech is a recognised expert in the soft signage, display and advertising business, with a fast, personalised service. It produces all types and sizes of customised products from small neck scarves to backdrops for theatre, television networks, retail display, stagesets and sports stadiums. Products include pull-up banners, teardrop banners, flags, tablecloths and more.
Branded and promotional merchandising is also a specialty at Sublitech, with items such as computer-monitor and spectacle wipes and gaming felts.
Anyone fortunate enough to be have been invited to the marquee of Melbourne Cup sponsor Emirates at Flemington Racecourse on Melbourne Cup Day will have noticed some sumptuous antique wallpaper, drapes, sofa covers and pillows.
These accoutrements have been designed, printed and finished by Sublitech, using state-of-the-industry dye-sublimation transfer.
Service from A to Z
Sublitech offers a complete turnkey service – starting with design, using Adobe Illustrator for vector art and Adobe Photoshop files for bitmap photographic art (in tiff, jpeg, psd) as well as Acrobat pdf files in a PC/Mac environment.
Dye-sub printing literally sublimates the dye from a solid to a gaseous state and back again. It is the ‘greenest’ of the digital processes, says Peter, as it uses water-based dyes, which are printed on a release paper, then transferred to the material under heat and pressure. This is an important consideration, in terms of the manufacturing environment (no VOCs) and, in terms of swimwear and clothing, for the health and comfort of the end-consumer.
It is a far cry from the old way of doing things, says Peter. Traditional screen-printing involves large amounts of wasted water, first to expose the screen by washing away the emulsion, and then to clean the screen of excess inks.
“We specialise in printing to polyester fabrics (from 45 to 300gsm) and that creates the optimum results in reproducing the image. Printing on polyester-cotton blends creates a more washed image, which is sometimes deliberately sought by the client,” says Peter.
For signage work, Sublitech’s finishing service offers sewing, pattern making and grading, insertion of rods and eyelets, packaging in cardboard tubes, all of it done inhouse to provide the rapid service today’s campaign cycles dictate.
Sublitech stocks a comprehensive range of pre-tested fabrics suitable for most requirements, including waratah, canvas, trilobal, satin, poly-silk, sheer-voile, poly-poplin, midnight, mesh, poly-lycra, supa-sport, moisture-controlled pique, poly-cotton jersey, chiffon, jockey satin, duchess satin and gaming felt.
New strategy with FabriJET
Sublitech has adopted a new equipment strategy, reserving its Mimaki fabric printers for swimwear and clothing and opting for a new large-format, direct-to-fabric SubTEX FabriJET CS2000, which will soon be added to the production floor solely for printing on non-garment materials.
The new FabriJET, supplied by Princeton Digital Imaging, can print to a width of 1850m and is the first of its make and model in Australia. It is being trialled by Sublitech, ready to go into production in several weeks, says Peter.
It can heat and cure direct to fabric without any paper transfer, an asset that will enable Sublitech to print more economically and to provide same-day and overnight deliveries. “We work with agencies who return to us often, as we can do this,” he notes.
“We’ve reached capacity with our present machines and decided to leave them to specialise on the clothing side,” says Peter. “Our aim in adding the FabriJET to the mix is to provide an even faster service for signage clients and to attract new clients.”
Certainly, the field of fabric print technology is a wide one, and many known and trusted brands are available to Australian printers – including Mimaki, DuPont, Mutoh and Epson. Peter says he opted for the FabriJET on the advice of Princeton Digital’s Grant Donsworth, who has been a trusted adviser to Sublitech over many years.
Since 1994, Princeton Digital Imaging has supplied the Australian market with digital fabric decoration equipment, consumables, software and services. The supplier is the exclusive Australian source of the SubTEX range of digital dye-sub transfer ink and transfer paper and the SubTEX FabriJET range of direct-to-textile printers.
Peter is not fazed by the current talk about a financial ‘meltdown’ and predictions of slowing business. “If anything, it’s my feedback that nobody stops their marketing in a downturn. It’s an activity that actually increases in times like these. Furthermore, the entertainment industry is one of the more resistant sectors of our economy.”
Sublitech Pty Ltd