Me and mine: EFI Vutek FabriVu 340i | Print Weekly

2021-11-12 11:26:49 By : Ms. Amy zhang

Like many good ideas, Ottimo Digital started with a pint of conversation in a bar. In 2009, Nick Lindwall and Lee Crew got together for a drink. They have known each other since college and are long-term friends. Crew operates the internal printing department as a leading provider of exhibition enclosure solutions, while Lindwall operates its own marketing and web design business.

Crew hopes to use his skills in digital printing to create an independent company dedicated to providing services to the exhibition industry, while Lindwall has the entrepreneurial skills to create and manage new businesses.

Next they needed a company name, so they made a list. Lindwall, who had studied Italian and spent a year in Milan, came up with Ottimo, the Italian word for "great" or "ideal", which has the same origin as the English word "optimal". They agreed that this is the winning name because it has interesting typographic possibilities, is a memorable and easy-to-spel word that has no existing meaning in English, while retaining the appropriate meaning elsewhere.

The company took off and moved to its current factory in Newport, South Wales three years later. "Newport works well for Ottimo, and its main customer base is the United Kingdom," Crew said. “Close to the M4/M5 junction, Newport provides highway access to all four points of the compass, as well as fast logistics to the main UK activity centers in Wales, Midlands, the South and London.”

Ottimo mainly serves the field of exhibitions, conferences and events, but also has a wide range of other clients, from VIPs to blue chip companies. "We do confidential and discreet work on a small scale for some very well-known clients," Crewe said. "These always come to us through personal contact information recommended to us by a trusted third party. It is always exciting to have a'secret project', but even more frustrating is that we cannot mention these unusual and interesting work."

One of them is a major work of the "Leading Automobile Association", involving the packaging of 1,400 failed trucks. Last year, it followed up the construction packaging of the organization's headquarters. 

By the beginning of 2020, the main production equipment covers all wide-format bases, including high-speed flat plates, cutting, fabric printing, dyes and UV inks. The printer includes EFI LX3 Pro (3m UV) EFI Quantum 5 LXR (5m UV), processed by Kongsberg C series digital cutting table, and other equipment used for banner welding, perforation, stitching, etc.

Ottimo also kept the old Epson wide-format eco-solvent printers and used them for short-term work. "Starting in 2017, the investment in EFI equipment is part of our strategy to build capabilities to meet the growing demand for textiles and 5 million editions of printed matter in the event and exhibition sectors," Lindwall said.

At the end of 2019, Ottimo expanded its office space by 230 square meters to accommodate a new EFi Vutek FabriVu 340i 3.4m wide-format sublimation printer, which is the theme of our story. Lindwall said: "We produced soft signs on a UV 5m machine, but found that the quality of fabric printing was not sufficient, and encountered the limitations of UV inks on fabrics, especially in terms of their longevity and elasticity. When necessary, we passed Outsource soft signage work.

"The leap to dye submarine is the last part of the puzzle that puts Ottimo's capabilities before the needs of event organizers, and has been in the company's focus for some time."

Why choose EFI FabriVu 340i?

FabriVu was purchased through CMYUK, the exclusive distributor of EFI in the UK. "We have a very strong relationship with EFI, and the after-sales service is excellent," Lindwall said. "We did not consider FabriVu 180 because we particularly need 3.2m fabric printing capabilities, because our core customer base is exhibitors and exhibition organizers."

How is the installation process?

"We got FabriVu 340i up and running in about a week, but we had to climb a steep learning curve with the help of EFI trainers and dye experts from CMYUK," Lindwall said. "Training includes calibration and analysis of different materials, and regularly arranges future supplementary training."

What is EFI FabriVu?

EFI launched the 3.4m FabriVu 340i dye sublimation inkjet printer at Fespa in May 2018. It is the follow-up product of the original 3.2m FabriVu 340 in 2016, adding a heating platen and steam extractor for online fixing of direct printed textiles. Two models are still available, and there is also a 1.8m model, the FabriVu 180. 

Last October, EFI added a pair of new high-speed 3.4m models specifically for soft signage work (rather than industrial applications such as clothing or soft furniture), called EFI Colors 340 and EFI Power 340. They use some technology developed by EFI Reggiani, a manufacturer of industrial textile printers (340/340i is a descendant of the machine originally manufactured by Vutek, which was acquired by EFI in the 2000s). They offer 8, 16 or 24 heads and are faster than the still available 340/340i.

The dye sublimation process can use water-based CMYK colors to print directly onto the fabric. The 340i's online heating platen evaporates the ink, so it forms a close chemical bond with the fibers of the polyester fabric. This is the most effective way to sublimate printing dyes, but not all polyester fabrics are suitable for direct inking tension. In addition, applying wet ink directly to the fiber does mean that the ink will spread a little before heat setting, so the details may be blurred. 

FabriVu can also print to paper transfer paper, where the ink dries without spreading. The paper then comes into contact with the target fabric through a heated pressure roller or belt system called a calender. The ink evaporates and is absorbed by the polyester fabric in direct contact, so this preserves all the printing details. 

Ottimo originally used FabriVu's built-in thermal fixing process for direct printing. However, Crew said this limits the types of fabrics that can be used, so the company is investing in Klieverik GTC belt calenders to allow the use of paper transfer and a wider range of stretch fabrics.

How is it in practice?

Before installing FabriVu, Ottimo had to reject the customer's 5m job, so the 3m job was also rejected due to lack of capacity. "The new EFI suite, along with Kongsberg and Klieverik, provides Ottimo with the scale and scope to meet the current and possible future needs of the event industry for wide format and fabric printing," Lindwall said.

What kind of work does it handle now? "We have experienced a growing demand for fabric printing used in conjunction with modular exhibition systems, exhibition suspension structures, flags and light box systems," Lindwall said. "Because of their portability, reusability and visual impact, these are increasingly popular event and exhibition products. Combined with the new belt calender, FabriVu allows us to launch on a wide variety of fabrics Brand new wide-format dyed products, and expand our products to our core markets, including stretch fabrics and even textile upholstery industries." 

What makes 340i stand out? "Result!" Lindwall said. "Dyes are the only way to achieve true black on fabrics, and the colors are really amazing."

any problem? "The machine needs stable temperature and humidity conditions to perform optimally. Ottimo recently installed air exchange and air conditioning in a separate FabriVu facility to create an optimal ('Ottimo') operating environment." 

EFI provides service and support for FabriVu, and Lindwall said "So far, Ottimo's experience is very good." 

And our usual last question, will they buy it again or recommend it to others? "Yeah!" 

Treatment of piezoelectric inkjet with water-based dye-dispersed ink

Throughput production speed up to 500 square meters/hour, production image quality 250 square meters/hour, POP image quality 165 square meters/hour

Sublimation method Inline by heating platen

RIP front end EFI Fiery proServer SE

Contact CMYUK 0118 989 2929

Ottimo Digital is a large format printer located in Newport, South Wales, specializing in events and exhibitions. It was founded in 2009 by Nick Lindwall and Lee Crane, who are still directors. It currently has 17 employees. The turnover before Covid in 2020 is approximately £2.2 million. The pandemic has of course had a major impact on events and exhibitions, but orders for events in 2021 have already begun. The production equipment includes EFI LX3 Pro (3m UV) EFI Quantum 5 LXR (5m UV) and a pair of Epson SureColor SC-S30600s (1.6m eco-solvent), which are processed by Kongsberg C series digital cutting table. At the end of 2019, the addition of EFI Vutek FabriVu 340i and Klieverik calender expanded the company's soft sign product range. 

Ottimo's investment in EFI equipment is part of its strategy to build capacity to meet the growing demand for fabrics and 5 million prints in events and exhibitions.

Compared with Ottimo's UV curing printers, the 340i can provide better results on a wider range of fabrics. 

© MA Business Limited 2021. Published by MA Business Limited, St Jude's Church, Dulwich Road, London, SE24 0PB, a company registered in England and Wales, numbered. 06779864. MA Business is part of the Mark Allen Group.