By Melissa Donovan
Digitally printed soft signage continues to reach new heights of popularity. However, soft signage is not a new application by any means and one type of soft signage—a flag—is used everywhere and for everything.
Whether sewn pieces or screenprinted, flags have been a primary means of graphics communication for centuries. Traditional flags represent countries, associations, and other legal entities with a logo or saying; and promotional flags like teardrop or feather flags can draw perspective buyers into a sale.
With advancements in digital printing technologies, ink sets, and materials, flags continue to be produced but at a more rapid pace, in smaller quantities, and as is the case with family owned and operated J.C. Schultz Enterprises, Inc./FlagSource—manufactured completely in the U.S.
Celebrating 100 years in business this year, J.C. Schultz/FlagSource provided hand-sewn products to Masons and Shriners with two employees—company founders Lillian and John Christian Schultz—at its inception. In 1975, full-scale manufacturing included sewing U.S. flags, appliqué flags, and beaded sewing. From there, the company expanded to screenprinting, developing a technique to screenprint on both white and colored materials.
In 1998, dye-sublimation (dye-sub) equipment was added to the mix. “From that time, we realized the importance of digital printing. The problem was that the technology was not available to expand our product offering for wide format printing. Printers, ink, and material were just beginning to be developed,” explain Jon and Spencer Christiansen, co-owners, J.C. Schultz/FlagSource.
The year 2003 brought with it relocation—to the 60,000 square foot facility on six acres of land in Batavia, IL that is currently operates out of with over 70 employees—as well as the purchase a DuPont Artistri direct to fabric printer. Finding success printing on the polyester equivalent to nylon, a second DuPont Artistri was added to the production line. Committed to digital print, the company shut down its screenprinting operation in 2013.
Living in the Now
Today J.C. Schultz/FlagSource considers itself a full-line flag and banner manufacturer that specializes in flags—U.S., state, international, and military; as well as digitally printed flags, banners, table throws, retractable banners, and other company branded items such as Monster Custom Flags, Wave Banners, and Car Flags.
Products are used both outdoors and indoors, on flagpoles, street poles, and outside retail establishments to inside convention centers for trade shows, arenas for sporting events, local municipalities for fundraisers, and point of purchase in shopping centers.
Jon and Spencer Christiansen define their main clientele base as “people who want to provide visual expression of their beliefs and identity. This can mean someone who resells our products, has an event, or wants to bring notice to something that is important to them.” Shipped worldwide, the manufacturer mainly services those in Canada, Mexico, and the U.S.
65 percent of J.C. Schultz/FlagSource’s gross sales are digitally printed. After purchasing the DuPont Artistri printers and ended its screenprinting production, the company began looking into options for expanding into high-speed digital printing. Its research led it to EFI Reggiani.
At the end of 2014, an EFI Reggiani Compact was purchased to print direct to nylon. In 2016, an EFI Reggiani One was added to the lineup for dye-sub printing. A third device, an EFI Reggiani Pro, became part of the family in 2018 and is used for printing direct to nylon as well.
All three printers run today. “These printers were all selected because of their speed and ability to get backside penetration through the nylon. They allow us to manufacture all of our printed products in house,” explain Jon and Spencer Christiansen.
The majority of the fabric directly printed onto in house is a 200 Denier Type 66 Nylon. “It is the standard in our industry. What sets us apart is that we strive to get a bright white base fabric. This helps the product standout and make a statement,” say the co-owners. The nylon is coated, which allows for a crisp image while simultaneously offering backside penetration.
For dye-sub, four main polyester fabrics are used—200 Denier Dacron, 300 Denier Polyester, 600 Denier Polyester, and a poly stretch. Combined with the EFI Reggiani One’s printing capabilities, the output yields a clean, crisp image.
The fourth generation family business prides itself on its employees and both Jon and Spencer Christiansen note the staff is the key to the company’s continuing success, especially in regards to the finishing component of its manufacturing process. “While we have special equipment for different jobs, it is our employees’ innovative ideas that improve process, increase output, and lower costs.”
Specialized equipment includes everything from wash lines and sewing machines to cutters. These may start out as base, off-the-floor models, but then the employees modify the equipment to fit the company’s needs.
Custom Flag Company of Westminster, CO is a repeat customer of J.C. Schultz/FlagSource’s. One of Custom Flag Company’s national homebuilder clients is Lennar, which wanted to attract attention to one of its subdivisions. It chose to use a product called VIS Flags branded by Custom Flag Company and manufactured by J.C. Schultz/FlagSource.
These flags were created by printing directly to 200 Denier Type 66 Bright Nylon with one of the EFI Reggiani devices. The inks used were integral to the project, since they offer an extremely high UV color lightfastness that allows for flags to remain in place for a long period of time without any change outs.
The final dimensions of the flags were 16 feet tall by three feet wide. “These VIS flags offer high visibility to Lennar’s brand. They increased foot traffic and visibility to Lennar’s properties by over 20 percent,” say Jon and Spencer Christiansen.
Staying On Brand, While Keeping Trendy
J.C. Schultz/FlagSource relies on the company’s rich history and family-rooted business sense to make savvy, informed decisions when it comes to implementing the newest technologies. Leveraging its knowledge with the latest trends has worked well. Jon and Spencer Christiansen have noticed that more customers request one versus multiple flags per order, which is fine thanks to the strengths of digital technology. Larger custom printed flags are also becoming more popular and ideal for the digital print tactics currently employed at the IL facility.
Jun2020, Digital Output