By Olivia Cahoon
Part 2 of 2
Textiles are in high demand with a range of applications across several industries, including apparel, decor, and sign and display. Print service providers (PSPs) are aware of digitally printed textiles’ appeal and offer customized products such as backdrops, banners, and trade show displays.
Early Beginnings in Display
StepRepeat.com started in Van Nuys, CA in 2007 with two employees in a 1,000 square foot workspace. The shop originally offered vinyl banner and stand sets.
It is now located in Santa Clarita, CA, in a facility upwards of 8,000 square feet with 15 employees. What started as a small print shop grew to offer dozens of products, including durable banner systems, hop-ups, retractables, fabric tension frames, custom pillows, cut outs, and a variety of custom items shipped across North America.
StepRepeat.com’s client base is diverse, ranging from individuals to large marketing organizations, television networks, alcohol companies, colleges, and charity organizations. “We help clients create banners for a single sweet 16 party on one day, then fulfill an order of 75 to 100 banners to be distributed to events all over the country on another day,” shares Dave Meleo, owner/founder, StepRepeat.com. “The needs of our client base are rarely the same from one order to the next.”
The shop’s most popular products are the Quick Setup and 5-Minute Setup systems, which are developed in house to give clients all the benefits of a large format display that is easily transported and re-used. Standard sizes range from five to 20 feet wide and up to ten feet tall. Larger sizes are available up to 60 feet.
Digital printing technology is the core of StepRepeat.com’s work. Its earliest banners were printed in multiple pieces on a Roland DGA Corporation press and seamed together. To streamline production, the shop soon moved to a Mutoh America, Inc. press for larger seamless banners. It also used a Roland VersaCAMM SP-540V for early custom graphics work.
In 2012, StepRepeat.com started fabric printing with an HP LX65500 and quickly added a HP Scitex LX800 and LX850 for printing ten-foot banners.
With fabric printing in high demand, production quickly became more robust and varied. Soon after, the shop supplemented direct fabric printing with the dye-sublimation (dye-sub) process, utilizing a Mimaki USA, Inc. JFX200-2513 with a DigiFab Systems, Inc. heat press. In 2016, it moved away entirely from direct fabric printing to dye-sub exclusively on a DGI FABRIJET FT-3204X.
In August 2017 the shop purchased a six-foot Summa America F3232 cutting system. “We saw our production capabilities improve dramatically—so much so that as soon as it was available, we brought in the ten-foot version of the same Summa to handle nearly 100 percent of our cutting,” says Meleo.
Additionally, the PSP recently purchased the HP Stitch S1000 printer, which is currently in the installation process.
Digitally Printed Textiles
Long lasting reusable banner systems are the bread and butter of StepRepeat.com’s business. Digitally printed textiles allow the company to offer complete display solutions produced in house for ease of use and maximum aesthetic impact. Recently the shop noticed an overwhelming need for soft signage with a 40 percent increase in orders for fabric products over vinyl.
“Simply put, it is the only and best way to meet the needs of our clients,” shares Meleo. Many of the shop’s clients work on tight deadlines with job specifications constantly changing. Digital printing allows the business to move quickly and adapt to any last minute changes.
StepRepeat.com source its textiles from several companies including Aberdeen Fabrics and Fisher Textiles. According to Meleo, the material options in terms of size and quality allow the shop to provide a wide range of options for clients that help cater to nearly any budget, size, venue, or criteria.
The company exclusively uses Caldera for RIP software. Meleo says it was selected for ease of use and compatibility with any number of printers and machines. “Much of the work becomes automated and far more easily organized when taking advantage of the handy barcode and cut file generator that can be fed directly to our Summa F3232.”
Each of StepRepeat.com’s products require extensive finishing, including various types of sewing, hot knifing, and hand cutting. To do so, the shop utilizes JUKI and MTEK Graphics sewing machines, a carpet binder from NC Carpet Binding, HSGM hot knives, and Keencut straight edge rulers.
While the PSP has nearly perfected its digital printing process, there are still several challenges it faces in meeting production requirements and deadlines, stemming mostly from client needs. Each new order is custom and the type of display, quantity, and delivery date are variable for each client.
According to Meleo, the shop overcomes these issues by being diligent, keeping employees’ skills sharp, and utilizing the most efficient tools. “Each and every shift we make in production has to do with doing the latest job better than before.”
Banner stands and digitally printed textiles are a booming business for StepRepeat.com. With a variety of digital printing technology in-house, the shop prides itself on offering a range of custom banner packages.
Click here to read part one of this exclusive online series, Visual Communications with Textiles.
Oct2019, Digital Output