By Digital Output Staff
Part 1 of 2
Businesses with backgrounds in textile production in addition to design and decoration are apt to inch out beyond their traditional offerings every once and awhile. And if it makes sense—financially as well as physically—they may consider expanding.
Sometimes adding a new application doesn’t take much, as it fully complements what is already being done in house. An added bonus is when the same customers also benefit from the introduction and can add it to their weekly, monthly, quarterly, or yearly job orders.
Depth of History
With a background as a family business, FLS Banners was founded in 1972 by William and Cynthia Goettelman. Based in Sturgeon Bay, WI, a staff of 20 operates out of two facilities totaling over 20,000 square feet of manufacturing and fulfillment space. It reaches customers as far as Australia, the Caribbean, Europe, and South America, but its current focus is on clients in North America.
Customers include display houses, brand agencies, print brokers, and direct end users requesting custom printed textiles for trade shows, point of purchase advertising, and on demand custom branded apparel and home furnishings.
Positioning itself as a solutions provider with in-house manufacturing, FLS has been involved in textile printing since the 1970s. It started with traditional print methods like screenprinting and then added digital sublimation, and more recently implemented digital pigment printing.
“Our depth of history allows us the ability to solve challenges based on experience as well as creating unique solutions to clients’ needs,” explains Cain Goettelman, president, FLS.
In 1999, FLS converted its first digital printer to use in-house manufactured sublimation ink. Two decades later it relies on digital printers equipped with Konica Minolta and Kyocera Corporation printheads that print on media up to 3.2 meters in width. For its sublimation-based ink sets, the company utilizes JK Group’s J-Teck consumables, with consistency the standout feature.
When it comes to substrates, FLS works directly with yarn suppliers, mills, and finishing companies to create a series of textiles offering performance and value. “One of the many benefits FLS offers its clients is the ability to develop solutions. This development extends well into our supply chain and includes textile manufacturing. While managing a complex supply chain does require additional resources, our clients appreciate the benefits it creates and the ultimate value to the end user,” says Goettelman.
One of the many textile applications it offers is silicone edge graphics (SEG). About ten percent of FLS’ annual volume consists of SEG without fixtures. However, it also produces replacement graphics for many LED framing manufacturers, including Agam Group, Matrix Frame USA, SEG Systems, and Testrite Visual.
From years of experience producing SEG, Goettelman shares that to yield a successful digitally printed SEG panel, three factors must be addressed. The first is to accurately measure the frame. To achieve this, FLS has a process it shares with its clients to ensure the correct frame measurements are taken. The second factor is whether the frame will use LED lights. As they are common, it is important to verify use because it impacts output profiles, which is related to the final point.
“You need a profile for both backlit and non-backlit displays. Understanding what the client expects in terms of output is crucial. Are they looking for accuracy of skin tones and reproductions of their products, or do they need matches to corporate color standards?” asks Goettelman.
Measuring once, twice, and three times is something that happens repeatedly while producing SEG panels at FLS. First during the prepress proofing stages and then after printing and finishing. Each panel is verified after cutting, since there is “no sense in sewing a panel if the size is not correct,” according to Goettelman. After sewing the keder around the edge of the graphic the finished piece is measured one last time.
“There is nothing more frustrating for your client than receiving an SEG that doesn’t fit the frame. The ease of changing a graphic is a key selling feature of an SEG frame. It is up to us to live up to that expectation,” he adds.
Today and Beyond
The popularity of SEG is illustrated in the range of environments it is used in. “SEG panels are ideal for locations rented advertising space, such as airports, stadiums, and performing art venues. Retail locations, from department stores to boutiques, use them to highlight featured brands, offer, and create customer awareness. A prime location is storefront windows because the backlight enhances the visibility day and night,” suggests Goettelman.
All of these locations and the buyers who place them recognize the benefits of SEG. Key advantages, according to Goettelman, focus on the simplicity of changing and storing the graphics, the high-end appearance, and the savings on the shipping because SEG prints are so lightweight.
It is because of all of these advantages that SEG is growing beyond what it was initially intended for. Besides basic four-sided frames, there are now pop-up frames, counters, and modular booths that can be configured to create different shapes and sizes. The modularity factor is something that Goettelman believes will be critical going forward.
“Flexibility is going to be very important when trade shows return. We are expecting wider aisles, smaller booths, and the ability to reuse your display rather than build an entirely new booth, which will provide a big cost savings,” he foresees.
FLS is well known for its attention to detail, ensuring each SEG panel is perfectly constructed for the frame designed for by accurately measuring. This has led to its success in a number of different applications, not just SEG display, and will serve it well in future endeavors.
May2021, Digital Output