A niche, plush textiles and wallpaper print business has bought the UK’s first Mtex Blue with Pigments inkjet.
Lewis & Wood is the first UK company to choose an Mtex Blue fitted for Pigment inks, which can print on almost any fabric, not just polyester.
The firm, founded by textile printer Stephen Lewis and interior designer Joanna Wood, runs four HP Designjet L26500 machines to print wallpapers. It installed the 1.8m-wide roll-to-roll Mtex machine four weeks ago for printing digitally onto fabrics in its mill at Stroud, Gloucestershire, at a cost of £44,000.
Lewis said: “We digitally printed our wallpapers so printing onto fabrics was a natural extension of this business.
“We’ve spent two-and-a-half years building our knowledge of wallpaper printing and now we’re ready to start experimenting with fabrics. We are just at the start of the process and are on a voyage of discovery.”
Most contract interior textiles are natural fabrics or a natural/synthetic mix and digitally printing on them has not been possible with a dye-sublimation option. However with Pigment inks the Mtex Blue can print on these other fabrics and, like other Mtex machines, the fabric is dried inline with a special front heat unit, specially developed for the Pigment inks.
Lewis added: “Our clients are top-end interior decorators, so the speed of the machine wasn’t so important but the quality of the print was paramount.
“However, it is not easy to use. You have to figure it out yourself in terms of the different finishes, the pre- and post-treatments. It will probably take us three months to get comfortable.”
Lewis said the HP Designjet L26500 were older and slower than the latest addition to Lewis & Wood but offered better print quality than many of the new, faster machines.
Eight-staff Lewis & Wood makes a turnover of £2m and Lewis believes the new machine will boost profitability by enabling the company to reduce stock, “explore new things” and “put distance between us and our competitors”.
The company will use the Mtex Blue to create samples and experimental fabrics in-house, instead of outsourcing and waiting several weeks, by which time the design project may have moved on.
“By bringing this process in-house, the design department can complete the sampling process faster,” said Lewis.
“In order to compete with the big boys we have to be unique, unusual and different, which is why we use a wide range of techniques and finishes to create our fabric ranges.
“We’ve only had the printer a few weeks and there is a considerable learning curve when it comes to printing digitally onto fabrics compared to wallpapers.”
The Mtex Blue with Pigments was launched at ITMA, in September 2015.