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The Printed Spectrum – a Design, Digital and 3D seminar

Pat Hardcastle reports on this London region event which took place at London College of Fashion earlier this year.

This event, organised by SDC’s London region and hosted jointly with The Textile Institute London region was attended by 65 people from industry, retail, education and students. Ian Smith, the chair of SDC London opened by welcoming the delegates. He then introduced Dr Graham Clayton, CEO of the SDC and chair of the event.

Printed Spectrum Speaker - Laura GreenThe first speaker, Laura Green, a freelance print designer took her inspiration from a variety of sources including fashion, architecture, travel and vintage as well as remaining aware of trends on the high street. Laura liked the idea that print design could be used as a canvas for communication and her philosophy was that materials should be playful and wearable as well as commercially viable. In the past decade print had taken centre stage and currently consumers were experimenting with ’quirky’ ideas such as 60s inspired pop art. For her, digital printing techniques proved a perfect marriage for her two passions of fabric and print – digital was practical and immediate with low set up costs, less waste, efficient and with small print runs, designs could also be overlaid easily to achieve many different effects.

Printed Spectrum Speaker - Eric NunnEric Nunn of Poem gave a thought provoking presentation on light and colour space and started by saying he hoped his presentation would give the audience a ’light bulb’ moment! Eric outlined his career, eventually running his own company which had an enviable reputation for print fidelity in the fashion sector. Nowadays colour interactivity is complex. Whilst RGB is the language of light, the system developed by HP, Microsoft and Adobe is RGB which is used by many modern devices (computers, cameras, i-phones, scanners etc) and was designed to match typical home and office viewing conditions. On the other hand all printing devices are based on the CMYK colour system which increases the tone values of colours but uses different numbers in colour space to identify shades. As it is the characterisation of the devices which determines colour appearance we need to manage the many variables in the process of seeing colour on different types of screen and trying to print it, taking into account paper type and CMYK processing inks which manipulate light. The only system capable of linking these variables is l,a,b which uses a number scale to represent the way humans perceive colour. And Poem? Purple Only Exists (in the) Mind!

Printed Spectrum Speaker -Andrew WilkinsThe Wilkins Group manufacture packaging for the food and textile retail markets. Their Chairman and Managing Director, Andre Wilkins, told the audience his company produces some 800 million pieces of packaging a year of which 98% is fully recyclable. The business has expanded globally in response to major retailers and brands manufacturing overseas. As a result the need for consistent printed packaging produced by different printers in different countries is crucial. Board shade colours vary between suppliers as do printers and printing presses and Andre brought along examples of these. All their processes are now standardised by using the CFX (Colour Exchange Format) which holds the l,a,b format and light measurement and can also be used to exchange colour recipes across all their packaging units. By using controlled colour measurement and initiating training programmes across the units they had saved £80,000 per year in waste. Andre also gave a glimpse into the future with new varnishes that give a 3D effect and luminescent inks combined with electronics to create interactive displays.

Printed Spectrum Speaker - Barry ForrestorThe fourth speaker was Barry Forrestor, Managing Director from Standfast and Barracks and the Anstey Wallpaper Co. Barry told the audience that a revolution was taking place at Standfast textile printers who, for the last 90 years had used traditional rotary and flat bed printing techniques to produce fabrics for the homeware and apparel industries, among them Liberty of London. Since 1990 they had invested in ink jet printing machinery via Stork and in 2012 a Durst Kappa high volume digital textile printer. Why print digitally? It is more creative with fewer technical restrictions and makes engineered and photographic images possible and less edge to edge shading issues. The downside is that cloth processing is more complex and critical, metallics or white pigments cannot be used and the reactive dyes used in the process have inferior light fastness for the home market. Currently digital printing accounts for 2% of the global printing market. Wallpaper could also be printed digitally but was 4-8 times more expensive due to the high cost of inks.

Printed Spectrum Speaker - Stuart JacksonThe final speaker, Stuart Jackson brought the audience into the future with his presentation on 3D printing. EOS, a German based technology leader was founded in 1989 and is a solution provider for 3D printing, also known as Additive Manufacturing. They currently work in plastics and metals providing design, data generation, building and processing for jewellery, accessories, gadgets, footwear and sports industries, and among some of the items produced were guns for James Bond films, ski boot buckles, sunglasses, customised cycling equipment and a 3D printed bikini! The process involved building up layers using a resin bath with laser cutting and a UV oven for curing, then powder and a high energy laser. Stuart continued by saying that AM/3D manufacturing has the possibility to produce small batch sizes, was 38 days faster than conventional methods and opened up completely new possibilities for designers. It could be combined with traditional techniques such as leather shoes with 3D soles and cushioning structures, less raw material was used and some 90% of the process was recyclable. Currently this technology was only produced in black and white and Stuart concluded by saying he was very grateful for this given the complexities of dealing with colour mentioned by the other presenters!

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