Birmingham City University uses SureColor printers

Design students get experimental with Epson SureColor printers

Birmingham City University uses SureColor printers

Students studying Textile Design at the School of Fashion and Textiles at Birmingham City University regularly get experimental with two printers from Epson's SureColor Series.

Located in the purpose-built brand new Parkside Building deep in the heart of Birmingham is the School of Fashion and Textiles. The Textile Design course enables students to combine a traditional craft with new technology skills and approaches to design. Students past and present have been known to design wallcoverings, fashion, interior furnishings, stationery and more. All of this is made possible through the use of Epson’s SC-F2000 and SC-F6000 printers.

DTG printing

The SureColor SC-F2000 is described by Kelly-Marie Sifleet, senior technical demonstrator at the university, as a ‘brilliant buy’. This printer was Epson’s first foray into direct-to-garment printing. It lets students print directly onto a wide variety of fabrics, at the same time as getting truly experimental.

 “This machine allows students to sample their designs on pretty much anything they want to. We do use the machine as a real experimentation, an innovation development piece of kit. Students find the machine the most exciting of all the printers we have because I allow them to use their screen printed fabrics in and digitally print over fabrics that have not only been printed with pigment dye, but with flock, metallic, foil and puff. We have really seen some exciting results,” says Kelly-Marie. “The students love the double-strike print setting in particular. With this setting we have had some beautiful tonal work. And the changeable height setting allows students to work with stencils on top of their fabrics.”

This printer was installed in the department in July 2015 and was purchased from Macclesfield-based R A Smart. On a visit to the company’s showroom last summer, R A Smart’s managing director, Magnus Mighall showed Kelly-Marie some impressive looking samples and she was instantly smitten with the printer and the quality of the prints produced. 

Dye sublimation printing

The second Epson printer in the department is the SC-F6000, which Kelly-Marie says is very popular among the students. It was a visit to Printwear & Promotion LIVE! in February 2014 that inspired Kelly-Marie to invest in the printer. “Before we had the SC-F6000 we had a much smaller sublimation printer, but it limited us to size and wasn’t very popular with students. I visited the show and could see that sublimation printing was something that we should invest in. I love the endless possibilities with this machine,” she adds.

Purchased in November 2014, the SC-F6000 is used alongside the department’s flatbed heat press, the Transmatic TM150. “This printer enables students to print on more than just polyester, we have seen students print onto glass, aluminium and much more. Students love working with this machine because it comes at an affordable price for both printing and material,” says Kelly-Marie.

The fabric that students use in their work is purchased from Whaleys in Bradford, a specialist wholesaler of fabrics. This company has invested heavily into its synthetic fabrics and as a result students are now seeing very good results when printing onto this type of fabric.

Although Kelly-Marie says both printers are very simple to use, they aren’t without their limitations. She explains the Parkside Building is naturally very warm which was causing the ink to block, but now they make sure the printers are cleaned once a day to resolve this problem. Kelly-Marie also adds that the SC-F2000 is limited on size, but the Mimaki JV33 and the Mimaki TX2 they also use in the department makes up for this when students wish to print larger pieces of work.

Kelly-Marie has worked with R A Smart for a number of years now. She says: “When the printers were delivered the technician inducted me onto the machinery and then spent plenty of time with me, to ensure I knew how to clean the machines properly and to ensure I could use the printer comfortably. The after-purchase support has been very good. Any consumables we have needed, they offer a speedy delivery and any issues are usually dealt with within a day. It is a great company to work with.”

Garment decorators may also wish to get experimental with the settings on their printers to develop interesting pieces of textile design, to which Kelly-Marie offers the following advice: “Being experimental with the printers is fabulous, but please remember to keep on top of printer maintenance. Take time to experiment with the settings and to fully understand what each setting means.”

Text and images by Melanie Attlesey, Printwear & Promotion, September 2016 Vol.24 No.9