There was plenty for those interested in soft signage at Sign & Digital UK at the Birmingham NEC in March 2017, from the new Roland DG CAMM-1 GR-640 wide-format cutter to RA Smart’s launch of its range of polyester fabrics. There was a lot of cross-over with the garment world with many DTG, dye sub and transfer printers on show – and even some embroidery machines – proving that moving from garments to signage is more of a quick side step than a leap into the unknown

The i-Sub stand was bustling with people looking at the new Mimaki UJF-6042 MkII flatbed LED UV printer, which is ideal for small promotional items such as pens, as well as small signs. Visitors to the stand could also watch the video showing the Roq range of screen print carousels, ovals and dryers, which i-Sub started distributing in the UK in February this year.

The large Roland DG stand was host to the new Roland DG CAMM-1 GR-640 wide-format cutter. Business development manager Mark Elvidge was on hand to explain the many tweaks made to this latest machine in the CAMM-1 GR series, such as the new L-shaped design for added stability for precision cutting even at high speed. A downforce of up to 600g is now possible, along with a maximum cutting speed of 1,485 mm/s, and there are 10 pre-set pressure levels for the electronic pinch rollers. The bundled Roland CutStudio includes a new function that automatically creates weed lines for more efficient weeding. “No-one is going to reinvent the wheel [with cutters], but we’ve built on our pedigree in this area with these new features,” said Mark.

The Amaya stand was right next to the entrance, with the Melco embroidery machines and brightly printed T-shirts on the TexJet DTG printer grabbing visitors’ attention as soon as they walked in. Julian Wright reported that the Forever transfers had received an especially good response: “There’s always lots of interest in the transfer system because it fits well with the sign people as it allows them to offer workwear as well.”

RA Smart had, in the opinion of Images, the best sign at the show. The backlit photo of a man’s face was gloriously attention-grabbing, causing a steady stream of people to stop to snap a picture of it. The company was using the show to officially launch its new range of polyester textiles for dye sublimation printing. The range, explained Alex Mighall, customer liaison at RA Smart, is being sold through its new division, The Textile Hut. It currently comprises fabrics for home furnishings, flags and displays.

Over at the Grafityp stand, operations director Joe Bartnicki (pictured left with product manager Adam Webb) reported that just a couple of hours into the show they had already had three orders for the Oki white toner printer. There was plenty to see on the stand, such as the van wrapped with GrafiWrap products, including the new AE38C Cast Comfort wrap that can be pulled off and repositioned; the new cutter from the Roland GR series; and plenty of transfers – from the PS Hi-5 Textile Vinyl, which is perfect for sports garments, to glitter transfer vinyl.

TheMagicTouch was, predictably, packed with people wanting to find out how they can expand their services with the many neat transfer products on display. The newest system being demonstrated was the Sublideck 3D Mobile Phone Case Press, a vacuum heat press that prints wrap on phone cases using the sublimation process. Head of technical, Nathan Newbury, demonstrated how users simply place a blank case on to the jig, put a printed foil on top and close the press, resulting in a fully printed cover. The press comes with 200 covers and four jigs. The ball press, also on show, is now capable of printing even larger size transfers – up from 50mm to 100mm.

Epson ran a competition with Longdean School, Hemel Hempstead, whose BTEC students were challenged to create artwork that could be used for a car wrap, soft signage and textiles at the show, using Epson’s SureColor eco-solvent and dye sublimation wide format printers. The winning design by Mel Mantle was a detailed floral image in vibrant colours [pictured].

Just before the show, Epson had announced that its SureColor SC-S Series of wide-format printers was ranked the “top-selling eco-solvent technology in its class in western Europe” in 2016, up from fifth place the year before. Along with the SureColor SC-S80600 eco-solvent printer, Epson had its SC-F9200 dye sublimation printer on display, which is ideal for soft signage.

The Hybrid stand formed a large central hub at the show, with its ice-cream stand and coffee bar making it an ideal place to stop to for a break. National sales manager Stephen Woodall [pictured] was on hand to talk about the update to the Mimaki Tx300P-1800 Series of direct-to-print printers. The latest models, available in June, can now simultaneously load both textile pigment and sublimation inks, an advance that the company says will significantly improve productivity and increase flexibility. Stephen explained that the Mimaki TP400 pigment inks have been developed so they don’t block the nozzles – which he said is a common problem with pigment inks – resulting in vibrant and stable jetting.