Do-it-yourself Web-to-Print

Despite the growth of textile printing, there are still very few examples of this sector using web to print software mainly because digital printing is still a very small percentage of the overall textile market and has to fit into the established supply chains.

Funki Fabrics’ online ordering system exploits the company’s digital printing capability to give customers the widest choice possible.

Earlier this year I spoke with Nick Thomas, head of design at the Friedman Group, which has developed its own online ordering tool to realise the full power of digital printing to produce short runs on demand tailored to their customer requirements. 

The Friedman Group, based near Manchester, UK, is one of the biggest distributors of stretch fabrics in Europe and developed its own online sales tool to help expand further. The group also includes Funki Fabrics, which mainly sells stretch fabrics to retail clients, and Alexander Maverick, which sells fabrics for home furnishings. 

The company digitally prints its own designs onto the fabric, using Mimaki textile printers. Thomas says that in the past they would have produced a number of swatches that customers would have ordered from but that the new online ordering system greatly expands on what the company can offer. 

At the heart of this system is design software from AVA CAD/CAM, which has developed a wide range of design software for the textile sector. This includes software for creating repeats, separations and colour managent. Thomas says: “We find them an excellent partner in terms of general design and colour matching to print.” He adds: “Then there are proprietary scripts we had written to handle the generation of the images on the web.”

The main tool is ColourMe, which lets users vary the colours in the designs. This includes a second tool, ScaleMe lets, which lets users change the size of the elements in the design. Thomas says: “So people can order the design in different colours or they can have a smaller or larger design depending on their needs.” He adds: “You could have a gymnastic school that have a particular design brand and they really like a design but the colour doesn’t match for them. So it suddenly opens up the design to be accessible to many more people, which has a direct impact on sales.”

Customers are able to choose from a palette of 100 colours and to combine these to create a vast range of colours. Thomas notes: “We wanted it to be colour managed as well as we could and that’s where the AVA software really helped. It’s really important that the colours that the customers see on the screen is really close to what they are going to receive.”

Friedmans has developed its own Web-to-Print system.

There’s also an option to have the design placed in a particular part of the fabric to match the garment design. This means that the garment manufacturer can guarantee that the design will match their cutting template and can help speed up their production. 

The software was developed for Funki Fabric but with an eye on the launch of the home furnishings business. Thomas explains: “For home furnishings, colour is a primary factor in choosing a fabric. Someone can change the design to match their interior room scheme.”

He adds: “Then there’s a customisation element to it. People want to be able to customise things more and more. It gives a higher perceived value so we find that people will just tweak one colour in a print. They like to have that ability to change something to make it theirs.”

Thomas says that some retail clients have used the colour and scale tools to create a brand look for themselves around their use of colour for the fabrics they buy in and sell on to their customers. He notes that this also helps tie those clients in to the service because it would be difficult to create the same colour design with another supplier for the same quantities and cost.

You can find more details on the AVA CAD/CAM software here, the Mimaki printers here and on Funki Fabrics here.

…with a little help from my friends

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