Based in Middleton, Manchester Print Services has grown over its eight-year history to attract a range of customers in the retail POS and exhibitions markets. Recognising that these industries were moving away from typical board graphics and towards fabric materials, the business has invested in dye-sublimation and direct-to-textile printing systems – and, in 2018, a new Blackman & White laser cutting and routing table.
Lee Egan, Director of Manchester Print Services, explains: “Fabrics are definitely where the industry is going – they make it possible to produce seamless prints over much larger areas than boards, making them more easily transported for exhibitions and events. In retail environments, tension light boxes have all but replaced posters as POS displays.
“In 2018 we installed a 3.2m-wide printer to meet this demand for textiles, but as our cutter at the time was only 1.6m wide we were having to complete the measuring and trimming stages by hand. By replacing the smaller cutter with a 3.2m Blackman & White wide-bed laser cutter/router we can now complete all the finishing automatically, even on rolls of fabric up to 3m x 10m long.”
The cutter features a multi-tool head that enables a router, a blade cutter or a laser cutter to be fitted on one single machine for maximum efficiency and cost effectiveness. The 100W laser cuts runs at speeds of up to 1,100mm per second with an accuracy of ±0.02mm – more accurate than a knife as there is no contact with the material, and therefore no dragging. The contact-free operation of the laser also results in a cleaner finished product – a benefit for Manchester Print Services, as Lee Egan explains.
“We use the Blackman & White for almost everything, including vinyl and sign boards, which can leave debris on the cutting bed. When cutting blank white fabrics for tension light boxes this isn’t ideal, but by using the contact-free laser tool we can avoid this and achieve clean edges. Around 80 per cent of our work is now tension graphics so this is very important.”
The laser cutting unit on the Blackman and White machine – the first flatbed cutter to feature a laser as well as a knife blade – is also ideal for large banners, which can be finished without hemming or sewing. It also features conveyorised cutting bed with a roller feed, allowing it to accommodate longer lengths of fabric materials, and a vacuum to secure the material during the cutting process. Alternatively, the laser unit can be switched for a 2.5kW water-cooled router for sharp, clean cuts on acrylics, Foamex, aluminium composites such as Dibond, and many more signage and display substrates.
Lee also praises Blackman and White for its service since the machine was installed a year ago.
“As a smaller company we have to rely on one cutting machine to do all of our work, so it’s essential that we have a fast response if issues arise,” he says. “We can speak directly to Blackman and White, whose personal service solves any problems quickly.”