The All-Star 2017 team balances two industry trends: textile printing and environmental consciousness.
Textile printing is a trend more and more print shops are turning to, and it’s no different in the sports arena. CCI has moved increasingly to both dye sublimation and latex printing technologies. CCI President Arthur Boisfontaine says they’re relying more and more on their three latex machines; choosing one over the other has posed an interesting challenge. He says materials for dye sub printing cost about half as much as latex-printable media, but the latex machines run about three times as fast. “So what’s that balance?” he asks. “Are you going to struggle with 50 cents per square foot and be less productive, or are you going to pay that extra 50 cents per square foot and be extremely productive?”
Electrobot has embraced the textile revolution, too. They’ve shifted to fabric instead of vinyl over the past few years for many “premium” applications because it “performs so much better from a visual standpoint,” says Soulé. “It lays flatter, and it doesn’t show wrinkles and creases.” Though fabric tends to be pricier than vinyl, the advantages often outweigh the cost. Plus, for projects like NBA All-Star 2017 that involve high-end hotels, premium materials can add to the final effect. “There was care to use premium materials and metallic vinyls … to create a sense of extra richness [at locations] a little more upscale than your average property,” adds Electrobot's Rob Soulé.
Preparing the Smoothie King Center for All-Star 2017 was a huge undertaking. The arena was decked out in All-Star banner and tunnel graphics printed onto Top Value Fabrics DigiPanorama and Impact Prime fabrics using CCI’s three HP Latex 3000 printers. “Many of the All-Star graphics had to be installed on top of existing graphics. Knowing what materials can accomplish this without damage is critical,” says Damon Pelletier, production manager at CCI.
Environmental impact is another reason Electrobot gravitates toward fabric and mesh material. Much of the media used for the NBA All-Star event – “almost 50 percent of the project … everything that wasn’t decal” – was recycled, repurposed, or reused after the event, Soulé says. Electrobot teamed with Habitat for Humanity, who reuses old materials in order to support their mission to provide housing. Media can be used to control plant growth in gardens or to create temporary shelters, or repurposed and sewn into consumer elements like shopping bags and notebook folders. As Boisfontaine puts it, fabric printing certainly “opens up some opportunities.”