Ferris State Adds Embroidery Services
Garment printing is becoming a new revenue stream for some in-plants as customers look for personalized T-shirts for their groups and activities. While these are usually produced via heat transfer, some in-plants are also moving into embroidery.
At Ferris State University, the in-plant recently installed a Melco EMT16X embroidery machine to tap into this market. The four-employee shop was urged to move into T-shirt and apparel production by the school’s marketing department, which was fielding numerous garment requests every week.
“We were trying to look at what things we could do to increase our capabilities,” explains Melinda Arnson, manager of Ferris Printing Services in Big Rapids, Michigan.
Her shop had recently replaced two underutilized wide-format printers with one Roland TrueVIS SG2-540 54˝ printer/cutter and was keeping it busy printing wall graphics, directional signs, yard signs, banners, and more. Then Arnson learned the printer could also print heat transfers for garment production. The shop added a Stahls’ Hotronix heat press to be able to produce apparel items this way as well.
So far, garment production is still in a testing phase, Arnson says. She and her staff have discovered some limitations during this time, such as the fact that the Roland TrueVIS SG2-540 has trouble cutting transfers with intricate designs. Also, getting graphics files into the right format for the Melco EMT16X embroidery machine has been a little challenging, she says.
“One of the things that I didn’t anticipate was the amount of knowledge that you need to digitize images,” she admits.
Files must be created as vector images and then digitized using Melco DesignShop v11 software. Lacking trained graphic artists on staff, Arnson says, this has been difficult. Fortunately, image digitizing services can be easily purchased outside, she adds.
The return of students to campus this semester left the shop with its hands full in August and September, further delaying its move into garment production. But she anticipates a high demand for garments from Ferris’ many clubs and fundraisers, as well as from local businesses, which provide half the shop’s work.
When it’s running, the Melco EMT16X is an impressive sight to behold, stitching at high speeds with 16 needles. It can stitch the Ferris logo on a garment in about 15 minutes, Arnson says, though larger graphics can take hours.
Keeping garment production and other graphics work on campus is important not just from a cost-saving perspective, Arnson says, but because the in-plant employs between seven and 10 student workers from Ferris’ Graphic Communications program. So the in-plant plays a direct role in educating students to prepare them for careers. Arnson herself is an adjunct instructor, teaching courses in print estimating and cost analysis. Garment production is just one more skill these student workers can learn to better equip them for the outside world.
Bob has served as editor of In-plant Impressions since October of 1994. Prior to that he served for three years as managing editor of Printing Impressions, a commercial printing publication. Mr. Neubauer is very active in the U.S. in-plant industry. He attends all the major in-plant conferences and has visited nearly 170 in-plant operations around the world. He has given presentations to numerous in-plant groups in the U.S., Canada and Australia, including the Association of College and University Printers and the In-plant Printing and Mailing Association. He also coordinates the annual In-Print contest, co-sponsored by IPMA and In-plant Impressions.