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Printing double-sided stadium banners

November 1st, 2010 / By: / Graphics

In August, Rainier’s Bruce Dickinson and Josh Lindholm approached the University of Wyoming with a proposal to transform the school’s stadium with new banners and signage. The proposal was accepted and a partnership was formed over the course of a few months’ time. The transformation consisted of several fabric structures, including banners, air vent wraps and wallcoverings that drew from the core strengths of Rainier’s divisions: an established group of technicians in DTS, skilled artisans from the fabric shop, as well as expert designers from the display division.

The field banners spanned each side of the field and required carefully verified dimensions in order to compensate for curved rails where the banners would hang. The banners were printed in panels up to 85 feet long on a Durst Rho 500 with 16-foot wide mesh material. Printing on partially open fabric, such as mesh, requires a “mesh kit” to help protect the printer’s platen (the metal plate that contains a vacuum for suction across the area where ink is laid down). When a mesh kit is installed, the platen drops down and a “trough” is installed to collect the ink that comes through the open areas. The banners required a print operator for up to five hours of print time to oversee the continuous prints and ensure print quality.

One of the more challenging projects for the stadium was covering air vents, which are seven feet high with a 28-foot circumference. The fabric choice was 13-ounce Imagetext vinyl material with built in scrim for extra strength and support. The main panel with the graphics was carefully designed by Rainier’s art department. In order to get the most out of the image, the circumference and the scale had to be taken into consideration to ensure a good visual for a rounded face. Finally, the finishing for these wraps had to be decided during installation due to variances in the slopes of the hillsides on which the vents reside.

In addition to the mesh banners and air vent wraps, Rainier designed and fabricated eight banners that flank the entrance corridor to the stadium. These banners are eight feet high by two feet wide and printed by a Durst Rho 500 double-sided on 20-ounce Ultrasmooth blockout vinyl. Printing double sided poses a challenge in aligning the registration exactly and allowing the ink to cure correctly. If the ink does not cure correctly, it can transfer to the backside before it is printed. The first step taken to gain perfect alignment front to back is preparation in prepress.

The banner pockets need to be created first. The pockets are built-in by copying the top four inches of the banner and rotating it, then leaving it just above the top of the banner. This allows the fold-over to line up on the other side. The same process is carried out for the bottom pocket. Next, the files must be exactly the same print size. This is achieved by giving each file a border or key line around the art that is the same size for both the front and back.

Finally at the press, after printing the front side, the operator prints a solid black line approximately ½-inch thick at the bottom of the roll. The operator then removes the roll and places it on the advancement side of the printer again. To align the back to the front, the printers are equipped with a light sensor. When the material is ready to advance, the printer operator sets the light sensor to find the black bar. When the light sensor reads the black bar, it signals the print to stop advancement on the roll. Now the prints are ready for alignment and the printer operator can begin printing the backs.

These are just some of the challenges that we have overcome at Rainier that bring colorful displays and graphics to our customers like the University of Wyoming. In the end, we have gained a partnership that we strive to build on through high levels of customer satisfaction, superior quality products and continuous improvements.

Kelly Morris is creative director at Rainier Industries, Seattle, Wash. Her experience in web and print design makes her the point person for all of Rainier’s marketing design needs. While working in the art department, she applies her design skills to client side projects as prepress for Rainier’s large-format digital printers.

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