Specialist embroiderer gets a new toy

David Charles Group

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The David Charles Group has taken delivery of an S-Series LEJ-640S flatbed UV printer, bringing its current number of Roland systems to eight and giving it the potential to expand its service offering while reducing its environmental footprint.

Owner David Charles founded the Oxfordshire-based business over 40 years ago as a specialist in corporate clothing embroidery. Over the last four decades the David Charles Group has evolved to include a sign and print department, working with a wide variety of customers including well-known names in the motorsport sector. Typical work in this market includes general and bespoke signage and multi-panel displays for track-side hospitality and office areas.

Stuart Cook joined the company as a Director around ten years ago, spearheading investment in new printing equipment to fuel business growth. He comments: "We call ourselves a problem-solving company. When a customer comes to us with an issue, we solve it for them. To achieve this we have to cover all bases, so have invested in a diverse range of equipment."

One of its very first printing equipment purchases was a Roland ColorCAMM PC-60 thermal transfer printer/cutter, which Stuart Cook says was 'indestructible'. It then bought a wide format printer from another manufacturer which proved to be extremely unreliable – so the David Charles Group went back to Roland invest in a total of three VersaCAMM plotters. Each working eight hours a day, Stuart says these are 'bulletproof – they just keep going'.

"I'm very happy to stick by Roland as a brand," Stuart adds.

This reliability has given the David Charles Group the confidence to expand its print room to comprise solely Roland equipment. It now runs two VersaCAMM SP-540i 54" eco-solvent inkjet printer/cutters, two CAMM-1 GX-24 vinyl cutters – Stuart explains that having pairs of machines reduces downtime – a CAMM-1 GS-24 vinyl cutter plotter, a Modela MDX-15 3D milling machine, the new VersaUV S-Series and a VersaUV LEF-20.

This last machine, a powerfully compact desktop UV printer capable of printing onto an extensive array of products, is used for small items Stuart calls 'widgets'.

"We use the VersaUV LEF for anything and everything," he says. "Pens, notebooks, giveaways, small internal signage and, with the rotary attachment, bottles."

However, Stuart adds that there's also a love of experimentation at the David Charles Group. "We like toys," he says. "We like R&D, playing with technology, putting something through a machine and seeing what happens."

To offer an even wider selection of applications – and have a new toy to play with – this year it began researching UV flatbed hybrids and discovered the Roland VersaUV S-Series. Available in flatbed and belt configurations and a number of bed widths and lengths, the UV-LED S-Series can direct-print vibrant colours, crisp text and textured effects onto practically any rigid or flexible substrate up to 200mm in height and 100kg/sqm in weight.

Thanks to its ability to print directly to substrates and objects, the David Charles Group's new VersaUV S-Series LEJ-640S – installed in November 2019 – is more efficient and environmentally friendly, as Stuart Cook explains.

"With our previous kit the process was to print, then laminate, then apply. With the new S-Series we can eliminate the lamination step to remove plastic waste and reduce our environmental footprint," he says. "The sign industry is very wasteful but we can all do our bit to reduce single-use plastic waste and make our impact a little less. That's what we'd like to do as a business."

So far, the team has experimented with the S-Series by printing directly to wooden packing crates, aluminium composite, foam PVC board, Correx and more.

"The new Roland will allow us to offer a different service to customers," says Stuart. "We don't have a specific application in mind but when the right project comes along we know it will do what we need it to do."