KD Kanopy started as a tent manufacturer in 1984, but it didn’t take long to recognize the market for graphics on tents. By 1989 the Westminster, Colorado company was silk screening on tents, and by 2001 it was getting “a lot of requests for full digital graphics,” says president John Matthews.
KD Kanopy still does a lot of silk screen printing, but after an early try at in-house digital printing, the company soon decided it was better for them to send those projects out. Matthews says it’s a difficult choice to decide whether or not to invest in your own printers. “We’re still not able to keep one [digital] machine going eight hours a day, five days a week,” he says. “That’s how you justify it.” And, he said, like high performance cars, “these machines don’t like to sit idle; they like to run.”
About 90 percent of the company’s business is in outdoor applications, including canopies, banners, and tension fabric structures. They’ve been successful, Matthews says, because they have learned to carefully educate their customers to provide the right end product, although he says the choice is not always obvious.
“Dye sublimation gives you the best bang for the buck, but it tends to fade with outdoor use. If you have one that’s a year old, versus one I just printed today, the today one is going to be a lot brighter. You have to watch what you do,” he says. “We do a lot of solvent ink jet printing because it lasts longer outside.”
Their signage business has been growing, too. “In order to stay at the high end, you have to offer graphics,” Matthews says, “so you might as well offer a full range of unique signage products.”
A new rolling banner, which KD Kanopy offers exclusively, is new to their product lineup. The banners offer the client 14 running feet of message space, and graphics can be printed on all kinds of polypropylene fabric. Matthews says the rolling banner is used in restaurants and stores, and is finding its way into trade shows, too.
“Anything in motion stops them better than something not in motion,” he says.
They also have a pop-up canopy—their own invention, and a company exclusive. The KD Majestic, which is their top-selling canopy, is printed on 500 denier polyester, and sits on a sturdy but lightweight aluminum frame.
The company has customers all over the world, Matthews says, and feels that their high-end quality, customer service, and product innovation make KD Kanopy unique.
Janet Preus is the editor of Fabric Graphics.