By Kelly Frush
Anchor Industries has come a long way since it was a small riverboat supplier on the Ohio River. Founded in 1892, it now manufactures fabric products and structures for the industrial, rental and recreational markets. In the early 1970s, Anchor created its graphics division.
“In the early years, hand-painting on vinyl tent products and woven acrylic awning products was the main application,” says Jay Hoesli, graphics division manager. Nowadays, Anchor uses large-format printers to do the work their hands used to do.
“In 2005, Anchor acquired a Mimaki JV3 160SP large-format digital printer,” Hoesli says. “Nearly 75 percent of tent jobs and 50 percent of all jobs are done on our Mimaki printer. We only hand-paint graphics on tent products when the artwork is very simple or it is to be shown on a colored fabric.”
Anchor may not be hand-painting for long. “One growing trend I’ve seen is the use of white ink cartridges to digitally print on colored materials,” Hoesli notes. “This is something we haven’t experimented with yet, but we’re currently exploring options.” Many innovations in the fabric graphics industry have made it possible for Anchor to experiment and grow.
Hoesli has seen the large-format printer evolve during his time at Anchor. “There are so many new features that large-format printers now have to assure a clear print and vibrant colors,” he says. “Many of our customers are going bigger, better and more unique with graphic applications on their tents.” Because of its equipment investment, Anchor can now meet those customers’ needs.
Recently, Anchor developed a four-walled tent for a client’s trade show exhibit space. Anchor printed every inch of the tent’s fabric to resemble a house. Shingles and sky were printed on the top to resemble a roof, the outside walls simulate siding, and the inside was printed to look like a home’s interior.
“The biggest challenge was making sure all of the widths of material matched up to make the illusion of the house flow nicely,” Hoesli says.
The team at Anchor enjoys helping its customers bring their visions to life. “It is being able to see a job well-done at completion that keeps us going,” Hoesli says. “Each project pushes us to develop our skills.”