The Epson printers are a key part of the sublimation process that fuses Never Summer’s eye-popping artwork onto the top sheet of each snowboard or longboard skateboard. Whether the bold red of the Cobra snowboard or rainbow colors of the Onyx, each board’s brilliant graphics stay protected, durable and scratch free, no matter how much stomping, grinding or wipe out on the slopes or asphalt.
Built to Order
“From my perspective running the factory, our fleet of SureColor printers, working eight hours a day, has helped reduce downtime and increase consistency, productivity and profits,” said Slater. “When our built-to-order products go out the door to more than 400 certified U.S. dealers, I’m confident the boards meet all performance, reliability and image quality expectations.”
Co-founder brothers Tim and Tracey Canaday started building snowboards in the early 1980s before the boards were even allowed on the slopes. Named after a Colorado mountain range, Never Summer has years of experience testing and perfecting its snowboard designs and construction methods for a sport that has gone mainstream. “Each of our durable, high performance boards are carefully handcrafted in our Denver factory, where we control every aspect of the process,” said Slater.
Print to Top Sheet to Board
Never Summer designers and illustrators create scores of bold, colorful concepts, finding ways to blend in the eagle from the company’s logo. After the upcoming winter season’s designs are approved, each graphic file is sent to the in-house print room adjacent to the main factory floor, equipped with four 44-inch SureColor F6070 SureColor printers, one 64-inch SureColor F7070 printer, and heat transfer presses.
Out on the factory floor, the sound of snowboard production is in full swing as workers craft the central wood core, adding fiberglass layers, base materials, sidewall, steel edges, and metal inserts. “You won’t find a single worker on our factory floor who doesn’t snowboard, skateboard or ski,” said Slater. “Every employee in the facility is here because of that passion.”
Back in the print room, the SureColor prints the artwork on Epson DS Transfer Production paper with its Epson PrecisionCore® TFP® print head and UltraChrome® DS inks1 for brilliant image quality up to 1,440 x 720 dpi. The printout is then placed in a heat press to transfer or sublimate the ink off its paper surface to a protective plastic top sheet. With the graphic now fused into the top sheet, it’s taken to the layup area to be compression-molded to the top of the board during the epoxy layup.
When Slater compares the finished board to the original graphic, he rarely sees a difference. “Combined with the color profile and RIP software, the SureColor F-Series printers are capable of reproducing a product that closely matches the artwork without any color variances, color shift or pixilation,” said Slater. The color is so accurate that an OEM customer even displays a full-size print of the original artwork right next to the product at tradeshows.
Tearin’ It Up
“Five years ago, we brought our digital printing in-house for complete control of our graphics and the flexibility to turn around new graphics and designs that other companies couldn’t do,” said Slater. At that time, Never Summer relied on in-house, large-format printers, which it modified to print sublimation ink with an added bulk feed system. “Although the output quality was good, the printers frequently drove the production line to a halt with insistent calls for cleaning and maintenance,” said Slater.
Today, Never Summer is getting a very good return on its dye-sublimation printer investment. “We now save money by cutting down on maintenance time, and we use less ink because the PrecisionCore TFP print heads in the SureColor F-Series printers are specifically designed for sublimation ink,” said Slater. With speeds up to 634 square feet per hour, the F-Series is also faster than the previous solution, with more consistent high-quality output.
Like all winter sports companies, Never Summer hopes for another winter “waist deep in powder” so snowboard riders will be out in full force. “We can’t control the weather, but with in-house tools like the Epson SureColor F-Series printers, we can control the performance, reliability and image quality of our boards,” said Slater.