24 - 26 April 2018
Halls 17 - 18
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01 Nov 2017

Jim Nicol: The man with the magic touch

The Magic Touch

The Magic Touch has been supplying dye sublimation image and transfer papers, heat presses, laser printers, plotter/cutters, materials and equipment for over 25 years. The company’s white toner laser printing transfer process opens up new and exciting opportunities for full colour, high quality image transfer printing onto a limitless range of application products where the possibilities are endless and the minimum order is one.

The Magic Touch not only produce and supply the products enabling entry into this market, but also support the applications with training, marketing and a commitment to research and development for the future.

What is dye sublimation/heat transfer printing?

Dye sublimation printing is a quick and inexpensive method of producing personalised bespoke items where the minimum order is one.  You take an image and print it out onto special transfer paper, then using a heat press, you press the image onto the surface of your item. If you are using the conventional dye sublimation process, the inks will sublimate from the transfer paper to an item with a polymer coating (such as a mug) or to the polyester fibres of a fabric. After a short period, the transfer paper is peeled away, leaving behind a permanent high quality colour image.

We supply every type of transfer printing method including conventional dye sublimation with sublimation inks. Then we have a laser transfer system that works using an LED printer with a white toner capability, and we also have a product called Magi Cut, which is a range of vinyls and flexibles that can be cut on a cutter and weeded prior to transfer. The latter process is particularly suited to sportswear where player numbers can be added to sports jerseys and so forth. So we've been very fortunate that for 26 years we've been able to develop and bring ever more affordable systems to market.

However, the most important part of the process is the selling bit - how our customers market and promote themselves and the products they are producing. We believe that The Magic Touch process - those three transfer printing technologies - enable customers to market themselves far more effectively than any other process because when you give somebody a sample of notebook, or a t-shirt, or anything with their logo or their website on it, they will not throw it away. They'll keep it, and as long as you're telling people a very simple message that there is no artwork cost, no setup cost, and that the minimum order is one - it just works, and it also becomes a relatively easy sell.

 

What advice would you give a small printing company with no experience of dye sublimation and heat transfer printing?

The first thing we need to really understand is if this is going be a business or a hobby. Because if it's a hobby, we will point you in the direction of the right equipment equipment for your budget, and as a hobby your investment would typically be under £500 for a straightforward standard dye sublimation set up.

However, for around £2,000 you would have the ability to produce all three of the transfer printing technologies mentioned above. You would be able to produce short run high quality items very easily and very effectively. The difference is if you want to go into a production situation. If so we will then introduce you to things like white toner printing, and we will show you bigger presses and bigger equipment, and it just means that you can do more, but a whole lot faster.

 

What help and support do you provide to your customers?

We continue to remind people that the number one thing about using digital technology is the ability to make one. That's the only thing that makes this all stack up, because with traditional print in the past, you could never do short run, and you could never do it quickly. So we teach our customers how to use the systems and how to make the product, but we focus very strongly on teaching them how to market their products, and this is a big bonus for the customer, and that’s the direction we are taking.

We also host a CRM course every month for existing clients. Our CRM of choice is GoldMine - which is just a piece of single user software - and we try and show people the worth of tracking their customers online. We show them how to work out their customers buying patterns, which is very useful. For example, if you want to send a sample of a product you are promoting such as a notebook to every law firm within a five mile radius of your business, we show them how to go about it. This information is crucial to enable people to gain the confidence in selling the process, as is the mindset to produce samples of products that they can send out to the people they wish to target. Pick and target a product sample that will appeal to someone. If they're a golfer - send them an umbrella, if it's a corporate company - send them a notebook. The same with workwear and all of the other promotional products, they are all very profitable, and when you tell your customer there's no artwork set-up costs and that the minimum order is one, they don't actually believe you. But the minute you show them a sample and say, what do you think of this. They now believe you. And that's what this business is all about.

Giving people samples, for example a t-shirt with their logo on is cheaper for you to produce than it is to buy a cappuccino in a high street coffee shop, and nobody ever thinks twice about going to have a nice coffee. So we say send them something that touches them, and that anything you send to somebody with their logo, or website, or anything to do with them or their business, will not get thrown away. That's the most important part to remember when setting up any kind of transfer printing business, but it’s often the most overlooked.

Be prepared to produce lots of samples that you can send out to prospective customers. It’s a bit like using a sprat to catch a mackerel, but it really does work.

 

What types of transfer materials are required to produce heat transfer prints, and do I need any specific inks?

It’s important not to confuse toner transfer systems with ink because ink is sublimation, and sublimation is a great process, but the drawback of sublimation is that everything you print onto has to be white, and it has to be polyester coated, or if it is a fabric, it must contain at least 80% polyester content.

With toner we can print onto a transfer and lay this down onto just about any fabric, in any colour. Plus there are all the non textile items which are equally as important, because when you're transfer printing onto metals, or wood, or leather and so forth, the range of the papers is really based on what the capabilities of the machine will allow us to do.

All of our papers run very successfully through toner based printers and copiers, and we currently have nine different papers for toner systems, each doing different things that enable you to anything from printing t-shirts to printing on skin - because we now have a tattoo paper that simply acts as a decal. So we have all these different papers, all doing different things, but they all function through the same printer.

 

Do you need prior knowledge of handling images to be able to work with dye sublimation heat transfer printing?

Absolutely, but it's now far easier than it's ever been. Some 95% of the heat transfer business now is about getting a logo or artwork, which invariably will come from the client. It's then simply a case of opening that file, positioning the artwork and printing out a transfer. Nice and simple. If you then want to start creating logos, well that's when it all becomes a bit more complex and you are effectively becoming a designer, and that's a whole different story.

If someone comes to us and has absolutely no clue about handling graphics, we won't sell to them. It will just become a challenge for everybody and they will eventually get frustrated and we just don't need that. So I normally would say to somebody with no experience, get some basic tuition first. Find somebody who can teach you the basics and we can move forward from there.

 

Why can’t you print using dye sublimation onto a black t-shirt?

With dye sublimation, anything that is coated white looks fantastic when it’s finished. The only problem with it is that the minute somebody wants to put an image onto an item made of cotton, it doesn't work. The same if somebody wants to add a print onto anything that isn't white. It just won't work. Many many people have spent many many millions of dollars trying to solve this problem, but the laws of physics apply, and it’s never going to happen. So we say to people have dye sublimation and have The Magic Touch transfer system alongside it, because then you have the best of both worlds. To be fair, the cost now for a dye sublimation entry level printer is about £350 pounds. So it's not like some sort of lifestyle investment here. This is, to a certain degree, disposable technology. The advantage of having both means you can do everything and anything that your customer requires.

 

So give us an idea of the type of work that people are able to produce?

Almost everything and anything can be personalised with a minimum order of one. The most popular items include: t-shirts, tea towels, coffee mugs, photo slates, sports kit, towels and bags, phone and tablet cases, coasters, table mats, serving mats, printed glasses and bottles, umbrellas, baby sleep suits and bibs… the list goes on and on.

 

Have you noticed any trends in developing in the transfer printing process?

The trend continues with workwear which is a massive market. It just gets bigger and bigger every year. We know this because of our relationship with all the major t-shirt wholesalers in the UK and throughout Europe. They're all seeing double digit growth year on year, and it's mainly coming from people producing workwear. What's good about this market is t-shirts and polo shirts, no matter how well made they might be, are not going to last forever. So there is a repeat process involved here. Plus, workwear today is not just about producing t-shirts, sweatshirts or overalls. There are also jackets, trousers, hi-vis tabards and so forth.

For example, the courier company DPD is now issuing its drivers with summer shorts. Who would have thought that shorts would suddenly became a part of workwear? However, these will all need to be branded with the company name and logo etc. So that's growing tremendously.

The giftware and promotions market continues to grow. Why? Because of the digital factor. If somebody only wants 10 mugs, they can have 10, and so they don't need to buy 100. Nobody wants large amounts of anything anymore. So the growth is going to be a natural growth on the basis of the demand for short runs. Business-to-business products and promotional products, workwear etc. just continues to grow and it will do for many years to come.

Another trend is with decal papers. We have a lot of people who are now adding decals to drinking glasses, or vases, or to odd shaped ceramics and it works really well. We just say when you're dealing with glass in particular. Don't put in a dishwasher. But the decoration process works fantastically well. Plus the colour matching of the decals is so much better than any kind of screen print decals that people traditionally have used.

 

Finally, you exhibited at Sign & Digital UK in 2017. How was it and what can we expect to see from The Magic Touch in 2018?

Our goal at Sign & Digital UK is to focus on the importance for Sign makers to really look after their existing customers and to be able to offer them a wider range of products and applications that they can re sell to their customers.  I strongly believe that anyone involved in the sign industry needs to attend Sign & Digital UK to ensure they consider all the great opportunities that this technology now offers, with most of it now very affordable.

For us, the 2017 show once again delivered in terms of quality of visitors and enquiries, and we really had a very successful show, but for 2018 we have some exciting new products to launch that are specifically designed for the sign industry including a new printable coated aluminium with a minimum five year outdoor UV guarantee.  We will also have some new textile solutions for use with the HP latex technology within the ever-growing ‘Print & Cut’ market, so be sure to watch this space!




The Magic Touch are exhibiting at Sign & Digital UK 2018 - to find out more about showcasing your products and services to a unique audience of over 5,300 fully-audited unique visitors at the show, download the sales brochure.
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Testimonials

  • “We’ve seen a lot of new customers at the show this year, but it’s also been great for networking with existing customers – which is probably just as valuable. We are an LED model manufacturer, and we’ve had a new module that we’ve launched at the show and that’s been well received.”
    Eden Heath
    Product Manager, Oshino LED Lighting
  • “It’s been a really great show – really, really good! We’ve launched a new product and everyone is really interested in it and we’ve had a lot of enquiries. It’s the first time we’ve had a stand this size and everything has gone really well. We launched this product at Sign & Digital UK as it’s generally recognised as the key show in the year for signage makers and everyone involved in the sign and digital business – so it was really a no-brainer. We’ve had a really good quality of customers – people who are decision makers in the business and are looking to buy. We are coming back next year!”
    John Thomas
    Business Development Manager, Your Print Partner Ltd
  • “We had a very successful Sign & Digital UK in 2017 with a few surprises and lots of leads to take back to Lancashire. It’s always an interesting show with lots going on, which is why we’ve been a fixture on the exhibitor list for so many news.”
    Chris Bailey
    Managing Director, QPS
  • “Sign & Digital is a great forum for us to meet distributors, customers and to broaden our brand and is the right partner to work with - professional, experienced, service-minded with the right customer base. We are very pleased with the whole event and our sales in the UK increase every year we participate. See you in Birmingham in 2018!”
    Per Wendel
    Area Sales Manager, Rollsroller
  • “It’s been a really interesting experience exhibiting at Sign & Digital UK this year due to the wide range of new products that we have been exhibiting. We’ve exhibited at Sign & Digital UK for the past few years and I’ve always felt it’s a really good environment to get our products across. We’ve gone into this year with a lot more space and a much bigger stand, and are really pleased with the leads we have obtained and the quality of the customers. Sometimes it only takes 3 or 4 new accounts to feel like the event is justified, but in this case there has been a lot more than that.”
    Kerrie Anne Moore
    Sales and Marketing Manager, Soyang Europe Ltd
  • “Sign and Digital UK is a key part of InkTec’s calendar as it gives us the opportunity to showcase our very latest products, such as the JETRIX LXi8 which had its worldwide debut at this year’s event. As always 2017 saw us networking with existing clients and meeting lots of new contacts for both our printers and consumables. We were especially proud to be here this year, as it also formed part of our celebrations of 25 years since InkTec first started.”
    Joey Kim
    Managing Director of InkTec Europe, InkTec
  • “We had a brilliant Sign and Digital UK 2017. The show provided a great platform to discuss innovative ways for our customers and prospects to evolve and grow their businesses. The feedback we received on stand was fantastic. Along with our industry leading technology, we demonstrated a wide range of applications illustrating what’s possible and helping to inspire customers with potential new growth areas. As part of this, we were very excited to showcase applications of the revolutionary new UVgel technology for the first time in the UK.”
    Dominic Fahy
    Canon’s UK Business Group Manager Display Graphics Systems and Imaging Supplies, Canon UK Ltd
  • “It has been really productive, we’ve been really busy and people have been really interested. For us as a company it has been well worth it to attend.”
    Lesley Rodgers
    Office Manager, Signtrade Letters Ltd
  • “Sign & Digital UK gives us a chance to wave the Mimaki and Hybrid flag, to meet customers old and new, and of course it gives us the best opportunity to launch new products. This year is no exception – we have the new large jfx printer, which has been the star of the show. This show gives us a chance to enhance our share in the printing market. We wanted to come here and launch products as it’s the main UK show for anyone working with graphics and the beauty of the show is that it attracts small signmakers right through to the big graphic producers.”
    John de la Roche
    National Sales Manager, Hybrid Services
  • “There has been a lot of interest in the different machines we have on offer and quite a varied audience. There has been a high quality of customer and it seems that everyone is looking for a wide variety of products. We will definitely come back. Because the show is so central in the country it brings everybody from all four corners.”
    Stafford Cox
    Service Director, Atlantic Tech Services Limited
  • “Our experience at Sign & Digital UK has been excellent and we’ve taken a lot of orders. We’ve got two new bits of kit on the stand and have sold every single model on the stand. The thing is – everybody comes to Sign & Digital UK. If you ever hear negative comments about the show saying it’s just for the sign guys – that’s rubbish. We have had Hollywood Monster, Macro Art, Delta Display, Media Co. DIS – everybody comes here!”
    Robin East
    Group Director, CMYUK Digital Ltd
  • “It’s been very busy so far, two and a half days in and we’ve had quite a lot of enquiries. The machine has drawn a lot of attention.  It was a last minute decision to come here, but we are here every year whether it’s with our dealers or independently, but it seemed like the right decision to make. We will obviously need to follow up, but on first impression it has seemed like really good, high quality visitors and leads. We will be coming back to the show, we always seem to get something out of it so it makes sense, it’s one of those ones that is always on the calendar.
    Ian Guest
    Sales and Marketing, ZUND Plotting Systems (UK) Ltd
  • “The exhibition provided a perfect opportunity to meet existing and potential new customers face-to-face, which always opens the door to great discussions about their needs and requirements, products and the industry in general. We were able to demonstrate Swanline’s capabilities in constructional design, graphics and materials on stand which attracted a considerable amount of attention from visitors. Overall, we were really pleased with how the exhibition went. There was significant interest from some big players in the market towards our new products that were unveiled at the show, generating good leads which we aim to turn into sales.”
    Ross Griffin
    Managing Director, Swanline Paper & Board
  • “The experience so far has been very good for the amount of enquires for the first time ever we’ve shown as Rightons at Sign & Digital UK. We have had a good footfall of enquires, some from existing customers and a lot of new faces. This is the first show that we’ve done as Rightons – so we have got a lot to talk about. We wanted to promote the one stop distribution opportunity for the sign and digital market. We are already in discussion about coming back – possibly with a bigger stand.”
    Colin Double
    National Sales Manager, Righton
  • “It’s been a great three days, with lots of leads every day. Yesterday was pretty crazy with people queuing up to get on the stand. There were lots of orders taken, and it was probably one of the best Sign & Digitals we have ever had. There has been a very good quality of customers – both new and existing – lots of familiar faces including people we’ve already got relationships with looking to upgrade their current kit or buy our new range of materials. We have got lots of new things at the show this year and they have proved really popular. We have already booked a stand that’s about 30% bigger for next year.”
    Lewis Evans
    Product Manager, Vivid Laminating Technologies Ltd
  • “We’ve found the show to be quite busy all three days, and we are pleased with what we’ve got back from it so far. Over the course of the three days we have had around about 60 enquires, which has been a really good result. People who have come on the stand are definitely our target market. We do supply a lot to the trade and a lot of customers have been trade customers, like shop fitters, signage companies which is the right type of customer we are looking for.”
    Vicki Cox
    Product Sales and Marketing Manager, arken POP
  • “Sign & Digital UK has been a great opportunity for us to show how our MIS can deal with the complexities of a large format workflow, including the new functionality we’ve developed for this sector. This year, MIS was definitely on their shopping lists and we secured some top-quality leads from visitors who were at the show to make informed decisions going forward and were clearly decision-makers within their companies.”
    Lee Ward
    Global Sales Director, Tharstern

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