Gloucester-based Pip and Chip has purchased a Mimaki JFX200-2513 EX flatbed from CMYUK. This 8 x4 ft, UV LED flatbed joins an existing Mimaki UJV-6042 MKII printer and 2 x Trotec Speedy laser cutting and engraving machines. Both Mimakis will share the workload of primarily printing acrylic bobbins that hold a wide variety of coloured threads used for cross-stitching.
Pip and Chip is the brainchild of husband-and-wife team Craig and Debbie Wanstall. The move to a niche printing business was driven by Debbie’s frustration with her accountancy day job. Wanting to do something but not sure what, the couple purchased a Trotec Speedy 350 laser cutter and installed it in the garden shed.
They started exploring different types of products but, in the end, decided that the World of Cross Stitch might well be their oyster. This isn’t as random as it sounds, as although Debbie had dabbled with cross stitch herself, mother-and-sister-in-law (both of whom now work for the business) were very proficient in this craft, which is a form of embroidery in which cross-shaped stitches are sewn in a tiled pattern to form a picture.
The business has been running for 5 years and the first three produced decorative thread holders – beginning with a simple hedgehog-shaped bobbin initially cut from MDF on the Trotec Speedy 360.
“It was just a flat piece that had some eyes laser cut into it to make it look cute,” says Craig.
It was a crafting world success, and before long, the increase in demand for these decorative products led the couple to invest in additional equipment. A Roland UV printer was bought to print various shaped thread and floss holders and joined by a Trotec Speedy 400 to meet the increase in cutting demand.
In April 2021, Debbie and Craig had moved the business into a small industrial unit. They started designing and producing their own flat acrylic bobbins, printing directly to the substrate to match the 500 colours from world-famous thread and yarn supplier DMC, the go-to supplier of the global Cross Stitch community.
The Roland UV printer was swapped out for a Mimaki 6042 MKII to achieve a better white and consistent high-fidelity colour matching.
“The white on the Mimaki is spot on because of the way the ink circulates. It’s just so good and stopped any yellowing or grey on our sheep bobbins,” says Craig.
Pip and Chip has fitted a robot to the Mimaki 6042 MKII that automatically loads the printer 24 hours a day. “However, we got to the point with Robo (as we call it) that even that wasn’t enough. Occasionally it goes wrong, and you’d arrive in the morning and find that no printing had been done overnight and then you can’t just play catch up in the day,” he says.
The Mimaki JFX200-2513 EX was purchased in June this year to share the workload and keep abreast of the Trotec productivity. Both Mimaki printers are used to print colours and numbers directly onto the acrylic bobbins that match thread that is wound onto them.
All Bobbins come in a standard size (40mm x 40mm) and can hold roughly 8 metres of thread. Size is important here as bobbins are stored upright, usually in special drawer storage units. Pip and Chip also make the foam inserts that house them.
“We print onto the bobbins themselves with their number and the colour, so when you put them in a drawer lined with foam, they all look very pretty,” says Craig.
Quality accurate colour matching
Essential to the whole Pip and Chip enterprise is colour fidelity. “As a colourblind man, I learned how to calibrate colour accurately using a spectrometer,” he says.
Craig uses a separate colour management server, where all colour processing takes place, after which files are then sent to the RasterLink RIP on the Mimaki.
The Mimaki JFX200-2513 EX prints 12 acrylic sheets at a time – providing a real uplift to productivity. Each sheet yields 84 Bobbins, and Pip and Chip has developed all its own jigs.
Pip and Chip is a quirky business and, due to its particular niche, has made adaptations to its Mimaki technology. “Traditionally, we wouldn’t have looked at the JFX 200-2513 EX because it’s really a signage printer. However, we’ve adapted it, turned all its quality settings up, and slowed it down. It produces high-definition and very accurate colours. We’ve fiddled with it to get it just how we want it, and it’s absolutely brilliant,” says Craig.
While highest quality direct-to-substrate premium bobbin production will continue to be the mainstay of the business until now, Pip and Chip have provided these in sets. However, the business has recognised a demand for individual colours and is currently exploring stock control and fulfilment.
It also has plans to further utilise its extensive colour profiling experience running its Mimaki equipment to produce high-quality, high-tack stickers for other manufacturers’ bobbins and thread storage systems.