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Elgin manufacturer ground-breaker in fabric printing

Join Date:  2017-03-06

With the help of its president and CEO Marco Alvarez, Elgin-based Fabric Images Inc., has expanded beyond America's borders and is seeking global business. Fabric Images, a manufacturer of custom-printed tensioned fabric structures, was founded in 1992 by Pat Hayes who, after 32 years in the music business, saw an opportunity to create banners and graphics for the trade show industry. Alvarez, Hayes' son-in-law, came on board in 1995 and the two were soon branching out into the more developed avenues of textile printing. "We wanted to do something more than just cutting and sewing graphics on fabric," said Hayes. "So we got into this idea of doing dye sublimation printing and textiles." They quickly found that there was a tremendous amount of limitations to the technology. In the mid-1990s, what was then called electrostatic dye sublimation printing was limited to 5-foot-wide printing. Alvarez and Hayes wanted to develop those capabilities to 10-feet-wide and searched for a partner. "Many manufacturers didn't feel that there was a market for it," Alvarez said. He soon found Nur, a company in Israel that was willing to create a printer capable of producing the 10-foot-wide fabrics. "We literally created the market," said Hayes. "Ten-foot-wide dye sublimation printing didn't exist before we pushed Nur." Another hurdle was finding a chemical company that could produce the type of ink they needed. Once they secured an ink partner, Alvarez and Hayes were able to incorporate the proper inks into Nur's printer. "We partnered with them to produce the first 10-foot-wide dye sublimation printer in the world," Alvarez said. Shortly thereafter, in 2001, Fabric Images moved from its original location in Elk Grove Village to Elgin, utilizing a larger building and a burgeoning labor force.

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