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A Reliable Roland Prints Eco-Friendly, Digitally Customized Products

AoSA Image

Mike Hill and his team at AoSA have a dream that every consumer should be able to buy customized versions of mass-market items produced in an environmentally friendly manner, and he's got a shop that will help them do it. His firm, the Art of Sports and Apparel, takes a wide view of the digital printing market, printing custom designs on everything from wood and metal to structural fabrics like fiberglass.

“We chose Roland for its reliability. The print shop we used before we began AoSA had two brands of machines: the Rolands, which were always working, and the other brand, which was always broken. When it was time to buy equipment for my own shop, the decision was already made. Our SOLJET has been mechanically perfect since we got it.”

Mike has long specialized in custom design manufacturing. At age 14, he began laminating maple to create custom skateboards. He later acquired expertise in apparel design and fabrication while attending a masters program in Italy. When Mike began AoSA in 2006, he researched ways to apply prints to wood using locally sourced materials. Later, when the company he was using to supply his prints went out of business, Mike decided to bring his print production in-house.

To introduce printing capability into AoSA’s production environment, Mike purchased a Roland SOLJET Pro II SJ-745EX printer. “We chose Roland for its reliability. The print shop we used before we began AoSA had two brands of machines: the Rolands, which were always working, and the other brand, which was always broken. When it was time to buy equipment for my own shop, the decision was already made. Our SOLJET has been mechanically perfect since we got it.”

AoSA is now extending its care for the environment, as reflected in its printed work on surfboards, to sustainable custom materials and design work. Customizing on a grand scale is an ambitious goal and everyone at AoSA has enjoyed learning about each step, from materials selection to ink durability, printing, and distribution.

For instance, AoSA’s art wood prints are now printed on FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified woods, which are domestic and sustainable grown. Wood prints have been selling well, as have metal prints. AoSA is currently establishing relationships with domestic producers of hard goods such as veneers and fabrics to maintain its commitment to sustainable and environmentally friendly production.

AoSA has also created custom carpets, tile murals, t-shirts, fabric banners, and fine art prints. They have even developed their own structural fabric line, which ranges from fiberglass to a proprietary fabric called bondline. These products can be digitally printed and used for surfboards, tabletops, bathtubs, and countertops. Recent examples of AoSA’s custom digital printing on structural fabrics can be seen on surfboards off the California coast as well as on the tabletops at the L.A. Zoo.

One of AoSA’s most innovative and successful product lines is their sustainable banners program. AoSA uses a material they developed called Waves of Green, made entirely from recycled plastic bottles and domestically sourced. “The Roland prints our banners beautifully on the Waves of Green fabric,” said Mike. “The colors really pop.”

As further evidence of their commitment to the environment, AoSA accepts the banners at the end of their lifecycle and uses them to create tote bags, wallets, and purses. AoSA recently completed a 30’ banner for the The Surfrider Foundation which hung above a street in San Diego, California for several weeks without color fade. To increase the sustainability of the Surfrider banner, AoSA will reprint a portion of the banner for the next few years until the banner reaches the end of its lifespan. At that point, AoSA will turn it into marketable fashion items.

With AoSA constantly developing new uses for its SOLJET, Mike praises the machine’s versatility and low maintenance requirements. “In shops like mine, having to take time to disassemble a machine for routine maintenance would seriously undercut our productivity. With the Roland you can get in there fast, do the maintenance, and get it back on line quickly,” said Mike.

For Mike and his crew, their attraction to the work is the constant evolution, as one good idea follows another. He said, “Being involved in an infant industry is fascinating to me. The appeal lies in what AoSA will become as we work to bring manufacturers and consumers together in an environmentally sustainable way. Our SOLJET is the perfect production platform for our evolving business.”