Adventures in Automation
In 2010, a keen home sewer called Diana Rammell felt dissatisfied with the quality and selection of fabrics in her local stores. Her solution? She founded Raspberry Creek Fabrics and started selling textiles on Etsy. Fast forward a decade and her tiny business has expanded to carry hundreds of custom apparel fabrics, while providing eco-friendly in-house textile printing for fabric designers and small retailers. And now the next chapter of the story is being written: automation.
A small business with big ideas
Diana started designing her own materials, which she would have screen printed in LA. As the business grew, it went from outsourcing the printing to investing in its own digital printing equipment, and Diana’s husband Justin came on board to help. Despite being a busy attorney, he suddenly found himself at the helm of a growing digital printing company as Raspberry Creek expanded to offer a printing service to other fabric designers and small retailers.
“Our business caters to people who are sewing for themselves and their families,” explains Justin. “We put out a lot of seasonal prints – for example, we currently have about 50 Christmas designs available, which can be printed on a range of 30 different base fabrics. We print whatever sells, on demand, rather than holding printed fabrics in stock, and our strength compared with traditional fabric companies is that we can offer unlimited designs with no wastage.”
Raspberry Creek Fabrics uses Shopify for its ecommerce platform. Customers select a design or upload their own image, pick their fabric and place the order. Using a combination of Caldera and their own proprietary software, the orders are automatically batched by fabric type and sent directly to the printers. “It’s a unique system,” says Justin, “and it enables us to put more images on the website as the images don’t need to be processed manually.” The company uses Caldera RIP as part of that process, and its flexibility to set up hot folders and workflows makes this possible. They’ve also recently invested in Caldera PrimeCenter for prepress automation to integrate nesting and cutting.
Justin gives an example: “We have a customer creating custom leotards. She designs a one-off unique leotard for each of her customers and then uploads the designs to our website. They automatically go through PrimeCenter, which nests them and adds cutmarks. Then they’re automatically batched for when we print swim fabric – and we don’t have to touch the files at all through the whole process of printing and then cutting. It allows customers with piece goods to take advantage of our automated workflow.”
This setup is enabling the business to expand fast. Raspberry Creek now has a Kornit Allegro, EFI Reggiani dye sub machines, a Klieverik calender and a Zünd digital cutter, and they offer customers a choice of 30 different substrates, with a focus on knit apparel fabric. “We cater mainly to home sewers and small shop owners,” says Justin. “For example, people producing blankets or kids’ clothing to sell in boutiques – a lot of business-to-business. I call it business-to-small-business, in fact.”
Caldera – the obvious choice
Despite having experience with other RIP programs, Justin is emphatic in his enthusiasm for Caldera. “Caldera runs problem-free for us,” he says. “We rarely have any problems, and we know that if we do, tech support is going to hop on it, figure it out and get it solved. Once it’s set up correctly, Caldera runs smoothly, and we don’t have to worry day-to-day. It’s not something we’re having to troubleshoot.
“I also love Caldera because it’s always innovating. I used to be frustrated by the constant upgrades, but when I looked at the release notes, I saw that there were substantial important new features coming out all the time that made our job easier. So now I want to stay up to date with CalderaCare because I’m excited for the new features. And if I talk to Caldera’s Workflow Specialist, Joey Phillips, about a problem or a frustration, he adds it to the development list and then I see it come out as an improvement in the next new release. We can see that Caldera’s so far ahead of all the other RIPs on the market that I don’t think any of the others can catch up with it from a technical standpoint.”
Where next for Raspberry Creek?
Working with Caldera and their own software on further automation is the next stage of the company’s evolution. “We want to roll out this automation to offer more custom apparel fabrics and give our customers more options with the clothing they’re making. We can also see a lot of our inhouse patterns working well on home décor, and we’ll use automation to help us expand into this new area of the market. The tools Caldera provides us with will make for a seamless transition here – Caldera’s ability to have a plug-in for every printer on the market means that with my current setup, I could buy an HP printer and start offering wallpaper tomorrow.”
Wallpaper, cushions, curtains and furnishings – it looks like the well-dressed American houses of the future will definitely be wearing Raspberry Creek!
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