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Build Your Business: Shop Talk
Self-Made SublimationStarting with one man and an offset press, Donray Printing is now a fully equipped, high-demand sublimator.
Sublimation has been Donray Printing’s specialty for apparel and numerous other products for many years.
Donray Printing has a rich history — a classic story of a man and his vision. Founder Art Ferriola was first introduced to sublimation printing when he worked as a press man — and eventually salesman — for Devries Printing in Saddle Brook, New Jersey. DeVries was one of the first offset-printing companies to bring sublimation printing into the United States in the 1970s. After the company closed its doors a decade later, some of its loyal customers approached Ferriola about branching out and creating a new sublimation-printing source.
Ray Ferriola, now the current owner and president of Donray Printing, says his father was determined. “He set up a light table in his basement and worked with several commercial printing companies in the Paterson, New Jersey, area. There, he began to fill orders for local manufacturers who utilized sublimation printing for their products. In 1986, he started Donray Printing, mortgaging his home to buy paper, ink and film just to help the company get off the ground.”
Establishing a new business is anything but easy. Art Ferriola worked around the clock, eventually setting up shop with neighboring company Cooper Printing. He ran jobs on one of Cooper’s Mitsubishi 40-inch presses, while doing all of the film separation, stripping and plating himself.
In 1993, Donray bought its first offset press — a 40-inch, six-color Harris Aurelia — and rented an 8,000-square-foot space in an abandoned West Paterson, New Jersey, dairy barn. Six years later, Art Ferriola moved the company to a 32,000-square-foot building in Parsippany, New Jersey, and installed a 54″ x 77″ six-color offset press to fulfill its customers’ growing large-format needs, along with three, six-color, 40-inch Harris presses.
He then had to set up three large transferring rotary drums and many flatbed transfer machines. The demand had grown immensely in the last few years, ensuring the necessary move to help with the customer overload.
As the years passed and Donray continued to expand, sublimation remained its primary form of decoration for garments and numerous other products.
“[Sublimation] is our area of expertise,” Ray Ferriola says. “In the ’80s and ’90s, there was a huge need for offset sublimation on the East Coast. Companies such as Holt Mfg., Panel Prints and many other smaller printing shops were sublimation benchmarks in the industry.”
Many of these companies have since gone out of business, clearing the path for Donray to dominate the northern market.
“Now, with a lot of manufacturers going offshore and with the advent of digital sublimation equipment, there is not the same need for domestic offset sublimation,” Ferriola says. “We, however, continue to be the go-to company for manufacturers to turn to if they have orders that are too large for them to fill with their in-house digital capabilities.”
In addition to apparel sublimation, the company also offers the process on hard goods, such as mugs, metal signs, tool boxes, floor mats, bathroom accessories, license plates, cutting boards and many other hard products.
“The fact that we print for so many different industries is one of the main reasons that we were able to stay in business, while so many other service printers have not survived,” Ferriola says.
Another factor for Donray’s long-term sustainability was a production shift in the early 2000s. During this time, manufacturing started to migrate outside the United States to countries such as South America and China.
“We began to ship paper all over the world,” Ray Ferriola says. “At one point, we had customers shipping 30 pallets of printed sublimation paper a week to China from our New Jersey factory. We knew the shelf life for this was short, so we decided to try to find a new direction for the company.”
Donray partnered with a printing company in Taiwan to accommodate its growing paper orders. Prepress and sampling were completed in Parsippany, and color-corrected files and approved samples were sent to the Taiwan factory for printing using Donray inks and paper.
Ray Ferriola and his team worked diligently to profile Taiwan’s offset press so that it was harmonious with their own presses. For four years, Donray used this strategy to supply high-quality printed sublimation paper to China factories.
“This gave us the time and opportunity to redirect our domestic plant from a service-printer mentality to a finished-product mentality,” Ray Ferriola says. “While we still supply sublimation paper to domestic manufacturers, much of our business now is in finished products. We produce promotional floor mats, banners, fanwear, placemats, pillows, tote bags and a host of other sublimated products utilizing our printing expertise with various sewing and finishing factories in the area.”
Ever evolving, Donray consistently pursues new sublimation products to offer to its customers, angling to produce them on-site or find the right local partner to aid in production. The company also intends to import or purchase sublimation friendly products, such as towels, fleece blankets, T-shirts, bandanas,
Current Trends & Future Plans
The Donray team constantly has one eye on current trends and the other on the novelty of tomorrow.
“The beauty of sublimation is the reproduction of photo-quality artwork,” Ray Ferriola says. “This lends itself perfectly to on-demand printing, with the end customer supplying a photograph to be reproduced on a product. This is the future of sublimation. As a service printer, our history was printing 10,000 units of one design; now, the industry is calling for printing one individual unit of 10,000 different designs.”
Digital sublimation printing also is becoming less expensive, allowing one-offs to be a natural fit for Donray. “Advances in software, digital printing, and packaging and shipping make this the future of this industry,” Ray Ferriola says. “There will always be a need for offset sublimation for manufacturers, but the bulk of the sublimation business now and in the future will be printing custom, small-run designs for individuals, clubs, teams etc. with the use of high-speed digital printing.”
Donray is continuing to pursue the on-demand market in search of fresh products that can help its customers increase their own sales and marketability. The company sells decorated, one-off, presewn 50″ x 60″ fleece blankets online, with plans to expand this to other sublimation products in the near future. Additionally, Donray plans to increase its in-house sewing/finishing capacity.
“Printing for manufacturers and helping them utilize the sublimation process will always be the focal point of our business,” Ray Ferriola says. “We hope to grow our business by offering new customers with in-house digital capabilities and the option to print offset paper at Donray when their orders are too large for their digital production to handle. We will continue to lend our expertise in the field to those new to the process in whatever capacity that can be of service to them.”
Donray Printing at a Glance
Company Name: Donray Printing
Address: 2 Eastmans Rd., Parsippany, N.J. 07054
No. of Employees: 25
Decorating Methods Offered: Sublimation printing
Company Website: donraysublimation.com
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