OC Industries are a newly formed company based in Belfast, Northern Ireland. They offer to print patches, logos and other designs onto your gi jacket using vinyl. I tested out their service using my recently reviewed Tatami Fightwear Estilo 5 black & black jacket.
Website: OC Industries
Price: From £30
I spoke with Mike, the owner of OC Industries at length about how the service works and what kind of graphics can and cannot be printed. Vinyl printing is new to me so I was keen to see how far the process can take my designs.
Here are the OC Industries FAQ guide which details their ideal requirements. In summary, you send the gi and the vector graphics, they print it with vinyl and send it back, it's that simple. The whole process takes around two weeks.
They need a graphic in vector format and both the shape and the colours should be kept as simple as possible. You get a choice of placements on the front or back of the gi jacket. At the moment, they are only offering jacket patch placement, not the trousers. They also offer a limited design service in case you have difficulty obtaining vector graphics.
I wanted to test how good the vinyl application could be with a design that featured tiny, needle thin, elements. Here are photos of how my gi turned out:
As you can see from the photo above, the back patch came out pin sharp, including all the star burst points around the perimeter of the design. In the zoomed in image below, the thin points appear to be distorted although this is an illusion of the angle of view in my photograph, in actual fact, those points are perfectly straight and fully adhered to the gi material. The vinyl itself feels soft and pliable, a little bit like feeling a latex glove.
From what I understand, vinyl patches have to be literally cut into their shape before application onto the material. This means that anything really complex - for example like one of my cross hatched drawings, would not be suitable. I am told that something with around 4 colours is ideal. Their Facebook page has a gallery of successful print jobs which is handy in providing an idea of the types of graphics that work.
It's probably worth pointing out that you must have permission from the logo owner before placing trademarked images into your gi. OC Industries won't print it otherwise. Obviously academy logos, generic text and competitor's own names are fine.
In the photo below you can see the two front vinyl patches. The lower right patch is my 'cheeky monkey' design and the top left is the OC Industries logo. I was told that the OC patch was kind of compulsory with each standard order. But this is something customers can discuss at point of sale with the owner.
The OC patch is slightly different to my own graphics. As you can see in the photo below, theirs includes a black background to make it a rectangular, and hence easier to cut out, piece of vinyl. Mine was applied without the background (which is what I wanted). When you see it without bright shining flashlight the OC logo doesn't look as shiny as it appears on my photo. The black background matches the gi colour much better.
I guess the main concern with vinyl is how durable they are. OC themselves recommend that you save the patched gi as your special competition only gi, rather than your day to day training gi (assuming you own several gis).
Brand new, they certainly seem firmly adhered to the gi material. I even tried scratching the edges of the vinyl patch to see if it would peel off. It was safe, though I didn't try too vigorously just in case. the benefit of vinyl is that it is very flexible and you can happily fold the gi, crush it and squeeze the material without the patch cracking or stitches coming out. It also marginally saves your gi weight, compared with say, embroidered patches. But we're taking very minor weight saving!
The vinyl patches are surprisingly durable but there are a few concerns that you need to be aware of. I've worn and washed the above gi around 8-9 times and the parts where there is a lot of vinyl mass successfully manages to stay adhered to the gi material. But on the portions where there is a finely cut angle or edge, the vinyl tends to peel away after only a couple of washes.
See photos below:
|After 8-9 washes the finer edges tend to peel away|
|...although they stubbornly refuse to peel completely|
|After 8-9 washes one large section (the outer ring) peeled off|
|The OC patch remains perfectly intact after 8-9 washes due to solid colour background layer|
BUT IT CAN BE PREVENTED! If you supply the graphics as a simple shape - like a square, rectangle or circle with a solid colour background then it is a lot tougher and more resistant to the edges fraying or peeling away. If you see my logos above, they were applied without any solid backing colour so are more prone to wear and tear.
The OC logo on my gi has remained fresh as the day it arrived despite numerous washes and rolls. Admittedly, it is placed in a low friction region on my chest whereas the back patch might experience more wear and tear, but even here, the patch has by and large, remained impressively intact and that's because it has a solid backing colour.
OC Industries inform me they will help with this. It is quite a simple matter to make sure a graphic or logo has a solid backing colour applied to it and it can even try to match your gi colour. Some examples below:-
Heat pressed vinyl offers a flexible, lightweight option for those looking to customise their gi with patches and sponsor logos. The patch itself is durable as long as it is kept to a simple shape without too many sharp edges. Colours should remain simple, for example 3 or 4 colours but interestingly, there are some cool options such as metallic ink as you can see above. My own sample suffered a few bits of wear and tear but remained remarkably durable after around 8-9 washes.