- The Italian company, specialized in the production of technical sportswear, has studied and started the production of masks to face the emergency COVID-19
- The use of Mimaki's sublimation printing allows the company to customise the templates, clearing them from the hospital image and making them accessories
From technology at the service of sportswear to technology declined to the fight against the spread of Coronavirus. This is how Energiapura, an Italian company specialized in the production of clothing and accessories for the worlds of ski racing and snowboarding, has leveraged know-how and technological equipment to design and develop - in a very short time - a protective mask that could meet the requirements of a Class I medical device. Designed to allow its use for several hours and during work activities, the EP PA 2020 (Energiapura Pure Air) face protection device is made with fabrics that allow air filtration and breathability, and can be reused. However, Energiapura has gone even further, impressing the essence of the brand: thanks to the sublimatic printing, the mask can be customized. "The use of colour has always distinguished the Energiapura brand and we do not want to abandon it even at this juncture," says Alberto Olivetto, founder and CEO of Energiapura. "Sublimation printing allows us to give a different face to the COVID-19 crisis and this is our message. We want to bring colour and a bit of optimism even in this difficult moment".
The EP PA 2020 mask, according to the conformity 93/42 CEE Medical Devices - Class I washable, meets the essential requirements UNI EN 14683:2019. After starting the reconversion of production, Energiapura is organizing the work to meet the growing demand from hospitals, pharmacies, parapharmacies, companies and also private individuals.
A winning brand
At the headquarters in Tezze sul Brenta, in the province of Vicenza, Energiapura employs 25 people, while part of the production is managed by a company owned in Tunisia, with about 80 employees.
The history of Energiapura began in 1990, when Alberto Olivetto decided to start his own business in the heart of the Veneto textile district - in the area between the provinces of Vicenza, Treviso, and Montebelluna. Focusing from the beginning on research and technological innovation, the company turned to a niche market, the technical sportswear segment. Initially operating as a subcontractor, it moved from the world of cycling to cross-country skiing, establishing itself as a direct producer and exporter in Europe, the United States and Japan of the Norwegian brand Swix.
In 1994 the company filed the Energiapura brand, a fundamental step that marked the beginning of the production of sportswear for its own brand. Opting for specialization in the world of alpine and cross-country skiing, Energiapura decided to turn mainly to ski schools and ski clubs as its target audience. "We were aware that we had taken the most difficult road, that of the world of ski schools and associations, but we knew we could offer something more than the competition," says Alberto Olivetto. "Thanks to the extensive use of color, we were able to offer customized garments for each individual reality, an added value that allowed us to emerge".
Colour and customisation made possible thanks to the sublimation printing technique - and Mimaki's printing technology - which has always been at the heart of the Energiapura production process. "Thanks to years of research, development and experimentation, the virtuous use of sublimation has allowed us to make a difference. We have broken with the tradition of monochrome, bringing colour to the Alpine and mountain environment, dominated by white, and the scope of this innovation has been unprecedented". This strategy, combined with the study of fabrics to guarantee the best performance, has allowed Energiapura to make a name for itself at an international level, so much so that the company is among the reference suppliers in Europe, Russia, Japan and the United States, and boasts collaborations with ski champions from all over the world, from Austrian Marcel Hirscher to Slovenian Tina Maze, followed from the beginnings until retirement, to champions Peter Fill (ITA), Henrik Kristoffersen (NOR), Ilka Stuhec (SLO), Alice Robinson (NZL) and many others. "In the environment it is said that 'pure energy brings good luck'. In fact, those who wear our brand start winning. But it's not about luck, it's more about the technicality and performance of our fabrics.
Sublimation printing makes the difference
Each phase of the production of the Energiapura collections is treated in detail, from the design to the preparation and processing of the fabrics - managed in part with a network of external suppliers and in part internally - up to printing and packaging. "At the heart of everything is sublimation printing: it is the technological tool that allows us to decorate the garments of our collections with great creative freedom, as well as to create customized designs for our customers". Along this path, the meeting with Mimaki, about twelve years ago, and the installation of the company's roll-to-roll sublimation printing systems - to date four Mimaki plotters, including one JV5 and two JV300 - have allowed Energiapura to make a further qualitative leap. "With Mimaki's technology, we have managed to achieve increasingly satisfactory results in terms of quality and, at the same time, to extend the application range, even customizing all our accessories, including shin guards and armguards - we were the first to propose the colored shin guards and to "invent" the armguards for racing skiing ".
And that's not all. Energiapura continues to experiment with color transfer methods, focusing in particular on managing the quantities of ink deposited on the transfer paper: “We mainly work with sandwich fabrics, consisting of two or three layers of fabric. One of the aspects to take more into consideration is the passage of air, for which we carry out many tests internally. The sublimation printing helps to optimize the passage of air and to give the fabric - and therefore the garment - the technical characteristics and optimal aerodynamics for the intended use ", explains Olivetto. "We managed to create our winning 'recipes'. I just say that the pigment used has an impact on the aerodynamic performance of the fabrics ".
Pure Air, the Energiapura mask
Right from here Energiapura started to create EP PA 2020, an effective mask in terms of protection and equipped with a functional concept. "It all started with the need to produce masks to protect our staff from Coronavirus. By adopting the usual modus operandi of Energiapura, we have started a study phase in our laboratories to identify the three fundamental properties to be conferred on our devices: protection, perspiration and the possibility of reuse ". EP PA 2020 is made with three layers of different fabrics: the first, the external one, is in DWR treated polyester; the second, with filtering action, is in TNT polyester; the third, the one in contact with the skin of the face, is in polyester and contains some particular fibers, such as coolmax and carbon. In this way, in addition to guaranteeing the necessary protection, the mask can be worn for many hours and during the working activity, as it is breathable, and can be reused and sanitized, by means of normal washing and passing through iron steam ironing board, which also guarantees its sterilization. "
The Energiapura project not only looks to the present, but also to the future. "We tried to clear the mask from the hospital image. How? Through customization: our devices can be decorated with company brands and designs supplied by customers ". The customization of the templates is carried out with the Mimaki JV300 printing system, which allows a quick job change and very high productivity. And the speed of production is crucial right now as the demand for devices has increased exponentially.
“Research is part of our DNA and EP PA 2000 is also the result of a great deal of study carried out in our laboratories. It is not simply a 'mask', but a full-fledged face protection device. In conceiving this project, we also thought a lot about the future, because we believe that the post Coronavirus world will be different and will involve new ways of socializing. Face protectors will play a fundamental role in the months to come, so we wanted to create an object with personality and pleasant to wear - with a little spirit and lightness. Like a real accessory. "
"Last but not least, we have focused heavily on the reuse of the mask, to avoid the difficulties of disposal often caused by disposable objects and rather favor the culture of non-waste, for the benefit of the environment", concludes Olivetto.