By combining Mimaki’s textile dye sublimation solutions and Early.Vision’s apparel customisation software capabilities, UK-based bespoke cycling attire manufacturer NOPINZ has stepped its production into a higher gear.
Founded in 2013, NOPINZ is a renowned UK-based manufacturer of clothing for cyclists and triathletes. The company's first product was the ‘SpeedPocket’, a product that allows competitors to attach their race numbers more easily (and with ‘no pins’) while improving the all-important aerodynamics.
Soon recognising the customer demand for premade attire with incorporated number pockets, the company embarked on a mission to manufacture these new product lines itself. Today, NOPINZ boasts a diverse portfolio, with 60% of its products made in-house, catering to a growing customer base across the UK and international markets.
Gearing up to grow
“We tested out a few printers, before we ultimately settled on Mimaki,” Blake Pond, the founder of NOPINZ explained. Now the company’s line-up entirely consists of Mimaki’s textile dye sublimation solutions, purchased through Mimaki Authorised Partner, Xpres. With an initial investment in two TS300P-1800 in 2016, NOPINZ later upgraded its technology capabilities with a TS55-1800 in 2022.
“During our search we prioritised the ability to produce fluorescence and accurately replicate colours. Customers often come to us with existing kit made by other manufacturers, which they want to match, so accurately replicating colour is extremely important. And even without existing kit, customers occasionally ask for specific pantone colours. When it comes to cycling kit, colour is often pivotal when considering where to buy from.”
As two flagship dye sublimation printers, both the TS300P-1800 and TS55-1800 are equipped to print on the various technical fabrics that are needed for cycling attire and faithfully reproduce colours to meet customer expectations.
NOPINZ places a strong emphasis on sustainability and is committed to minimising its environmental impact. Using a microfactory approach gives better oversight and control of the manufacturing process, including sourcing materials sustainably and locally where possible, reducing transportation, and improving access to recycling. “Our ‘zero to landfill’ policy, means that we reduce our wastage where possible and either recycle or donate excess product to charity,” Blake adds. “We hope to become a B-Corp company in the future.”
Making the production aerodynamic
With a steadily growing customer base across the UK and abroad, NOPINZ began to look for ways to finetune its processes. “Preparing orders for print was done manually and the time needed to do so had become a significant bottleneck in our production process,” Blake explained, “As we looked to scale up, we knew something needed to change. We got a recommendation for Early.Vision, which offer software solutions for the apparel industry, in May 2022 and since then, it’s been smooth sailing!”
Early.Vision supports in streamlining the design to production workflow, allowing designers to focus on design and create nesting ready files that are prepared for production automatically based on eCommerce orders. It integrated its software to work seamlessly with Mimaki’s RIP software. “We immediately saw significant improvements, in both time and cost,” explained Blake. “It used to take us 36 hours to print 150 items, we can now do the same in 90 minutes!”
Beyond the printing process itself, NOPINZ have seen other benefits to taking on Early.Vision’s technology. “While we endeavour to produce mostly in-house (about 60%), when we do need to outsource, it’s much easier to send these print runs to other locations to be made. As we look to scale up our own production, this will also be a huge help.”
NOPINZ creates speed suits for some of the world’s top cycling teams, as well as competitive amateurs. “A World Tour team is like a Premier League football team, winning and losing by very fine margins. A lot of the kit we make for them is custom fitted, completely bespoke, not just in terms of the print but the whole fit of the item. We even look at minute details such as the material placement to further improve the aerodynamics. We then use 3D scanning to get the measurements of the athlete exactly right. For this, the athlete stands in a booth, and are scanned, with those precise measurements being used in the creation of the kit,” explained Blake.
Global expansion with Mimaki
As NOPINZ eyes expansion into new territories, Blake expects that Mimaki dye sublimation solutions will remain the company’s printers of choice: “We’re looking to further expand in the USA and Australia and because we want to manufacture local to the market, that means setting up microfactories in those new locations. Considering its importance to our customers, we really want to keep colours consistent no matter where they order from, so we wouldn’t consider moving away from Mimaki as our preferred supplier.”