|By Julie Miller H&MM Associate Editor - Sept 1998
An adage in the carpet industry says that carpet never wears out-it uglys out. Technological advances in manufacturing have now made it possible to extend the design life of carpet by overcoming some of the production obstacles that previously put limits on pattern and color. Now, carpet has less of a risk to ugly out and instead can survive through long-term plans crafted for it by hotel designers.
Advances include dye-injection equipment that is superior to older flatbed screen printers, computer-aided pattern design and color matching, significantly larger repeat patterns, and the quick turnaround times associated with these technologies. Hotels realize benefits from this technology when the installation time is reduced and when the design life and durability of the carpet is extended.
Perhaps the most significant progress has been made to the machinery that prints the patterned carpet used in corridors and public spaces. In the past, a typical job called for cut screens, which required a relatively high amount of labor to produce, thus delaying the delivery of the carpet to the hotel. Patcraft Commercial Carpets uses a dye-injection printing machine that works on a similar principal as a home computer's ink-jet printer. A scanned image can be translated into a carpet pattern and printed onto a base with high reproduction quality, said Bob Chandler, the company's vice president. Themes and matching patterns taken from softgoods and wallpaper can be carried over to the carpet design thanks to the machine's capabilities.
He said the technology not only opens up new avenues of design, but it also eliminates a few steps in the manufacturing process to shorten production time. Virtually unlimited pattern selection and quick production allow a designer to offer more custom work to hotel clients.
Another obstacle that dye-injection machines reduce is the pattern repeat size. Before, a carpet pattern normally repeated approximately every 3 feet, but now, carpet can extend 100 feet before the pattern repeats, Chandler said.
"I've seen more changes in the last few years than in the last 20 years,"
he said. "Part of the future is this printing technology." Changes
in the hotel industry have inspired widespread renovation and redesign,
and much of that trend includes the installation of more patterned
"In hospitality where everyone is trying to create a signature statement, it's hard to create a signature product with a standard pattern that everyone can get everywhere," Nestler said.
More customization means more differentiation for a hotel. Every original pattern will not result in an attractive carpet every time, but technology is providing the tools to explore more options, he said.
The future promises more electronic applications that will increase manufacturing capability and bring down carpet weights. This results in the end- user hotels getting more performance from the products, he said. When the Plaza Hotel in New York replaced its guestroom carpet, the project was custom designed, but still had limitations caused by the eclectic mix of room sizes in the historic structure. There are at least 100 different room layouts at the Plaza.
Durkan Patterned Carpets used its Spectronic broadloom jet spray printer to assemble a boarder carpet with a small field pattern that could be trimmed several different ways to fit the various room layouts. In all, just 17 different sizes were produced, and they satisfied the 100 configurations, said Patricia Durkan, c.o.o. of the company.
Computer technology aided in the design of the Plaza's carpet, and according to Durkan, the carpet in each room is one continuous piece as opposed to having a seamed boarder added separately. A seamed boarder would have tripled the installation time, she said.
"We can do a [two-dimensional] plan in color, showing the designer and end user what the space is going to look like," she said.
A two-dimensional rendering provides a comfort zone for the designer and the hotel client who may not know what to expect when the carpet is finally installed, she said.
At the MGM Convention Center in Las Vegas, Durkan used 18 patterns and 20-foot repeats. The result was an Italian-style faux finish with sponging effects that was produced in four weeks.
Because of the large repeat, the only other way to assemble the carpet for this project would have been by weaving it, which would have taken 10 weeks to complete, Durkan said. The technology allowed for the large repeat on a continuous piece of carpet.
She said a retrofit of the company's Spectronic printer in early July now allows the machine to output double the yardage and apply twice the number of pixel dot impressions per square inch. Doubled pixels increases the precision of the pattern print to compare favorably with the effects formerly achieved on a flatbed screen printer.
The technology in general has advanced product offerings so that hotels that may have opted for a standard pattern and color are now able to consider custom work. Fast turnarounds and installations reduced costs, and carpet with a longer design life proves to be a worthwhile investment.