Laser printing on leather12 September 2004
New developments in leather finishes traditionally depended on chemicals, rolling, or embossing techniques, but Motifsan Baski San ve Ticaret Ltd Sirketi in Istanbul are taking full advantage of the newest developments using laser technology on leather. Motifsan, a family-run firm founded in 1991, specialise in printing on leather and textiles and leather-embossed logos. When CAD-CAM programs and high technology cutting and punching machines and sophisticated software replaced cumbersome dies, this allowed the firm to offer limitless designs and precision workmanship. Customers could customise a design and late-model laser machinery integrated production processes and downscaled costs. The firm have invested about €1.5 million in their machine park. CAD-CAM software works with Windows drawing programs. The latest imported models incorporate diode lasers and an integrated beam allows for user-selected laser power. This is critical because lower power results in light pressure that 'brands' the leather lightly on the surface to create the design. If power is increased, designs are deeper or punched out. These can be very intricate, resembling lace. The laser machine requires a highly-skilled operator and programmer. Design techniques were once corporate secrets but global technology transfer has made the processes generic and competitive advantage short lived. Designs are mostly used on shoes and handbags but give a distinctive ethnic flair to the front, hem and sleeves of leather garments. One year ago, Motifsan opened an office in Izmir's Isikkent district to offer doorstep service to footwear producers there. Company director, Caglar Karadeniz, sees great potential in novelty leather designs and they already complement this with a vast range of speciality leathers to order. These employ printing, screen printing, hand painting, transferring and drying (to make the leather softer) techniques. Finishing is also done using Italian-made rollers but the high cost of these has prompted Karadeniz to experiment with release papers to simulate a controlled dying technique on both the flesh and hair side of bovine or ovine skins. Initial trials are primitive but, when perfected, Karadeniz sees a new market for irresistible leathers at affordable prices.