Ever wonder how those full custom kits are made? Or maybe what digital sublimation printing means? That’s all in a day’s work at Endura’s headquarters in Livingston, Scotland. While the majority of their catalog is not made in house, the entirety of Endura’s custom line is made right here. That’s part of the reason they can turn around orders quickly and make one off pieces for their sponsored teams like Movistar, Trek Factory Racing DH, and Cervelo Bigla. Not only is the Livingston facility their hub of custom production, but this is also Endura’s world headquarters which makes for a pretty interesting tour…

Factory / HQ Tour: Endura's custom sublimated clothing is made in Scotland Factory / HQ Tour: Endura's custom sublimated clothing is made in Scotland Factory / HQ Tour: Endura's custom sublimated clothing is made in Scotland Factory / HQ Tour: Endura's custom sublimated clothing is made in Scotland Factory / HQ Tour: Endura's custom sublimated clothing is made in Scotland

Product Design

Immediately upon entry, you’re greeted with a visual history of the brand – and a simple sign above the door way “Where we make things.” Endura covers nearly all facets of cycling from road, to mountain, to commuting, and nearly everything in between so there’s a lot going on inside.

Factory / HQ Tour: Endura's custom sublimated clothing is made in Scotland Factory / HQ Tour: Endura's custom sublimated clothing is made in Scotland Factory / HQ Tour: Endura's custom sublimated clothing is made in Scotland

All of the future design and development takes place here with a massive space devoted to the employees responsible for upcoming products.

Factory / HQ Tour: Endura's custom sublimated clothing is made in Scotland Factory / HQ Tour: Endura's custom sublimated clothing is made in Scotland

Of course, like any great company their employees are well taken care of.

Factory / HQ Tour: Endura's custom sublimated clothing is made in Scotland Factory / HQ Tour: Endura's custom sublimated clothing is made in Scotland Factory / HQ Tour: Endura's custom sublimated clothing is made in Scotland

Fabric Cutting

Custom clothing starts out here, as rolls of blank (mostly white) fabric. The fabric is then placed on a CAD cutting table that makes quick work of hundreds of predetermined fabric panels.

Factory / HQ Tour: Endura's custom sublimated clothing is made in Scotland

Factory / HQ Tour: Endura's custom sublimated clothing is made in Scotland

Factory / HQ Tour: Endura's custom sublimated clothing is made in Scotland

Compared to the old hand tools that were on display (and apparently still used in some competitors’ factories), the CAD tables are light years ahead.

Factory / HQ Tour: Endura's custom sublimated clothing is made in Scotland Factory / HQ Tour: Endura's custom sublimated clothing is made in Scotland

Digital Printing

The other part of the equation is the digital print outs that create the custom part of the clothing. Endura has a full print shop with a number of massive printers that are responsible for printing out full size images of each piece of custom clothing. Since each print out is one time use, that requires a lot of ink and paper.

Factory / HQ Tour: Endura's custom sublimated clothing is made in Scotland

But as their processes improve, so does their technology. We’re told that this Roland printer is the first printer specifically for the sublimation process, and was the newest addition to the print shop.

Factory / HQ Tour: Endura's custom sublimated clothing is made in Scotland Factory / HQ Tour: Endura's custom sublimated clothing is made in Scotland

In front of most of the printers was a heater to help the ink dry to prevent any smearing. Since most of these pieces start out as a white piece of fabric, the printing has to be more than edge to edge, for every panel.

Factory / HQ Tour: Endura's custom sublimated clothing is made in Scotland Factory / HQ Tour: Endura's custom sublimated clothing is made in Scotland Factory / HQ Tour: Endura's custom sublimated clothing is made in Scotland Factory / HQ Tour: Endura's custom sublimated clothing is made in Scotland Factory / HQ Tour: Endura's custom sublimated clothing is made in Scotland

Sublimation Process

To marry the ink and fabric, the individual panels of fabric are carefully laid out on the printed sheets and loaded into transfer presses. Here, immense pressure and heat turns the ink into a gas, which is then transferred directly to the fabric. The fabric then emerges from the press fully sublimated and ready for assembly.

Factory / HQ Tour: Endura's custom sublimated clothing is made in Scotland Factory / HQ Tour: Endura's custom sublimated clothing is made in Scotland Factory / HQ Tour: Endura's custom sublimated clothing is made in Scotland

Silicone Printing

Depending on the piece of clothing, it may get a trip to one of two silicone stations before assembly. For leg or arm grippers, an automated silicone applicator layers thin strips onto the fabric for comfortable yet firm grip. But for pieces like their new D2Z Aero Collection, they’re sent to another area for a special silicone printing process that builds up an aerodynamic pattern on the sleeves. This part of the process included some trade secrets so we weren’t allowed to capture the process, but we can show the results.

Factory / HQ Tour: Endura's custom sublimated clothing is made in Scotland Factory / HQ Tour: Endura's custom sublimated clothing is made in Scotland Factory / HQ Tour: Endura's custom sublimated clothing is made in Scotland

Hand Assembly

Once the pieces are all printed and ready to be assembled into finished clothing, they’re sent to the sewing shop where they are hand finished. Custom shorts can have any one of Endura’s chamois added so the walls were lined with crates of every style. The speed at which these ladies worked was incredible.

Factory / HQ Tour: Endura's custom sublimated clothing is made in Scotland Factory / HQ Tour: Endura's custom sublimated clothing is made in Scotland

Warehouse

Of course, with fast production comes a lot of storage. Even though a lot of their other pieces aren’t produced in Scotland, this serves as their UK distribution center so there is a massive storage facility with multiple floors and rows upon rows of bins.

Factory / HQ Tour: Endura's custom sublimated clothing is made in Scotland Factory / HQ Tour: Endura's custom sublimated clothing is made in Scotland Factory / HQ Tour: Endura's custom sublimated clothing is made in Scotland Factory / HQ Tour: Endura's custom sublimated clothing is made in Scotland

Factory / HQ Tour: Endura's custom sublimated clothing is made in Scotland

Showroom

But that’s not much of a surprise given how many items are in the full Endura catalog. And almost all of those are on display inside their showroom. Including the full line of Scotch Whisky themed jerseys, naturally.

endurasport.com

 

 

5 COMMENTS

  1. I always think it is interesting to see the dye sub operations of these clothing companies. I own a company that does dye sublimation printing but on a much larger scale and a totally different type of product. It is cool to see how essentially the same equipment can make such different products.

    I like to see their choice of equipment. The roland printer is kind of middle of the road in my opinion. However the Sensient inkset is one of the best available. As are the Monti Antonio heat presses they use. The cutter table is quite outdated. But for what they do, I imagine it is fine. In my world, everything is printed on 10’x100+yard rolls and pressed in line with a rotary calendar. I wonder why they choose to cut the fabric first and then press it individually. It seems like a rotary calendar would be more efficient. I wonder what brand and weight of paper they are using… I couldn’t see any brand markings from the photos.

    … ramblings of a printing industry guy on a slow Friday…

  2. Thanks for this article, seeing the behind the scenes is fascinating. Every piece of Endura clothing I’ve tried (road, mtb, commuting) has been superb, sometimes category defining. I’m a big fan.

  3. New ink each round? Sounds horrible for the environment. Athleticwear and clothing in general, mass-production, consume and waste so many resources, all the inks, dyes, dwrs, synthetics, etc each year…and mass consumption buying new kit/accessories each season, not to mention unsold merchandise wasted and dumped on poor countries…wish industry and we consumers did a whole lot more to be far less wasteful and impactful on the environment. Makes me sad.

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