The Surface Imaging Suite inspires Innovation at Thomas Jefferson University

by FESPA | 21/12/2018
The Surface Imaging Suite inspires Innovation at Thomas Jefferson University

FESPA’s Textile Ambassador, Debbie McKeegan shares her experience of the Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia. Debbie visited the Surface Imaging department and speaks to Professor Hitoshi Ujie and the work he and his students are currently doing.

Located in the East Falls campus of Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia is a unique resource that must be the envy of many academics worldwide. The Surface Imaging department offers surface pattern and design students a creative opportunity that’s extremely rare, if not unique. It was my great pleasure to visit the faculty as the FESPA Textile ambassador where I met with Hitoshi Ujiie, his talented technical team and students.

Caption: Fashion, Interiors and Industrial Décor are all embraced by the Surfacing Imaging department at Thomas Jefferson University.

Hitoshi Ujiie is the professor responsible for developing the facility with the support of the Digital Print Industry. Funding is limited in all academic circles across the globe, but Jefferson have worked hard to secure additional external funding and build deep connections within the Textile and Wide format Print sector, and have over the years, connected with and secured sponsorship from, a number of digital technology providers to boost the financial resources available for the necessary equipment required within the university.

Caption: Myrna Gutierrez, Hitosh Ujjie, Mark Mattson in the Surface Imaging Suite, Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia

Professor Hitoshi Ujiie knew that if you want to connect to an industry, from the outside, face to face, works best, and so over the years he has travelled thousands of miles to engage with the print industry and fulfil Thomas Jefferson Universities vision.
How did he do this? Hitoshi did what he teaches his students, he did his research and persevered, often undeterred, to find the commercial partners for his vision, wherever they were located, and discovered that the most efficient way was to visit potential technology partners at Trade shows worldwide, beginning with the FESPA Global Expo.
There’s a message in there for all of us, hard work, pays off, and over the last 3 years Hitoshi and his team have pulled together an incredible suite of digital and supporting conventional technologies, that offers students from around the world real access to Digital print and Textile technologies that are steadily transforming the Textile and Wide Format Industries worldwide.
The Surface Imaging suites main sponsor is Mimaki, who have provided and continue to provide an impressive selection of essential machinery that ensures that the Jefferson resource remains fitted with the latest digital print technology.
As a designer and digital print specialist myself, I was excited to see that pretty much every print process is available to students. Roll to roll digital print machines, DTG, and Flat Bed technology printing equipment, printing various ink sets including: Pigment, Acid, Reactive, Dye Sublimation, Latex, UV and Solvent technology.
Spread over two floors the department offers unparalleled access to state of the art machinery. Other sponsors include Epson, Brother, Mutoh and Roland with the added support of various software companies, Ergosoft, Digifab and suppliers of consumables such as Dupont. But that’s not all…
Textile technology is also an essential part of the curriculum, and the university offers a comprehensive training program that addresses all aspects of textile manufacturing and CAD/CAM from design, weaving, knitting, to embroidery, screen printing, dying, fabric testing, chemistry and textile finishing, cutting and sewing.
We must remember that textile technology is an essential bedrock of our industry, and the comprehensive training available within Jefferson is uniquely offered in one location and taught by industry experts.
Hitoshi worked within the textile industry for many years, as did many of the lecturers at Jefferson, all of whom now pass on their commercial knowledge and their textile heritage to the next generation of textile practitioners. The students are offered a curriculum rich in practical and essential textile skills. Each and every student has access to all the technology available, the suite is staffed by industry experts with a deep understanding of textiles and printing processes to assist them. Nirvana for any budding print designer…I was tempted to stay and play…
The Surface Imaging studio was the final part of our Jefferson tour, it’s a creative hub of digital machines, many of which were in operation printing students work for the final winter session. This is this vibrant hub where the commercial products of the future are born, because the students are offered the freedom to explore multiple techniques, substrates, technologies and applications in a training environment.

Often utilising multiple applications simultaneously, to create a tactile, innovative array of surface effects. Samples in the studio space included printed concrete, glass, leather, wood, fused textiles, silks, cottons, polyester blends, perspex, textured wallpaper, printed metallics, printed hair and even printed foods!...
However, as in real life the commercial world must be addressed. Whilst the students are without question given an incredible opportunity to create innovative new products, they are also encouraged to consider their commercial applications for their final work, beyond the Jefferson Campus.
Caption: Pushing boundaries utilising high tech digital technology, sample shown printed concrete

The university not only offers a creative education but importantly, also offers business mentoring. Students are encouraged to discuss their business objectives and are also given valuable support from the staff beyond their graduation. In reality, it’s a tough commercial world, where emerging designers are expected to be multi-tasking creatives, and often that, is all too overwhelming for many young graduates.
Jefferson have also worked hard to connect their students to the industry. With the ongoing support of many businesses in the USA, from Apparel to Interiors and Décor, students are also encouraged to gain valuable industry experience though placement programmes with the faculties partners.
Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, is an institution that looks at all aspects of the individual, and their unique talents, and offers an impressive curriculum. One that seeks to inspire the next creative generation by providing students with an essential suite of vocational skills that deliver the necessary tools required to find employment.
This nurturing ethos is at the heart of the faculty directorate.
The surface imaging suite at Thomas Jefferson university is a tribute to the true power of collaboration, and the hard work of Hitoshi Ujjie and his staff, who together with the support of the textile and print communities deliver an incredible learning opportunity that secures a vibrant future for the print industry…

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