Danny Gruninger is the Willy Wonka of screen-printing. From his Colorado-based studio, Denver Print House, the self-proclaimed 'mad scientist' develops inks at the cutting-edge of the industry. From thermo-activated to color-changing and even bacon scented inks, he's not afraid to take a leap into the unknown in order to offer his clients products no one else can.
"We're known for innovating and coming up with techniques and methods of decoration that the standard domestic print shop would say 'we can't do that' to" Danny explains, "but I've always taken the approach that there's nothing we can't do". Taking his cues from larger print facilities and trends from other industries, Danny is always on the lookout for new ideas, and sometimes inspiration comes from unexpected places.
"One of our most successful inks originated in the nail decoration industry," he says, "We started seeing trends of women painting their nails with color-shifting paints. So, we did some research of where these nail companies were getting their raw components and reached out to the manufacturers to see if that type of chemistry would be compatible with screen-printing bases and inks". It turned out they were. And after many hours experimenting and testing, he was able to offer it to clients. A process which he believes was more than worth it. "Developing the ink here landed us some really massive accounts, just around that ink!"
It's this dedication to going the extra mile to produce something unique for his clients, that Danny believes helps set Denver Print House apart from other print shops. Most recently he developed a thermo-activated ink for his National Park clients, as he wasn't able to source the right color palette for the designs he had in mind. "The National Parks space is extremely competitive and we realized we needed to make a change to stay competitive in that market. So we now offer them eco-friendly garments printed with eco-friendly inks, using different techniques and decorations that other print shops can't offer. Now we have a lot more higher-dollar shirts coming out of our facilities than we did a few years ago."
So what's next for Danny and his team? "We're actually working on a formaldehyde-free discharge product. Within the industry, there's a lot of talk about the harmful effect of discharge inks on the employees breathing in those fumes. We're working with the beauty industry to adapt a product that they use to bleach people's hair, and making our own inks with it. We're also working with a company in Canada on an entirely plant-based ink."
As Danny admits, this focus on innovation requires some serious dedication. "It's a lot of late nights and extra hours just trying to do the stuff that other people aren't doing. I would say out of every 100 tries of us trying to come up with something, we fail 99% of the time. But that one time makes it all worth it, for sure."