When you think about the origins of how wide format solvent printing might have come into being, you could be forgiven for not considering that the Lancashire city of Preston in the United Kingdom might have played a major role in its origin. 


Its 2001 and in the music charts Kylie is telling us she can’t get us out of her head, it definitely wasn’t Shaggy, and Bob the Builder was busy doing the mambo.In the cinema, the first Harry Potter movie has hit the screens along with the first Lord of the Rings film, and ahem, the first Shrek. It seems that 2001 was a great year for a number of firsts.  

In the workshop at Granthams Technology in the centre of Preston city centre, Dale Whittaker and the team were hard at work trying to shoehorn one inkjet technology into the chassis of another. They were of the belief that more durable solvent inks could work through the modified tubes and head of a waterbed printer. And boy, they weren’t going to stop until the job was done.


It would take a while. Trial and error, misfires and mishaps, but eventually Dale had the first fully working solvent printer anywhere in the world. Inks from the manufacturer Lyson worked in conjunction with a head and system from Roland. The meetings and introductions were orchestrated by Sophie-Matthews Paul a well known and influential name in the Sign Industry. Two separate systems joined together within one machine. A machine that no longer suffered from the shortcomings of the water-based ink system that was the only choice at that time.


Water-based dye inks have a wide colour gamut and a punchy vibrant appearance. Water-based pigment inks were more hard wearing but lacked the vitality of their dye base cousins. With inkjet at this time, it was a permanent trade-off between looks, quality and longevity. Unfortunately you couldn’t have all three, but with Granthams’ hybrid however, you could have more of the colour range and zip plus you could also have a hard wearing, scratch resistant, waterproof print.


It wasn’t long before this new machine, now named the Resolve X21, was making waves throughout the printing industry. It was the perfect evolution between screen-printing and the, still in its infancy, digital printing industry. In a sign making world where only single colour CADCAM plotter vinyl lasted for vehicle graphics and outdoor signage was limited in lifespan, the Resolve X21 made full colour graphics a much simpler task. 


As the Resolve X21 took off and caught the attention of more customers (and competitors), Granthams struggled to keep up with demand and Dale was duly despatched to Lyson to continue producing. It was testament to the quality of the original Granthams’ Resolve X21 that when manufacturing moved across to Lyson, Granthams’ blueprints remained the foundation for ongoing mass production of the printer. And as other company’s started to put together similar hybrid machines, only Granthams’ Resolve came with the official endorsement of Lyson inks.


It’s worth bearing in mind that in 2001, Mutoh , Mimaki, HP and Epson didn’t have printers that ran solvent ink natively or could be adapted.

Unfortunately, British brains and expertise weren’t enough to halt the new machines coming in from the other printer manufacturers.They had watched the explosive growth of the Resolve and pushed through new equipment as fast as they could to compete. The big names we now take for granted took over and slowly the Resolve found itself not quite as revolutionary as it once was.


As with so many modern inventions we now take for granted, from the MP3 player to the vacuum cleaner and electric kettle, it was here in the UK from the likes of Hope Street in Preston to the roads of London and Manchester where a bit of British ingenuity created a spark that still shines brightly today. 


With over 100 years in the graphics industry Granthams remains ideally positioned to advise, deliver, train and support the display graphic industries across the UK. 

"With the Resolve, Granthams beat both HP and Roland themselves to research, develop and successfully market the first solvent machines."