Stone Stencil Rhinestone Heat Transfer System

Craig Mertens

A brief introduction

A few years ago, one of my co-workers began experimenting with our laser engraver making rhinestone heat transfers. It was a pretty simple process, you engrave holes into a sheet of wood, dump in some rhinestones, lift them off with transfer tape and you had a rhinestone heat transfer. We made some trendy "Las Vegas" style shirts with martini glasses and frivolous sayings. I thought it was cool, but we stored it away as a nothing more than a neat idea.

Since our company develops art content for the apparel decoration industry, we are always researching the latest apparel decoration trends. While conducting research for our upcoming Design Studio collection, we all began noticing the popularity of rhinestone apparel. Many major fashion lines were incorporating rhinestones into their decoration processes. Some of these garments were selling on T-shirts for over $100. We are generally the busiest booth at any trade show we attend. Our product line is very specialized and we have built a huge customer base over the last 17 years in business. All of a sudden, we were not the busiest booth anymore. The companies selling stock rhinestone heat transfers were three deep at their booths.

What if we could create a system that would allow our clients to create custom rhinestone heat transfers? We had seen systems using rotary engravers making stencils using the same method we had done with our laser. I couldn’t help but think, why would anyone want to use a rotary engraver to make stencils? They are expensive, have small engraving areas, slow, messy, are prone to mechanical problems and very complicated to operate. What if we could figure out a way to make rhinestone heat transfer stencils with a vinyl cutter? Easier said than done.

This began a year long process of research and development. At first, most of our staff thought I was crazy. As development continued, people gradually began to catch the vision. We began interviewing key clients about the opportunity and the consensus was that this was going to be a big deal and they couldn’t wait to purchase a system. All good ideas start with input from clients and we put this project on the development schedule and rolled up our sleeves.

Craig Mertens
Owner, Digital Art Solutions
Inventor of the Stone Stencil Heat Transfer System

The Challenges

We faced several big challenges creating our system

  • We had to have user-friendly software to make the patterns.
  • We had to have stock designs and fonts that made the process easier.
  • We had to have a material that we could cut with a standard vinyl cutter.
  • We had to have a system that was easy to use and not difficult to train and support.

The first challenge was creating a material that we could cut into a stencil with a vinyl cutter. After trying many different materials, we soon realized that we would have to get material manufactured to our specifications if this was going to work. After extensive testing, we were able to dial in the right combination of properties to create Stone Stencil Material.

We knew that our SmartCutter line of cutters would cut it, but could other cutters cut precise circles in this material? We were all a bit surprised that we could cut the material on many low-end cutters. Not everyone has high-end cutter like a SmartCutter Pro that can cutter perfect circles in a very thick and dense material. In the end we had developed a material that worked on most cutters. Sweet!