The quality of a product is often determined by the processes by which it is finished. This is certainly true in the case of soft signage and textiles. Print service providers rely on heat presses, fabric steamers, seamers, and industrial-strength sewing machines to create a finished look that will complement the printing of the substrates and present an attractive overall package to the client. Our experts share their experiences using various techniques and technology to achieve the best possible end product.
When it comes to equipment, there’s a long list of products that can help to make a PSP’s job a lot easier when it comes to finishing a textile project. But where do you start? If you’re just entering the market, outsourcing might be key—at least at the very beginning.
“Many sign companies make step-by-step transitions into the digital textile marketplace,” says Tara Lamb, president of Global Imaging. “Offering textiles as a product isn’t as lateral as something like adding latex to a shop’s printer portfolio. We know latex technology is slightly different than solvent for example, but the printing and finishing is basically the same. In the world of fabrics the inks, printing, sublimation method, and finishing are all unique to the digital print market. Shops can begin with mastering the printing and sublimation processes, whether it be direct or transfer (or a hybrid of both), and outsource the finishing to an expert finisher until they are ready to take that next step.”
But when you’re ready to take the step and install equipment in your shop, Avedik Izmirlian, president of DigiFab Systems, stresses that it is important to marry the proper equipment with the substrate and process needed.
“Steamers are used to enhance and fix the color of fabrics printed with acid and reactive inks. After steaming, it is necessary to wash the fabric. Heat presses are used to enhance and fix the color of fabrics printed with disperse or sublimation inks, to fix the color of fabrics printed with pigment inks, and to transfer prints onto fabric from paper printed with sublimation ink,” says Izmirlian.
Media is also a very important component when it comes to finishing. It is essential to know exactly what you’re working with before you start the finishing process. “Nylons, silks, and wools are printed with acid dyes, while cottons and linen are printed with reactive. Polyesters are printed with disperse or sublimation inks. All fabrics can be printed with pigment inks, but the existing color gamut is limited,” says Izmirlian.
When it comes to operating essential equipment to create a quality finished product, Lamb offers this advice: “Heat presses will need to be employed in sync with the printing. Depending on the model and manufacturer chosen, it may be a separate unit or an on-board unit. PrinterEvolution for instance, sells the Evo33 series, which is 10-foot industrial dye sublimation printer that can print both direct and transfer dye sublimation and requires a separate transfer calendar. Their other product line, the Neo Series is a dye sublimation printer with an on-board fixation unit. A great pair of scissors, a hot knife if you require a sealed edge, and a good sewing machine certainly aid in the finishing process.”
According to Kjell Eliasson, Forsstrom senior sales manager, the most appropriate machine for making a soft sign is a traveling radio frequency welding machine. “Our models Forsstrom TD, Forsstrom TDW, and Forsstrom TDW-Mega are mounted on a long track. The longer table and track, the more versatile the machine is.”
There are times when almost every PSP will have the need to outsource jobs or specific parts of a job. We touched on outsourcing earlier, but when is it appropriate to outsource the finishing aspect of printing fabrics and textiles?