Similar to what is happening in the commercial market, digital devices for the textile arena allow for customization and cost-effective short runs, creating a wide range of marketing opportunities. But that is where the similarity with the commercial market ends. “There is a real opportunity...
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Many novices to the industry will start with UV or Latex inkjet, which allows them to also output other substrates beside fabrics, and then move into dye-sub inkjet. “The truth is a large part of the growth of the market is because of Latex inkjets,” says Wozny. “
However, he added, while Latex and UV inkjet can be used to print textiles, dye sub is designed to run fabric. Customers are willing to pay more for dye-sub products, because of the quality of the output. “UV changes the feel, it’s a lot more lumpy than dye-sub,” says Wozny. While the elongation characteristics of UV have improved dramatically, you can still see a difference up close on the fabric.”
EFI’s 3.2 meter VUTeK TX 3250r dye-sub device prints direct to textile or indirect via the transfer process, allowing a wider range of fabric use. Its fast-drying inks allow running speeds of up to 1,800 sq.ft/hour. It prints up to eight colors in high-resolution at 1080 dpi.
EFI also sells a 3.2 meter wide roll-to-roll UV printer, the EFI R3225.
“Dye sublimation has always been considered the ultimate in impactful color and richness,” says Currier. “Much of this can be attributed to the post finishing application of heat and pressure that drives the pigment into the weave, creating a bond difficult to achieve in any other way. The advantages of this workflow are deeply bonded ink, high saturation and no apparent change to the feel of the fabric once the ink is deposited. This is often referred to as ‘hand.’”
Additionally, says Currier, dye sub printed textile can be folded without fear of cracks in the ink film at the creases. “This allows large fabric pieces to be shipped cost effectively as they can be folded and packaged in small boxes,” he says. “If wrinkles occur, they can be stretched or ironed out.”
However, with dye sub devices, whether running direct to fabric or paper transfer dye sub, a heat press and in some cases a steamer is necessary to set the color. All of these things require equipment and the staff and time to run them. Dye-sub processes that depend on paper for transfer also incur additional labor and cost.
The range of fabrics available today for soft signage sublimation printing is wider than ever. The multitude of choices in weave style, weight, and appearance, while giving the customer a multitude of options, also places high demands on a printing system’s media transport capabilities. “Fabrics can consist of anything from heavy bodied weaves to extremely light sheers, so look for a system that is designed to not only handle transport through the printer but to compensate for wrinkling, walking and other inherent issues associated with fabrics,” says Currier. “Today’s industrial level printing equipment must be designed to manage these materials while achieving high production throughput. “
Durst offers its Rhotex 320, a 3 meter wide, production level fabric printer that uses water-based dye sublimation inks. It is designed to handle fabrics of all weights, even the most temperamental of weave styles.
On the high capacity textile front, the Durst Kappa 180 can run reactive inks, dispersion inks, and acid ink systems, for applications from home goods to apparel.
Reactive inks are generally used for cotton and cotton blends, dispersion inks for synthetic fibers, polyester, and polyester mixtures with more than 50% polyester, and the Kappa acid inks for silk and silk mixtures.
The Kappa has a print speed of more than 600 sq.m./hour and a resolution of 1056x600 dpi in high-speed mode. In high-quality mode, print speed is up to 320 sq.m./hour, with a resolution of 1056x600 dpi.
Within the dye sub arena, being able to handle the transfer paper more efficiently and provide proper ink saturation for the best color pop is an area where the technology is improving.
The Mutoh ValueJet line of printers for this market offers a proprietary wave pattern, called Intelligent Interweave Print Technique (i²), to help eliminate banding. Operators are able to choose from a number of wave patterns based on the type of material you are printing and the ultimate results you are trying to achieve.