The digital textile printing industry is evolving and making a mark in the larger arena of the print industry. It has steadily grown in the past few years and is set to grow even further in the coming years. It is worthwhile to note that though the commercial printing market is huge, the scope for the textile market is bigger. From the daily wear apparel to home décor, textiles have taken over.
There are completely different printing technologies like online t-shirt design software, online print solutions, web-to-print open source, online print design software and web-to-print software appropriate for various forms of textiles and different textile applications.
New Developments Open Up More Uses
Developments like ultraviolet (UV) natural process and latex inks along with technologies like web-to-print open source and web-to-print software have resolved several of the challenges, and it might be same that it’s for the most part the new inkjets that have made digital textile printing possible.
Talking concerning the “textile printing market” may be a bit like talking concerning the “commercial printing market”. It consists of a really wide range of merchandise and niches, every of that has its own dynamics. Direct mail printing is very different from magazine printing, which is very different from business card or letterhead printing, and so on. Likewise, textile printing niches are often completely different from each other. Banners and aggregation are completely different from attire, for instance.
Garment and Apparel
This category includes, essentially, anything that can be worn. It can include, but may not be limited to t-shirts, leggings, caps and headwear, sportswear, bags, jackets, towels, aprons, children’s wear, uniforms, etc. The products in this category are produced using analog technologies-from screen printing to embroidery, t-shirts being produced using online t-shirt design software. Although digital has long been used to produce samples and prototypes.
As demand increases for more customized and personalized garments and apparel, and as digital textile printing equipment becomes more suitable for industrial-scale production, online print solutions and online print design software will continue to displace traditional textile printing technologies.
Barely mentioned in the slightest degree as recently as 5 years past, digital decor is a fast growing new market. Wallpaper and posters have been printed for many years, if not centuries, items like bedsheets, pillows, curtains, drapes, furniture coverings, tables, chairs-you name it-can now be digitally printed in some fashion.
Digital Textile Printing Technologies
There are many different types of textiles and fabrics, and no one inkjet or printing technology is suitable for all of them-although printer and ink manufacturers are trying their darnedest.
These are inkjet printers-not dye-sublimation- that print directly on t-shirts, hoodies, tote bags, hats, and other such items, and are not typically used for raw fabrics or materials that will later be sewn into garments. Direct- garment printers are used for short-run printing, not high-volume industrial production. These printers are solely compatible with cotton (or perhaps up to fifty per cent blends) substrates.
“Latex” may be a generic chemical term that refers to a “stable dispersion (emulsion) of chemical compound microparticles in associate liquid medium” and isn’t associated with the natural latex exuded by plants or the artificial latex accustomed create gloves or alternative rubber-like things. So, these inks are perfectly safe for those with latex allergies.
Latex inks are water-based and are suitable for a wide variety of coated and uncoated materials in addition to textiles. Since latex inks are water-based, it is claimed that they are more environment friendly than other inkjets. However, the inks cure below extreme heat, which from an energy consumption standpoint may offset any environmental benefit from the inks themselves.
Ultraviolet (UV) printers
The UV flatbed that a shop may be using for rigid materials can also be used to print fabrics, although it is not the ideal platform for textiles. UV inks are costlier than alternative inks, and cure as a thin polymer film which makes fabrics stiffer and perhaps uncomfortable to wear.
Dye-sublimation and related ink technologies
While all of the previous printer/ink technologies can be used for textile printing, the real action is happening in dye-sublimation and related dye-based printing, some of which are often confused with dye sublimation.
There are two primary varieties of dye-sublimation printing. In transfer printing, the printer images on a special paper that has a coating designed to hold and then later release (under heat and pressure) the printed image. After printing, the paper is brought into contact with the fabric in a heat press, and the ink embedded in the paper is converted to a gas and penetrates directly into the fibers of the substrate.
Although digital textile printing represents a promising area of opportunity, it is not without some challenges. There is a bit of a learning curve associated with understanding the different substrates, inks, software, equipment, and finishing requirements. Knowing which markets are addressable based on business current expertise and resources can increase the chances of success.
For commercial printers that are hoping to expand into the tempting world of textiles, it is best to start by focusing on applications with similar printing processes that can be sold to existing or adjacent customers.