Modern Methods of Textile Printing
Textile printing is the process of applying color to fabric in definite patterns and/or designs. What was traditionally achieved with Wooden blocks and stencils, is now being done with the use of modern methods of textile printing. One such example of modern methods in print is Digital Textile Printing. It is a process of printing on textiles and garments using specialized inkjet technology.
Since the early 1990s, inkjet technology and specially developed water-based inks have enabled the industry to print onto synthetic fabrics. This is achieved with dye-sublimation printing process where the images/designs are initially printed on coated heat-resistant transfer paper as a reverse image of the final design. The printed paper is then transferred onto polyester fabric in a heat press or a calendering machine running at a temperature of about 200 C. Under high temperature and pressure, the dye undergoes a sublimation process and solidifies into its fibers. The fabric gets permanently dyed after this process and can be washed without compromising the quality of print.
The dye-sublimation process of textile printing is very widely accepted and adopted. It offers unlimited shades of color in an image without any extra cost. Moreover, it eliminates cracking, peeling or fading of the image in the long run. Any image, including digital photography, can be printed on the fabric. However, the dye-sublimation process is limited to synthetic fabrics.
Enter Digital Direct Reactive Textile Printing
Reactive Printing is another process which comes under the modern methods of textile printing. It is an affordable and the most preferred choice for printing cotton and other cellulose fibers. It involves application of color or dye directly to the abric in a definite design or pattern. After the application of reactive print paste (ink) to fabric, the color creates bond with the cellulose fibre and resists washing and friction.
Printing using reactive dyes is perfect for people who want to print over large amounts of material at the same time. One of the main advantages of printing using reactive dyes is the amazing color saturation that can be achieved.
Unlike the dye-sublimation process which is neat and simple, Reactive Printing is characterized by a much more complex process. It’s a multistep process that involves pretreating fabrics to prepare them for ink, printing digitally with special inks, steaming the fabric to initiate the reaction, and finally washing out excess ink and softening the fabric for use. Reactive printing process is mostly used to print cotton fabric and is popular for its ability to produce bright shades, good washing and light fastness, lower temperature dyeing and high leveling quality.
Reactive Printing Process
The Reactive Printing process can be divided into 5 stages:
Pre-treat consists of two steps: Padding and Heating. The fabrics receive custom treatment before the printing process. This treatment involves each fabric bring padded (washed) in a specially formulated liquid bath. This liquid is unique to each fabric type, increases the absorbancy of fabric and is what eventually reacts with the dyes to achieve permanent printing results. Padding also helps to remove the oil, wax, impurities of fabric. After Padding, the fabric goes through a Heating process to dry the fabric. After this, the cloth is “Ready for Dyeing”.
Once the treated fabrics have dried they are able to begin their print journey. The printing is done using a Digital Reactive Textile Printer. The fabric is placed onto a gumming belt to restrict its movement. The carriage housing the printheads moves bi-directionally printing the image/design on the fabric. The printed fabric is fed into a heating unit that is accompanies the printer.
The freshly printed fabric undergoes an ageing process and goes through an elaborate steaming machine. (A Loop Ager/Steamer for example) The machine coats the fabric in 105 C steam for about 10 minutes to lock the colors in the fabric. This ensures a lasting print that will stay bright, and won’t lose its quality wash after wash.
- Wash & Dry
Once the fabric has been steamed and the setting reaction has taken place, the fabric is treated with a cleansing wash. Washing is done to remove the unfixed dye as well as the pre-treatment liquid. At this stage the colors are vibrant, intense and completely permanent. The washed fabric is then put through another heating process to get the final product.
The inspection step is the most important step of all because it’s where the fabric is thoroughly inspected ensuring of its quality. It’s always advisable to print 2 meters of fabric to color check, shrinkage before getting started with bulk production.
Insight, Mimaki and Digital Textile Printing
Mimaki manufactures a range of printers specifically designed for the Textile and Apparel market and enables direct and sublimation printing onto a wide range of fabrics and garments. The printers from Mimaki offer easy operation and exceptional print quality and gives customers the power to transform their creative ideas into profitable products quickly.
Insight is the channel partner for Mimaki and deals in their solutions for Digital Textile printers. These include their solutions for sublimation as well as direct reactive printing. The Mimaki Tiger MkIII is the latest addition in the reactive printing line-up from Mimaki. The machine is capable of directly printing on fabric at speeds of up to 385m2/h and supports a width of 1800mm. The dye-sublimation range of Mimaki Textile Printers includes the all-new TS100-1600; An entry-level sublimation printer with an amazing price, reliability and robustness. Finally, a high speed sublimation printer from Mimaki; TS55-1800 equipped with bulk ink and jumbo roll options makes it the best solution for industries utilizing the dye-sublimation technology to print fabrics.