Traditionally, getting color onto textiles has involved either dyeing or screen printing. Now, developments in digital textile printing have turned high-quality fabric printing into a fine art.
Innovative techniques for high-speed production—single-pass and multi-pass scanning printing—give textile printers a new world of possibilities.
Advances in IT have revolutionized graphic user interfaces (GUI) – what we all see on our screens every day. They have done the same for textile printing. Let’s look at how it all works.
A Long Way From Block Printing
Printing on cloth has an illustrious history, with block printing dating back to 300 CE in Egypt and evidence of printing in the 4th century BCE in India. Many of the techniques used historically continue to be used in crafting. Digital printing on fabrics, however, is more attuned to keeping abreast of today’s demands.
Why We Need Digital Textile Printing
Population growth, ever greater purchasing power, and the fast-changing fashion industry are all trends that drive growth in the printed textiles industry. Worldwide production is projected to reach 36.8 billion square meters by 2024. By then, digital textile printing is likely to take up to 10% of that total.
Unlike conventional screen printing technology, digital printing on fabrics resembles the way your inkjet printer at home works. This results in faster sampling—an integral feature of the textile world—and a much shorter time to market.
For textile printing companies, this means there is enormous pressure on the time to market and thus on faster sampling, increasing print speeds, efficiency, flexibility, and design.
To achieve such goals, the market simply needs to look at other ways to print on fabric. The solution to those challenges is digital textile printing.
Pretreated fabric passes through the printer at high speed. The digital textile printer uses a printable design or image from a graphical data file.
Colors are determined using either the LAB or RGB system. Tiny droplets of the desired color ink are then passed onto the fabric.
For single-pass printing, a single print-head is used. Multi-pass printing machines used several print heads, and the process is slower but gives a greater definition between the colors.
The techniques involved are fascinating, despite so much being left up to tech. Why not explore the topic by taking a textile design course?
From the point of view of developing a career or business for yourself, this might be the start of some wonderful creative venture!
Inks and Creativity
With a printer knowing exactly how many droplets of ink and exactly what color to put on the textile, creative possibilities just got broader. With digital textile printing, there is no limit to the number of colors that can be used, as is the case with rotary screen printing. Most rotary screens in use have six color-ways, with the most advanced having twelve.
While six or twelve color-ways is fine for the bulk of industrial cloth produced, it limits the intricacy of design. By contrast, digital textile printing makes striking, detailed images and designs possible. This technology has heralded in the explosive variety the fashion and textile industries have been waiting for and, moreover, deserve.
Explore the many other articles on our blog to discover creative ways to leverage the power of the digital!