Digital textile decoration and demand manufaturing are growing rapidly from niche to normal

  • Sublimation Transfer for easy decoration of polyester and poly-blends
  • Direct-to-textile systems printing on a wide range of pfp materials
  • Solutions for decorating synthetic materials and natural fibers
Digital textile decoration and demand manufaturing are growing rapidly from niche to normal

Today, many manufacturers are leveraging the versatility of digital textile decoration, relatively low cost of entry, short production run capability, speed to completion, and higher than average profit margins to make textile-centric manufacturing in the Americas a profitable venture again. Larger companies are able to change the way they make their products, intermediate-sized companies are now able to change the way they order products, and small companies are now able to launch new products like never before. At the heart of this paradigm shift in product development and manufacturing is the application of colorant to substrate. Below is an overview of five unique printing types, their corresponding mediums, and their fixation processes.

Sublimation Transfer Printing

Dye sublimation, the first commercially adopted digital textile printing technology, is currently one of the fastest growing segments in the digital printing market. With the ability to decorate to uncoated polyester and many polyester blends, sublimation can be used for apparel, large format graphics, promotional goods, even hard substrates like tile and ceramics. Digital sublimation transfers can be printed on a variety of standard inkjet technologies and transferred via heat press to decorate the polyester or poly-coated substrate.

Disperse Dye Direct to Textile Printing

Used to decorate polyamide materials, mainly polyester and acetate textiles similar to sublimation transfer, disperse dyes are printed directly to textile without the paper vehicle. Disperse dyes are used to decorate fabrics used in large format graphics, flag and banner. Additionally, high energy disperse dyes can be used in applications where colorfastness is paramount such as automotive interiors, home decor, outdoor materials. Materials with stability such as wovens or non-wovens do not require printers with complex material feed systems but do require a trough for excess ink evacuation. Disperse dyes require the pretreatment of materials and can be fixed using calender heat press.

Acid Dye Direct to Textile Printing

Typically used for decorating protein-based fiber or low-pH materials, acid dyes are ideal for wool, cashmere, leather, silk, and can also be used to decorate nylon. Acid dyes have outstanding color vibrancy as well as light- and wash-fastness. Acid dyes require pretreating to aid in bonding the dyes to the material fibers as well as control dye migration. Printers for acid dye decorating can be quite complex, requiring robust tensioning and “sticky belt” feed systems to best control a myriad of materials, especially those with stretch and movement. Acid dyes are finished via steaming for fixation and washing to remove excess, unbound dye before sewing.

Reactive Dye Direct to Textile Printing

A very common form of traditional rotary printing, reactive dye inks are used when colorfastness is required or applied to cellulose materials such as cotton, flax, linen, modal, or lyocell among others. Reactive dyes are now being applied digitally to these substrates direct-to-textile making short-run manufacturing of natural fiber textiles cost effective and quick to market. Like acid dye, reactive dye printing also requires sophisticated media handling to produce the finest quality prints across both woven and knit materials. Material pretreating, steaming for fixation, and washing to remove excess, unbound dye before sewing are required for this application as well.

Pigment Direct to Textile Printing

Pigment inks are one of the most versatile of textile decoration methods in the digital space. Though almost all types of fabrics can be printed, cotton and other natural fibers are typical substrates for pigments, often used in garment decoration, home decor, and hospitality. Unlike the methods mentioned above, pigment inks can have a topical “hand” but tend to have better UV stability than disperse dyes. While pigment prints do not necessarily require printers with robust media feed systems, applications can be limited to heavyweight, stable wovens without them. Like all direct to textile applications, pigment inks require specific fabric pretreatments to help the pigments bind to the substrate and but simple heat is employed for fixation.

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