Digital Printing on Fabric Is Changing the Way We Print

Digital printing on fabric is defined as any inkjet based process of printing colorant on fabric with the use of a liquid pigment in the form of ink. Most significantly, digital printing is also referred to as dye sublimation printing when printing large numbers of identical-sized colors onto wide format fabrics and individual printing of small designs onto small fabrics. A major advantage of using digital printing technology lies in its ability to produce a high quality print out of an economical process. There are many advantages associated with the digital printing on fabric. Apart from producing a high quality print, it is an eco-friendly method. Additionally, it reduces cost and provides long term benefits by eliminating the need for fabric caring and repair.
Fabric imaging has emerged as a popular technique where a digital image of a fabric is generated based on photographic data. It is used both in home and industrial applications and can be used for varied printing purposes. With better image reproduction quality, it proves to be cost-effective. The techniques used for this type of printing on fabric include dye sublimation, direct thermal transfer, heat press and cold roll press. These processes deliver consistent and high quality images at lower cost of reproduction.
There are four different types of inks commonly used for printing fabrics. There is pigmented inks, which are made of a pigment that reacts with the oxygen present in the air. There are also dye sublimators and stencil inks. When it comes to heat transfer, there are fluorescent and infrared transfer inks. And, lastly there are carbon and metallic inks for high-gloss, smooth finishes.
Some of the benefits of fabric printing using pigment inks include reduction of cost as well as a faster drying time. However, when the printing process is performed in low lighting conditions, the color might not be as vibrant as desired. Another disadvantage is that the pigments might bleed or smear. To overcome these problems, fabric printers add additional drying media such as gels.
Dye sublimation printer use heat to transfer colourants on fabrics without using any additional drying medium. It can transfer all colours, from black and white to blue and red to green in just a few hours. This makes it ideal for digital printing. However, the printing process tends to be slow as there is a need to wait for all the colours to mix and form. Also, the cost is higher due to the need to purchase additional equipment for the dye sublimation process.
In order to make the overall process much easier, digital textile printers combine the three methods – heat transfer, stenciling and pigmentation. The combined method gives an improved result and makes the overall process quicker and efficient. Additionally, it reduces cost and time spent doing the different tasks. The quality of the final product is also higher because of the combined process.
Screen printing method is another option for digital printing on fabric. The fabric is printed with a coated surface that contains either liquid or dry ink. The ink is transferred to the surface using a special drum or brush. The colour or design is imprinted onto the surface through a process of heat exposure, and then the screen is washed repeatedly to remove the ink that has evaporated.
With screen printing process, one can easily produce a wide range of colours on a single fabric. It is often used for textiles with intricate designs. However, this is not the case for all kinds of fabrics. For instance, the dyed acrylic fabrics can only be produced using this method. The high cost and time involved in this method make it unsuitable for mass production.

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