Over the last few years, there have been significant technological advancements in fabrics, fabric coatings, printers, and inks.
Today’s manufacturers are taking a more systematic approach by integrating ink chemistry, auxiliary equipment, printer hardware, and software. These technologies will offer a more cohesive method for printable fabrics.
Dye sublimation printing systems have been one of the fastest-growing areas of printed textiles. Each year, new direct-to-fabric dye sublimation equipment enters the market. This equipment is so advanced that it requires steady improvements in technology and productivity such as:
- Wide-format capabilities
- Higher resolutions
- Increased output speed
- Better technologies for textile coating
- Reduced equipment costs
These technology developments allow companies to generate better fabrics, fabric coatings, inks, and printing equipment.
Creating New Niche Products
New fabric printing capabilities are leading printers to invent creative niche products. New advancements in fabric-compatible inks and printers can make little differences in fabric quality readily apparent. Textiles must maximize color and opacity. For printers to stay competitive, in a niche market, they need to focus on:
- Textile Quality
- Consistency of Fabric Stretch
- Fabric Color
- Product Shrinkage
New Developments in Fabric Printing Technology
Fabric printing technologies like latex and direct disperse ink have been progressing rapidly in recent years. Latex prints can now compete with the dynamic appearance of dye substitution printing, due to new printers, inks, and media.
As new developments continue in printable fabrics, there are more options than ever before which can exemplify the differences in quality. For instance, graphics printed onto high-quality backlit fabrics look noticeably better than on cheaper fabrics.
- Essentials for Printing Excellent Graphics:
- Specialized Printing Equipment
- High-Quality Fabric
- Massive Variety of Printable Fabrics
- New Advancements in the Printhead Tech
- Flexible and Stable Inks
- Consistent coatings
- Coated Fabrics for Both Dye Sublimation and UV-Cure Processes
LED lamp treated UV inks offer heightened flexibility for graphic printing processes. Suitable fabrics with consistent coatings, paired with the appropriate ink for direct-to-fabric printing, can be difficult to find. Luckily, fabric coatings have improved substantially over the last few years. They now have more color options and fewer ink migration issues related to direct-to-fabric printing.
Growing Demand for Fabric Prints
Fabric print demand is increasing and now requires printers to use high-quality backlit fabrics to stay competitive. Recent trends in fabrics and textiles are gaining publicity in retail applications, event displays, and professional exhibits. Consumers are increasingly becoming attracted to opaque, block out, and backlit fabrics.
Block out fabrics combine a non-transparent backer with standard fabric textile and work very well for graphics that are completely opaque. Backlit fabrics can be printed using any of the three printing processes:
- Transfer Dye Sublimation
- More Than Just Dye Sublimation Printing
Many manufacturers are adjusting their products to be Dye Sublimation compatible. Nylon, silk, and cotton are inherently incompatible with Dye Sublimation ink but have synthetic counterparts that can imitate their look and feel.
For Direct-to-Fabric inkjet printing, fabrics must be pre-treated to hold ink, avoid bleeding, and produce the right colors.
Fabric manufacturing processes are different and create variations in ink compatibility based on their proprietary coating.
These coating processes yield fabrics that are compatible with Direct Dye Sublimation, Dye Sublimation Transfer, screen printing, UV ink, and latex inks. Coatings are used to treat fabrics before printing and allow for better ink performance while greatly reducing the risk of ink bleeding.
Fabrics suitable for latex ink printing are coated differently based on the type of fabric (e.g. polyester, cotton). Printing technology has improved both latex inks and coating finishes. Manufacturers are now able to latex print on a variety of fabrics.
Fabrics for Backlit Applications
Some fabrics are designed specifically for backlit displays, such as lightboxes. These specialized fabrics provide brighter white points, sharper images, and better color consistency.
- Expo Graphics
- Retail advertising
- Theatrical Productions
- Museum Displays
- Interior Decor
- Illuminated Graphics
A Bright Future for Fabric Printing
Technological developments in fabric, ink, and coating have revealed unlimited opportunities for commercial use. Manufacturers are capable of producing sharp and consistent images to create unique products for all sorts of different applications.