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Taking the Direct Approach

Exploring direct printing on fabrics.

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By Peggy Middendorf

The new treated or coated fabrics work well with direct-print printers and open the door to new applications. "Digitally printable coated fabrics allow end-users to get high-quality print results and enable lower print runs, allowing for customization," says Lance Hutt, digital global product manager, Avery Dennison Graphics & Reflective Division. "With the introduction of coated fabrics, end users can now produce fabric graphics that feature brilliant, crisp images and colors that really pop, versus the faded images of early-generation inkjet printers."

With the advancements in coated textiles, says Eric Tischer, director of sales for Neschen Americas, "solvent inks offer great, crisp imaging and color pop. UV ink, by its very nature, can print onto uncoated substrates and offers the same image quality as solvent ink-and sometimes better. Water-based inks traditionally don’t have the bite that solvent, UV, or dye-sublimation inks have, and this often can be seen in the finished print quality. Coated substrates are vital and very important to the best possible image quality for water-based and solvent ink technology."

According to Melissa Ackerman, marketing communications coordinator for NuSign Supply (US distributors for d-Gen printers), "Direct printing onto textiles means brighter colors are possible because no ink is lost in the transfer process, and there is less risk of waste due to failures or mistakes during the transfer process (paper getting wrinkled or the image skewed). Direct-printed textiles are more durable outdoors (fastness and resistance to fading) than dye sub because the ink used for direct print has a heavier molecular weight."

The main advantage for direct printing over traditional dye sub is the color penetration to the back side of the fabric, says Jeffrey Cheatham, director of sales for Fisher Textiles. "On lightweight fabrics and flag mesh, you can achieve up to 90% color on the back of the fabric, where only 70% was possible with traditional paper transfer."

Hot applications
No matter which technology you opt for, the bottom line is to understand the benefits that printed fabrics can provide to your customers. Such as: Textiles are easily folded for storage, allowing for less-expensive shipping and less chance of damage in route; textiles feel good to the touch; there is no glare on illuminated textiles; textiles can be made into something dimensional; and customers may perceive that printed textiles indicate quality.