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Form and Function: Digitally Decorated Textiles

(April 2013) posted on Wed Apr 24, 2013

A variety of unique and lucrative applications await those who print digitally onto fabrics.


By Dan Naumovich

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Due to a general lack of know-how related to digital direct-to-fabric printing, Jorda has been serving as a go-between for customers and printing companies to promote the process.
Printers and ink are just two parts of the equation in direct digital textile printing. Fabric also involves several variables that must be considered to maximize results.

Choosing the right fabric
“The first hurdle to cross is making sure you have chosen the right fabric for your print technology and application. For example, choosing a coated fabric for latex, solvent, or UV-curable printing can result in better image quality than choosing an uncoated fabric. If one is employing transfer sublimation technology, then pretty much any uncoated polyester fabric can work. However, if direct-print sublimation is being used, then a pre-treated polyester fabric is often required. Matching the right fabric to the print technology is paramount,” explains Mike Richardson, director of sales and marketing, print media for Aurora Specialty Textiles Group, an Illinois-based textile-processing company.

Print quality is not the only consideration to take into account. Wear-and-tear, exposure to sunlight, and the location where the printed fabric will be used are also important factors.

“Take for example a trade-show backdrop, you would want to use an FR (fire retardant) treated knit fabric. The FR is required by many, if not all, exhibit halls, and the knit will release wrinkles when under tension. Some fabrics are treated with a WR (water resistant) for outdoor use, and still others are coated for art or portrait printing,” Richardson says.

Over the years, treatment processes have advanced to improve the feel, or hand, of the fabric. Today’s customers are favoring a fabric with a softer look and feel that will still produce sharp image quality through digital printing.

Fabric is making significant inroads into the trade-show and exhibit markets for such things as banners, tablecloths, and point-of-sale signage. Richardson says that textiles have an advantage over vinyl for these applications because they can be rolled up, resulting in cheaper shipping costs and reducing the chance that the print will be damaged. From an aesthetic perspective, they create a more upscale look and could even influence consumer behavior.


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