Wide format inkjet technology is used to generate a variety of applications, from banners and displays to vehicle wraps and floor graphics. However, as users continue to utilize the latest technology advantages and step out of the box, its possibilities are endless. Textile printers enable the creation of on demand applications. Products include décor, custom fabrics, and apparel.
Iowa State University (ISU) helps its students create unique textile projects through the use of digital printing technologies. The college offers its Apparel, Merchandising, and Design (AMD) major as part of its Apparel, Events, and Hospitality Management (AESHM) department. Within the program, students gain skills and knowledge to help them succeed in the real world. In addition to coursework, they complete an internship that closely relates to career aspirations. The college’s AMD major is one of only 13 programs in the nation currently approved by the American Apparel and Footwear Association.
Within the AMD major, four areas of concentration are offered, including creative design, technical design, product development, and production and sourcing management.
Following graduation, students are open to a world of career possibilities, such as fashion designer, textile designer, purchasing agent, product developer, and laboratory technician.
Teaching from Experience
One of the college’s own success stories, Christina Denekas, lecturer/Digital Apparel Textile Studio (DATS) Lab coordinator, AMD, ISU, is passionate about color, print, and teaching. Starting out as an undergrad at ISU, she graduated with her M.S. degree in 2005 in digital textile printing quality control and color theory. After graduation, she landed a position as digital printing lab coordinator for Kimberly Clark’s Design Innovation Group in Atlanta, GA, where she digitally printed prototypes for diapers, paper towels, packaging; and moved on to Walt Disney World in Orlando, FL as a costume buyer.
Denekas returned to her Alma mater as a lecturer and stepped into the role of lab coordinator of the DATS Lab. “Here, I work with students to digitally print creations on fabric to produce one-of-a-kind pieces,” she says.
Fit for the Real World
For digital textile printing, the college uses a Mimaki USA, Inc. TX2-1600. The device is shared between the College of Human Sciences, which covers the DATS Lab; and ISU’s College of Design. The college uses reactive inks that work best with natural fibers such as cottons, flax, and silks. “At any given time our studio has approximately 24 to 40 different types of fabrics for students to print on, including different weights of silk, silk satin, cotton gauze, cotton twill, broadcloth, cotton percale, organza, taffeta, linen, crepe de chine, and soy spandex,” says Denekas.
Many students use natural fibers for projects, which is encouraged because of the ease and beauty the fabrics provide. She notes that the lab does have some fabrics that aren’t comprised of natural fibers including nylon lycra. “We can use our current printer to print on these fabrics, but we have to treat them with extra care as the reactive inks won’t fully bond with man-made fibers,” she adds.
Prior to the purchase of the Mimaki TX2-1600 printer, many students did not have access to the fabric printing technology without the assistance of a trained graduate student. “That has now changed as the College of Design offers a course that challenges students to produce repeats, color ways, and other designs to create a portfolio with a number of small fabric swatches and one large final project,” says Denekas.
The eight-color printer allows creation of photorealistic images with no limit to the range of color possible. Students and faculty create both printed yardage and engineered prints for apparel from computer illustrations and photographic images.
Within the Textiles and Clothing department, Denekas notes that many students become familiar with the printer during patternmaking classes. They are shown the technology and challenged to begin thinking of using it within the course, as well as others.
Many students take on independent studies to do extra projects or to create something special to submit into the school’s annual student-run fashion show. According to ISU, undergraduate and graduate students have won numerous awards for designs created with digitally printed textiles.
In addition to digital print capabilities, the college operates a three-dimensional body scanner that allows students to generate custom, scientific measurements of the human body.
The program’s facility also includes a textile testing lab, which provides space and equipment for research and teaching upper division textile evaluation courses. The equipment in the lab is used for dimensional stability testing, abrasion testing, color measurement, colorfastness, tensile testing, and fiber identification.
Through its AMD major, ISU presents a great educational opportunity for students looking to enter an exciting career in apparel design. Providing cutting-edge technology, including digital wide format printing, the college is focused on teaching theory behind textile behavior when matched with certain inks and printheads.