Due to advancements in coatings, more fabrics are used outdoors and hold up well against precipitation and some abrasion. Various technologies and chemical makeup allow for vibrant, high-quality output found outside in a variety of applications once not possible. New products affect the future of textiles.
Coated textiles feature a variety of safeguards against the outdoors such as weatherproofing or fire and water resistance. Advancements in indoor fabrics pave the way for upgrades to their outdoor counterparts. Coated textiles are increasingly important for indoor applications due to the fact they are polyvinyl chloride (PVC) free, lighter in weight, cheaper to ship and install, and inexpensive to recycle and. Fire retardancy is also offered as a standard for indoor applications.
“These beneficial factors are now within reach for non-PVC coated textiles for outdoor applications too,” notes Blaise Humphries, business unit manager, DHJ International.
Coated textiles also positively affect environmental standards. “There has been a great concern to the impact some of these chemistries have on the environment and people’s health. Using fire retardants that are bromide- and halogen-free is becoming the norm as well as coatings which do not contain lead, cadmium, or phthalates,” shares Mike Richardson, director of sales and marketing print media, Aurora Specialty Textiles Group, Inc.
Rich and vivid output that offers durability fit for the outdoors presents a challenge. “Coating technology is perhaps the least understood and yet one of the most crucial aspects of digitally printing on textiles. Improperly coated fabrics can result in a host of problems including reduced printability and compromised lightfastness. It is important to remember that not all coatings are created equally nor is the manner that it is applied to fabric equal. If a coating is not distributed uniformly across the fabric’s surface print quality will also suffer from a lack of consistency, often times resulting in a blotchy print,” notes Jeff Sanders, digital fabrics sales manager, Pacific Coast Fabrics.
Coated textiles provide unique application possibilities. Outdoor advertising occurs with umbrellas, table skirts, outdoor pop-up display systems, and tents. Both flexible and durable, fabric is ideal for producing high-quality output in different shapes and sizes.
E. Tyler Reich, director of product development, Qué Media Inc., recalls a recent project made possible thanks to coated textiles. One customer created a three-dimensional (3D) markup of different stuffed animals to present to its largest client, Bass Pro Shops.
“Thanks to advancements in coatings, people get really close to the same effects that use to only be achieved through dye-sublimation. Coatings hold up so well now under stress that people make 3D markups for presentations and other things of that nature,” he says.
Coated textiles also make their way into clothing. Pacific Coast Fabrics offers a line of sports apparel fabric utilizing coated textiles. They are lightweight and feature advanced moisture management and wicking technology. The line is 100 percent polyester and allows teams to digitally print directly onto their uniforms.
The Future of Coated Textiles
Updates for textile coatings continue to create opportunities for bold and creative exterior applications.
“Printing on coated fabrics has allowed digital printers of all sizes to provide short-run, colorful, custom graphics on fabrics at a reasonable price point,” notes Michael Powers, wide format specialist for New England and NY, Agfa Graphics.
Fire retardant, water repellence, weatherproofing, and increased flexibility allow a once thought of indoor media to see the light of day.