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The Hard Side of Fabric

Choices in Fabric Printing

by Melissa Tetreault

Part 4 of a 6-part Series

If youíre about to go into fabric signage, first consider if direct to print or dye sublimation transfer is right for you. Depending on the application, you may choose one over the other. Here, several industry leaders weigh in with their thoughts about making the choice between direct to print and dye sublimation transfer printers. They also share their latest hardware options with us.

Fitting Your Needs
Gandinnovations provides both dye sub and direct to print solutions. Their dye sublimation printers, the Jeti 3312 and Jeti 3324DS are six color, 600 dpi resolution devices. Cory Brock for Gandinnovations explains their attraction, "The Jet Dye Sub printer is a production machine. It is consistently put to the test day and night, literally." Additionally, the companyís solvent and flatbed printers all print directly onto fabric amongst various other materials. Gandinnovations is launching its new aqueous textile printer in time for a SGIA 2007 debut. The Jeti 3324 AquaTex has a built in heater, up to 600 dpi, and 24 Special Edition Gandinnovations (SEGA) heads. Brock recommends that a print shop find what their biggest demand is and let that decide what type of device they need.

Agreeing with Brock is Christian Sam, marketing, Graphics One. "We believe both [dye sub and direct to print] can be a major asset to any customer with different needs." This is why the company distributes both solutions. Mutohís Viper TX System is a direct-to-print device that prints at up to 65 inches. It also offers a RIO Dye Sub Printer with a printing width of up to 42 inches. Graphics One may offer both direct to print and dye sub but has noticed that the largest demand is for dye sublimation. However, Sam points out, "We believe users will migrate to direct to print because of ease of use."

"Thereís really no application that our Durst printers arenít being used foróspecialty, retail, museum, murals, trade show, outdoor, building wraps, etc," says Christopher Howard, senior VP for sales and marketing, Durst Image Technology U.S., LLC. The companyís Rho 350R Roll-to-Roll UV inkjet printer and Rho 600 Pictor Flatbed UV inket printer are both used to print directly onto fabrics. The array of applications used with Durst printers shows how popular fabric signage really is.

Hewlett-Packard (HP) also has a wide variety of applications that its textile printers are being used for. "Our textiles are mostly used for indoor and outdoor signage and banner applications as well as for decorative purposes like for example at tradeshows. Set up a frame structure, stretch a printed fabric over the frame, add some lighting, and you have a much more attractive design than a plain wall," explains Gianluigi Rankin, WW PSP segment manager, large format media, Hewlett Packard. Rankin suggests their HP Designjet devices as direct to print solutions and HP Scitex devices offer dye sublimation options.

Similarly, Leggett & Platt Digital Technologies is noticing an upswing in new applications. "Our customers are increasingly talking about new applications with advertising and marketing agencies, corporate and product manufacturers, architects, interior designers, and real estate developers," says Richard Codos, executive director, North American development for Leggett & Platt Digital Technologies. The companyís Virtu DirectUV & Dye production digital textile printer is a direct to print system that can print on uncoated textiles. The DirectUV process eliminates wicking thanks to its UV light freezing process.

Direct to printís ease of use has a lot to do with less paper product. Joseph Terramagra, sales and marketing representative for Mimaki notices, "We are finding the largest demand in direct to print because of its capability to print without having to deal with paper and transferring." The TX3-1600 Textile Jet is Mimakiís direct to print option. Sign shops are also looking to direct printing, according to Terramagra, because inks can bleed through to the other side of the printed fabric, which provides a mirror image of the sign on the opposite side. "This is good on signs with no words, just design," shares Terramagra.

Both the Viper and Viper TX are manufactured by Mutoh and used for a variety of applications including banners, flags, sportswear, clothing, hot air balloons, and interior design. The Viper is for transfer paper printing and the Viper TX for direct textile printing. According to Nele Daly, technical sales support manager, Mutoh, "The choice to print direct or via transfer depends on the application needs. Rigid applications demand transfer paper printing, print through results demand direct printing, and lots of applications can be achieved through both transfer and direct printing."

Melissa Ackerman, marketing communications coordinator, NuSign, believes that "Direct fabric printers make it easier for customers to get into the fabric market because they eliminate the need for the complicated and expensive transfer process." NuSignís d-gen Teleios is a direct to print machine that has an integrated heat fixation unit. Ackerman elaborates, "This all-in-one technology is ideal because the customer doesnít need a second machine for heat setting."

Roland offers wide format sublimation systems including the Hi-Fi Express FP-740, the companyís newest sublimation printer. This 74-inch model is designed for flags, banners, soft signage, and other textiles. Roland also offers HeatWave sublimation systems based on SOLJET and VersaCAMM inkjets ranging from 30 to 104 inches in width. Rick Scrimger, VP & GM of Rolandís Color Products Division, believes these systems are ideal for a wide range of sublimation applications because the tight integration between system componentsóincluding printer, sublimation inks, and RIP software with sublimation profiles and mediaóensures consistent, reliable print quality. Roland also offers 74- and 104-inch AdvancedJET eco-solvent printers capable of printing directly onto economical unlined mesh.

Direct printing is popular at TexPress Inc. The company offers two direct to print solutions, the DSS-1800 II, a roll to print machine with a built in heat chamber and automatic heat cutters, and the Tex-104, a 104-inch device. Chuck Sharp, president, TexPress Inc, explains direct to printís appeal, "If you have a continuous demand of jobs, then the direct to print is going to be far less expensive, far faster, and take a lot less labor content." What is unique about TexPress Incís printers is they can print on untreated, uncoated polyesters, providing you print with TexPressí inks.

US Sublimation is a distributor of dye sublimation equipment and supplies. They carry Mimaki JV4, JV3, DS-1600/1800, and JV5 series dye sublimation printers including the new Velotex series of wide format direct-to-textile printers with sublimation/curing unit for dye sublimation or textile pigment inks. All use aqueous based inks. When working with customers, Nick Constable, sales and marketing manager, US Sublimation, notices a large demand in the flag and banner industry for dye sub projects.

Printing Out of the Box
"One of our customers in Germany printed a 360-degree, panoramic view of the city of Dresden as it would have appeared in the 1700's on ten-foot by 80-foot panels. Over 100 of these panels were then sewn together and hung in the round thereby totally encircling the viewer. The observation tower to view the panorama is elevated nearly 40 feet and from this vantage point the viewer is literally drawn into the imagery, explains Gary Turner, development manager, DuPont. "The total image size is the equivalent of over two football fields of digitally printed fabric that our customer printed on their DuPont Artistri 3320 digital textile system. The image is enhanced by theatrical lighting so you feel as though you are in the city of Dresden from sun up to sun down as the lighting changes on the panorama to show the passing of a day." DuPont Artistri digital textile printers are available in 1.8- and 3.3-meter-wide formats. They print onto most fabrics directly and roll to roll for optimum productivity and speed.

EFI introduced its VUTEk 3360 Fusion at ISA in April. An industry first, it enables the user to change from traditional solvent to dye sublimation inks in two minutes. In one solution EFI has bundled both a direct to print and dye sublimation device, offering the user flexibility depending on the output. EFI also has customers using the PressVu 200 to print on textiles. Jane Cedrone, marketing communications manager, EFI, is amazed at what people are using it to print on. "They originally didnít buy it to print on fabric, but they tested it, and it works great, and now they are printing on pillows out of synthetic leather and cushions for couches."

Decisions, Decisions
All of the industry leaders mentioned here believe that choosing your machine should really be based on the needs of your shop. There is no overwhelming preference between direct to print and dye sublimation transfer devices, itís all up to you and your customers needs. Like all hardware purchases, price, quality of output, and cost of consumables all weigh in to the final choice.

Click here to read Part 1 of this exculsive online series, Soft Signage Ushers in a New Age of Digital Print
Click here to read Part 2 of this exculsive online series, Designing Digitally
Click here to read Part 3 of this exculsive online series, Stay Safe, Go Green

Aug2007, Digital Output

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