By Olivia Cahoon
Digital allows print service providers (PSPs) to offer customizable and personalized high-quality printed fabrics. Shops featuring a range of fabrics and providing design help act as one stop for textile buyers to perfect their fabric creations.
Cape Town Cottons
Formed in 1986, Imaterial specializes in fashion and household fabric printing in Cape Town, South Africa. The print shop began with two employees, one of which studied textile design in Cape Town. After purchasing old textile printing equipment on sale, the business offered small runs of custom prints for the fashion and apparel industry in a work area of 2,153 square feet.
Today, Imaterial has a combined work force of 50 employees and a factory of 23,780 square feet. The shop’s largest customer base is located in Cape Town and its surrounding areas. Fashion designers who create apparel, swimwear, and stretch and woven garments are its main clientele. The shop also caters to interior fashion designers for applications like accessories, advertising, curtains, murals, runners, scatter cushions, tablecloths, tea towels, upholstery, and wall hangings.
“Home textile decor accessories have the highest demand, although, we are slowly gaining ground with custom fashion prints,” says Remo Gorlei, owner, Imaterial. For small orders, the shop has a turnaround of one to three days and for larger orders it varies between three to ten days.
The PSP offers textile design services paired with an in-house art studio of qualified designers to assist clients with design creation and color consultation. Imaterial is the first shop in South Africa to introduce direct digital printing for cotton. The shop specializes in print with water-based inks designed for cotton and cotton blends but also offers digital printing for viscose, linen, Lycra, and other fabrics. In fact, 80 percent of the shop’s digital printing is on cotton with no minimum or maximum for runs.
Digital printing allows for customization and personalization using advanced technology. For over ten years Imaterial used two DuPont Artistri 2020 printers. Launched in 2004, the DuPont Artistri 2020 prints up to 71 inches with a maximum resolution of 720 dpi. It is used for a variety of fabrics that range from silk to home furnishings and is compatible with acid dye, reactive dye, disperse dye, and pigment inks.
As its customer base grew, Imaterial searched for a new printer to add to its portfolio. It settled on an MS Printing Solutions device from its JP series in mid-2016. The printer features a resolution of 600×600 dpi and prints up to 125 inches wide.
Imaterial uses only water-based pigment inks to print on textiles. The DuPont machines use Artistri 700 Series pigment inks designed for printing on fabrics with industrial aqueous-compatible, medium-viscosity piezo printheads. The inks require no fabric pretreatment or wet post processing.
Using the MS JP series printer, Imaterial optimizes the full range of pigment and pretreatment products designed specifically for these machines. “The pretreatment has many advantages such as enhancing colors, improving durability, and enabling much faster printing speeds onto most quality fabrics,” says Gorlei.
Several of Imaterial’s basic selections of pretreated fabrics include gentry, hopsack, knits, linens, Lycra, muslin, poplin, Rayon, and twill. Due to the quality of binder content, cotton doesn’t need pretreatments.
Once fabric is digitally printed it goes through a heat cure or stenter process to set the inks onto the fabric fiber. Stenter machines are used for stretching, applying heat settings, and finishing chemicals onto fabrics. Blended, synthetic, and Lycra fabric are commonly dried using a stenter machine. The heat setting time and temperature for printed fabrics differs depending on color depth and fabric quality. Gorlei says years of experience with pigment printing helped him to determine the machine settings for maximum control.
One advantage of digitally printed textiles is the speed and ease of preparing new designs for printing. “It doesn’t matter how many colors need to be printed or how complex the designs are,” says Gorlei.
However, this technology also presents challenges. Gorlei explains that when Imaterial first offered digital printing, it was a whole new world with limited experience and knowledge. The shop underwent operating malfunctions and backup support challenges. “Over the years, this has improved as technology has advanced.”
Print by the Pool
Lalesso, a luxury African fashion and lifestyle brand, is one of Imaterial’s repeat customers. The brand seeks inspiration from East African kanga cloth with printrich designs. The company approached Imaterial to produce a new collection of resort wear and pool lounge furnishings for an upmarket hotel.
Lalesso requested that five designs be produced on a variety of different fabrics. “Timing was critical because we had a week to produce the printed fabrics,” says Gorlei. The client supplied their own cotton fabric base because it gave them the freedom to choose whichever quality they preferred, he explains. Lalesso specifically requested the use of Imaterial’s environmentally friendly production line.
The PSP used the MS JP series printer and water-based pigment inks to deliver five designs. Gorlei shares, “this is ideal for clothing as no solvents or harmful chemicals are used in this system. There is no waste or unnecessary consumables needed, which leads to a sustainable method of printing.”
More than 200 feet of the final prints were completed out of different quality cotton fabrics. For the finishing process, Imaterial used an energy saving eco-dryer from the U.K.
Compared to other jobs completed by the PSP, this one was particularly special. The shop doesn’t always see the finished applications. However, the brand held a fabric launch cocktail party to highlight the new designs. “It was amazing to see the response from all who attended,” says Gorlei. Lalesso is currently focusing on a new range of designs for 2017 and intends to use Imaterial again.
Digitally printed garments are used in various applications including apparel and home furnishings. Print shops, like Imaterial, offer several types of fabrics to choose from. They may also feature in-house art studios to aid in the design process. As technology that allows digital printers to handle textiles advances, customers demand faster turnaround times, color brightness, and wash durability
Mar2017, Digital Output