By Olivia Cahoon
Part 1 of 2
Print service providers (PSPs) offer specialty inks for an attractive upsell on a number of printed products. As white ink, primers, and varnishes become more common, fluorescent inks remain a niche segment for wide format printing. Part one of this two-part series examines fluorescent ink types and which applications benefit from them.
Fluorescent inks are traditionally found in applications like costumes, safety, and entertainment. Several years ago, they were difficult to find, but due to high demand for bright colors, fluorescent inks are now easier to obtain.
Ryosuke Nakayama, manager, textile and apparel business development and marketing, Mimaki USA, Inc., says Mimaki dye-sublimation (dye-sub) fluorescent inks are primarily used for sportswear and performance apparel. Bright colors allow athletes to be seen at night and are an attractive, sporty display. “The market is not big, but there are still constant needs,” admits Nakayama.
Lily Hunter, product manager, textiles and consumables, Roland DGA Corporation, agrees and finds that fluorescent offerings are in demand for team uniforms, sports accessories, and safety apparel applications.
Bright vibrant colors are also popular for interior décor like furniture, cushions, rugs, and accessories. “Because fluorescent inks are vibrant and fun, they’re also very prominent in furnishings for youth rooms and college dormitory rooms. We’re seeing fluorescent inks being used more in soft signage too, and even as accents in theater sets and production backdrops to create a certain look with or without black lights,” adds Hunter.
Fluorescent inks increase achievable color gamut to enhance final printing results. “All existing applications could, theoretically, benefit from fluorescent inks on the condition that they meet technical components of industrial printing demand in terms of fastness, resistance, and runability,” says Marco Girola, marketing specialist, JK Group.
Robin Kavanagh, PR manager, Sawgrass Inc., believes fluorescent inks are ideal for a variety of applications because the brightness and color spectrum draws attention and adds excitement to applications. “High-visibility signage, promotional products, safety products, textiles and garments, flags, and banners are just a few of the applications that sublimators use fluorescent inks for,” she says.
Fluorescent inks are available as solvent-ink based, UV-curable, dyes, and pigments. “Digital printing offers fluorescent colors for all chemical technologies,” says Girola.
According to Kavanagh, fluorescent inks contain chemical compounds that absorb light and luminesce upon re-emitting it.
Nakayama believes dye-sub is the primary method for fluorescent inks with market demand steady. “In our experience, there are few demands for fluorescent colors in the signage and graphics markets, which are primarily eco-solvent or UV inks.”
Nakayama says that fluorescent yellow inks in particular have some UV resistance limitations not acceptable for most signage applications.
PSPs considering fluorescent ink should consider how much water the application will be exposed to. “The washable durability rating for fluorescent inks is not as high as other standard colors. Therefore, it is normal to see some fading sooner than with other colors,” explains Hunter.
Color management is also a critical factor. Chris Cerasoli, business development, VP, J-Teck USA, advises PSPs to first consider the number of channels in the printer. Channels affect the possible number of color blends and if the fluorescents should be separated from the regular colors.
“For example, with an eight-channel printer four channels can be used to print CMYK with profiles and the other four to print color builds of fluorescent colors,” advises Cerasoli.
He says most RIPs allow PSPs to identity which image parts to print with each color set for greater flexibility. However, this may slow down the printer.
Printing all colors with an existing halo or fluorescent tone involves adjusting the profile and color settings. “Four channel printers have plenty of capacity to provide a full gamut of fluorescent colors while still using the black channel to create a stark contrast,” says Cerasoli.
However, Kavanagh warns that sophisticated RIP software and color measuring tools are needed in order to maximize the output of fluorescent inks.
Fluorescent inks are here to stay as sports apparel, safety, and home décor create a steady demand.
In fact, Hunter believes requests for fluorescent inks has significantly increased in the last couple of years. “Just look at all the fluorescent sports apparel, uniforms, and footwear out there. The growth in popularity is impressive, and we expect this trend to continue for the foreseeable future,” she admits.
Girola agrees and sees global trends influencing textile industry choices. “The combination between global trends in terms of style and color provides a good vision of where the future of textiles will take us.”
For sportswear, consumers seek technical, functional, and comfortable fabrics with vibrant and energetic colors to illuminate shine. Fluorescents meet the demand and are popular because of it.
While much of the sublimation market is dominated by sportswear, Cerasoli sees sublimation making strides in yoga wear and the fashion market as demands for fluorescents grow.
“Bright, fluorescent colors are almost standard in the apparel business, but we are also seeing a big surge from major sport teams and other athletic organizations,” says Kavanagh.
Fluorescent inks make a bold statement in the markets they serve. Demands for these inks have increased as sports apparel, signage, and footwear seek more stylish colors. The second part of this series highlights available fluorescent inks from leading manufacturers.
July2017, Digital Output