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Calling All CAD

New developments in the field of digital printing

New software developments in conjunction with state of the art ink-jet printing machines and special inks are changing the way print mills sample designs prior to productions on a traditional screen printing machine.Digital printing is having a tremendous impact in two distinct sectors of the textile industry to visualize a new design range, prior to production printing by one of the suppliers. Printing a design concept within those responsible for making the decision of whether a design should be brought to market. Software SolutionsThe most commonly found solution in this area of the industry has been provided by EnCAD which created a simple to use, plug and play type application. Their solution comprises of a 60-inch-wide, four-color, 300 DPI ink-jet printer, driven by their TxPrint software. The software accepts most industry standard data formats and allows the customer to select each color in the design from a preprinted color catalog for each fabric type.The benefit to the EnCAD solution is that a range of pre-coated, paper backed fabric rolls are available to the client, allowing them to use the one which most closely resembles the type of fabric they would use in production. This application still involves the designer in making certain allowances, as the image has been printed from data created on their design system, not that which will be used later in the engraving of screens.The second application of the type of technology is within the print mills themselves. Many of the worlds textile printers are installing digital printing solutions to supplement the highly expensive and time-consuming task of sampling a design.Traditionally, companies have had to manufacture screens prior to being able to produce a sample swatch of fabric for evaluation purposes.Thus, if there were any interpretation mistakes in the engraving of the screens, they would have to be re-made. Now these companies produce short lengths of fabric directly from the same digital data used to engrave the screens, prior to the screens being engraved. If the clients, upon viewing the printed fabric, require any changes, these can be done in a matter of minutes and a new print produced, without the need for re-making the screens. Different RequirementsThe requirements of a traditional print mill are different from those of a converter or design studio. Normally a print mill would like to use inks which have a similar properties to those which it uses in production as well as have the ability to print on its own type of fabric. Therefore, some vendors have developed specific solutions for this type of application.Each solution is comprised of specially designed software, an ink-jet printing device with a fabric handling mechanism and special links. Solutions from Sophis, Stork, Wirth graphic technologies and others will all be shown at the upcoming ITMA 99 in Paris.The Wirth graphics solution is a seven-color, 60-inch-wide, 720 DPI printer from Mimaki, along with a specially constructed fabric handling mechanism. This solution has the ability to handle the customers own mill-standard fabric rolls as well different types of dispersed, pigment, reactive and acid digital inks. All of the leading manufacturers, including BASF, DuPont and CIBA are busy creating inks specifically for use in digital printers. Image AdaptingOne key ingredient to successfully printing a sample is the ability of the software to adapt the printed image according to certain parameters of the traditional printing process, such as print speed, print pressure, type of screens and types of dyes. The ProofMaster software package from Wirth graphics, in use at many of the worlds leading fabric prints, claims to address these issues. The Speed FactorAs these solutions allow companies to create digital samples which are extremely close simulation of the final printed fabric, why not production fabric digitally The answer speed.The solutions currently being marketed produce between two and six linear yards per hour. Stork will be showing a new continuous machine at ITMA 99, which is rumored to print up to 10 linear yards per hour, but at a cost of $350,000 per machine, compared with other solutions priced at approximately $100,000.There is no doubt that digital textile printing will have an enormous impact on the printed textile industry. Already some companies are producing high-end custom production output for the tie and scarf industry, directly on to silk.As speeds increase the opportunity to use this technology for producing roll-length goods will also increase, reducing mill costs, increasing response speeds and creating extra profitability for the print mills.

May 1999