22 Sep Everything you need to know about Digital Printing
Digital printing of fabric is one of the most important developments in the garments and home furnishings industry. While digital printing has been existent for over two decades, it has only matured in the past 5 years to a point where it can make a dramatic impact on the industry.
What is digital printing and how is it different?
Digital Printing on fabric is very similar to the inkjet printing on paper that we’re accustomed to using in our homes and offices. It is the process of directly printing colour onto a piece or roll of fabric to replicate something from a computer.
The traditional form of printing is analog screen printing, which uses a woven mesh (i.e. the screen) to reproduce a desired image. This is still the predominant method of printing textiles today, and represents over 95% of the worldwide printing industry.
What has changed to make digital printing possible today
Even though digital printing has been possible since the late 1980s, there were a number of limiting factors that reduced its mass appeal; heavy cost of printers, very low daily output of the printers, higher comparative cost of inks and low resolution results were all contributing factors to its niche status.
Over the past decade, digital printing has come a long way:
- Output speed of digital printers has increased significantly. Some of the fastest printers are capable of printing over 8,000 m2/hr
- The cost of inks and digital printers has reduced
- Overall cost of printing has reduced from over $25-30/m2 to $2-4/m2
- Digital printers are now able to reproduce extremely high-quality prints
What are the advantages of digital printing
- Ability to print short runs (even single repeats of 1m are possible) – this allows mass customization
- Reduced time-to-market – fewer intermediate steps (e.g. no need to expose a screen)
- High resolution – digital printing allows millions of colours to be reproduced that was never possible with screen printing
- Low cost of sampling since no screen development costs are required
- There are many designs that are only possible using digital printing – these were never possible to print using traditional methods
What are the current limitations of digital printing
Costs are still higher than screen printing – digital printing is approx 3-5x the cost of screen printing. However, this gap is constantly reducing. Most of the ready-for-dyeing (RFD) fabrics are not perfectly prepared for digital printing. Additional steps needs to be taken during the preparation of the fabric such as mercerising and singing, to ensure good quality output.
Digital printing is a phenomenon that is going to change the face of the textile industry over the next decade and will make possible a range of different prints and business models that weren’t possible before.
Browse through our collection of textiles with digital printing here: