Digital printing

in the point of DNS-IRAN view; Digital printing is a recent technique, the first steps were made in the year 1991. An image is sent directly to the printer using digital files. The advantage is that there is no need for a printing plate, for example a screen with screen printing. Digital printing is perfect to print bright photographs on your textile, or for designs with multiple colors. If you choose for digital printing, the textile has to be made from 80% cotton. Digital printing on synthetical, softshell or other textile is thereby not possible.
In general, digital printing is good for colorful designs and photo’s. Surely for samples or for low quantities, we advise you to choose digital printing.

What is this and how can it be used for my application?

When you have documents produced it is quite probably need to have some form of data to be printed on each individual item. This section describes the technologies available and the ones best suited for your need.

Personalization

This is the addition of variable data to each and every individual printed item. You may have a different product number or identifier on each item or product. Typical examples of this would be seating rows and numbers at events, specific pricing that differs from ticket to ticket, to printing peoples or companies addresses for mailshots that you might find on council tax forms or credit card statements.

The main types of machinery that are used for this type of printing are laser printers and ink jet printers – as they can run at very high speeds and are computer controlled.

The lasers use a toner, like your conventional desktop laser printer and come in the form of hot-fuse or cold-fusion.

The benefits of cold-fusion lasers is that they are able to print on a much wider range of materials. Such examples of this would be plastics and certain types of cards (attached to the sheet) along with plastic label materials. The other major benefit of the cold-fusion laser is that you can laser an image next to a hologram without the holograms burning or fading – you can even apply toner to the face of a hologram.

If you do not have a hologram on your printed material or the hologram that you use, is made of “laser resistant” or laser approved foil, then you may well be able to run these through a hot laser. We recommend that you do a trial run if you are unsure.

Inkjet printing for personalization is another method used and can be very cost effective as it can bolt-on to a suppliers printing press (allowing it to run with your printing job). The downside to inkjet is that it is restricted to certain amounts of coverage and the ink itself can bleed into the substrate if the paper or card is porous. For printing batch numbers, expiry dates and other basic information these are good.

We would also like to note that the technology in inkjet and lasers is improving all the time so some printed samples from your prospective supplier is a must.

CHECK ABOUT HOW DURABLE THE PRINT HAS TO BE, THE PROS AND CONS OF INKJET vs LASER in the DURABILITY WARS AND APPLICATIONS.

Laser printing personalisation summary

Applications

  • Papers, labels and card personalization (check that hot laser is suitable)
  • Cards on on carrier (e.g. piggy back) and special plasic labels (cold fusion lasers normally)
  • Documents and statements
  • Tickets and retail vouchers
  • Hologram protected documents (check to see if cold-fusion is recommended for the holographic foil)

Costs

  • Usually priced on complexity of database (set-up costs)
  • Then charged on how many metres, feet, or forms to be run and coverage.

Things to watch out for

  • Security paper substrates are suitable for toner
  • Thickness of material can be printed
  • The format of you printed material e.g. sheet/roll (sprocket fed for continuous lasers)

Inkjet printing personalisation summary

Applications

  • Papers, labels and card personalization (check that ink will not come off and has good enough resolution or quality)
  • Cards on on carrier (e.g. piggy back) and special plasic labels (check for resistance levels of ink)
  • Documents and statements (as seen on recent credit card and bank statements)
  • Tickets and retail vouchers
  • Hologram protected documents
  • Shaped and contoured items as it is non-contact (such as packaging)

Costs

  • Usually priced on complexity of database (set-up costs)
  • Then charged on how many metres, feet, or forms to be run and coverage.

Things to watch out for

  • Substrate is not too porous that the ink bleeds into it or smudging
  • Restriction on width of print (usually ink jet heads are ‘banked’ together for wider coverage)
  • The format of you printed material e.g. sheet/roll (sprocket fed for continuous lasers)

Attention points

The textile has to be 80% cotton. Make sure that you choose a partner that has expertise in digital printing. The result depends on the pre treatment of the file, the machine and the drying process.

Technology
Most commercially available fabric is rotary screen printed; each print run is typically several thousand yards. The high minimums are due to the cost and time required to prepare a unique set of screens, with each color in a design requiring a separate screen. The main advantage of digital printing is the ability to do very small runs of each design (even less than 1 yard) because there are no screens to prepare.

The inkjet printing technology used in digital printing was first patented in 1968. In the 1990s, inkjet printers became widely available for paper printing applications – you might even have one on your desk right now! The technology has continued to develop and there are now specialized wide-format printers which can handle a variety of substrates – everything from paper to canvas to vinyl, and of course, fabric.

The inks used in digital printing are formulated specifically for each type of fiber (cotton, silk, polyester, nylon, etc). During the printing process, the fabric is fed through the printer using rollers and ink is applied to the surface in the form of thousands of tiny droplets. The fabric is then finished using heat and/or steam to cure the ink (some inks also require washing and drying). Digitally printed fabric will wash and wear the same as any other fabric, although with some types of ink you may see some initial fading in the first wash.

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Design Process
Designs can be created digitally with almost any graphic design software (Photoshop and Illustrator are the most popular). Alternatively, existing artwork or photographs can be scanned and then digitally manipulated to make a pattern. Usually designs are created as a seamless pattern that is repeated (tiled) across the fabric. You can also create a design that fills an entire yard without repeating, but you may run into issues if the size of the file is too large for the printing service to process.

Some helpful things to remember when designing for fabric:

Make color easy. Find out what color model your printer uses (most often CYMK or Lab) and choose your colors accordingly. You should expect colors to appear differently on the fabric than on your computer screen. Some colors such as deep, rich reds may be hard to reproduce. Large areas of solid color may come out with bands of lighter and darker tones. Setting up your design so that the colors can easily be changed (using layers or vector artwork) will save you a lot of headaches.

Focus on the finish. It’s easy to get caught up in the artistic aspect of creating a beautiful design and lose sight of the fact that fabric is never the end product – it’s always a part of something else. Make a habit of picturing the print as part of the finished product, especially concerning the size of the print. I have a ruler next to my computer – whenever I can’t quite decide if the scale is correct, I’ll hold the ruler up to the screen and zoom in or out until the size matches up. Sounds silly, but it works!

Print swatches. The color and texture of the fabric can have a noticeable effect on the print. Shiny fabrics like silk reflect light and can make the print seem lighter – thin fabric can be translucent and this will make print look washed out. Most digital printing services offer affordable swatches – even if they only sell by the yard, you can gang up a couple of designs onto a single yard.

Stay original. It may seem like a good idea to use digital printing to make a copy of a popular commercial print that is no longer available, but unlike clothing designs, print designs can be (and usually are) copyrighted by the artist or the manufacturer. It’s best to stick with your own unique designs – if you’re not artistically inclined, you can always hire a designer to make the perfect print for you.