Sign & Digital Graphics

February '19

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64 • February 2019 • S I G N & D I G I T A L G R A P H I C S SPECIALTY IMAGING DIGITAL GRAPHICS for their direct-to-textile printers. The machines are small enough to fit in a small sign shop. "Being able to do it yourself is going to cut costs and control what goes into these pre- treatments," says Lopez. "Every ink company manufactures ink dif- ferently. Pretreatment is not one solution for all." He adds that "you get better clarity with paper transfer and better penetra- tion with direct-to-fabric." Randy Anderson, product marketing manager for textiles at Mutoh America, says "Paper is universal. You can use paper across the board, not only for fabrics but garments and hard surface devices as well. It is extremely univer- sal across the board. Direct-to-textile is much more limited. To print on stretch materials you need a sticky belt to hold the material flat and rigid so you can print on it. That means the material must be coated to be receptive. When you print on fabric, the liquid will wick along the fibers. If you use a pretreat- ment, it helps control the dots." This ottoman has a dye-sublimated pat- tern that was printed on the Mimaki TS300P-1800. (Images courtesy of Mimaki) The home décor market is driving direct-print, Anderson says, but more than 90% is still paper transfer. Direct- to-textile is where dye sublimation was 10 years ago, he says. "Everything was still up in the air. The inks were chang- ing, the paper was changing. Now there are hundreds of thousands of polyester fabrics and dozens of highly rated inks and papers as well. The dye-sub market is stable and all of its applications are open for just about anybody who can purchase a machine." The quilting market is driving a lot of business to direct-to-textile. Anderson says that one of Mutoh America's clients, Spoonflower, an online custom printed fabric company, allows people to submit a design and get as much or as little fabric as they want, down to a quarter of a yard. "So a lot of people will start and buy fabric there to start a business. Once their quantities get to a point where it makes sense to bring that in house, they will buy equipment and start producing their own fabrics," Anderson says. "They had 28 of our printers there. They've since gone to larger and faster printers because volumes increased so much. They still have a half dozen of our printers there for specialty items." Direct-to-fabric is used heavily in P.O.P. signage, trade show graphics, museum fine art prints, banners, flags, fabrics for custom clothing and interior design.

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