Awards & Engraving

January '17

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4 • THE DIGITAL DIRECT REPORT • 2016 BACK TO THE FUTURE Left: White ink is much easier to use now than it once was, making dark gar- ments easier to decorate. (Image courtesy Brother) Above: Strangely-shaped substrates or print areas like shoes often require specialty platens on D2 printers as well. (Image courtesy Lawson) Right: Printing on dark garments has always been a challenge since an underbase white has to be used to make the design on the garment stand out. (Image courtesy Epson) of technical support their clients needed was overwhelming with their existing combination of hardware and ink, and they left the D2 market as a result. THE GREAT WHITE PROBLEM The printer's introduction to the wholesale market came with a few technical difficulties. Rhome explains that since the first D2 printer was a CMYK-only model, adding white ink was an early request. According to Hill, this sparked a race to bring white ink. When the first white ink was introduced, it wasn't without issues. "White ink uses a heavy pigment which causes a fast separation and needs to be agitated back to its normal state," explains Paul Green, OmniPrint. "Once the ink has separated, it dries and clogs up a system quite badly." Early on, the printer had no way to take care of itself without constant maintenance and attention. This caused trouble with print heads and damaged the machine, which in turn prompted the industry to search for ways to overcome issues with white ink. Even as steps were taken to improve the inks, Hill explains that maintenance was still an obstacle. Simplifying it then became an- other goal. "If you forgot to perform daily maintenance, this could lead to severe issues," Hill notes. Since then, there have been develop- ments in ink chemistry and D2 equipment so that most of these maintenance and flushing issues have been improved or resolved. As anyone who works with a D2 printer can attest, white ink is sometimes still a difficult factor and the source of many mainte- nance and repair headaches. However, many developments have been made in the past few years to improve the quality of white ink and prevent it from getting clogged in the printer. Now, stable white ink can remain undisturbed in the printer for an extended period without clogging the print head or the ink delivery system, although regular cleaning and maintenance is smart, even neces- sary. THE FUTURE IS HERE With so many advancements and improvements to the technol- ogy in a relatively short amount of time, we can only expect to see D2 more and more frequently. As such, Rhome predicts that the D2 industry will continue to grow and evolve within the next several years, with more decorators adding D2 printing to their product lineup. Likewise, he anticipates major online retailers will use the printer's on-demand capabilities while end users will be- come more aware of the method and request it more often. Taylor Landesman, Lawson Screen & Digital Products, explains that as technology advances, printers can expect to need fewer costly maintenance procedures. Instead, he says that more eco- nomical and faster routines are being implemented that can re- place these older maintenance methods. Ink will also continue to improve with time.

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