What is digital printing?

Digital printing today comes in many forms and has evolved over the years to what it is today. The earliest forms of digital printing can be traced back to the early 1900’s. Today digital printing and its technologies are used widely for digital fabric printing and that is seen as a growing trend. From entry-level systems to large-scale mass production systems the evolution has been extraordinary.

It is over the last 10-years that a marked advance in the use of digitally printed fabrics. In its simplest form images can be taken in digital format from a home pc and translated into a format capable of then being printed using small or large scale printing technologies. This means practically everything from personal imagery to large scale advertising campaigns are now possible.

All of this has been made possible by advances in printing machines, the rip’s and inks and the final part the ever-increasing range of media.  In terms of media the choice is almost limitless with everything from paper to card, PVC to glass, plastics to vinyl and now ever popular polyester fabrics. Polyester fabrics lend themselves to digital fabric printingand their technologies by virtue of advances in pre-treatments for machines that print direct-to-textile.

The options for different methods of printing on fabrics has seen dye-sublimation, UV and more recently Latex printing technology come to the fore with rich, bright, vibrant colours being achieved using all of these methods.

Dye-sublimation printing onto polyester fabric is ever increasing. There is a very lucrative market for highly personalised printed products. This can take the form of bespoke one offs to produce truly unique items by virtue of the image to be printed onto the fabric of choice. This means everything from cushions to luggage goods, deckchairs to wall art, acoustic wall panels to loudspeaker grills can now all be customer printed to Customers precise requirements.

At the other end of the scale though looking at dye-sublimation printing on a mass scale this has been made possible thanks to digital fabric printing and its associated technologies. On every high street these days’ examples can be seen in shop windows to café barriers. Other examples include in-store banners to theatrical backdrops, grand scale light boxes to flags, tablecloths to railing hoardings. This just gives a glimpse of the opportunities possible.

As emerging technologies such as the HP Designjet L25500 using latex inks advance, so further opportunities become possible. In addition to this there is also the possibility to digitally print an increasing range of polyester fabrics using UV print machines even. This means that a greater choice of the method of print.

Digital printing is no doubt here to stay. There will be a point where the markets full potential is met but until then further and considerable growth can be expected. This means that the opportunities to use digitally printed media of all descriptions will grow proportionally. Additionally with environmental conscience growing in all sectors this will also feature in print choices in the future.

All the signs are that the future for digital fabric printing is looking strong. No doubt this will continue to grow as the boundaries and limitations are stretched and challenged to meet their full potential.

Article by Chris Drury

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