In the two previous installments of the “Fabric Expert” series, we investigated the printing process, with a focus on dye-sublimation. In fabric printing, however, the phone case printer is merely one half of the imaging equation. According to the ink you’re using, you will additionally need some form of post-printing equipment to complement or complete the printing process.
For dye-sublimation, says Andy Arkin, director of integration for Next Wave Sublimation Solutions, “a printer does you no good unless you have a heat press.” Next Wave offers all of the components of a complete digital textile printing workflow, including software, printer, ink, paper, fabrics, heat presses, and finishing equipment. They distribute transfer-based dye-sublimation printers, and are also a distributor of EFI Reggiani fabric printing equipment.
Before we examine heat presses, let’s back another and talk for a second about transfer paper, an often overlooked but truly essential aspect of the dye-sublimation process.
Dye-sublimation transfer paper includes a special coating that supports the ink laid down during printing. In the transfer stage, under being exposed to heat and pressure, the paper releases that ink on the fabric. Dye-sublimation works extremely well on substrates apart from textiles, so you have to choose your transfer paper accordingly.
“You should be mindful of the kind of paper you’re using,” says Rob Repasi, VP of Global Sales for Beaver Paper & Graphic Media. “There are papers that happen to be more inviting for textiles as opposed to hard surfaces like ceramics, coffee mugs, or metal.”
You can find premium multipurpose papers-like Beaver Paper TexPrintXPHR-that happen to be compatible with both hard and soft substrates, which happens to be convenient if you’re offering a variety of dye-sub-printed products.
The quality of the paper will largely determine how much of ink gets released, but ink dye load is really a consideration. “Dye load” refers to just how much colorant (dye) the ink contains in accordance with the liquid vehicle. The higher the dye load, the less ink you must set down to acquire a given amount of color. Different transfer papers are thus formulated being suitable for the dye load in the ink, which is generally a function of the model and make of the printer you might be using-or, that is certainly, the dtg printer manufacturer’s ink set.
Ideally, a transfer paper will release 90 % in the ink “stored” inside it. There is absolutely no quantitative strategy to measure this, but if you locate you’re not getting all the ink out as you may think you have to be, you may want to switch papers or adjust your color profiles. Alternatively, you may well be releasing too much ink into the fabric, which means that you could be putting a lot of ink to the paper to start with.
“There is a misconception of methods much ink is very needed,” says Repasi. “More ink doesn’t necessarily mean more color. You’ll end up with a bad image by utilizing more ink compared to paper can handle.” It’s all a question of balance. “The right amount of ink with all the right color management with all the right paper will generate the very best output of color.”
Printed transfer paper doesn’t have to be sublimated immediately. Beaver Paper’s own internal experiments are finding that printed transfer paper may last for years. “We’ve transferred literally a year or two later and it’s remarkably near the original prints,” says Repasi. It is going to of course rely on the conditions under that the paper is stored. Still, in today’s fast-turnaround realm of digital printing, you’ll probably never have to store transfer paper even for several hours, but if you have to, you may.
First a terminological note. We often start to see the term calender – to never be confused spelling-wise with calendar (despite Autocorrect’s best efforts) – used in conjunction with dye-sublimation printing. What’s the visible difference between a calender as well as a heat press?
“A calender press is actually a rotating heated drum suitable for feeding continuous materials for sublimating such things as banners or another long stretches or bulk fabric,” says Aaron Knight, VP of Geo Knight and Co., a manufacturer of numerous types of flatbed and specialty heat presses. “It’s not competent at pressing rigid materials, nor could it be right for doing smaller piece goods.” A calender, then, is actually a roll-to-roll heat press.
Within a calender, heat is manufactured in a central drum against that the fabric and paper are pressed. The very best-quality calenders have got a central drum filled with oil that is heated towards the desired temperature needed for sublimation, typically within the neighborhood of 400°F. The transfer paper/fabric sandwich is rolled around this drum with a set rate that is, again, optimal for sublimation. A top-notch oil-filled calender will run you about $30,000 to $60,000, but will last for more than twenty five years.
There are other sorts of cheaper calenders that utilize electric heating elements instead of oil, but a typical downside to them is inconsistent heat around the circumference or across the width in the drum. This can cause imaging problems or discoloration during sublimation which, all things considered, can be a careful balance of your energy, temperature, and pressure. “If any one of those three changes, you simply will not possess a consistent result,” said Arkin. “Color will never emerge the way it should certainly. For those who have inconsistent heat in the press, the sublimation process will not be consistent all over the entire piece of fabric.”
Calenders have different width drums, which impact the press’s throughput. The larger the diameter in the drum, the greater fabric may be wrapped around it, and so the faster the procedure is going to be.
Calenders transfer the material and transfer paper over a belt often manufactured from Nomex. “The belt is really a critical section of the nice tight sandwich you want throughout the circumference of the drum,” says Arkin. “Cheaper machines have very thin belts, while good machines have belts which are one-half to inch to 3-quarters of any inch thick. If this doesn’t stay nice and flat, sublimation gases can escape.” A high-quality belt can last around five or six years. You will find beltless calenders that are compatible with direct-to-fabric dye-sublimation, in which you don’t have to bother about transfer paper.
If you’re not sublimating rolls of fabric but rather cut pieces, the alternative to a calender is a flatbed heat press. Flatbeds are also available in several varieties:
A clamshell opens and closes like its namesake, squeezing the paper and fabric together.
On the swing-away press, the top platen, which supports the heating element, slides away to the left or right, which makes it more desirable when compared to a clamshell for thicker substrates.
A drawer press carries a front-loading lower platen that, as soon as the fabric and paper are loaded, slides back in place as well as the heating element is brought down in addition to it. There are specialty heat presses that can accommodate stuff like mugs, plates, caps, as well as other three-dimensional objects.
In many instances, a computerized timer can pop the press open right after a desired transfer time for you to prevent overheating, especially if an operator is attending to multiple presses.
There are newer “all over sublimation” flatbed heat presses with heating elements on both the very best and bottom that essentially “duplex” dye-sub transfer, which is useful for applying continuous graphics to each side of, say, a T-shirt.
With regards to choosing a flatbed press, says Knight, “the product the consumer is printing, and also the volume these are doing, will dictate which of the choices is appropriate. Also, how big the item these are printing will direct them towards a number of narrowed-down selections for heat presses.”
If you work with a flatbed heat press, you may want to use “tack” transfer paper, which includes an adhesive applied that, when activated by heat, keeps the paper in touch with the material so there is absolutely no shifting in the sublimation process, which may cause blurring or ghosting. Tack paper isn’t usually required while you are by using a roll-to-roll heat press, except if you’re sublimating onto a really elastic fabric that may stretch because it moves with the calender, creating a distorted image if it relaxes after cooling.
When you are sublimating to highly stretchy fabric, you may want to compensate for stretch even before printing. “You establish what the shrink or stretch is made for a particular material, so you build those distortions to your files if you print them,” says Arkin. “Every time you handle that specific fabric type, you print it exactly the same way so you have a consistent result.” It’s a lot like color profiling, in a way.
Even if you are doing direct-to-fabric instead of transfer-based dye-sublimation, you continue to should run the printed fabric through a calender to correct the ink into the fibers in the polyester, and also the same quality and consistency concerns apply.
Regardless of whether you’re printing with other kinds of dye or pigment inks – not sublimation -you still need some kind of pre- or post-treatment of the material. Reactive and acid dye inks require steaming after printing, then washing to remove excess ink. This is one explanation why dye-sublimation is really attractive for fabric printing; these dexjpky05 ink types can require lots of water.
Whatever the specific configuration of heat press, you don’t wish to skimp on quality. “Look for same-day support and longevity; in the word, quality,” says Knight. “In the gear world, especially with heat presses that reach high temperatures and pressures, you want the one that lasts decades, not merely months or quite a while. A uv flatbed printer will give you quality results and builds your organization – a negative press puts you out of economic.”
“The right heat press is the thing that separates you having the ability to produce an okay graphic vs. an incredible graphic,” says Arkin.
Next month, inside the fourth installment of this series, we are going to consider the finishing process: sewing, welding, along with a fast-growing kind of fabric finishing, especially for signage, silicone-edge graphics.