Inside the two previous installments of the “Fabric Expert” series, we checked out the printing process, with an emphasis on dye-sublimation. In fabric printing, however, the uv printer is just half of the imaging equation. According to the ink you’re using, additionally, you will need some kind of post-printing equipment to match 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 will have a heat press.” Next Wave offers each of the components of a whole digital textile printing workflow, including software, printer, ink, paper, fabrics, heat presses, and finishing equipment. They distribute transfer-based dye-sublimation printers, and tend to be a distributor of EFI Reggiani fabric printing equipment.
Before we take a look at heat presses, let’s backup a 2nd and talk for a moment about transfer paper, an often overlooked but vitally important element of the dye-sublimation process.
Dye-sublimation transfer paper posesses a special coating that supports the ink laid down during printing. Throughout the transfer stage, under being exposed to heat and pressure, the paper releases that ink into the fabric. Dye-sublimation can be utilized on substrates other than textiles, so you should choose your transfer paper accordingly.
“You should be alert to the kind of paper you’re using,” says Rob Repasi, VP of Global Sales for Beaver Paper & Graphic Media. “There are papers which can be more inviting for textiles rather than hard surfaces for example ceramics, coffee mugs, or metal.”
There are actually premium multipurpose papers-like Beaver Paper TexPrintXPHR-that are works with both hard and soft substrates, which can be convenient if you’re offering a number of dye-sub-printed products.
The grade of the paper will largely determine how much of ink gets released, but ink dye load is a vital consideration. “Dye load” identifies simply how much colorant (dye) the ink contains in accordance with the liquid vehicle. The higher the dye load, the less ink you should set down to obtain a given level of color. Different transfer papers are thus formulated to get compatible with the dye load from the ink, which is generally a purpose of the make and model in the printer you might be using-or, which is, the t-shirt printer manufacturer’s ink set.
Ideally, a transfer paper will release 90 percent of your ink “stored” inside. There is absolutely no quantitative method to measure this, but if you locate you’re not getting the maximum amount of ink out when you think you need to be, you may want to switch papers or adjust your color profiles. Alternatively, you could be releasing an excessive amount of ink onto the fabric, which means that you could be putting a lot of ink to the paper to start with.
“There is really a misconception of methods much ink is actually needed,” says Repasi. “More ink doesn’t necessarily mean more color. You’ll get a lousy image by using more ink compared to paper are equipped for.” It’s all an issue of balance. “The right amount of ink with 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 have found that printed transfer paper may last for years. “We’ve transferred literally a couple of years later and it’s remarkably near the original prints,” says Repasi. It can of course depend upon the conditions under that your paper is stored. Still, in today’s fast-turnaround field of digital printing, you’ll probably never must store transfer paper for even a couple of hours, but if you want to, it is possible to.
First a terminological note. We regularly start to see the term calender – to not be confused spelling-wise with calendar (despite Autocorrect’s best efforts) – used along with dye-sublimation printing. What’s the visible difference between a calender and a heat press?
“A calender press is actually a rotating heated drum suitable for feeding continuous materials for sublimating items like 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 capable of pressing rigid materials, nor will it be right for doing smaller piece goods.” A calender, then, is a roll-to-roll heat press.
Within a calender, heat is made in a central drum against that your fabric and paper are pressed. The highest-quality calenders use a central drum full of oil that is heated to the desired temperature necessary for sublimation, typically in the neighborhood of 400°F. The transfer paper/fabric sandwich is rolled around this drum with a set rate that is certainly, again, optimal for sublimation. A top-notch-notch oil-filled calender will run you about $30,000 to $60,000, but can last for more than twenty five years.
There are additional types of cheaper calenders that utilize electric heating elements as opposed to oil, but a frequent trouble with them is inconsistent heat round the circumference or all over the width from the drum. This can cause imaging problems or discoloration during sublimation which, after all, can be a careful balance of energy, temperature, and pressure. “If any among those three changes, you simply will not use a consistent result,” said Arkin. “Color is not going to appear the way it should certainly. When you have inconsistent heat on the press, the sublimation process will not be consistent all over the entire component of fabric.”
Calenders have different width drums, which change the press’s throughput. The larger the diameter of your drum, the greater number of fabric might be wrapped around it, and consequently the faster the procedure will likely be.
Calenders transfer the material and transfer paper with a belt often manufactured from Nomex. “The belt is a critical part of the nice tight sandwich you require round the circumference from the drum,” says Arkin. “Cheaper machines have very thin belts, while good machines have belts which can be one-half to inch to three-quarters of an inch thick. Whether it doesn’t stay nice flat, sublimation gases can escape.” A very high-quality belt can last as much as five or six years. You can find beltless calenders that are suitable for 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 actually a flatbed heat press. Flatbeds can be found in several varieties:
A clamshell opens and closes like its namesake, squeezing the paper and fabric together.
Over a swing-away press, the top platen, which supports the heating element, slides away on the left or right, which makes it more suitable than a clamshell for thicker substrates.
A drawer press has a front-loading lower platen that, as soon as the fabric and paper are loaded, slides in place and the heating element is brought down on top of it. There are also specialty heat presses that will accommodate things such as mugs, plates, caps, along with other three-dimensional objects.
Typically, an automated timer can pop the press open after having a desired transfer time for you to prevent overheating, especially if an operator is attending to multiple presses.
There are actually newer “all over sublimation” flatbed heat presses with heating elements on the best and bottom that essentially “duplex” dye-sub transfer, which is wonderful for applying continuous graphics to both sides of, say, a T-shirt.
With regards to deciding on a flatbed press, says Knight, “the product an individual is printing, and the volume they can be doing, will dictate which of these choices is suitable. Also, how big the piece they are printing will direct them towards several narrowed-down alternatives for heat presses.”
If you use a flatbed heat press, you might need to use “tack” transfer paper, that has an adhesive applied that, when activated by heat, keeps the paper in contact with the material so there is absolutely no shifting in the sublimation process, which can cause blurring or ghosting. Tack paper isn’t usually required when you are employing a roll-to-roll heat press, except if you’re sublimating onto an extremely elastic fabric which may stretch as it moves from the calender, producing a distorted image whenever it relaxes after cooling.
If you are sublimating to highly stretchy fabric, you may need to compensate for stretch just before printing. “You establish what the shrink or stretch is made for a particular material, so you build those distortions to your files whenever you print them,” says Arkin. “Every time you handle that specific fabric type, you print it the very same way so you receive a consistent result.” It’s kind of like color profiling, in a way.
Even when you are doing direct-to-fabric as opposed to transfer-based dye-sublimation, you will still need to run the printed fabric by way of a calender to fix the ink onto the fibers from the polyester, and the same quality and consistency concerns apply.
Even though you’re printing with other sorts of dye or pigment inks – not sublimation -you continue to need some form of pre- or post-treatment of the material. Reactive and acid dye inks require steaming after printing, then washing to eliminate excess ink. This is one explanation why dye-sublimation is really attractive for fabric printing; these dexjpky05 ink types can require lots of water.
No matter the specific configuration of warmth press, you don’t wish to skimp on quality. “Look for same-day support and longevity; inside a word, quality,” says Knight. “In the gear world, particularly with heat presses that reach high temperatures and pressures, you want one that lasts decades, not simply months or many years. A A4 UV Printer provides you with quality results and builds your small business – a bad press puts you out of economic.”
“The right heat press is exactly what separates you against having the capacity to produce an okay graphic vs. a fantastic graphic,” says Arkin.
Next month, within the fourth installment with this series, we will look at the finishing process: sewing, welding, along with a fast-growing type of fabric finishing, specifically signage, silicone-edge graphics.