Describe Textile Printing Substrates and Inks here.
Textile Printing Substrates and Inks
When one thinks of printing on textiles, the first thought that may come to mind is textiles found in a fabric store. While this is true, there are many different types of textile substrates used for printing that go further than just a yard of fabric. Fabric Graphic Association, founded to encourage education within the graphic industry, provides a guide on different types of substrates approved for inkjet printing. For such textile printing as banners, there are many different options for the print consumer. Textiles can be acrylic coated; this contains synthetic fiber or modarcylic, which is made from modified acrylonitiriles and are flame retardant (http://www.fabricgraphicsassociation.com/ 6). Other textiles include vinyl, films, polyester and canvas; this means that when thinking about textile printing it is fair to also consider the printing of wallpaper, building wraps and laminates.
The key component of any process within printing is the inks, and this is also true of textile printing. Many of the inks used today are similar to those that date back thousands of years. Inks in the earlier century where actually dyes; these dyes would be made of plant fibers and then cooked in vats over a fire. The raw fibers of the cloth were then dipped and dyed in their respective processes. This type of process is still used today in textile printing and many of the clothes made for mass production still use this type of process.
The inks used to print textile patterns on inkjet printers are actually no different chemically than those of inks found within desktop printers, and are conventional water based inks. Instead of just printing the fabric with these inks and then releasing them into the market, a clear coating of UV cured substance is layered on top of the printed fabric to make it water proof and durable. It is this sealing process that makes the flatbed inkjet printer so unique. UV inks require no solvent and cure almost 100% thus making them extremely environmentally friendly (Williams Interview, http://cias.rit.edu/).
All durability of the inks used to produce textiles are related to the strength of the dyes that are found within it. Inks for textile are extremely dependent on their substrate; such textiles as polyester, acrylic or polyester blends contain polymer fibers and thus oils. These types of textiles chemically blend more easily with the oil within the inks and do not require any type of cure to lock in the solvent-based ink. Instead, these textile fibers and the ink are locked into each other making some sort of polymer based textile necessary for inkjet printing (Williams Interview). Fabrics such as cotton will need a curing substance to lock the ink and dyes into place. No matter if you use cotton or a polymer based textile, the dyes within the fabric are never truly inactive, and this is why after washing a shirt many times the color begins to fade.
Another method of ink transfer can be found in dye sublimation. This method also requires a polymer-based textile in order for it properly work. Within dye sublimation the ink is transferred onto a receiver surface and then heat transferred to the textile. With this process the inkjet printer must etch out the design of the textile. Such a method requires standard water based inks and that the design be reversed or wrong reading when created (Williams Interview).
Mass Production and Inks
The inks and processes needed to produce inkjet textile printing are mostly the Strike Off Market and are used for customization of designs. Such processes are ordered custom in bolts and then used for the runway. So where does that leave the average person? Due to its faster process all mass-market textiles are actually produced using gravure printing. This process requires thin water based inks and is a transfer process. However, as inkjet technology and inks advance more mass-market production will happen (Williams Interview).