By Melissa Donovan
Single-pass printing is revolutionizing the decorative process of everything from corrugated boards to wood. Textiles are not adverse to these developments. Over the last decade multiple technology companies have introduced single-pass digital textile printing devices to the market.
Especially as digital technology finds its place amid analog screen presses, single-pass options are attractive for textile manufacturers looking to print larger runs while reaping the rewards of digital—fast production speed, low makeready, variability, and high quality.
Above: Ladies of the EFI Reggiani booth at ITMA 2019 in Barcelona, Spain wear clothing made up of textiles printed from the EFI BOLT single-pass digital printer.
Single vs. Multi
Single-pass textile printers are ideal for textile manufacturers printing in large runs. Multi-pass textile printers are also available, but the sheer speed offered by single-pass digital textile devices is a deal breaker for many interested buyers. Understanding the difference between the two print modes helps clarify why single-pass printers are so fast.
Jos Notermans, marketing manager, SPGPrints, explains in his blog post from December 2018 titled How to Choose Between a Single-Pass and Multi-Pass Digital Textile Printing Machine that the difference between multi-pass and single-pass digital fabric printers is the way the ink is distributed onto the fabric. “In a multi-pass printer, the printheads are mounted to a carriage that moves from left to right and right to left over the width of the fabric. After moving along the whole substrate width from left to right, the fabric is moved forward with half the carriage depth or a quarter of that. Another horizontal bar is printed, but right to left.”
Single-pass printing eliminates the moving carriage. “The printheads are mounted over the full width of the fabric on a fixed print bar—one for each color. The fabric moves under the bars at a constant speed, so the image is built up in one stroke of one vertical image bar over the full width,” explains Notermans in How to Choose Between a Single-Pass and Multi-Pass Digital Textile Printing Machine.
When asked why single-pass devices are a fit for high-production textile manufacturing environments—compared to multi-pass digital textile printers, Micol Gamba, textile product manager, EFI Reggiani, believes “single-pass can greatly expand the scope of what textile companies can profitably produce digitally in larger quantities. It will be one of the technologies revolutionizing the textile market.”
“The advantage of single-pass printing compared to multi-pass printing for textiles is the production speed,” agrees Roland Zimmer, VP sales North America, Zimmer Austria Inc.
Change the Game
Digital printing changes how products are decorated in many markets from promotional to home décor, architectural and awards. Fabric is no different. Traditionally an analog process involving screens, textile production has always leaned toward screen printing due to its ability to handle large quantities of fabric in short turnaround times. With the move of many to printing overseas, that turnaround time increases significantly.
Single-pass textile printing offers a bright alternative to this, but this wasn’t always the case. “Although offering a short time to market and higher design quality, digital textile printing machines could not provide large quantities of printed fabric with the certain delivery time screen printers can achieve. This has changed now that single-pass digital textile printing made its entrance in the textile machinery industry. Since then, single-pass digital textile printing has opened up new business opportunities for textile printers,” shares Notermans in a May 2018 blog post, How Single-Pass Printing Can Change the Textile Print Industry.
“Single pass brings the benefits of digital, such as quick change to new designs without having the time and expense of new screens or a makeready for each design, and reduces time to shelf and turnaround time,” agrees Gamba.
In How Single-Pass Printing Can Change the Textile Print Industry, Notermans states that “the single-pass textile printing machine is the first digital printer matching the speed of conventional printing techniques—like rotary screen printing at 40 meters per minute. Taking into account that the digital printer has no downtime to change screens or printing pastes, the effective production capacity can exceed the rotary capacity per year.”
Single-Pass Textile Printers
The EFI Reggiani BOLT offers direct-to-textile printing at speeds up to 90 meters per minute, and combines productivity, reliability, and printing quality. The new, 1.8-meter wide printer offers an innovative low-maintenance, fast-startup recirculation printhead. The Reggiani BOLT uses water-based inks specially developed for BOLT printheads that ensure excellent runnability and a broad color gamut with consistent, high-quality production.
KERAjet launched its KERAtex SP at ITMA in Barcelona, Spain in 2019. The open ink system features proprietary electronics. Customers choose between three printing widths—180, 240, or 340 centimeters. Equipped with one to 12 colors, the printer is rated at an output speed of 90 meters per minute.
Konica Minolta Inc. launched the NASSENGER SP-1 in the early 2000s, making it one of the first printers of its kind. Using drop on demand piezoelectric inkjet technology with Konica Minolta printheads, it uses either reactive or pigment dye ink. The NASSENGER SP-1 runs at the ultra-high speed of 6,400 meters squared per hour at 720×360 dpi.
MS Printing Solutions brought the LaRio single-pass digital textile printer to market in 2012. It offers a speed of 75 linear meters per minute at 600×600 dpi. Features that make it unique to the company include an open ink system, open software system, embedded remote diagnostic, and embedded web server for cost reporting.
SPGPrints designed the PIKE single-pass inkjet printer with six to nine printing stations that each contain 43 printheads. Equipped with proprietary Archer technology from SPGPrints, the printheads rise above the surface of the fabric at a level ranging from three to six millimeters. PIKE offers a printing speed of three to 40 meters per minute. It runs reactive inks in CMYK, orange, blue, red, gray, and penetration fluid.
Zimmer offers the COLARIS.NF single-pass textile printer for narrow fabrics. It is capable of printing on both sides of the fabric in one single pass using either acid, disperse, sublimation, pigment, or reactive inks—depending on the textile. Processing speed is up to 50 meters per minute at a maximum printing resolution of 1,200 dpi. The printer is equipped with Dimatix StarFire SG 1024 printheads.
Adalberto Estampados is a Portuguese textile manufacturer in business since 1969 with a focus on both fashion and home textiles. It turned to digital textile printing to keep up with customer demands such as fast fashion trends, more challenging designs, new quality standards, and production efficiency. The answer was in the acquisition of SPGPrints’ single-pass digital textile printer, the PIKE. Today the device works alongside the company’s four screen printers.
Prior to implementing the PIKE, Adalberto Estampados wrestled with challenges like fast fashion trends—producing small quantities and placing them in stores as quickly as possible. It increasingly declined run lengths because of the frequent design changes of its customers. Textiles were shipped in and printed by screen printing. The preparation time slowed down job changeovers and prevented flexibility in designs.
“Two major trends affect us—the growth of fast fashion and more challenging designs. SPGPrints’ PIKE printer addresses both of these challenges and offers scope for future developments,” explains Mario Jorge, CEO, Adalberto Estampados.
Adding the PIKE to the existing operation solved many of the challenges Adalberto Estampados faced. It now produces volumes over more than two million linear meters per year on substrates up to 1,850 millimeters wide—fast printing at unique quality—meeting fast fashion demands.
The Forefront of Innovation
We are at the start of an exciting change in the textile industry. Single-pass digital textile printers are poised to truly effect the way textile decoration occurs.
Oct2019, Industrial Print Magazine