By Olivia Cahoon
Printed textiles are increasingly popular in apparel, home décor, and signage. As digital print technology advances to keep up with demand, so do industrial ink solutions. Industrial inks must withstand production environments and produce consistent color. Inks are offered as acid, disperse, pigment, and reactive. Here, we compare industrial ink manufacturers that create consumables for textile printing.
Industrial ink manufacturers provide inks for different types of print solutions. Transfer printing and direct-to-textile printing offer a range of sizes from 29 to 126 inches wide to handle apparel, décor, displays, and signs.
Industrial ink types include transfer and direct dye-sublimation (dye-sub), reactive dye, acid dye, and textile pigment. While dye-sub ink is mainly used for polyester fabrics with heat transfer, pigment inks work with pre-coated fabrics and heat set. Acid dye is generally for nylon, poly blends, silk, and wool. Reactive dye works with cotton, poly blends, and silk. Both acid dye and reactive dye require steam set, wash, and dry handling.
Tommy Martin, product manager, textile and apparel business development and marketing, Mimaki USA, Inc., says printers compatible with industrial inks are purpose-built to improve the production and quality of textile printing. “If there is a disadvantage, it could be that these models are not built for any other purpose, such as solvent banner printing,” he adds.
In textiles, several key drivers lead to strong growth forecasts. “The design and color flexibility of digital textile printing enables more customization and personalization as well as economic short runs and shorter delivery times with no need to hold large stocks,” shares Tony Cox, business manager, Sun Chemical Corporation.
Pedro J. Martinez, CEO, Afford Inks, believes that in industrial applications, the ink system must be stable enough to run trouble free in 24/7 environments. “This means that ink design stresses much more about consistency,” he continues.
“Textile industrial inks are made to be used in printing machines 24 hours a day, that means thousands of printed meters every day. So the ability to run reliably for a long time is essential,” explains Antonio Tricomi, business development director, EFI Reggiani.
While industrial print encompasses printing manufactured goods, Hamid Shirazi, Ph.D., global technical promotions manager, Fujifilm Imaging Colorants (FFIC), finds digital inks also used by customers pushing industrial ink applications into areas for pure communication purposes—at a much lower frequency relative to industrial applications.
According to Cox, the key areas where digitally printed textiles are popular include apparel and fashion, home furnishings, sportswear, direct to garment, and soft signage such as flags and banners.
For some industrial ink manufacturers, color is the most important quality for signage applications. “In my opinion, color is the king,” says Martinez. He believes the ink system used for industrial applications must be stable enough to run trouble free 24/7. This includes resistance to chemicals and UV.
Afford Inks’ primary goal is to develop an industrial ink that produces a consistent product and is capable of continuous operation with minimum printer maintenance. This is especially true for constant working scenarios.
According to Martinez, industrial inks should provide the best equilibrium of mechanical and chemical properties. “Being a small company, we can customize inks for specific applications.”
Afford Inks is currently developing new pigment water-based inkjet inks for textile applications. According to Martinez, the benefit of water-based pigment ink is that it provides adhesion on almost any textile. However, he says the inks don’t yet offer the best chemical resistance or the strongest color when compared to reactive or sublimation inks.
EFI Reggiani Aqua Premium is a water-based reactive ink compatible with Kyocera printheads. It can be used on most varied substrates of plant and animal origin—cotton, silk, viscose, and wool. According to Tricomi, the ink set’s wider color gamut allows for great results on any substrate.
EFI offers an individual service for customers using Reggiani Aqua Premium ink. It supports the customer with special testing and printing samples—something most users would not be able to handle on their own. The service is used throughout preparation, finishing, and file resolution-—before and after the sale.
FFIC invents, makes, and sells aqueous colorants and inks for digital applications. The manufacturer hosts research and development (R&D) centers in Japan and the U.S. “At FFIC, our product differentiations stem from unique innovation and commercialization strategy,” says Shirazi.
He believes both R&D facilities are equipped and capable of producing innovative technology that defines the next generation of aqueous digital products for textile printing.
FFIC communicates across commercial and R&D boundaries to define short- and long-term development targets to create products. “Be it a neutral shade deep black for fashion and apparel in our digital reactive inks or a high-performance pigment solution for home textile in our digital pigment inks with dry printhead fixation,” says Shirazi.
FFIC industrial inks are available for Fujifilm printheads, Samba and StarFire. They are mainly used in apparel, fashion, and home textile applications. Shirazi says FFIC’s customers are particularly pleased with the Pro-Jet TX130/TX120 black for its deep neutral black. It maintains its shade neutrality over a range of print densities. The set is available in eight colors and was launched at ITMA Milan 2015.
The Pro-Jet TX431/TX421 is a six-color pigment ink set with an extended gamut. It is used with and without pretreatment in the textile market. Shirazi says it’s primarily found in home textile applications but also for adjacent applications for fashion and apparel like printing on natural leather.
According to Shirazi, FFIC differentiates itself from competition by offering high-quality, lot-to-lot reproducibility, and reliability.
Industrial ink manufacturers offer inks to embellish any size and type of textile for markets including soft signage, interior décor, active wear, and fashion apparel.
Direct-to-textile disperse dyes are used with industrial textiles and heavy laundered textiles. Mimaki offers Dd400 disperse dye ink with eight colors, released in June 2017. The ink supports nylon, acrylic, acetate, triacetate, and polyester. Martin says other fabrics are tested to guarantee performance and to determine the post-curing process.
“Dd400 inks are one of the newest direct-to-textile inks available for Mimaki textile solutions with the largest available color selection,” explains Martin. He says the inks produce rich color, a wide gamut, and a high fastness performance.
Direct-to-textile reactive dyes should be used with fabrics that are cellulose-based materials like cotton, hemp, flax, linen, some silks, and bamboo. In April 2017 Mimaki introduced Rc400 reactive dyes. These have less metamerism, improved fastness and color gamut, and better density.
On untreated fabrics, textile pigment inks work best with cotton and natural cellulose-based materials. Martin believes pretreated fabrics work with most types and blends due to the nano binder that improves ink performance.
In April 2017, Mimaki launched the Tp400 textile pigment inks with an expanded color selection, better colorfastness, and fabric diversification capabilities. “Tp400 ink’s overall high performance and less post processing make this ink solution a necessity for most applications,” says Martin.
Roland DGA Corporation
Roland features the Texart SBL3 inks for textiles and sublimated apparel. The inks are formulated to print with Roland’s Texart RT-640 and XT-640 and feature high dye content. “A little bit goes a long way,” admits Lily Hunter, product manager, textiles and consumables, Roland.
Hunter believes Texart SBL3 inks are ideal for a range of sublimated apparel and textiles. “Another advantage is the wide color gamut—they’re offered in CMYK, Lc, Lm, Or, Vi, and new fluorescent.”
Fluorescent inks are available in pink and yellow to broaden gamut results and create hundreds of fluorescent hues while the rich Black Texart SBL3 ink helps improve gray scale and gradations. Light Cyan and Light Magenta are used for subtle flesh tones and Orange and Violet offer vibrant colors.
Roland Texart SBL3 inks were released in July 2015 and the fluorescent inks were released in June 2016. The inks are $99 per liter for standard colors and $119 per liter for fluorescent colors. In addition to high dye content, Hunter says the inks also dry fast and the high dye concentration reduces ink use while retaining vibrancy.
Sensient Imaging Technologies
Sensient provides a vast array or products including water-based sublimation and pigmented inks; water-based acid, reactive, and disperse dyes; water-based industrial inks for nonporous and semi-porous substrates; and water-based edible inks.
According to Adam Stack, product marketing manager, Sensient, the primary benefit the company delivers is proficiency across many digital inkjet printing markets. “With an expertise in water-based, eco-friendly solutions, we bring the ability to work with our partners to develop a solution for virtually any printing need. And it’s our expert technical support that helps bring these solutions to fruition.”
Sun Chemical, a supplier of pigments and colorants, offers SunTex inkjet textile inks for improved ink consumption. They were released in March 2016. Cox says they are specifically formulated to enable reliable, high-speed jetting on longer print runs and deliver improved ink consumption compared to leading competitors.
SunTex Sonata DTE is a transfer dye-sub ink series for Epson DX 4/5 printheads. It is compatible with polyester sport garments with a minimum 80 percent polyester. Other applications include pretreated rigid materials, promotional advertising, and interior décor. Sonata DTE includes CMYK and fluorescent pink and yellow.
SunTex Sonata DDE is a dye-sub ink for direct print to polyester fabrics like flags and banners. For double-sided flags, strong colors and high print through must deliver color reproduction on the fabric’s reverse side. Cox says SunTex Sonata DDE offers excellent wash and bleed fastness, which are critical features for outdoor printed fabric applications.
The ink manufacturer also offers a pigmented ink formulated to deliver improved color vibrancy and maintain wash and wet-rub resistance. “Sun Chemical’s SunTex Encore PDE pigmented ink is the result of many years of R&D,” explains Cox. SunTex Encore PDE prints directly onto natural and synthetic textile fabrics like cotton, viscose, silk, and polycotton. Polycotton is often used for interior decoration and home furnishings.
According to Cox, Sun Chemical understands the complex relationship between pigments, resins, and additives. The manufacturer conducts extensive jetting tests on Sun Chemical inks to ensure maximum print performance with the latest printheads and printing equipment.
Industrial inks provide a consistent solution for continuous operation in 24/7 work environments. Options include direct dye-sub, disperse dye, reactive dye, and textile pigment. Inks should be chosen based on application for the best possible results. A great selection of industrial ink solutions are currently available.
Aug2017, Industrial Print Magazine