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Digital Printing

Development in digital printing technology

today to a large extent is directed towards enhancing productivity

through ‘speed’ as the mantra for survival.

However, speed is not necessarily the best way forward,

more so if it is at the expense of quality and running cost.

The critical question is do we have the right components

like heads and ink to support speed?

Team SW takes a closer look at the challenges ahead…

High Speed Digital Printing : Sacrificing Quality Printing for Speed

There have been many attempts by leading manufacturers of digital printing machines to induce speed. In fact, some manufacturers claim productivity of as much as 1000 sq. metres per hour, but at a much lower resolution… Does it justify such investment? Some major technical issues do occur while running a digital printer at that amount of speed, which includes force and equilateral drop size of the ink. In a machine with 36/90 heads, there is a lot of wind generated with the force of so many heads when moving together and combined with the equilateral drop size and speed, the machine is bound to miss one of the dots and in this case if all the dots do not register, the print will lack its sharpness. Imagine 90 heads lined up together and with thousands of nozzles firing at that speed at the same spot, if the lines waver a bit, go a little left or right, it will produce a blurred image. Hence to give such machines a sharp design to print, their speed will have to be drastically dropped to maintain sharpness.

Though the concept of speed is good, a lot of work still needs to be done to make it workable before it is brought on to the shop floor. Putting bigger and more heads to increase speed is not the solution. From a practical angle it should have been the head manufacturers making faster heads rather than the machine manufacturers making faster machines. Also for fashion we need sharper heads, but in reality few companies have that type of head.

Another important element that should technically support faster machines is ink, most important is consistency and run-ability of an ink. Many inks clog at a speed of 100 metre per hour. It is important for users to first test the ink for at least 5 days before buying the brand as each ink has its own applicability and it is important that it matches to the requirement of the machine to give clean sharp images.

Besides the print head and ink, the RIP (Raster Image Processor) is the most important and also the most error prone software solution in the printing process. The RIP facilitates speed and transmits reliable information for creation and management of priority orders. But does it do this efficiently and seamlessly… Does it match colour easily and accurately, allow creation, view, edit, and with multiple colour ways do these features that synchronize with the machine speed… these are critical posers that need to be addressed.

The real challenge is to provide cost-effective machines not high-speed machines. And that is why replacement of rotary printing, which has a linear speed of 20 metres/minute, is impossible in India because it is just too cost-effective. Clearly, India needs machines which will give value for money, delivering cost-effective products with good maintenance, though high-end, high-speed machines are still a long way off for Indian users in the textile industry.


Stork Prints Digital Printing Systems prove especially popular at ITMA

While many of the digital printers at ITMA focussed on introducing high-speed machines, for SPG Prints the attention was on cost-effectiveness. “More than any other factor, printer efficiency and cost per sq. metre is a major concern, which is decided by the ink consumption of the printer. More than half of the cost per sq. metre is composed of the ink consumption,” says Herman van Haare, Sales Manager – Digital Textiles, Stork Prints B.V. That is not to say that developments for speed are overlooked by the company; in fact the new Sphene 24 digital printer, which was demonstrating its ability to print on Polyamide Lycra swimwear fabric using acid inks, can realize print speeds up to an amazing 555 m²/hour.

The feeding system in the versatile printer allows virtually any fabric imaginable to be printed, at widths of up to 1.85 metres. Equipped with Kyocera KJ4B print heads for aqueous inks, the Sphene comes in 6 variants with varying speeds ranging from 255 to 525 sq. metres per hour and print-heads ranging from 6 to 8 per row. It can work with reactive, acid and disperse inks.

Representatives from major printing facilities around the globe – with many proud and satisfied owners of Stork Prints’ equipment and users of Stork Prints’ consumables – showed considerable interest in this digital workhorse. Several deals were concluded during the show, in most cases involving more than one machine. “The response for digital printers confirms that the era of digital textile production has definitely started,” said Jos Notermans, Stork Prints’ Business Unit Manager for Digital Textiles. “The success of our Sphene once again emphasises our leading position in this market, as does the recently announced agreement with Italy’s MS that our inks will be used in their MS Lario. The future of digital textile printing is very bright for all Stork Prints customers,” he added.

Laying stress on ink consumption Jos said, “Firstly, the ink consumption depends on the fabrics and print design, secondly if the design is printed in full coverage or in a certain percentage. In case of our products, extensive testing was done with 50,000 metres of fabric and we came to the figure of 8 ml per sq. metre, which is very cost-effective.” Adds Tajpreet Singh Dua, All India Manager, SPG Prints, “The new machine is very cost-effective at about Rs. 50/sq. metres approximately.”

 “Black is a very important colour in fashion and we manufacture a special black ink called D black, it is a very strong ink and manages the issue of printing black efficiently. Our competitor manufactures machines which use black on two positions, rather they should try to keep black in one position only, to be more cost-effective with reduced ink consumption,” explains Herman.

Mimaki at ITMA with speed and quality

Mimaki, the leading manufacturer of wide-format inkjet printers and cutting machines for the sign/graphics, industrial and textile/apparel market, showcased its latest innovations for the same at the ITMA show. The Japanese innovator, established in 1975, presented the new Tx400-1800D textile inkjet printer along with TP250 textile pigment ink and Tx Link Pro textile RIP (Raster Image Processor) software, to create a more streamlined textile printing system. “While the latter two products would be made available around November of this year, the printer is expected to come around April next year and has just gone in production”, says Vinod Krishnamurthy Iyer, Managing Director, Mimaki Kanphor India Pvt. Ltd.

The Tx400-1800D is a highly productive direct-to-textile printer. With the ability to work with sublimation and reactive dye inks, this textile printer is capable of printing on silk, cotton, polyester, and other fabrics. It is also suitable for the soft signage market, as well as for fashion and furnishings. The printer can print in colour modes of 4/6/8 colours at the speed of 99.1 sq. metres per hour. “We have done a lot of R&D on the Piezo print-heads of the Tx400 for a period of two years as when everyone is going for speed at Mimaki we aim at offering our customers high quality and cost-effectiveness, we would be able to do the same with this printer,” explains Vinod. The printer is equipped with Mimaki’s UISS (Uninterrupted Ink Supply System), which automatically switch with another container of the same colour whenever an ink container goes vacant. In addition, operators can exchange the ink containers even when the printer is at work. Therefore, UISS enables long continuous print runs.

Mimaki with a total of 400+ printers in India has been expanding consistently; it has recently opened offices in Kolkata, Bangalore and Surat. They have also hired a team of 20 people specifically for the task of providing technical support to their ever-growing customer base in India. “We invite our customers to visit our offices and inspect for themselves the inks and the printers before they buy. Our offices also have a stenter, we have tied-up with Texfab, we are getting a porta-pad, an iFix, a drum drier and we have tied-up with Setema. This kind of complete solution provider ability not everyone possesses,” concludes Vinod.

ICHINOSE: Textile Printing Solutions for today and beyond

With a long history of serving the textile industry, Japanese manufacturer of dyeing, finishing and other textile machinery, Shin Dong Industrial Co. Ltd., established in 1937, displayed its latest innovations in textiles printers, which included the Ichinose 2030 and 2030pro high speed digital printers along with Image proofer-2 inkjet printer and the 3320EX textile printing system.

Promoting speed in digital printing technology, the 2030 and the 2030pro high speed ink jet printers’ print at the speed of 160 m²/hr at 360 dpi resolution; the former has 16 heads and the latter 24 heads from Seiko. The 2030pro being an advanced version of the 2030 has the ability of recycling ink from the cleaning cycles, which significantly reduces the ink consumption. The dimensions of both are same and have Piezo electric heads that are effective with acid dyes, reactive dyes, disperse dyes and pigment inks. “Speed is becoming critical to the fashion industry and our endeavour is to give better speed machines with quality design reproduction,” says       T. Nakayama, Director Sales, Toshin Kogyo Co. Ltd.

The 3320EX textile printing system with 16 print heads prints at the speed of 80 m²/hr at 360 dpi and at 40 m²/hr at 720 dpi on 1 and 2 pass. The printer has FCC and CE certifications and can also work with acid, Reactive and Disperse dyes along with pigment inks. The image proofer-2 inkjet printer has been designed to meet the increasing demands in the market for digitally printed textiles and has the capacity to handle any kind of production runs from sample to medium size. It has a total of 8 heads, i.e. 508 nozzles. “The most outstanding feature of all the textile printers is the Adhesive Print Blanket Technology (APB), which helps in gripping the fabric, making the printing of stretchable fabrics possible,” adds Ankit Maheshwari, Director, Kothari Info-Tech Limited.


Konica Minolta presents the world’s fastest printer with 1000 m²/hr

Konica Minolta IJ Technologies Inc. (Konica Minolta), a leading manufacturer of industry-use inkjet print-heads, unveiled new inkjet textile printers, the Nassenger PRO 1000 for significantly high-volume production and the Nassenger PRO 60 for small production, as a new addition to its globally-acclaimed Nassenger inkjet textile printers at the ITMA show.

As the top-of-the-line model of the Nassenger series, the Nassenger PRO 1000 features a number of enhanced functions for high-volume, full-scale production. Utilising 9 colour dye inks, the company claims that the machine is the world’s fastest inkjet printer with a speed of 1000m²/hour at 360 dpi. “With increased speed the quality of the print is always at risk, therefore to address this issue Konica Minolta has developed nozzle sensors and floating-fabric sensors to control quality,” informs Akiyoshi Ohno, President, Konica Minolta IJ Technologies Inc.

With a total of 1024 nozzles, it is also equipped with a fabric transportation unit, which detects wrinkles in the fabric and the concave print-heads and nozzles prevent the fabric from colliding with the print-heads carriage to minimize transport problems. An automatic print-heads maintenance system unique to Konica Minolta is adopted to ensure stable print production. This system regularly checks the print-head nozzle status to enable stable print quality and uninterrupted production, thus minimizing labour costs by automation. In addition, the system is furnished with a remote maintenance function to make it possible to perform maintenance tasks such as device diagnostics and remote operation via the network.

The other innovation – Nassenger PRO 60 has 512 nozzles with a print speed of 60m²/hr. The model uses high-density water-based inkjet print-heads. It also has a 9-colour gamut like Nassenger PRO 1000 and can be used as a proofer for the same. It is compatible with high and low production speeds, ranging from 9-60 m²/hr. Both the printers can handle the maximum fabric width of 1850 mm. This compact machine is an integration of a textile printer, un-winder, dryer and winder with footprint of 20m² approx. Due to the presence of nine 512-nozzle Piezo print-heads, a compact head-carriage design is present in the printer. “The Nassenger PRO 1000 incorporates Konica Minolta’s new KM1024 print-head technology. In addition to reactive and acid dye sets for the Nassenger PRO series, Konica Minolta is also looking to introduce disperse dye inks,” adds Vir Vikram Bhatia, Managing Director, Apsom Technologies.


Kappa 180 from Durst, the new benchmark in Digital Textile Printing

At the ITMA 2011 show, Durst Phototechnik AG, the specialist in industrial inkjet applications, premiered the Kappa 180, the high-performance inkjet printer with a printing speed of more than 600 m²/hour (over 300 running metres) and outstanding printing quality (1056 x 600 dpi).

For over 70 years, Durst has offered the most innovative system solutions for image reproduction – worldwide with specialized solutions for digital image processing in the fields of professional photography and printing. The Kappa 180 is their first innovation specifically developed for the digital textile printing industry.

From the print-heads to the ink, the Kappa 180 has been developed by Durst itself. Together with RIP (Raster Image Processor) specialist Caldera, Durst has also developed the workflow software for Kappa 180 in order to speed up printing from the design stage to the final print while providing full cost transparency.

“With Kappa 180 we are setting the benchmark in digital textile printing at this year’s ITMA – not only on account of the impressive technical specifications, but also because we are offering a complete system that provides genuine value addition across all production levels. With the Kappa 180 and tailor-made Caldera workflow solution, we are supplying our customers with numerous advantages compared with conventional printing methods, i.e. total flexibility, time and cost savings, less consumption of resources, environmental friendliness, and a high degree of customer satisfaction,” says Christoph Gamper, Executive Vice-President of Durst Phototetechnik AG.

Unlike conventional printing methods, there are no pre-printing processes – printing orders and changeovers are processed directly via the workflow software, setup times and the system is ready for printing within a few hours. Water consumption during the production process is reduced by up to 90% and only a fraction of the chemicals normally used are required. In addition to these environmentally friendly and cost-effective benefits, printing orders remain reproducible at all times.

Durst’s proprietary Quadro print-head technology was developed further for the Kappa 180, so that the specific requirements of the textile sector could be fulfilled with “QuadroZ”, with eight colours in CMYK, orange, red, blue and grey with no modulations or density fluctuations. The modified Durst QuadroZ Array system makes it possible to print on textiles with water-based inks by a specially hardened, fray-resistant nozzle plate with a drop size of 7-21 picolitres. 6,144 jets per colour produce a resolution of up to 1,680 dpi, while a single automatic nozzle cleaning system ensures uninterrupted operation. A key role is played here by the ink delivery system with the osmosis filtering system, which eliminates the air bubbles in the inks and ensures that the printing is steady and failure-free.

For textile printing applications, Durst has developed its own high-performance inks (Kappa Inks) for the Piezo inkjet multi-pass technology. These are used for printing with absolutely environmental friendly, water-based dispersion, reactive and acid inks on different textile fibres by way of the Quadro Z Arrays. The Kappa Ink R (Reactive Ink System) for cotton and cotton mixtures with more than 60% cotton, the Kappa Ink D (Dispersion Ink System) for synthetic fibres, polyester and polyester mixtures with more than 50% polyester and the Kappa Ink A (Acid Ink System) for silk and silk mixtures, were developed after extensive R&D by Durst.

The Kappa 180 Cost-view software ensures precise calculation of the production costs and environmental factors for each printing order. All relevant parameters, including ink, material, power and other factors are analysed via a dashboard, while at the same time the CO2 emissions are calculated for each production stage. Cost-view has a web interface, which means that all analyses can be interchanged with other departments at any point in time.


KITL presents Kothari Print Pro Software as one solution for Digital Textile Printing

Surat based KITL (Kothari Info-Tech Ltd.) showcased an indigenously manufactured advanced colour management and Raster Image Processing software for digital textile printing developed for the most demanding workflows in the digital textile printing environment. For workflows starting from the colour-separated files, it takes care of engraving, colour-ways/matching to simulation of production proofs on digital textile printer and for the ones involving small lots, starting with RGB/CMYK/LAB image composites; it also takes care of true to life reproduction of designs on the fabric.

Since its inception in 2001, KITL has been committed towards developing world-class software tools in the fields of printing and colour control. Print Pro significantly simplifies the task of digital proofing a design on the inkjet printer. One can proof colour separated designs targeted for conventional printing without actually engraving a single screen. Print Pro colour proofs the job by doing step ‘n’ repeat, screening and then combining the output into a colour composite before outputting on the printer. All one needs to do is assign screening parameters to each screen.

The software offers high quality seamless screening with step ‘n’ repeat and irregular dubbing at joints. Print Pro offers about 34 traditional dots, error diffusion and gray scale file based half-toning function. Print Pro also offers stochastic screens for moiré free reproduction. For rotary screen there is special honeycomb dot. “Any amount of RAM is never enough for handling them. Print Pro answers this problem with the help of advanced memory manager that transparently works to use hard disk as scratch space to keep images and available RAM only as cache to perform operations,” says Ankit Maheshwari, Director, Kothari Info-Tech Limited.

Although KITL began its journey primarily as a software company, but in pursuit of finding right and cost-effective solutions for the customers, KITL started investing into research related to ink chemistry. KITL has developed water based reactive inks, Charu™ inks and pre-treatment solutions, Disha™ coatings, that will work on variety of textile substrates targeted towards roll-to-roll digital textile printing. Charu™ reactive series is available for Epson, Kyocera, Ricoh, Seiko and Spectra type print heads. The coatings with the inks are compatible with cotton, viscose, silk, linen and blends.

MS Printing Solutions showcasing developments for the future

MS the Italian pioneer in the field of digital textile printing was present at the ITMA show in full force. Established in 1947, MS has been producing textile printing machines for decades, from the single ink-jet printing machine to the complete turnkey plants, with digital (ink-jet), traditional or combined technology. The technical solutions from MS are extremely flexible and today MS is the only Italian company capable of supplying a complete solution to textile printing mill, including the whole working cycle. Representing MS Printing Solutions at ITMA, Paolo Milini, Director, MS Printing Solutions informed, “MS and Stork prints have agreed to cooperate on the development and production of digital textile printing systems, including inks and ink supply systems. With Stork’s specialization in digital integration, we together will focus on production of inks, ink supply systems and textile printing applications.”

At the ITMA, MS showcased the JP6 and JPK printers with print-heads from Kyocera. MS showcased video demonstrations of the operation of the continuous, single pass LaRio technology now installed at Tintseta Ink in Como, Italy for printing of silk. The machine operates in the range of 20 to 30 linear metres per minute at Tintseta. The machine has the ability to print at speeds of 75 metres per minute, i.e. more than 8,000 square metres per hour. With this speed more focus is required on the quality of the print and to achieve that more than 600,000 nozzles have been installed in LaRio. “The printer is quite cost-effective, as with no cylinder, no engraving and no colour kitchen, the organization saves a substantial amount of money and combined with minimal water and energy consumption, it has been claimed as an innovation bound to take the digital textile printing sector to the next level,” informs Ayush Rathi, Director, MS Orange Technologies, Pvt. Ltd.


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