By Jos Notermans
When one looks in detail to the workflow of a digital textile printer, it quickly becomes clear that it is not as easy as it seems. There is a realistic probability that a company that starts in digital textile printing underestimates this and therefore will struggle for a long time to get their printing quality at the desired and constant level. Many digital textile printers agree that printing is the easiest part of the process. In order to avoid problems, follow two simple rules: make decent preparations, and work with knowledgeable suppliers.
Decent preparation. When you invest in digital textile printing, you need to make a proper investigation into what exactly you need to serve the goal that you want to achieve. Sublimation printing is an easy process to print digital on fabric, but if you need the image to penetrate into the fabric, you have to print directly to fabric. This more complicated process means you need to invest in (or outsource) fabric preparation, steaming, washing and finishing. Nowadays there is quite a range of equipment available, even dedicated machinery for digital textile printers. But what is the use of sophisticated equipment if you don’t know how to use it properly? And what is the use of a cheap device if it cannot do the job?
Knowledgeable suppliers. Because digital printing is growing so fast, there is a wide range of suppliers active in the world market and all claim that they have the best and cheapest solution. In many cases, they are not very knowledgeable about the technical details of the process of digital printing. Often, their knowledge is limited to their own step in the process. Manufacturers of steamers know little about how inks work with printheads, how printer mechatronics can influence the image quality, and how software can be used to improve image quality. Ink manufacturers often cannot help customers on certain application problems, like achieving the right color in a design. Working with a limited amount of suppliers reduces your risk that they start pointing at each other when you have a problem.
So before you start investing in digital textile printing, do your homework. Check different suppliers, talk to people in the industry that have experience in digital printing and do a good calculation on your total cost of ownership. The savings on a cheaper printer or cheaper inks are quickly spent on rejected fabrics or even worse, lost customers.