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Taking the Direct Approach

Exploring direct printing on fabrics.

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By Peggy Middendorf

* Direct dye-sub printers: Many of the direct-print machines for fabrics that are being introduced still require the heat-set component. The advantage these machines offer is the elimination of the transfer-paper step. By directly imaging onto the fabric, print speed is ramped up, without giving up the dye-sub quality. Examples of new direct-print dye-sub printers include: L&P DirectUV, which uses UV-curable inks to "freeze" the UV-dye inks onto the uncoated textiles, eliminating wicking issues; the 10-ft. DuPont Artistri 3320, which supports acid, reactive, and disperse dyes as well as pigment and SolarBrite inks; Gandinnovations’ Jeti 3312 and 3324 DS, both traditional dye-sub (imaging onto transfer paper) and direct-print (imaging onto fabric) machines; and the Keundo SupraQ 3300-Pro, a solvent-based machine that allows the user to switch to Hilord dye-sub inks.

* Combo dye-sub machines with onboard heat presses: The latest contenders in the fabric-printing market are the matched direct-printer and heat-fixation units. These print-heat combos may provide the best of both worlds-the speed and ease of direct print onto fabrics with dye-sub inks, then immediate sublimation with the attached heat-press component. No fuss, no muss-resulting in a high-quality dye-sub product produced at a higher speed, with less-costly materials, and no need to purchase a separate heat-set unit. Examples of some of the newer printer/heat-set units include: d-gen Teleios printers, equipped with a cylinder media-feeding system to prevent fabrics from twisting or curling; the JNS TexPress DSS-1800 II, which prints directly onto untreated (or treated) polyester and features a built-in heat cutter; and the Graphics One Viper TX Direct-to-fabric system, which comprises a Mutoh Viper TX printer with a tension roller system to hold thinner fabrics, a GO Sublimator, and GO Tango dye-sub inks.

* Other direct-print technologies/machines: Last but not least, keep in mind that although most new aqueous, solvent, mild-solvent, and UV-curable printers don’t refer to themselves as "direct print," these can indeed image directly onto coated (or uncoated) fabrics without the heat-set process on the back end-producing print-and-go fabric jobs.