Digital printing technology for textiles and apparel

Digital printing provides a multidisciplinary environment for the development and production of innovative textile and clothing products. The sector is characterized by a large number of companies that have exploited available technologies and expanded the limits of commercial application. It is emerging as a major industry and as an employer of skilled professionals in the chosen technology field.

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The work of designers is greatly influenced. This isn’t just for the skills they need to create digital print designs. Delivery times for digitally printed products can be very short, because production batches can be as long or short as the market demands. Consequently, designers who harness the potential of technology will work closely together over time to the point of sale: for garments, this is the domain of “fast fashion”.

Product development must also be short and streamlined to meet market demand. Traditional sequential processes will not be enough: concurrent practices (Tyler, 2008) with teamwork between relevant disciplines are needed. The basic skills to manage manufacturing technologies are found in the supply chain and these skills should also be used in the product development process. There is an opportunity for marketing and purchasing staff to be an effective member of the team, with the aim of responding to market demand and surprising the market with innovative products.

Fortunately, this integrated supply chain model is exactly what is needed to achieve color management. With designers capturing spectral data for selected colors, the rest of the supply chain has the information they need to get samples and production right the first time. The discipline of working with color numerical standards allows you to anticipate problems and then take corrective action.
Digital printing is a very flexible technology and has great potential in fabric modeling and design. Flexible digital inkjet systems have been developed specifically designed for decoration applications. They can produce high quality multicolored prints on two opposite vertical sides. Through computer model control, this technology offers enormous potential for customized products. The technological development of the printheads and peripheral components has been accompanied by the improvement of color management systems and software tools for designing, creating, mapping textures and creating the color shape. In some systems, pretreatment is integrated online. Some post-treatments can also be added, such as heat curing, using hot air or UV radiation applications. Due to technological advances, the potential production speeds that can be achieved have increased dramatically in recent years. Actual productivity data shows a print speed of 8000 m2 / hour, with a resolution of up to 2400 dpi

In parallel with the development of faster technologies for printing inks, there has been rapid progress in the development of the ink itself to provide more functionality beyond color. Using electrically conductive inks it is possible to produce smart fabrics that can be used as heating elements, shielding against electromagnetic waves or simply to guide electrons. Rapid prototyping is a process that uses curable polymers in printing systems. Three-dimensional elements can be produced with almost unlimited design freedom. Meanwhile, the first entirely digitally produced fabrics are already on the market. They can use the precise geometry of the body to produce this type of wearable technology.

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