In the home furnishing industry, there has always been a demand for wide textiles, op to 3.2 or even 3.4 mtr. But for the fashion market, where in the past fabrics of 1.50 mtr were most commonly used, nowadays more and more printers are producing fashion fabrics with a width of up to 1.85 mtr. This is a logical result of the population getting taller. But how do you as a printer efficiently print large format fabrics? In this blog, I explain what widths of fabric are actually considered “large format” and how you can choose the right printer for your large format production.
When is fabric considered large format?
In the textile industry, a fabric is considered “large format” when it is more than one meter wide. This means that in the textile industry almost all printed fabrics are large format fabrics since on average they are 1.50 mtr wide.
The smallest fabric to print on is silk, which most of the time is not wider than 90 centimeters. The second smallest fabric to print on is viscose, which typically starts at 1.10 mtr wide. The width of the most used fabric in the fashion industry, cotton, has even been expanded over the last couple of years now people are getting taller and taller. Most cotton is delivered on roles of fabric ranging from 1.50 mtr up to 1.85 mtr.
An industry where fabric widths exceed these numbers is the home furnishing industry. Common widths in this industry are 2.20, 2.40, 2.80, 3.20 and 3.40 mtr. Overall, this means that there is a high demand for large format fabric printers within both the fashion as well as the home furnishing textile industry.
Large format fabric printing
Obviously, the width of the printer that you choose to buy has to accommodate the largest width of fabric that you want to print. When you never go above 1.85 mtr fabric width, there is no need to buy a wider printer than 1.85 mtr.
• A question that is often asked when looking at scanning printers is if the heads always travel the whole width of the blanket (regardless of the width of the fabric). In the older generation printers, this was often the case as the heads needed cleaning almost each pass. This cleaning was done on the left and/or right side next to the blanket.
• The current generation printheads do not need cleaning that often, which allows the heads to only move from left to right and back over where the fabric is. A special sensor detects the width of the fabric, mostly done in the first pass. From then on, the heads only move above the fabric until the heads need cleaning again. This can be set at a firm number of passes or be detected by the printer itself. So it is vital that you have good quality heads because that reduces the number of cleaning cycles (that need time and extra ‘travel time’ for the heads to reach the cleaning position.
• The JAVELIN digital textile printer, for example, is a multipass printer that prints only above the fabric. Because of the used Archer Technology, including the special printheads and dedicated ink, reduce the need for cleaning to the absolute minimum. The JAVELIN is available in 1.85 mtr printing width for the fashion industry and 3.2 mtr for the home textiles markets.
• The choice of printer is also dependent on the quantity of large format fabric you have to print. As a rule of the thumb, if you have to print less than 1 mn mtr per year, one multipass scanning machine will do. If you go above that amount, you can either decide to buy more scanning machines or you invest in a single pass printer.
• The key differentiator here is the level of flexibility that you need. If you print on a limited amount of fabrics, and they are for instance all cotton/viscose types, then a single pass printer is the best choice as it has the highest capacity: One single pass printer can print over 10 mn mtr per year. If you are requiring great flexibility because you want to print a very wide range of fabrics, then multiple scanning printers is the best option.
• That even gives you the flexibility to one machine on for instance reactive and the other on disperse. In that way, you can print not only natural fabrics (with reactive) but also polyester fabrics with disperse.
• Besides taking scalability and quantity into account, you need to consider what you are willing to invest in a large format fabric printer. The advantage of scanning machines over single pass machines is the price.
• Where scanning machines are in the range of 0,5 mn EUR, a single pass machine is (depending on the configuration) at least a 2 mn EUR investment. So for one PIKE you can buy 4- 5 JAVELINs. The advantage of the PIKE is that it has more capacity than 4-5 JAVELINs, but the attractive part of buying multiple JAVELINs is (besides the flexibility as described above) also the fact that you can invest in steps. Buy one machine at once and expand later when your business grows
(By Jos Notermans)