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Textile printing plants have been looking for ways to improve the quality of designs and fabrics. An important factor in design quality is the type of ink used for printing. In recent years, there has been a high demand for high quality inks that are easier to print and have less environmental damage. How do you find the ink that best suits your production process when there are too many different types of ink? In this blog post, I explained different types of inks and discussed the pros and cons of various inks to make your choices easier.
Reactive ink is currently the most commonly used ink in the textile industry. Especially in textile digital printing machines, reactive inks are very popular. The ideal application for reactive inks is to print on cotton. However, reactive inks can also be used when printing on silk and wool.
Two major advantages of fabric printing with reactive inks are high quality color and high wash fastness. Optimal color quality is achieved when printing on cotton or viscose with reactive inks. When printed on silk or wool, the color will not be very bright and intense. However, especially for top fashion brands, high wash fastness is an important advantage of reactive inks. High wash fastness means that textiles can be washed frequently without losing color luster.
Acidic inks are known for their bright colors, even when printed on materials that do not easily retain color. For this reason, acid inks are commonly used for wool and silk printing. When applying acid inks to these types of materials for printing, you get a high level of color brightness. In addition to wool and silk, acid inks are often used in swimwear prints, while swimwear is often made from Lycra elastic fabric. The first is because of the high color brightness of the acid ink, and because the acid ink is highly resistant to chlorine and salt water.
Disperse ink is the most commonly used ink in conventional printing on polyester fabrics. The ink is sprayed directly onto the fabric by dispersing the print, which is then steamed and washed. The gas evaporation process swells the fibers, which in turn causes the ink to completely penetrate the fabric. After the steaming treatment, the fibers shrink again and the color is solidified in the fabric. This process produces very high color brightness and high washfastness. Today, disperse inks are the most commonly used inks in conventional fabric printing.
In the past few years, polyester has become increasingly popular in the fashion industry, which means that there is a high demand for rapid printing of the dispersed ink on the fabric. At the same time, there is a problem because experience has shown that when using a high-speed printing machine, the dispersion ink is not very useful. As a result, many textile printing companies want to transfer digital polyester printing to sublimation printing through paper transfer.
Sublimation transfer ink
As textile digital printing became more and more popular, a new type of printing appeared in the digital textile industry: transfer or sublimation printing. Sublimation printing means that you print the sublimation ink on a piece of paper, then place the paper and fabric in the transfer machine, and the ink changes from liquid to gas (sublimate) at high temperatures and pressures. This gas easily penetrates the polyester fiber. After unloading the pressure and lowering the temperature, the color is locked in the fabric.
One advantage of using sublimation inks is that you don't need to steam and wash the printed textiles. In view of this, the technology is less disruptive to the environment and simpler to operate and less costly than other printing methods. In addition, sublimation inks can be used for digital printing, which means you can do a lot of printing faster.
Recently, textile printing plants have successfully used the same sublimation ink to directly print on chemical fiber fabrics. Sublimation inks require a more expensive printer as a conveyor system to secure the fabric, but it saves paper costs and still eliminates the need for steaming and washing. In general, polyester printing is generally a sublimation print that produces a slightly lower fastness than the use of direct dispersion ink printing. But in the fast fashion field, sublimation inks can be used as an acceptable form of compromise (no need for steaming and washing).
Although in traditional printing, about 50% of fabrics are printed with paint, many customers require "digital paint printing" to be logical. In fact, they are looking for a simple process that is acceptable in color and inexpensive. In terms of digitization, all of these advantages cannot be (not yet) achieved.
In order to obtain an acceptable color gamut, pretreatment is required, which makes the process more complicated. Since the coating particles need to pass through the inkjet head in a very small size, the process of realizing these small-sized particles makes the ink more expensive than the application example of the reactive ink. At the same time, since the coating particles tend to stick to all the objects, the risk of clogging the inkjet head is still large. Therefore, digital coating applications are limited to markets that are very small and cannot be helped by other solutions (eg a 50% cotton 50% polyester fabric).
Digital inks have unparalleled quality and color density
The type of ink you use has a major impact on print quality. Therefore, we believe that you should only use the best inks available for the printing technology you are applying. Due to the wide variety of inks available, it is difficult to choose the ink that best suits your production process.