Thermal transfer technology can basically solve the printing of chemical fiber materials. For the digital printing of pure cotton fabrics, there are basically two kinds of direct printing and thermal transfer paper. This section mainly introduces the development of direct injection technology.
The direct injection of cotton fabrics basically started with some prototypes after the appearance of pigment inks. At first, mainly in Europe, by modifying the EPSON printer into a flatbed printer, this is probably from 1999 to 2001. The actual commercialization started around 2003-2004, and some cotton T-shirt flatbed printers modified with EPSON 2200 and 4800 appeared at the trade fair. At that time, there were probably 2-3 companies, namely US-based US ScreenPrint, DTG in Europe, and Sawgrass in the United States. However, due to the poor stability of ink and the saturation of color, it did not achieve much success.
It is Europe’s Kornit and Japan’s Brother Corporation that really push the digital printing of cotton fabrics to industrialization. They chose industrial printheads developed by Spectra and Kycera and developed specialized cotton pigment inks to achieve reliable, high-volume printing of cotton fabrics. At present, the major personalized T-shirt printing companies are equipped with Kornit 931DS printers (approximately 7-10 million US dollars a) and brother’s GT541 printer (approximately 1.5-2 million US dollars a). These machines were all introduced in 2005.
Because these professional machines are too expensive, there are certain markets for the EPSon4800 modified flat direct injection machines, especially in China. Due to the low threshold of such retrofitting technology, there are many companies in China, South Korea and Taiwan that manufacture and sell such machines. The price of the machine is also rapidly falling. From 100,000 yuan in 3-4 years ago, it fell to one of 4-5 million yuan. This is still a relatively complete function, has its own conversion machine RIP software. If you just change to a tablet, it’s about 30,000 yuan. The most reliable conversion machines on the market today include FAST-T from USscreenprinting, Directadvantage from Sawgrass, flexi-jet, DGjet from Singapore, Nanojet from Europe, and some machines from South Korea. China also seems to have several companies. I tried the machine of a company in Beijing Zhongguancun last year. The sensory function is still relatively simple, and their RIP software is also problematic. The pattern color is somewhat distorted. They seem to use Rohm and Haas ink.
After the machine is finished, it is about ink. At present, the quality of the ink on the market is relatively good for the conversion machine with DuPont, Rohm & Haas (ROHM & HASS), the United States sawgrass, the United Kingdom’s nanojet production of cotton ink. Most machines use the above company’s ink. These inks are acceptable in terms of color gamut, washability, and stability. Of course, the effects of Kornit and brother’s professional machines are quite different. But the price is also much cheaper than the brother’s ink (Brother ink retails for about $900/L, the cheapest Rohm and Haas ink is about $30-50/L). But I heard that since 2008, Rohm and Haas will stop producing their cotton ink. It may be that the profits are too low to make money. Many Korean cotton inks are cheap, but they have not been tried and the quality is not very clear.
There is white ink around the cotton print. Since 1997, many companies have used white ink development as a major research project. By 2005, basically gave up. There is only DuPont’s white ink on the market. DuPont’s white ink was introduced at the ISA trade fair in Atlanta in September 2005 for US Screenprinting’s Fast-T cotton printer. At the time, the T-shirts were pre-treated, and the white ink was printed three times and then the color ink was printed. Despite this, it still attracted the attention of all exhibitors. USscreenprinting sells thousands of printers with white ink. Can be described as a moment. However, white ink is a very immature product. Due to the high number of machine plugs, USscreenprinting had to spend a lot of time dealing with quality issues and even court proceedings. Once the funds were very tight and they operated on a loan. Really, “what is Cheng Xiaoxiao? Xiao He is also losing.” In 2007, DuPont introduced the second generation of white ink, allegedly improved in stability. According to the author’s test, the new ink has improved in whiteness and washability, but the stability is still poor and the plug is frequently blocked.
Pure cotton T-shirt printing is basically a past style. Facts have proved that for relatively expensive investment, unstable equipment and ink, it is very difficult to achieve stable profitability. If you have a large customer base, it is better to invest in Kornit and brother’s professional printers. However, the formulation process and development of pure cotton ink provide valuable experience for the wide range of cotton fabrics and digital printing production. Since 2012, the digital printing technology of wide-width pure cotton fabrics has appeared at various trade fairs. All digital printing equipment manufacturers, software manufacturers, and ink manufacturers have begun to integrate and provide reliable printing processes. This will become a hot spot in the next 2-3 years.