Dye-sublimation heat transfer printing with Wide-format inkjet printers.
Dye-sublimation heat transfer printing in 2009 continues to grow. Printing on textiles became popular between 2001-2005 when people realized you can do this with a normal inkjet printer. For example, the Hewlett-Packard DesignJet printers will print nicely on silk, cotton, canvas, polyester or flag material. For this kind of simple textile printing you need textiles that are pre-coated to receive the inkjet ink. It also helps if the textiles are paper backed. You could not do dye-sublimation with any HP printer, but you could do direct printing on basic fabrics.
The paper backing was needed so that the grit rollers could move the material through the platen (with the help of the pinch rollers above) without skewing, stretching, skipping (stuttering) or otherwise having feeding problems because most fabrics stretch when pulled or don’t move consistently when pushed.
So if you are doing commercial proofing of textile designs, or mass production of textiles with inkjet printers, then you need printers which can handle textiles with special feeding mechanisms (such as DigiFab and Yuhan-Kimberly MC3 Express and Yuhan-Kimberly VU-180).
The ColorSpan textile printer can handle textiles up to 72" wide, but this printer has not been manufactured for many years.
A commercial grade printer for textiles was the RasterGraphics PiezoPrint 5000tx. Since it uses Xaar printheads its resolution is rather low, 309 dpi. This printer has been obsolete for a decade, but was very popular in the last century.
Today, in 2009, you can print on textiles with many different kinds of inks, including UV-cured (such as on Durst Rho 351R). But if you wish to handle a wide range of fabrics, especially those that stretch, then you should concentrate on a dedicated textile printer (DigiFab, Yuhan-Kimberly, etc).
During 2009-2010 FLAAR will be updating its coverage of all aspects of textile printing. An example of this was visiting the world headquarters of the textile ink portion of Sensient, in Morges, Switzerland. Sensient flew Dr Hellmuth there for training recently. He has also been guest at textile printing companies elsewhere around the world, such as inspecting the factory where the VU-180 is manufactured in Korea).
As soon as we visit other dye-sublimation ink companies and visit other textile printer manufacturers, we will update this page.
For additional help, tips, introduction to dye-sublimation printers.
For additional information and for help making your decision, ask for the "FLAAR report on inkjet printing of textiles" (specify whether for home-hobby, for business, or whether you need dye sublimation heat-transfer textile printers).
Since there are differences between the various classes of textile printers, you might wish also to track down the FLAAR report on "Piezo vs Thermal printheads, fact vs fiction, pros and cons of each kind of inkjet printhead."
If this will be your first printer, then we have a special report that holds your hand and leads you through all the basic questions that will assist a first-time buyer of a large format printer. Purchase the FLAAR report on "RIP + Help." This explains what RIP software is, why this is useful, and includes tips, warnings, information, and help for a wide range of matters for a newbie. Here you will really appreciate that FLAAR is based at a university; Professor Hellmuth has plenty of experience writing in a manner that explains what you need, and why.
Or, you can simply telephone DigiFab in the USA (toll-free, 1 877-DIGIFAB) or contact Yuhan-Kimberly (DTPLink) (they cover the entire world). Yuhan-Kimberly is a branch of Kimberly-Clark (yes, same company whose products such as Kleenix you use frequently). DigiFab is an experienced textile printing company that also has their own textile RIP (Evolution RIP). Naturally these two companies are separate (and competitors), but the FLAAR policy is to assist our readers to learn the full gamut of possibilities. We feature those printer manufacturers where we have visited their company headquarters, usually more than once, to learn about their capabilities.
Textiles: fabrics that are inkjet printable.
Another way to learn about printing on fabrics is to ask the leading company that offers a wide range of printable textiles, namely 3P Inkjet Textiles. Contacts in USA are: Tom King, Phone:1 203 245-2509, cell: 1 203 494-7787, email: [email protected] if you do not get an answer within 24 hours, write [email protected], or Harry Brebaugh, Phone: 1 941 761-4578, email: [email protected]
The contact for 3P inkjet textiles for the rest of the world is Germany: fax + 49 8036 90 51 32 or try [email protected]. If you do not get an answer, try Skype and telephone if urgent.
3P makes materials for dye sublimation as well as for direct printing such as silk and cotton.
Most recently updated March 30, 2009 as part of our increased coverage of printing textiles with wide-format inkjet printers.
Previously updated August 02, 2001.