Now in its 41st year, the Graphics of the Americas tradeshow took place February 18 – 20 at the Miami Beach Convention Center, USA. GOA attracts over 7,300 printers, designers, and creative professionals from North America, Central America, South America, the Caribbean, and all corners of the world. This year, the big wide format buzz was around Digital Textile Inkjet Printing, whether small format or large. The dye-sublimation printing process is used to print on polyester or other synthetic fabrics and is used for applications such as apparel-related design, sportswear, banners, table covers, soft signage, interiors, tradeshow applications and flags.
How does it work?
Dye sublimation inks are a pigment suspended in liquid solvent, like water. The images are initially printed on coated heat-resistant transfer paper as a reverse image of the final design, which is then transferred onto polyester fabric in a heat press operating at a temperature around 180C to 210C (355F to 410F). Under high temperature and pressure, the dye turns into gas and permeates the fabric and then solidifies into its fibers. The fabric is permanently dyed so it can be washed without damaging the quality of the image. If you buy a dye sublimation printer, you will also need the heat press. ESS was showing wide format roll heat presses starting at $12,000 US.
Digital Textile Inkjet Printing
Printers were on display from Epson, Mimaki, Mutoh and other lesser known brands such as ESS, Locor, Glitter and Sawgrass. There are good reasons why many printers are getting into textile inkjet printing. The market for digital printing on fabric has grown about 11%-15% per year over the last ten years and will continue to grow, according to Christian Gonzalez, Export Sales Manager for Mimaki. Christian explained that custom textile printing was a big growth area for Mimaki as many companies are looking to augment their revenue with this exciting new trend. Here’s a highlight of some of the major manufacturers with wide format dye-sub printers at the show.
Epson SureColor SC-F9200
Epson was showing off its recently announced SureColor SC-F9200 64” Dye-Sublimation printer. The F9200 is ideal for fast, economical, medium- to large-volume dye-sublimation transfer printing, at speeds up to 1,044 square feet per hour. High resolution of up to 720 x 1440 dpi image quality can be achieved with a variable sized droplet technology. The refillable 2 x 1.5 litre bulk ink systems with one litre ink pouches means lower maintenance and longer print runs are available. The F9200 uses a dual printhead for fast print speeds, a post-print media dryer for expedited ink dry times, and a true roll-to-roll media handling system for accuracy within 2 mm. The F9200 was advertised for $25,995 US at the show.
Mimaki has a long history in the Digital Textile Inkjet Printing space and the Mimaki TS300P is designed for low-cost production of high-value digital textile applications. The TS300P-1800 1.8m wide roll-to-roll sublimation inkjet printer is a dedicated transfer paper printer, offering new levels of quality and productivity. Its capabilities have been enhanced with two fluorescent inks, which are available in yellow and pink. These inks were made especially for use in the low-volume, high-quality sublimation paper transfer market and are perfectly suited for fashion, sportswear, swimwear and shoes. Fluorescent colors are the next step in the creative journey and these new neon inks enable designers and garment manufacturers to extend their production and volume flexibility. It can sell for around $25,000 US.
Mutoh ValueJet 1624WX
The Mutoh ValueJet 1624WX is ideal for everyday sublimation printing. Its competitive price and good performance makes it a good choice for entry into the dye-sublimation market or simply to add additional capacity to your shop. It is a 64 inch 4-colour printer with print speeds up to 600 sq ft/hr. A simple learning curve and easy to navigate control panel are featured with an optional take-up system. It was affordably priced at $16,495 US.