Digital printing – DTG/ Direct To Garment – is one of the most revolutionary techniques in printing. The Kornit equipment was developed with special pigmented water-based inks, that include CMYK & whites, and it ensures the highest level of compatibility and performance.
Axel Stuhlreiter – Application Specialist – from Kornit Digital Europe GmbH, set down with sPrint Textile Decorations' DTP team to answer some questions.
sPrint: Firstly, let me start by saying it is very nice to have you here, and we welcome every input regarding digital printing.
Axel: Thank you very much.
sPrint: What is the most important advice you give a person that has just started working in the textile digital printing industry?
Axel: Don’t compare it directly to screen printing. It’s different! You can do different things. You can personalize things, you can make short runs, only one textile, or you can print on demand. But, of course, you are not as fast or as cheap as screen print. If you want to print solid colors, Pantone colors for example, you can only simulate them, but you can’t print them. It is in addition to screen printing, for different kind of jobs, but don’t compare it. I think that is very important, it is in addition, you can print or combine the two.
sPrint: Well you just answered my 3rd question: Is DTG better than the classic screen printing?
Axel (laughing): Of course! For some things, it is better, for photographic images, for small rounds, 5-10-15 textiles, it is better, and I think it’s the future. We will develop better and faster systems, so in the future, maybe, we will create as fast as screen printing equipment. But maybe in 50 years we will not have screen printing, I don’t know (laughing). For print on demand, if you don’t want to have a stock, you can only produce what you need, it is perfect for that.
sPrint: From your point of view, what are the advantages of digital printing using Kornit?
Axel: The big advantage in comparison to our competitors is that we can spray the pretreatment that we use in the machine directly. That is a patent of ours, so no one else can do that. Companies have to use a stand-alone pretreatment system so they have to pretreat the textiles, than use a heat press to fix it, then they can print on that, and heat press it again. And we do that in one round; we mount the textile, push the buttons, spray, and print directly. No one else can do that. That is the big advantage. This is the only real production systems. You can print 24 hours, seven days a week, it is that fast; on smaller systems, you can maybe print 4 to 8 textiles, and not the whole day, and not seven days a week. That is the difference.
sPrint: Spray on the textiles – What is the big deal with the spray?
Axel: Not using enough spray is a big problem. It’s actually the biggest problem, the right spray amount! The textile quality is very important too. Most operatives are afraid of using too much spray because they think it is too wet, and the ink will not be stable on the textile, it might bleed. That is a fault, because the pretreatment stops the flow process of the ink, it stops the ink from going into the textile, and they don’t realize that. That is the problem.
sPrint: We were talking yesterday about the importance of the fabric. How does the fabric influence the print? Why?
Axel: Cheaper quality textiles have open end yarn and a lot of open fibers. They are very dry and for these textiles you have to use a lot of spray. Also, there are a lot of fibers that come through the white under base and through the ink, during the drying process most of the time. It is a big problem, and the
surface is not that smooth. If you have really good ring spun cotton, then no fibers will come through, and you’ll need less spray. Sometimes it’s better to spend a little bit more on textiles that are of optimum quality, so you will be faster and you will be sure that the quality is stable and you do not have to adjust the spray amount. You can print faster, because the ink is stable on the textile. That means less waste, and you will have fewer misprints.
sPrint: So is it possible for the print to overweigh the lack of quality?
Axel: Depends what you want to do with the textile. The question is ‘what is quality?’, for example. If it’s for a promotional event, you use it for just one day and then you throw it away. Sometimes you have such events. People do not have a closer look on the print, they just see the logo or design on the textile from three meters away, and it’s great. It’s of cheaper quality, but it is good enough. Depends what you want to do.
sPrint: What is the basic difference between white and black textiles in digital printing?
Axel: The basic difference for us, on our machines, is that we use less spray on white textiles. The spray amount is not as important on whites as it is printing on dark textiles; you need just a little bit spray to fix the ink on the white textiles. It helps the ink fixate on the textile. You do not need a white under layer on white textiles; it is a big advantage for fabrication.
sPrint: What does the future hold for us from Kornit? What do you have in store for us?
Axel (laughing): I must be careful now. These are marketing and production plans. But what I can confirm is that we are optimizing the systems, and developing faster and more productive systems. That is what you can expect, for sure – faster systems and maybe more colors.
sPrint: Does the fashion industry use digital printing equipment for clothing collections?
Axel: Yes, they do, but in the last years we have had more demand from the promotional decoration industry. We have customers that are producing only for the fashion industry, they use discharge, for example, and they are printing on different materials, like silk. It depends on the palette size, because you normally need, for the fashion market, cut sheets and sell it later, so they need big palettes. But it’s going digital there too, so they could have more seasons. Now they have 2 or 3 seasons a year, but they want to have 8 or 10 seasons. The supply chain changes, they produce more on demand, they do not have a big stock. So the fashion industry is looking for that. We have a roll-to-roll system, they print on a roll of 1.80 meters, only white material, so the print doesn't need a white under layer, but you can print anything on it. You can produce the raw material for the fashion industry and then the clothing - shirts, trousers, swimwear - or for the home decoration industry also - like for sofas.
sPrint: How is Kornit different from other digital printing equipment?
Axel: We are producing only for textiles; we do not offer any other type of systems, so we produce machines for digital textile printing. That is our focus.