Gaining insight into technology solutions and strategies for more sustainable textile processing was a primary goal with respect to the technology research I conducted at ITMA. In keeping with this initiative, I provided a summary of relevant discussions arising from the Sustainability Roundtable and the Textile Chemistry and Dyestuff Forum for my most recent post. The various themes highlighted during these sessions informed my observations and discussions as I moved through the exhibition halls. In terms of the transition to more sustainable solutions in the textile coloration area, one of the most significant technology advancements to occur over recent years has been the emergence of production solutions that have been developed to support greater efficiency and flexibility for textile printing. As I surveyed the exhibition area, I quickly discovered that Hall 7 was the place to be for those wishing to review the latest hardware solutions in this technology category.
I think it’s fair to say that the digital textile printing exhibits attracted considerable attention from trade show attendees. Clearly digital printing has been the focal area with respect to research and development in the textile printing field. I found it interesting that screen based technologies were represented in a very minimal way. I interpret this as a sign that the digital method is being positioned for significant growth in terms of overall share of the textile printing market. Printer hardware vendors including A -Tex, Atexco, d·gen, DGI, Durst, EFI Vutek, Ftex, Ichinose, Konica Minolta, Kornit, La Meccanica, Mimaki, Mutoh, MS Printing Solutions, Reggiani, Robustelli, Roland, Stork, Xennia and Zimmer were all in attendance and exhibiting their latest offerings. Some of the highlights with respect to the cotton supply chain are as follows:
Atexco (Hangzhou Honghua Digital) demonstrated the company’s VEGA 6000 printer. This machine is among a newer class of industrial equipment that incorporates Kyocera printhead technology. The machine can be operated in a 4 or 8 color mode and is available for purchase with 4, 8 or 16 print heads and for a selection of print widths. This company also exhibited technology for carpet printing.
Durst introduced the Kappa 180 printer to the textile audience. This machine is engineered with Durst’s QuadroZ printhead technology that incorporates a printhead plate by Ricoh and electronics by Durst. The machine is engineered for 8 color printing with 4 printheads per color and supports print rates of between 230 and 606 m2/hr.
Ichinose (Toshin Kogyo Co.) highlighted the 2030Pro printer engineered with 24 Seiko printheads and capable of production up to 160 m2/hr.
Konica Minolta launched the Nassenger PRO 1000 which currently supports acid and reactive dye printing at rates of between 420 and 1000 m2/hr based on print mode. This machine was complimented by the Nassenger PRO 60 that can be used for short-run production or as a proofer for the higher speed technology. The Pro 60 is also being marketed by DGI and branded as the FD Pro I. DGI is the system integrator for this model. Both the PRO 1000 and the PRO 60 are engineered for printing with 9 colors and the Nassenger PRO 1000 incorporates Konica Minolta’s new KM1024 printhead technology. In addition to reactive and acid dye sets for the Nassenger PRO series, Konica Minolta is also looking to introduce disperse dye inks.
Kornit Digital exhibited a prototype machine branded “allegro” designed for wide format production printing of pigments. This machine features integrated application of a pretreatment containing the pigment binder. It currently supports a 7 color arrangement that includes light cyan, light magenta and light black. Kornit is looking at Q2/Q3 2012 for official launch of the technology.
La Meccanica showed the QualiJet KS8 first exhibited at FESPA, Hamburg earlier in the year. La Meccanica is among the list of vendors developing hardware around Kyocera’s printhead technology. This particular model features a scalable platform starting with 8 printheads and offers the possibility to upgrade this number for greater productivity.
MS Printing Solutions exhibited the JP6 and JPK printers that also incorporate printhead technology from Kyocera. At the higher end, the JPK machine can print up to 370 linear meters per hour. MS was also showcasing a video in large format demonstrating the operation of the continuous, single pass LaRio technology now installed at Tintseta Ink in Como for printing of silk. The ITMA Daily News reported that the machine is operating in the range of 20 to 30 linear meters a minute at Tintseta and that a strategic alliance between MS and Stork is in place to sell and support the machine within Stork’s global contact base. The ability to operate the LaRio system with reactive dyes and with Huntsman’s Universal ink should be noted for printing of cotton substrates. The Universal color set supports printing on fiber types typically compatible with reactive or acid dyes and supports substrate flexibility with a single color set.
Reggiani introduced an approach to sublimation transfer printing using the ReNOIR digital printer and are undertaking modifications to the machine to support imaging on transfer paper. Partnerships with Sensient for supply of sublimation ink and Cham Paper Group for supply of transfer paper are part of the development and marketing strategy for this approach. In terms of relevance to the cotton supply chain it should be noted that this machine model has been operational with reactive dyes for some time and word has it that Reggiani has something in the order of 60 installations worldwide. Additional highlights from Reggiani include marketing of the newer ReNOIR – Compact machine which is described as a lower cost, easy to operate solution as compared to the higher end ReNOIR system.
Robustelli exhibited the EVO printer, the latest offering from the Monna Lisa series. The machine incorporates 32 printheads that support print rates of up to 675 m2/hr. This vendor describes the printhead technology from Epson as exclusive to Robustelli and notes that for this series of equipment the alignment procedure is eliminated upon replacement of a printhead. The system is designed for use with the Genesta series of reactive, acid and disperse inks.
Stork featured the Sphene digital print technology at ITMA. The high speed system (up to 555 m2/hr) was previously introduced at FESPA Hamburg and features printhead technology from Kyocera. The ITMA demonstration centered on printing of nylon/lycra swimwear fabric with acid dyes. For the cotton supply chain it should be noted that the Nebula brand of reactive dye inks are also available for the Sphene technology. During my visit to the booth, Stork also highlighted availability of digital print inks for the new MS LaRio printer. Stork’s offerings for the LaRio include the Quasar ReAcid inks, an eight color set that like Huntsman’s Universal colorants, supports flexibility of fiber type. It should be noted that in addition to digital print solutions, Stork was also promoting updated technology for the rotary screen environment. The Pegasus EVO rotary printer supports improvements in print quality due to the advanced squeegee system and also enables greater efficiency via a combination of squeegee and systems for paste recovery, improved drying and intelligent waste water recycling. Stork also introduced two new rotary screens designed to reduce moiré (125/RR) and enable high resolution and increased transfer of print paste to the substrate during the printing action (195/19% NovaScreen).
Xennia did not exhibit equipment, but featured the newly branded Xennia Osiris machine in response to the company’s recent acquisition of assets from Osiris, the original developer of the equipment which was formerly branded Isis. They also featured the Emerald machine that falls into the coming soon category. The Emerald is engineered with a novel diagonal multi-pass arrangement mentioned in a previous post and supports production in the range of 600 m2/hr.
Zimmer demonstrated an updated version of the Colaris digital print system for printing with reactive, acid or disperse inks. Various machine widths are available and for 1.8 m goods being printed with an 8 color arrangement, the equipment is capable of print rates between 100 and 732 m2/hr depending on quality settings. The machine can be integrated with a selection of in-line processing units for stages including fabric pretreatment. Special entry units, drying, steaming and washing configurations can be combined to support printing of products such as cotton towels or nylon pile fabrics (e.g. floor coverings, velvet upholstery and automotive textiles). Zimmer also introduced a digital print solution for imaging on narrow fabrics such as polyester waistbands. This technology was not shown. However information and samples were available for review and the solution appears to have application for branding or short run/customization of print designs and colors in the narrow format (e.g. waistbands on cotton underwear). One of the unique features of the technology is the ability to print both sides of the substrate. For a waistband this means that the inside surface of the band can be printed with a different color or design than the outside surface.
Among the other companies that I listed as exhibitors in the digital print area, a number offer systems of relevance to imaging on cotton textiles. The fact that I have not highlighted specific systems is not an indication of the value of the respective solutions for given markets. These systems have either been featured at previous exhibitions, are primarily marketed for dye sublimation and/or are mid-level technologies in terms of print rate. With that in mind, companies looking to explore the full range of digital print solutions for textiles should take note of the entire list.
Before moving on to other technology areas, let me share a few additional highlights in regard to ink chemistry for digital printing. My visit with Dystar revealed that the company is in the process of refreshing efforts in the inkjet chemistry area following a period of transition to new ownership. Jaysynth, provider for the DIGITEX brand of ink highlighted the addition of textile pigments to their reactive, acid and disperse dye offering and Everlight Chemical Industrial Corporation introduced reactive and acid dye colorants for the digital textile environment. J Teck was also exhibiting, although advancements from this company focused on printing of fiber types other than cotton.
For my next post I will shift gears to focus on denim coloration and finishing with a special emphasis on sustainability, hues and effects.