Our focus is on digitally printing natural fibre materials with both roll to roll and flatbed capabilities. The benefits of digital printing are numerous: there are no limits to the number of colours within a single design, there are no set up processes and associated costs, turnaround time is very quick, designs can easily be recoloured and rescaled, and the process is far kinder on the environment due to the use of process colour and the ability to employ ‘engineered printing’ techniques to significantly reduce waste material. We use water soluble reactive dyes, which produce vibrant durable prints.
The Textile and Design Lab has two digital textile printing systems: a Shima Seiki SIP 160F flatbed printer that is capable of printing made-up garments and products, panels and short lengths of fabric. Our Mutoh 1628TD Valuejet roll to roll printer has continuous printing capability with excellent print definition.
Both printers use water soluble reactive dyes that produce vibrant and durable prints that do not affect the handle of the fabric.
Ancillary equipment including a pre-treatment machine for garment preparation, a steam fixation unit, wet finishing room and rotary press support the lab’s digital printing capabilities.
Designs for digital printing can be created from digitised hand drawn artworks, CAD drawings and imagery, and digital photographs. Imagery can be created in any programme so long as the resultant image file is to our specifications.
If you'd like to learn about designing for digital textile printing, we strongly recommend attending one of our design-based short courses.
Print file specifications
It is vital that digital print files are delivered to us in the correct format. The specifications are:
- Create files in RGB colour (8 bits/channel)
- Use 150 ppi (pixels per inch) as the file resolution
- Scale the image to the size of the intended print
- Save as a .tif file
The size of the print files are likely to be too large to attach to an email so we suggest they are sent to us via a file sharing website such as Dropbox.
We strongly recommend having test prints done before going ahead with larger quantities. Test prints enable you to assess the printed colours on your chosen fabric bearing in mind that the colours that you see on your screen will differ to those on the material.
Allowing for shrinkage
All fabrics will relax during the wet finishing process, which will result in varying degrees of shrinkage. This tends to be greater in the warp (length) direction due to the stresses applied during the fabric manufacturing processes. The expected shrinkage values are noted on our price list along with the specifications. If you think that shrinkage will be detrimental to the appearance of your design or you need the exact quantity of fabric that you have ordered, let us know in advance and we will factor in the expected shrinkage before we print. This will result in us having to print slightly more fabric than requested in order to compensate for the expected shrinkage.
Providing your imagery consists of a relatively low number of colours, each of the colours can be matched to a Pantone TPX reference number or coloured fabric swatch supplied to us. We can supply colour charts for matching purposes if required. Time spent on colour matching is chargeable.
Turnaround time varies according to our workload, which is normally at its peak between August and November. We normally require about a week outside of this period.
We stock a range of natural fibre materials consisting of cottons, linens, silks and viscose rayon.
We can only accept fabrics for printing if they have been prepared specifically for digital printing using water soluble reactive dyes. These fabrics are unlikely to be available locally but we can suggest overseas suppliers if required.
We will be happy to test print your garments/made-up products to ensure that they are compatible with our printing processes before undertaking any commitments. Test prints are chargeable.
One of the major benefits of the digital printing process is that there are no set-up processes and associated costs so we don't need to apply minimum quantities and will happily print fabric pieces from 0.2 of a metre and upwards.
The lab is geared towards printing modest quantities of up to 25 metres per order for development, sampling or production purposes. If your needs exceed our capabilities, we'll try to suggest an appropriate commercial printer for you.