Why would a business consider integrating digital technology? Many of the popular decorating methods such as screen printing and embroidery are time-tested choices for the apparel market. However, markets inevitably change, fashion trends and consumer tastes change rapidly as well. What's "hot" today is old news tomorrow.
People in today's culture thrive on expressing their individuality. Nearly gone are the days when it was common to see a "swoosh" mark, maple leaf or alligator on someone's chest. Distinctiveness rules in the current social environment, and people want something that no one else has.
Coupled with this trend is that average run lengths are dropping as the big-box stores relocate high-volume work into shops with lower production and labor costs. In today's market, the public wants it now, if not sooner. A quick-order turnaround is the standard, not an exception, with today's customer.
By taking these facts into consideration, many apparel decorators are staking their claim in new vertical markets and making notably higher margins as a result of mass-customization, something digital technology all too easily facilitates.
Accommodating the short run is what digital does best. It can handle a one-piece order easily and cost-effectively. Asking for a run length of one piece at a reasonable cost in a screen or embroidery shop is similar to asking for the impossible. The associated costs and utilization of resources is not worth the investment unless a company charges a substantial price.
Digital apparel decoration methods take on many forms and some of the simplest include inkjet and laser transfer technologies, each relatively easy to use and understand. They also are perfect for small quantities and are fairly inexpensive when compared with alternative decoration methods in which photo-realistic images are required.
Personalization is easily accomplished from any graphic application typically used in the industry (e.g., Photoshop, Illustrator, etc.). When high-quality paper and ink are used and the transfer is applied correctly, the image will last a long time. Early transfer technology suffered because of poor wash-fastness and image durability. However, advancements in paper, coatings and ink make today's inkjet and laser transfers a viable option for low-quantity, photo-realistic images.
Inkjet transfers can be produced using aqueous dye-based printers as well as solvent and eco-solvent systems. Among the popular choices in aqueous systems are Epson, Canon and HP while choices in solvent and eco-solvent systems include Roland, Mimaki and Mutoh. Available widths range from 21.59-cm (8.5-inch) desktop models to 2.64-m (104-inch) wide-format inkjet devices.
Inkjet transfer paper is specially coated with two layers applied to the paper. First, a polymer is applied that is designed to split from the paper to carry the ink to the garment. The second coating is an ink-receptive layer that captures the ink when it is jetted. The design is printed in mirror-image mode and the transfer is applied to the garment using a heat press. The heat causes the coating to release from the paper and bond with the shirt, essentially trapping ink between the coating and the garment's fibers.
The durability of an inkjet transfer is considered to be average, but largely depends on the quality of the paper and ink formulation used. Paper sizes are available in a wide variety.
Website:www.sublimationstar.com & www.hitransfer.com