Digital mastery - Chemiplas
Bringing with it the promise of shorter print runs and enhanced market responsiveness, digital printing is growing ever more widespread in the textile and fashion market, with increasing numbers of designers and brands capitalising on the process either to create a point of difference through their own exclusive designs or to align their offer more closely to demand.
Talking to ATF at Chemiplas’ Melbourne offices, Chemiplas business unit manager Textile Effects Doug Braham and account manager Textile Effects Frank Colaci confirm demand for digital printing looks set to continue its rise, and Chemiplas’ textile division, Huntsman Textile Effects, is poised to respond.
“A lot of people are interested in digital printing and we’re working with a number of key clients in this area including Longina Phillips, with whom we’ve had an established relationship for as long as she’s been working in printing, as well as Melbourne company Covercraft Veronica,” says Braham. “We’ve also done some development work with Digital Textile Printers, with Jets swimwear using our inks for a range of their prints.”
Suppliers to the flags, banners and advertising sectors have typically focused on sublimation printing but some have moved into direct to fabric printing in recent years, Braham says. Indeed companies such as Covercraft/Veronica Textiles, which started life in flags and banners as Covercraft and then bought into the fashion sector through its recent acquisition of Veronica Textiles, are enthusiastically expanding into fashion and furnishing textiles through direct to fabric printing.
“Fashion in particular is moving away from sublimation printing because it only works on polyester, whereas direct to fabric printing can be applied to nylon, cotton and silk,” Braham explains.
“The future is in low volume short run fashion projects as well as the soft furnishings sector.”
“Huntsman produces inks for a wide range of textiles, for example swimwear, for which you need wet-fast, light-fast and chlorine-fast fabric ink to meet designers’ requirements. There are also new opportunities coming on stream as sublimation printers who traditionally printed on polyester now want to print on other fibres; they want one ink for everything.”
Meanwhile companies such as Huntsman are increasingly focusing their attention on digital textile printers with a view to growing future business opportunities, in particular for a wide range of fabrics such as nylon-Lycra, cotton and silk.
Specialising in the design, marketing and manufactures of a broad range of chemical and dye products that enhance the performance properties and colours of finished textiles and materials, Huntsman Textile Effects is well positioned to service the Australasian digital printing market’s demand. In 2006, Huntsman acquired the global Textile Effects business of Ciba Specialty Chemicals Holdings, thereby enabling the company to tap into Ciba’s heritage in digital inks, which dates back to the mid-1990s. In 2007, when Chemiplas was appointed Australasian distributor for US originated Huntsman Textile Effects, it was buying into a world class brand with a strong track record.
According to Braham, such clout has proven invaluable in taking on a challenging market.
“It’s very hard to break into the digital printing arena,” he notes. “Most companies simply buy inks from machine specialists, however Huntsman’s expertise in the area allows the company to provide value adding consultancy to a broad range of clients. It also has the capability to beat machine makers’ offers through its product ranges; Huntsman expanded its CMYK range to up to eight different inks to cover the whole shade gamut.”
Another advantage Huntsman offers is its embedded textile expertise; both Braham and Colaci originally worked for Ciba and moved over to Huntsman when it acquired the Ciba textile effects business, bringing with them extensive track records in textile related products.
“We understand the performance requirements and restrictions for digital printing and can advise on the right selection of ink for any end use. Our whole range covers all the machines in the market. Furthermore, direct to fabric printing requires pre-treatment, so we can advise on that as well as other related processes such as fixation, fastness and handle enhancement as necessary. We’ve found that many of the clients we’ve worked with have benefited from these.”
One of the most dynamic and challenging areas of digital printing lies in catering to the requirements of printing machinery, Braham says.
“The speed of machines is becoming greater and can be as much as 300 square metres plus an hour. The challenge for us is in creating inks that stay abreast of advances in printing head technology. Huntsman works closely with a number of companies in this area; each head is different and we spend a lot of time working with them to develop ink for high speed machines that also suits the kind of printer head to be used. A key factor is viscosity, which must match the speed of the machine.”
A key new product that exemplifies Huntsman’s continual evolution is the Lyosperse GP range of pigment inks for Epson type heads. “Huntsman came up with a novel binder 18 months ago to eliminate head blockage, a frequent problem with digital printing using Pigment inks”. The same patented binder system is used in Lyosperse XKS pigment inks for high speed printers, due for release in 2012.
Huntsman has also launched reactive range for cellulosic textiles, silk and nylon. Called Eriofast XKS, the range was released in early 2011 in partnership with Kyocera.
Beyond its current push into the digital printing arena, Huntsman also has a solid track record servicing all areas of the textile sector with a wide range of printing inks as well as specialised fabric treatments for wool, low temperature bleaching for cellulosic fibres, high temperature peroxide bleaching and fluorescent whiteners. The company also supplies reactive dyes for exhaust and continuous dyeing, acid dyes, and is also unique in offering the trademarked Eriofast reactive dyes for nylon.
A major supplier to the carpet and soft furnishings industries as well as the military, workwear and automotive sectors, Huntsman Textile Effects offers dyeing auxiliaries for all fibres and applications as well as finishes, softeners and resins.
The company also offers the trademarked Teflon range of fluoro-chemicals for oil and water repellency and soil release. Huntsman High IQ intelligent effects brands provide a range of specialised finishes and treatments for comfort, sun protection, anti-microbial, soil and water repellence, and lasting colour. Huntsman Textile Effects’ wide range of textile dyes and chemicals are available ex stock in Australia.
According to Doug Braham however, Huntsman Textile Effects’ ability to fine tune its offer to cater to individual client demands is where its real point of difference lies.
“Six different companies might operate the same model printer and achieve six different results, depending on the software and inks they use and the profiling and calibration of the machine. We work with each company as an individual to attain the best result for them.”
“Chemiplas, through Huntsman Textile Effects, has the expertise required to set up any printer,” adds Frank Colaci. “We have expertise in most heads and printers and can advise on the suitability of products. We also have the backing and support of the whole Huntsman global organisation. We’re able to provide advice and products for textile preparation such as the pre-coating of fabrics for digital printing. Many clients come to us for ink and we’re able to upsell a whole range of supporting products.”
“Furthermore, in the Australasian market, Huntsman Textile Effects is able to capitalise on Chemiplas’ backing, which extends well beyond the textiles arena into other complementary areas such as water treatment,” adds Braham.
With all Huntsman Textile Effects products Oekotex endorsed, the company’s environmental credentials are also increasingly finding favour with clients. Huntsman can assist companies in reducing their water consumption by as much as 50 per cent, energy consumption by at least 30 per cent and save time and increase productivity by at least 30 per cent. The company has worked with high profile companies such as UK retailer Marks & Spencer, one of the UK’s biggest clothing retailers, to achieve significant reductions in energy, water and dyestuff usage.
Chemiplas’ relationship with Huntsman in Australasia heralds a buoyant era for the local textile industry, in digital printing and beyond, says Braham.
“The local fashion and textile industry certainly has its challenges but we’re well positioned to meet them. Huntsman is one of the biggest suppliers to the textile market, meaning Chemiplas’ strong relationship with Huntsman offers real benefits.”
released: Tuesday, 15 May 2012
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