The direct injection of pure cotton fabric basically began to appear in some prototypes after the emergence of pigment ink. In the beginning, mainly in Europe, it was realized by refitting the Epson printer into a flat-panel printer, which was probably from 1999 to 2001. The real commercialization began around 2003-2004. Some cotton T-shirt flat-panel printers modified with epson2200 and 4800 appeared at the exhibition. At that time, there were about 2-3 companies, namely USScreen print in the United States, DTG in Europe, and Sawgrass in the United States. However, due to the poor ink stability and color saturation, they did not achieve great success.
It is Kornit in Europe and Brother in Japan that really promote the industrialization of digital printing of pure cotton fabrics. They selected the industrial print head developed by spectra and kycera, and developed special pure cotton pigment ink to realize the reliable mass printing of pure cotton fabrics. At present, the main personalized T-shirt printing companies are basically equipped with a kornit931ds printer (about $70000-100000) and a brother’s gt541 printer (about $15000-20000). These machines were launched in 2005.
Because these professional machines are too expensive, the flat-panel direct injection machine modified with Epson 4800 still has a certain market, especially in China. Due to the low technical threshold of such modification, many companies in China, South Korea, and Taiwan produce and sell such machines. The price of machines also fell rapidly. From 100000 yuan a set 3-4 years ago to 40000-50000 yuan a set. This is a modified machine with its own RIP software. If it is only changed into a tablet, it will only cost about 30000 yuan. At present, the more reliable refitting machines in the market include fast-t of USScreen printing, Directadvantage of Sawgrass, Flexi jet, DGjet in Singapore, Nanojet in Europe, and some machines in South Korea. There seem to be several in China. I tried the machine of a company in Zhongguancun, Beijing last year. It feels that the function is still relatively simple, there are problems with their RIP software, and the pattern color is distorted. They seem to use Rohm Haas’s ink.
Then the machine will talk about ink. At present, the inks for refitting machines with better quality in the market mainly include pure cotton inks produced by DuPont, Rohm & Hass, Sawgrass in the United States, and Nanojet in the United Kingdom. Most machines use ink from the above companies. These inks are acceptable in color gamut, washability, and stability. Of course, they are very different from the professional machines of Kornit and Brother. But the price is also much cheaper than brother’s ink (brother’s ink retail is about $900 / L, and the cheapest Rohm and Haas’s ink is about $30-50 / L). But it is said that since 2008, Rohm Haas has stopped producing their pure cotton ink. Maybe the profit is too low to make money. Many pure cotton inks in South Korea are cheap, but they have not been tried, and the quality is not very clear.
When it comes to pure cotton printing, white ink is indispensable. Since 1997, many companies have regarded the development of white ink as a major scientific research project. By 2005, they basically gave up. Now only DuPont’s white ink is on the market. DuPont’s white ink was launched at the ISA fair in Atlanta in September 2005. It was used for the fast-t cotton printer of USScreen printing company. At that time, the T-shirt was pretreated, printed with white ink three times, and then printed with color ink. Nevertheless, it still attracted the attention of all exhibitors. Usscreen printing has sold thousands of printers with white ink. It can be said that the scenery is temporary. The ink is immature. Because the machine plugs are too frequent, USScreenprinting has to spend a lot of energy dealing with quality problems and even court proceedings. At one time, funds were very tight and operated by borrowing. It’s really “success is also Xiaohe, failure is also Xiaohe”. In 2007, DuPont launched the second generation of white ink. It is said that the stability has been improved. According to the author’s test, the whiteness and washing resistance of the new ink have been improved, but the stability is still very poor and the plugs are frequent.
Cotton T-shirt printing is basically a thing of the past. Facts have proved that it is very difficult to achieve stable profits for relatively expensive investment, unstable equipment, and ink. If there are manufacturers with a large customer base, it is better to invest in professional printers of Kornit and brother. However, the formulation technology and development of pure cotton ink provide valuable experience for the wide and digital printing production of pure cotton fabrics. Since 2012, the digital printing technology of wide-width pure cotton fabric has appeared in various fairs. Various digital printing equipment manufacturers, software manufacturers, and ink manufacturers have begun to integrate and provide reliable printing technology.