Dye sublimation innovation

By Otis Robinson 09 July 2019
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Otis Robinson speaks to Jason Remnant, head of production management, and Mike Raymond, sales manager, both at Xaar, about the company’s new, ‘efficient’, 5601 print head and its collaboration with SPGPrints at ITMA Barcelona.

In a demonstration for select visitors at ITMA 2019 in Barcelona, Spain, Xaar, a developer of digital inkjet technology, and SPGPrints, a provider of integrated solutions for textile, label and industrial markets, showcased the former’s latest ‘innovation’ in dye sublimation printing. Visitors were given an insight into the abilities of the new Xaar 5601 print head together with waterborne sublimation inks that the latter had optimised specifically for the event. Ahead of the demonstration, WTiN spoke with Xaar about the collaboration.

Print head abilities

“The Xaar 5601 print head is single-pass, with only four heads,” says Jason Remnant, head of production management at Xaar, regarding the company’s newest edition to its inkjet print head portfolio. “There are two heads to length and two heads to width to get four-colour printing. It’s really compact.”  

As Remnant explores the 5601 prior to the demo, he explains that functionally, the print head can use two colours for each of its four integrated print heads. According to Remnant, this ‘compact’ nature will increase the speed and efficiency of dye sublimation printing, printing at a rate of 120m/min and boasting a dpi ranging from 600dpi (with two colours) up to 1,200dpi (with only one). The Xaar 5601 print head works with the company’s ‘unique’ technologies – AcuDrp Technology and TF Technology ink recirculation – which ensures outstanding colour uniformity and repeatability as well as exceptional print quality, the company says. Used for the dye-sublimation transfer printing process, the print head can print on polyester and other synthetic fabrics while enabling textile printing companies to produce more efficiently with less ink and higher levels of colour density ‘for maximum impact’, according to Xaar.

However, unique to this product are high-flow capabilities that “are an enabler for the pigment market”, says Mike Raymond, sales manager at Xaar. He continues: “We’re definitely going after the direct-to-garment area.”

“We tested the head with inks for direct-to-textile applications and we found some very positive results,” Remnant continues.

Cost cuts, collaborations and trends

Remnant adds that, although printing abilities can indeed increase with the Xaar 5601, there is another key benefit that makes the product a ‘double whammy’: the company’s end-users may also be able to print with less costs, depending on the pricing decisions of key OEMs who install the print head in their machines.

“There is a cost associated with populating a machine with print heads. Since there’s less print heads [due to the compact nature of the 5601] in the machine, for the same output, [there is] quite an impact on the purchase price of a new machine,” Remnant says. “Typically, you’d need twice as many heads with other print heads. [By using the 5601] you’re reducing the cost of the printer component parts and the complexity of the printer, and the risk of it failing. It’s going to be a cost-effective [addition to] machines.”

Additionally, the print head does not only represent a move towards cost-efficient, simplistic print management, but also Xaar’s collaboration with SPGPrints. The invitation-only event on the SPGPrints stand reveals “new standards of digital textile printing” set by Xaar, according to the company, and showcases its ability to develop longstanding relationships with OEMs for the benefit of the wider industry.

Remnant comments on the company’s participation at ITMA: “There’s probably not many companies we’ve not spoken to. [With SPGPrints] we’re showing the 5601 to prospective customers and trying to get market feedback.”

While market feedback is important to the company, Xaar is confident that its technology will have proliferated in years to come, furthering technological development within the industry. Raymond notes how innovative technologies quietly showcased at one edition of ITMA can springboard into popularity and, in the four years between exhibitions, become a focal point at the next.

In the past, Remnant believes that Xaar has been key in pushing some ‘core technologies’ over the hump with regards to the ceramic and graphics industries, and during this year’s ITMA, the company hoped to address some pain points orbiting single-pass printing.

Remnant continues by addressing trending technologies at the Barcelona event: “What I’ve seen [at ITMA 2019] is higher-speed scanning. People are still resisting the cost and the risks they associate with single-pass,” Remnant says, before referencing the successful sales of SPGPrints’ machines as an example of its success.

“Our objective with this head is to help push single pass further, but it doesn’t ignore the scanning part of the market.”

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