What Is Digital Printing & Why Is It Important?

WeaveUp, digital printing

Why Digital Printing?

Our world is absolutely overwhelmed by choice! Last time I looked at a coffee shop offering, there were scores of configurations, (choices) for a simple cup of coffee.

This expectation of choice is simply not achievable in the traditional model of textile printing.

A bit of history

Before the days of digital printing, adding design to textiles dates back thousands of years using various methods. I’m sure you are aware of most of them from your school days; block printing, tie dying, spattering, and flatbed screen. All of which were slow, laborious handcrafted processes.

The industry progressed to Rotary Screen, Copper Roller, Rotogravure and Flexographic, methods which still play a part in printing to this day.

Consider the complexity of printing textiles by these mechanical means where literally acres of complex machinery deliver often as many as 20 separate colour elements, with 20 individual rollers which have to deliver each colour in precisely the tight position it plays in the design.

It’s no wonder the production runs must be large! 

Mass production means lots of the same; less choice!

Contrast this capital intensive, large production, with the relatively new digital printing process which occupies a few square metres, prints on demand, (no need for large production runs) and eliminates the associated extravagant speculation.

Digital: How It Happens

Computer programs direct the printer to deliver the precise ‘drop’ of dye to the precise spot it is required to make up the pattern. 

No more screen production, no more engraving rollers, no more wasting hundreds of metres of fabric aligning the rollers… just the gentle touch of a few keys and magic happens!

That’s the seeming simplicity. 

The reality is the programming and the sophisticated equipment necessary to make all this happen is mind boggling. 

To place an image on a fabric with the clarity, colour and refinement of a Vogue magazine is something to behold.

After all my many years of seeing a plain, boring, white fabric go in the front of our printers, and come out the back end in a burst of amazing colour, it still thrills me!

Materialised digital printing
Materialised wallpaper sample printing

Digital Printing Gives Unlimited Choice To The Masses!

Digital printing has indeed revolutionised our company, as it has the entire textile world.

Materialised has been on the front of the digital wave for many years. 

It started as a ripple in 1998, where we produced samples on a digital printer at a rate off some 2m. per hour. The ripple grew into a wave as technology improved and now, for us it has become a tsunami. 

I know the dictionary description of digital talks about binary numbers and such, but when we speak of digital, as in our new WeaveUp 'do-it-yourself' print design program, I can't help but think of the old meaning of digit! The humble finger!

WeaveUp enables access to an ocean of designs that you can adapt on line, by colour, scale, repeat and base cloth right from your own desk, with just one finger (digit).

Jump on the wave with us...