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Textile Print Shops 101

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There are many types of digital print shops and many more of the textile kind, so to do a general list of needs for a textile print shop would not be realistic; since all types have different needs.

For this edition, I will focus on an entry-level to mid-sized digital textile print shop for print runs of flags, advertising, soft signage and promotional material.

There are two approaches to this: using direct-to-fabric method or transfer printing. For direct-to-fabric printing you are able to do flags and soft signage in general, the basic equipment is somewhat simpler than the one for transfer printing.

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Century Star roll-to-roll direct-to-fabric printer with heating unit at the bottom.

 

Direct-to-fabric Printing

First off, you need to pick a printer: a roll-to-roll printer with an embedded hot air heating unit for ink sublimation or a roll-to-roll printer and an independent or in-line hot air sublimating unit or calender.

For this it is crucial that the heating unit is of good quality, look for a printer of a recognized brand but also search one that comes with a renowned heating unit, such as SAER or Century Star. The same applies for calenders you should choose one of a brand with experience in the market such as Eastsign, Fulei, Klieverik, Monti Antonio, or Pengda, of these Klieverik and Monti Antonio are a bit more expensive but are the top brands for textiles.

Of course having a heating unit or calender requires you to have a fume extraction system, this is not negotiable it is pretty much a part of the unit, so take it in to consideration, even though it is not so big it does require extra space and extra installation.

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Monti Antonio calendar with fabric, protective paper and transfer paper.

Transfer Printing

For this printing process you will need a roll-to-roll transfer paper printer plus a calender to transfer the printed image to your fabrics. Keep in mind that for this process, you will not only need the transfer paper per se but you will also need protective heat paper. And just like with direct-to-fabric you need to have a fume exhaust system because of the calender.

The main advantage of using transfer-printing process is that your images will be sharper and will have better resolution.

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d-gen Papyrus Arete printer for transfer printing.

 

Optional Textile Finishing Equipment

Cutting: Now that you have you printer and sublimating or transfer unit, you need to decide whether you will be cutting your prints in-house or if you will hire this service out. Let’s say you have the space and budget to cut them in-house, now you need either an x-cutter, an x-y cutter or a CNC router (for all shapes and size of cuts).

For best results you can choose a simple cutter that works with laser or hot knife so the textile edges are automatically sealed, and to avoid adding a seeming machine to do the process; otherwise, consider an automatic sewing machine.

Or you can opt for a CNC router, which allows you to cut more shapes and make more types of non-linear cuts, but it requires a larger budget.

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Close-up of a laser cutter cutting textile.

Grommets: Other extra equipment you should consider having or hiring an outside provider, is the one for adding grommets, you can get a basic machine if you are planning to sell signs that require them.

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Fastsnap bench-mount grommet setting machine.

Profiles for Framing: If you plan to provide textile signs inside frames, you should consider sewing PVC or silicone flat profiles that allow inserting built-in fabrics into profile frames. This saves assembling time and creates a smoother textile surface once the fabric is inside the frame. The downside is that flat profiles need to be sewn hence you need a sewing machine.

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Achte sewing machine for PVC or silicone profiles (you can see the reel with the profiles at the front).

On this article we provide the list of the basic items for a textile print shop plus a couple of things you might consider to invest in, if you have the budget or a specific need for them.

 

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