It is an industrial type of printer that prints in a single pass at a high speed. The basic principle is that they use a stationary array of printheads that are the width of the substrate. It is the media that moves below the fixed printheads for printing, while placed on a conveyor belt moved by motors. There are individual printing stations with several printheads, one station per ink color. The media moves under the printing stations; which print one color at a time at a high speed.
The average speed of a single-pass printer is 40 linear meters per minute, but some are capable of achieving over 100 linear minutes per minute, but it is not the norm. These speeds allow digital printing to compete with traditional printing on an industrial level.
As the technology improves and the demand grows, single-pass printers will become more attainable and then the real competition will begin. It was not until 2015 that single-pass textile printers began to appear in tradeshows allover the world. Before that, multi-pass technology was the king of digital textile printing.
The set-up cost of single-pass technology is high since the cost of printheads is high, and you need lots of printheads to cover the width of each color for the printed fabric. Plus each printhead requires a lot of electronic components that also contribute to price increase.
Her are some positive aspects to take into account when considering single-pass printing:
• Single-pass printers are more environmentally friendly than screen-printing
• Lower ink costs since only the amount of ink needed is used
• You save lots of time since there is no need to set up screens
• Consumable savings since there are no screens to wash and you can switch between designs easily
• Lower service costs due to more control of printhead performance
• Ability to produce high resolution images and photographic quality prints
• Capability to print smaller runs: 1000 meters instead of 5000 meter minimums for screen printing
On the other hand, it is important to take into consideration the fact that there are some aspects that single-pass printers cannot achieve. For example, metallic colors cannot be printed onto textiles using single-pass printing. And also, neon colors are hard to achieve, since the brilliance is not the same as with screen-printing.
There are many brands that have single-pass textile printers in the market; one of the pioneers is SPG Prints who have now integrated pre-treatment into the in-line workflow.
Some of the other notable brands that manufacture single-pass textile printers are Atexco, EFI, Konica Minolta, and MS Printing.
We will surely see more new single-pass textile printers in the future, especially since fast fashion is accelerating thanks to faster single-pass textile printers.