Technical motif printing

Technical motif printing

When we mention the terms motif printing and printing technique, we refer mainly to a pre-established fabric base and the subsequent production cycles. With reference to the latter, we are talking about:

  • preparation of the fabric,
  • creation of printing screens,
  • preparation of printing pastes,
  • fabric dyeing or coating,
  • steaming for colour fixation,
  • fabric washing and finishing.

Different textile printing techniques

The preparation of fabrics to be printed consists of the combination of operations required to make the raw fabric ready for dyeing or printing, freeing it from all the impurities of the fibre, as well as those from the products added during the spinning and weaving phase. 

When we talk about traditional textile printing techniques, we refer to a “localised dye” whose motifs are made with mechanical tools which, in the case of table printing technology, are called printing screens. 

During the design and development of the motif to be printed, it is divided into zones and each colour corresponds to a screen and each screen to a printing paste. The dyes required to reproduce the motif on the cloth and, consequently, the printing pastes are treated in a specific department called the “colour kitchen” by highly qualified staff with a background in chemistry.

Having established the succession of frames and colours, different printing techniques are then carried out using different technologies: table printing, hand printing, trolley printing, rotary printing, flatbed printing, roller (or cylinder) printing, digital printing and heat transfer printing.            

Below are some details on these printing techniques

Description of fabric printing techniques  

Hand table printing is performed on tables of variable length, covered by a resin cloth on which the fabric base is fixed. The printing screen is manually moved by an operator, who spreads the dye on the fabric using a spatula; this fabric printing technique is also called “wet-on-dry”. In trolley printing, the frame is instead mounted on a trolley that automatically moves in succession, pressing the printing screen on the fabric. The rotary table technique is an evolution of trolley printing, where it is the fabric that moves forward instead of the trolley holding the screen. The advantage of this technique is that you can print more fabric at a time.

A further development of the rotary table printing technique is flatbed printing, which is better performing in terms of quantity and speed, since it provides for the possibility of multiple printing units and therefore more screens printing at the same time. 

The roller printing technique works using the same principle as above, but instead of printing screens it uses cylinders that show a motif corresponding to a colour. In this case, the fabric is attached to a belt that moves continuously, dragging the cylinders, which rotate to print the colours on the fabric. Professionals also refer to this printing technique as “wet-on-wet”.

With the latest technology, digital printing imitates the normal colour printer in a more advanced and complex way. In essence, this digital inkjet printing technique consists in the generation of colour droplets that are subsequently deposited on a surface to form a printed image.

Once the fabric has been printed, in order to allow the dye to penetrate and chemically fix within the fibre, we move on to the steaming phase: a far less common technique, which can be carried out continuously or discontinuously. 

After colour fixation and washing, the fabric enters the last department, the finishing department for its final ennobling, with the aim of delivering the final product to the customer as ordered, especially in qualitative terms.

For more detailed information, please refer to the full article “Ratti and different fabric printing techniques: quality, tradition and innovationby Ratti, now a leading world player in the production of high-end fabrics and accessories.