Qual Fab teams with DuPont to go digital

Carole Sloan, June 14, 2004

Qual Fab Industries is launching a digital printing program using DuPont's Artisti system.

The Qual Fab-DuPont digital printing system uses permanent pigment-printing technology which gives more consistent color and the ability to print on almost any type of base cloth, said Jil Liebson, president. "In earlier digital-printing systems, the color was not permanent," she related.

Qual Fab is using the digital-printing technology throughout its own diverse fabric line, as well as making it available to commission printing accounts. "It allows me to visit the upper end" — the high-end decorator market where small runs are a significant part of the business, she said.

The technology, now in its early stages of use in the home textiles and apparel fabrics markets, allows prints to be created in an unlimited number of colors. "But actually, up to 42 colors per colorway is manageable. Beyond that there is the question of how much does the eye see in determining colors," Liebson remarked.

Among the benefits of digital printing, Liebson explained, "is that there are no repeat limits. The limit basically is the length of the bolt of fabric being printed." Color consistency is another key plus as is the ability to do borders, and the pigment dyes are washable and fade resistant, she said.

Earlier technology for digital printing was limited by the fact that the pigment particles were too big to fit into the printing heads, but now the heads have been made bigger, she pointed out.

Digital printing, expensive now while in its infancy, eliminates the need for cutting screens for each color in each colorway of a design, a cost that can run as high as $500 per screen, she said. Initially the Qual Fab system will cost $20 per yard, with the outlook for lower prices as the technology advances, she said. The print bed can handle fabrics up to 72 inches wide.

In addition, she said, there are no minimum yardage requirements for the designs and colorways, something that is important to companies making samples for potential customers, market samples for customers or small runs for special programs. Currently, the technology allows production of 17 to 30 yards per hour, but the goal is to double that speed in a short period of time, Liebson said.

Another plus for the new technology is that it passes the 701 Contract Fabric Code, she added.

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