The Wonders of Digital Screen Printing

Digital PrintingSilk Screen printing and digital screen printing belong to the general category of Direct to Garment (DTG) printing because the printing is done directly on the garment.

Digital Screen Printing vs. Old Silk Screens:

Using digital screen printing methods, you design what you want to print on your computer monitor and print directly on fabric using water-based CMYK inks. Like using inkjet printers, the technique allows you to print millions of colors and color blends. The colors are applied simultaneously in small hot ink droplets that cool instantly. You can print full-color photographs on fabric. You don’t have to make stencils or prepare silk screens. Digital screen printing makes it economical to print a single garment to order, while that would be a very time-consuming and costly if you were using a silk screen.

Conversely. the traditional silk screen method of printing requires that you cut a stencil for each color you want to print. Traditional silk screens used hand-cut stencils to position the ink on the fabric. Modern silk screen technology uses light-sensitive emulsions to cut the stencils on a computer, one for each color. In complex cases, this requires color separation imaging to prepare overlay patterns. Then each color requires a separate pass under the silk screen where the correct color ink is pushed on the fabric through a screen with a squeegee. After each color pass, time is required for the ink to dry before adding another color.

The color ink used in digital screen printing usually does not generate the richness of color that silk screen printing generates. If you want a solid area of bright color on your garment, the direct application of silk screen ink on your garment may be a more satisfying option. Silk screen (also called screen printing or silk printing) may be faster and more economical for printing a large printing order, for instance printing team t-shirts, when the color design is relatively simple.

Beyond Fabric:

Digital screen printing technology goes way beyond t-shirts. A new book by Swiss Author, Guido Lengwiler, describes how much this technology has penetrated into our lives in the era of microchips. Our entire microcomputer industry depends on screen printed chips using electrically conducting inks on silicon substrates. The workings of most miniaturized electronics are largely digitally screen printed products.

Inkjet printing was first patented in 1968. Gradually the applicability of the inkjet printer was expanded to include a wide range of media including canvas, vinyl and canvas. As far as textiles are concerned, the first printers applicable to digital screen printing began to appear in the 1990s with the introduction of the first printers using dye-based and pigment inks. At that point, digital screen printing became a viable option to traditional silk screening or lithography.

Now giant fabric printers are printing repeated designs on rolls of fabric yards wide. Digital screen printing allows the industrial fabric printer to customize images even as the fabric passes through manufacture.  Every yard of fabric can be customized with particular names and images. Small runs of fabric can be printed for sampling purposes. The perfect print can be produced to order to suit a designer. Industrial digital printing all but eliminates the need for a fabric inventory. Traditional screen printed fabrics usually appear on the market about a year after they are designed. Using digital printing methods, its possible to go from design to finished fabric in a matter of days with onsite printers.

Founded in 1988, A.I.R. Conway is a direct to garment printing company. Please contact us for more information.