Digital Output Apr 24

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APRIL 2024 State of Ink | pg. 21 Foamboard and Acrylics | pg. 27 Consumables for Textiles | pg. 32 pg. 15 DIGITALOUTPUT.NET VOL XXX, NO. 4 • $6.95 USA


15 } Heavy Weight Champs

Floor Graphics for Areas with Heightened Tra c

The best materials for busy environments. by Melissa Donovan

21 } Preference Reigns

State of Ink 2024

Advancements meet market demands. by Melissa Donovan

27 } The Right Rigid Material

Continued Demand for Foamboards and Plastics

Focus on display and point of purchase. by Cassandra Balentine

32 } Intense, Stable Color

Spotlight on Textile Ink

Positive changes in color vibrancy, wash fastness, and more. by Digital Output Staff April 2024 | Digital Output { 3 } Departments Editor’s Input ................................................................ {4 In the Aisles .................................................................. {6 Application Spotlight {12 Target Charts {20 & 30 Plus Marketplace Spotlight { 11 Advertiser’s Index/Companies Mentioned ........... {26 Showcase Advertisers {26
THE COVER: Jessup Manufacturing Company o ers floor graphic media for high-tra c areas. See page 15.
27 6 15 12 21 32


Unsung Hero

Let’s here it for floor graphics—the unsung hero of the floor. Perhaps the most overworked, misused material out of them all. Why? They are stepped on, kicked at—even driven on, depending on the location. The best combination of media—overlaminate and base if need be—is necessary for the application to remain installed for the desired amount of time.

They are stepped on, kicked at—even driven on, depending on the location.

Our cover story, Heavy Weight Champs, takes a look at floor graphics used in areas with heightened traffic, pedestrian and vehicular. Strong, durable media makes for a material that is relied upon in these situations.

Elsewhere in this issue, there’s a focus on ink. Our state of ink report— Preference Reigns—reviews advancements and demand in aqueous, latex/resin, solvent, and UV ink sets. Intense, Stable Color offers a deep dive on textile inks. We also include a Target Chart listing ink manufacturers and distributors.

The Right Rigid Material focuses on demand in the foamboard and plastic space. While there’s a lot of attention on eco-friendly options, foamboard and plastic are still desired for different applications and environments. Also, depending on the material, they do offer some level of sustainability.

Make sure to read through our finishing-focused Application Spotlight, browse the long list of media vendors in our large format media Target Chart, and use our second preview of the ISA Intl. Sign Expo to plan your way around the event in April.


Olivia Cahoon, Tim Greene, Mark Hanley, Melinda Tetreault, Amber Watson



Thomas Tetreault


Amanda Doyon

978-921-7850, Ext. 170

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VOLUME XXX, NO.4 DIGITALOUTPUT.NET ISSN: 1083-5121 EDITOR IN CHIEF Thomas Tetreault EDITOR Melissa Donovan ASSOCIATE EDITOR Cassandra Balentine WEB EDITOR Melissa Mueller ART DIRECTOR Sarah M. White
Digital Output is published monthly by Rockport Custom Publishing LLC. ©Rockport Custom Publishing, LLC 2024. Reproduction by any means of the whole or part of Digital Output without written permission from the publisher is prohibited. Views expressed in the editorial pages do not imply our endorsement. Vendors: We welcome your product news. Include prices, slides, photos, and digital files with your press release. Please forward product samples and media kits to Reviews Editor, Digital Output, 100 Cummings Center, STE 321E Beverly, MA 01915. We cannot be responsible for unsolicited product samples.
CREATION OUTPUT FINISHING April 2024 | Digital Output { 4 }

Success in Sign and Print Attend ISA International Sign Expo

The International Sign Association (ISA) holds its premiere event, the ISA International Sign Expo 2024 from Wednesday, April 10 to Friday, April 12 in Orlando, FL at the Orange County Convention Center.

New this year is ISA INSTALL - Wide Format Graphics. After a successful launch of ISA INSTALL in 2022 and 2023, the organization is introducing this new event and rebranding the original ISA INSTALL to ISA INSTALL - Signs & Service.

ISA INSTALL - Wide Format Graphics is a networking event for key decision makers actively seeking top-tier print installation professionals. Held Thursday, April 11 from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m., sign shops with installation expertise are encouraged to attend and highlight their skills, certifications, and competencies to prospective customers.

At the Expo

Of course the show floor is filled with leading vendors showcasing their newest products and solutions to attendees. We include some of the exhibitors here and check our March issue for additional information.

3A Composites, booth 1563, shows off graphics featuring iconic films that harken to Hollywood’s Golden Age of innovative entertainment. With characters like Robby the Robot, King Kong, Frankenstein, and the Giant Gila Monster all direct printed to 3A’s industry-leading brands, these films were ground breaking and category defining in their time, just like the brands they are pictured on. See FOME-COR, SINTRA, GATOR, DIBOND, and DISPA, not to mention three brand new products. INFO# 500

A&C Plastics, booth 1072, is a leading distributor of acrylic sheets in North America, boasting a vast inventory featuring over 3,000 different plastic products. Its commitment to exceptional customer service and reliability has solidified its position as an industry leader, offering the perfect balance between reliability and personalized service. INFO# 501

ASLAN, booth 553, is where quality meets specialty. The German-based manufacturer of self-adhesive films focuses on high-quality, niche products for sign making. Highlights include glittering film SparkleColour ASLAN SC 123, flocked decorative film CaressColour ASLAN

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1) Avery Dennison, booth 1135, invites attendees to experience the best in graphic films for creating spaces and new experiences, branding fleets, and producing retail signage. 2) 3A Composites, booth 1563, shows off graphics featuring iconic films that harken to Hollywood’s Golden Age of innovative entertainment.

CC 124, and protective laminate MagicProtect Matt ASLAN SL 99 with its spray paint-repellent and anti-sticker surface. Furthermore, visitors can experience new selfadhesive films from the company’s German think tank. INFO# 502

Avery Dennison, booth 1135, invites attendees to experience the best in graphic films for creating spaces and new experiences, branding fleets, and producing retail signage. Its marquee vehicle wrapping films, decorative window films, and colorful crafting films are on display. Discover new products, new business ideas, and hands-on training opportunities that allow users to work with its films on a variety of applications. Stop by the booth daily to see live demonstrations and enter to win free material with daily wrapping contests. INFO# 503

Canon USA, booth 2123, showcases its cutting-edge printing solutions. The Arizona 2300 Series stationary flatbed printers use UVcurable inks, ensuring reliability and precise registration. Whether on rigid or flexible media, the Arizona 2300 delivers quality and versatility. The Colorado M-Series offers high-speed, roll-to-roll printing with UVgel technology. Achieve color consistency, low ink use, and durable prints. The imagePROGRAF GP Series of large format aqueous printers offer color accuracy, vibrant output, reliability, and ease of use. INFO# 504

Colex, booth 2535, demonstrates the Colex Sharpcut SXC1732 with Colex Cut Center 8 Production Automation offering versatility and increased productivity. The Fotoba April 2024 | Digital Output { 7 }
#3 #9

XLA170 offers automatic vertical blade positioning allowing X/Y cutting of multiple sizes without operator intervention inline with the Fotoba Stacker capable of cutting media up to ten feet long is also demonstrated as well as the Bubble Free Application Table and C364 Laminator. INFO# 505

Digitech, booth 2235, shows the Trufire LTX2 printer as part of its print-and-cut system for rigid media. Providing simple automation, this high-capacity printer is a game changer. The automation system uses quick response or barcodes to increase productivity and reduce labor even on singlesheet or small-run jobs. It is ideal for wide format graphic providers of any size. Visit the booth to see intuitive workflow software, smart engineering, and simple operation systems, with reliability that’s second to none. INFO# 506

Epson, booth 1734, displays its range of digital printing solutions ideal for a variety of applications—

indoor and outdoor signage, photography, graphics, and textile. Leveraging a “Seventy5 Sporting Goods Store” theme, visitors experience live demonstrations, get the first look at new solutions being announced at the show, and see a sneak peek of forward-looking professional desktop printing technology. The sports theme of the booth lends itself to realworld print applications, including jerseys, swimwear, helmets, and posters. INFO# 507

FDC Graphic Films, Inc., booth 1658, has been a master converter and distributor of sign vinyl films, digital media, overlaminates, banner, and heat transfer films since 1988. It markets, converts, and distributes products from reliable brands exclusively through distribution channels. The Lumina by FDC portfolio of digital media, sign vinyl, and heat transfer vinyl product highlights include holographic film, ultra-metallic cast vinyl film, ultra-high gloss calendered film, etched glass film, and floor films. FDC’s Service Advantage includes samples, striping, sheeting, slitting,

punching, continuous roll, premasking and lamination, custom packaging, and same-day shipping with no minimum order requirements. INFO# 508

Fiery, booth 1513, highlights the latest from its Specialty Production Applications, as well as the power of its large format Fiery XF DFE. Stop by to see the best in white ink and color management for direct to film with Digital Factory, precision engraving and ADA compliance with EngraveLab, and professional large format print-and-cut alongside expert color tools in Fiery XF and Command WorkStation. It also demonstrates Pro Vehicle Outlines, one of the largest and accurate vehicle template libraries in North America. INFO# 509

Fisher Textiles, booth 2147, features new printable fabrics. GF6051 Super Sonic is a backlit silicone edge graphic (SEG) fabric that is wrinkle and craze resistant. Also available with recycled polyester, ET8050 Super Sonic; treated for direct printing, DD6750 Super Sonic; and five-meter wide, DD6650 Super Sonic. GF5020 Gumbee is a stretch fabric with near equal stretch and an excellent white point. Applications include pillowcase displays and SEG. GF7108 White-Out is a printable blockout with a coated back for opacity. Applications include banners, pillowcase displays, and SEG. INFO# 510

Graphic Finishing Partners, LLC (Gfp), booth 745, exhibits its 663TH Production Top Heat Laminator with Smart Finishing Technology. It includes a touchscreen user interface, digital microcontroller

system, swingout supply film shafts, inline rotary slitters, rear take up for roll-to-roll operation, and a roll label printer to manage inventory. Gfp also features the 363-TH Top Heat Laminator with integrated rear rewind, 255-C Cold Laminator, and FT48 Finishing Table with transfer and cutting table sides, along with the 220-C tabletop laminator. In addition, laminates from the Gfp Film Products portfolio are processed through each machine. INFO# 511

Kongsberg Precision Cutting Systems (PCS), booth 1101, demonstrates how sign and display manufacturers can use its powerful automated solutions to improve productivity, drive efficiency, and enjoy creative freedom. In the booth are demonstrations of the Kongsberg C24 multifunction digital cutting system and the MultiCam Apex3R CNC router, the flagship in its MultiCam range of advanced routing and CNC cutting systems. INFO# 512

Laminators Incorporated, booth 1449, is a full-service manufacturing company offering complete, innovative, turnkey solutions for your sign panel needs. It offers a full line of digital print-ready panels—Alumalite, Omega-Bond, LusterBoard, and Omega SignBoard. The company’s rigid substrates are strong, durable, and ready to use. Available in a variety of colors, the finished surfaces are smooth and will not crack, chip, flake, or peel even under harsh weather conditions. The array of cores as well as the various thicknesses, sheet sizes, and double-/single-sided sheets satisfy any sign or fabricated project. INFO# 513

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3) Glittering film SparkleColour ASLAN SC 123 is in ASLAN’s booth 553.

Mimaki USA, booth 1435, debuts the JFX600-2531 UV LED large format flatbed printer. Based on the JFX600-2513, this model doubles the print area to increase productivity or produce oversized graphics. The larger bed size of the JFX600-2531 printer accommodates oversized sheets with a total printable area of up to 98.4 inches wide by 122 inches long and up to 2.36 inches thick. A Mimaki Toggle Print Function with two origin points gives operators the ability to position up to two 4x8-foot boards, multiple jigs, or smaller pre-cut pieces onto the table with the ability to rotate the origin point for true continuous printing of two different jobs. INFO# 514

Nekoosa, booth 1009, features Nekoosa Dye Sublimation Transfer Paper. Its newest product is designed to deliver consistent, highdefinition image transfer on both hard and soft surfaces. Whether producing apparel, signage, promotional items, or personalized products, Nekoosa Dye Sublimation Transfer Paper handles a range of applications. Additionally, Nekoosa’s printable window films and sustainable print media options are in the booth. INFO# 515

Newlife Magnetics, booth 515, offers some of the thinnest, widest, and strongest magnet media. Newlife provides printable wide format magnet rolls up to 60 inches wide and as thin as 12-mil. Newlife’s EM Ultrawide magnet is available in 12-,15-, and 20-mil thicknesses in 54- and 60-inch wide rolls. Its EM Ultrawide features a high-quality PET print surface that is solvent, UV, and latex compatible. The company just launched its latest innovation for the HP Indigo/offset market, Newlife PressMag sheets. Another innovation, Newlife PrintMag High Energy is for customers requiring a thinner, lighter, stronger magnet option. INFO# 516

Onyx Graphics, Inc., booth 2135, previews the newest version in its RIP software, ONYX 24. Attendees explore new features such as automated multi-layer printing, seamless mobile device integration, and advanced print quality assurance. Additionally, it shows ONYX Align, designed to streamline print shop operations through optimized workflow and effective production management. These innovations demonstrate the company’s commitment and capability in powering the next generation of automated printing solutions for print operators. INFO# 517

Quality Media and Laminating Solutions, booth 1275, invites attendees to experience efficiency like never before. Discover Kala Finishing Equipment, featuring the KalaXY Pro XY Cutting System. Witness how this technology simplifies workflow by automating the cutting process for various media types including direct to film, paper, and wallcovering. Say goodbye to manual labor and hello to increased profitability with Kala XY cutting machines. INFO# 518

Roehm America LLC, booth 527, offers acrylic products integral to the signage industry, preferred for superior impact strength, weather resistance, and consistent performance. Visit to discover the versatility of Acrylite sheet, available in various grades and options suitable for both interior and exterior applications—from wayfinding signs to channel letters. It showcases Acrylite digital print for ADA signage. ADA-compliant acrylic provides exceptional ink adhesion, tailored for direct printing of braille and raised letters. In addition, Acrylite color-changing acrylic sheet is displayed alongside warrantied non-yellowing white acrylic products. INFO# 519

StratoJet, booth 2314, showcases multiple new generation solutions this year. The Falcon XL-3300 is equipped with multi roll feed holders, dual back light, and built-in mesh kit for all-in-one roll-to-roll solutions. The Shark EFB-2512

flatbed with 13 UV colors is on display. And finally, the company shows its sustainable wide format solution—Hawk CleanPrint— which is known for exceptional performance for multiple applications. INFO# 520

Supreme Color Graphics, booth 2926, is a national wholesale large format digital printer working exclusively with trade partners. Boasting over 30 years in the industry, its mission is to manufacture exceptional, made-to-order signs and ensure prompt delivery to your customers. While Supreme Color can handle simple signage like yard signs, its true specialty lies in crafting custom and distinctive signage that often requires cutting, routing, and specialized finishes. It has a diverse range of rigid and roll materials, and it works to accommodate your request if it does not carry it. As your printing partner, Supreme Color values the importance of your reputation and is determined to elevate it. INFO# 521

Tekra, booth 1263, says “this is your sign” to stop by and see how it can help you navigate to new markets. The company can pave your way to business with films and adhesives to expand your portfolio. It features everything from polycarbonate for backlit signage with the JetView line, to polyesters and RPVC for industrial overlays and retail graphics with the Dura-Go line. INFO# 522

Vanguard Digital Printing Systems, booth 1122, shows its full solutions lineup. On display are three printers from its portfolio; the new VK3220T-HS, which

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4) StratoJet, booth 2314, showcases the Shark EFB-2512 flatbed.

is a user-friendly 10.5x6.5-foot flatbed that offers up to 1,800 dpi print resolution and runs up to 3,875 square feet per hour (sf/h); the VR6D-HS flatbed, made for production with a printing area up to 50x99 inches and print speeds up to 1,500 sf/h; and the VKH900HS Hybrid, which combines the VK300D-HS flatbed with the VKR3200-HS roll-to-roll printer, maximizing key features of each platform. INFO# 523

Zund America, booth 2100, exhibits digital cutting and routing tools as well as different, application-specific workflow options. Attendees can experience the speed, precision, and efficiency of Zünd cutting/routing systems producing graphics including acrylic inlays, ACM signage, corrugated boxes, wallpaper, and printed fabric. ZCC 4.0, the latest, most intuitive, easy-to-use version of the Zünd Cut Center user interface is on display, along with the latest options in production workflow automation. This includes the Robot PortaTable 130, a movable, robotic pick-and-place device consisting of a roller table equipped with a collaborative robot arm. The PortaTable is modular and can be tailored to meet individual production needs. INFO# 524

Learn, Network, Shop

This year’s ISA International Sign Expo is slated to be a great event filled with education, networking, and purchasing opportunities. To attend, get your event pass now at

Can’t make it? Be sure to read our May issue, which includes a recap of the event. D


Stand Out in the Industry

Featuring a table size of 55x27 inches, the XpertJet 1462UF stands out. This large dimension allows for increased production capacity and profitability, enabling users to print up to 5.91 inches thick. Whether you’re looking to enhance your existing UV printer or venture into new areas such as ADA compliant braille, awards, packaging, signage, or home décor, this printer is ideal. Powered by MUTOH’s VerteLith Genuine RIP software and bundled with FlexiDESIGNER MUTOH Edition 21, a $2,199 value, the XpertJet 1462UF offers businesses a powerful solution to enhance productivity, expand creative possibilities, and deliver exceptional print quality. Request a free print sample at INFO# 524


High-Performance Nesting and Job Prep

Caldera PrimeCenter helps print businesses streamline and automate print-and-cut workflows to reduce production costs, save time, and maximize machine uptime.  Caldera’s new solution gives print service providers the power to create job preparation recipes for accurate and consistent results while optimizing media usage with advanced job nesting. Reduce time spent on repetitive tasks by up to 30 percent and speed up job preparation by up to three times with PrimeCenter. Learn more at

INFO# 526


KalaXY Automatic XY Cutters

Engineered and manufactured in Europe, the KalaXY Cutter/Trimmer reduces labor and increases profits by eliminating the time-consuming task of manually cutting printed digital images. Our line of automatic XY cutters are the ideal solution for processing a range of media including wallpaper, paper, direct to film, canvas, laminated/ encapsulated films, banner material, polycarbonate, and other non-woven roll goods. Increase your output while reducing operation costs with KalaXY Cutters. Visit, contact Supply55 at 734-668-0755, or email INFO# 525


92ST Digital Wrap Film

Trim USA is proud to introduce 92ST Digital Wrap Film, manufactured by LX Hausys, a division of LG. It has been engineered with installer-friendly features such as repositionability, slideability, air-free technology, and ability to conform to irregular surfaces. Image quality with the new 92ST is outstanding with printable solvent, latex, and UV-curable inks. The LX 809904 laminate that is paired with the media at 1.6-mil contributes to the stretch in compound areas. The laminate is carried on a layflat liner and is also printable. For the occasion you need a clear media, you can print on this film. Call 800-642-0959 for more information. INFO# 527 April 2024 | Digital Output { 11 }

Creative Corrugate Find Success with Retail Merchandisers

With increased competition on the store shelves, brands need to stand out. Fortunately, today’s graphics and display companies overcome limitations with the latest technologies.

Middlestreet Graphics & Display, LLC, a Division of G&J Pepsi-Cola Bottling Co., provides G&J Pepsi and related brands with end-to-end services including design, prototyping, project management, digital and offset printing—both small and large format, digital and analog die cutting, assembly, packing, fulfillment, and logistics.

The company operates out of a 100,000 square foot facility with 55 employees in Reynoldsburg, OH. It has experienced significant annual double digit growth—both in top line revenue and operating income over the past several years.

The print provider was founded in 2017

as an in-plant print service provider (PSP) for G&J Bottling Company, a third generation, family owned company in operation for 99 years. Today, G&J Pepsi operates several bottling and distribution faculties in and around Central OH, as well as in Northern KY and Western WV.

Before Middlestreet Graphics & Display was formed as an in-plant provider, G&J would outsource its work to local print providers. Eventually it decided to bring the work in house to achieve better control over the quality and turnaround time of its graphics and displays.

Post-print operations are often overlooked in the grand scheme of the overall workflow...

“They weren’t seeing the outcomes they were looking for. They wanted faster responses, lower costs of doing business, and just more dedication and understanding of the type of displays they merchandise,” offers Dean DeMarco, GM, Middlestreet Graphics & Display.

1 2
April 2024 | Digital Output { 12 } 1) The Celsius can pallet topper helps drive more display activity to retail stores. Middlestreet Graphics & Display print and cut this display with the help of its Elitron Kombo TAV-R. 2) Middlestreet Graphics & Display operates an Elitron Kombo TAV-R modular digital cutting system in house.

For the first few years of operation, most of its business was for G&J and other bottlers. However, it expanded its client base and today the majority is down to about 65 percent relevant to G&J with business from additional brands making up the other 35 percent.

Approximately 80 percent of its workload is considered wide format, which is produced with a line up of Durst Image Technology US, LLC printing equipment, including a Rho 312R dedicated roll-to-roll printer, a hybrid P5 250 WT with flatbed and roll-to-roll capabilities, two high-speed Rho 2500 Series corrugate printers, and a Rho P10.

On the finishing end, it invested in a Elitron Kombo TAV-R automated cutting table, which operates alongside multiple Zünd tables.

Merchandiser Displays

Middlestreet Graphics & Display is fluent in floor, pallet, counter, and end cap displays; standees; faux walls; and merchandisers.

Merchandiser displays are among the PSP’s most creative offerings. These can be temporary, semi permanent, and permanent. Temporary displays are typically made with corrugate; while semipermanent options are made from substrates like Falconboard from Packaging Corporation of America or Xanita board as well as injection molded pieces; and permanent displays are metal or wood.

With injection displays, the PSP provides refresh packages with corrugate, pressure-sensitive vinyl, or magnetic media to easily and affordably change up the look.

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Custom Corrugate

Being a creative-led company, Middlestreet Graphics & Display places a high value on design and service for its clients and brands.

DeMarco feels that the display business is unique in that it’s an art that requires both creative and engineering skills from its staff. To support this, it invests in both the technology and talent that enables it to produce functional and engaging structural designs.

It also is skilled in printing to corrugate, which is known for being porous and uneven. Temporary merchandiser displays are usually

directly printed to corrugate with the Durst Rho 2500, or lithographic label is used that can be mounted to corrugated for longer run projects. For media, the PSP prefers corrugate board from Independent Corrugator Inc. of Canada.

To cut these displays, it continues to move corrugated work to its Elitron Kombo TAV-R system, which was installed in early 2022. The biggest feature that stands out to DeMarco about the Kombo TAV-R is automation. The machine features a fully automatic cutting table with automated loading, cutting, and unloading as well as integrated conveyor system.

“We purchased the Elitron Kombo TAV-R in late 2021 and installed it in the early part of 2022 with the understanding that it would greatly augment our current digital cut solution,” shares DeMarco. “Post-print operations are often overlooked in the grand scheme of the overall workflow, so having the Elitron Kombo TAV-R as a production piece really helped us eliminate bottlenecks in that area.”

With the Elitron Kombo TAV-R, Middlestreet Graphics & Display has a fully automated and unattended solution to move pallets through the system seamlessly.

The automation provided in its feeder and stacker allows the print and display provider to run the Elitron Kombo TAV-R almost nearly unattended for two-plus shifts a day.

Seamless Partner

Middlestreet Graphics & Display strategically invests in the talent, skills, and technology necessary to steadily expand. Serving wellknown international brands, it delivers quality and speed from beginning to end of the design, prototyping, and production process for display work. D

See page 26 for more info.

April 2024 | Digital Output { 14 }

s a rule, media intended for floors is specifically formulated to minimize slips and falls, as well adhere properly to the surface while withstanding traffic and cleaning. There are materials geared toward environments where extra durability and/or toughness is required. These

might include parking lots or busy sidewalks outdoors, indoors at malls, or both inside and outside airports where heavy machinery runs over the graphic. Another example, warehouses with forklifts and other mechanical devices.

“These ‘tough’ floor graphics are found in parking lots/ramps for directional signage, shopping malls/retail stores

with advertisements and directional signage, large manufacturing plants with warnings and directional signage, and even the bottom of pools for special event advertising and logos,” lists Michael Aldrich, product support specialist, FDC Graphic Films, Inc. April 2024 | Digital Output { 15 }
Above) Canon distributes a number of floor graphic materials that are able to printed with its UVgel Colorado M-Series printer lineup.

The similarities between each of the aforementioned environments is that the graphic when adhered to the floor must withstand heavy traffic. Withstanding means not peeling at the edges, the ink not cracking from wear, or the anti-slip properties lessening or at worst, being removed.

To combat these challenges, there are certain substrates as well as specific adhesive types available. Whether a one-step product versus a media and overlaminate system is more beneficial in these situations is also considered.

Thriving Environments

Tough floor graphics are designed to withstand heightened vehicle as well as pedestrian traffic. They are found in a host of environments—both inside and outside.

At a minimum, high-traffic areas are big contenders. This includes “commercial spaces such as retail stores, hospitals, airports, train stations, convention centers, and sports arenas. These are high-traffic areas where the floor graphics need to withstand constant wear and tear from foot traffic, rolling carts, and

other heavy equipment,” explains Amanda Smith, marketing communications manager, Mactac.

“Situations that require extended performance or additional durability of floor graphics” are where tough floor graphics are commonly used, according to Michelle Kempf, VP, sales & marketing, Continental Grafix USA, Inc. Examples include, “theme parks, outdoor events, and festivals where a combination of heavy foot traffic and varying weather conditions like rain, sun, and temperature swings may require special adhesive and durability.”

Micah Causey, VP, FloorSignage, LLC, notes other places such as warehouse and manufacturing facilities exposed to forklift traffic and locations with shared automobile and pedestrian traffic such as open parking lots, parking garages, and drive-thru lanes. “Each represents a unique challenge and requires a different material composition that can withstand the demands of the specific environment.”

“It is important to be clear that automobile traffic and forklift traffic are very different and require different material properties. Not only do forklifts have a tighter turning radius causing more friction, the forks and materials often come in contact with graphics on floors in warehouse and manufacturing facilities. This requires a tough and dimensionally stable

product that meets these demands,” adds Causey.

Mike Richardson, business development manager, Jessup Manufacturing Company, provides an example highlighting the importance of tough, durable product in warehouses and manufacturing facilities. “These floor graphics must endure the wear and tear of industrial environments without peeling or becoming ineffective. Tough floor graphics shine in these types of environments, literally and figuratively, under the harshest conditions.”

Despite the variety of environments, there is a material available for each scenario. “In both outdoor and indoor settings, you can now find products designed to withstand heavy traffic. Whether it’s drive-thru restaurants, industrial building wayfinding, outdoor stadiums, or family centers, there’s a solution available,” says Angel Georgiou, senior product marketing specialist, large format group, Canon U.S.A., Inc.

Material Choices

Vinyl, polyester, and aluminum foil are all popular choices when it comes to tough floor graphics. Each undergo vigorous testing to ensure they remain visually appealing in addition to safe in regards to slips and falls.

“The surface of the chosen vinyl or laminate undergoes stringent testing to survive high wear and tear, ensuring the graphics maintain their vibrant appearance and critical messaging despite the abuse. The adhesive

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1) FloorSignage’s DriveOn Graphics are applied direct to asphalt and concrete parking lots, garage floors, and driveways with automobile traffic. 2) Mactac IMAGin PrintVinyl PV500 series is used in high foot traffic areas.

backing on these tough floor graphics is also tailored to withstand the weight and movement of pallet jacks, forklifts, and other heavy-duty vehicles,” explains Richardson.

Vinyl is commonly used. “Adhesive-backed vinyl is popular for a base film due to its durability and flexibility,” says Kempf.

It is “ideal because moisture will not wick into the media and is tougher than paper in final application,” shares Brian Gibson, wide format specialist, ACCO Brands. He also notes polyester films as having the same positives.

“Polymeric films offer durability in tough floor applications, resisting environmental factors and maintaining stability. With a three-ply construction, floor graphics tear strength is enhanced, they resist stretching, and the increased thickness helps withstand abuse. Textured surfaces that are slipcertified add further safety, providing traction and reducing accidents in challenging environments,” notes Roy Ritchie Jr., president, DreamScape.

Aluminum or foil-based products are well suited for outdoor walkways with pedestrian traffic. The material “conforms to textured

surfaces, holds up in all types of weather conditions, handles wear from foot traffic, and is slip resistant,” says Causey.

“Aluminum materials are suitable for tough floor graphics as they offer excellent resistance to abrasions and chemicals, making them an ideal choice for industrial settings and vehicle traffic,” seconds Smith.

Adhesion Levels

One of the ingredients of a successful floor graphic—adhesive. The correct adhesion level must be selected based on the surface in question.

“The type of adhesive/adhesion level depends on the floor material to which the graphic will be adhered, the environmental conditions the graphic will be exposed to, as well as the longevity and removability required,” says Kempf.

Georgiou notes, “there are specialized adhesive products tailored to the ground or floor surface you are working with. The goal is to achieve a balance where the adhesive is strong enough for a lasting installation but also removable.”

For tough floor graphic scenarios, the level of adhesion—high or low tack—is important. April 2024 | Digital Output { 17 } #8

“Aggressive high-bond adhesives are ideal for graphic applications where flexibility and strong adhesion are required,” recommends Kieran Blacknall, academy manager, Drytac.

According to Kempf, adhesive— whether low or high tack—with a high sheer strength is important for heavy traffic areas to keep the graphic firmly in place and will resist movement horizontally. Further, a high-tack adhesive offers a strong bond vertically and horizontally and can also be effective in high-traffic areas.

“For tough floor graphics, it is necessary to use an adhesive with an extremely aggressive tack. This ensures the graphics stay firmly in place, even with

heavy foot traffic and other wear and tear. You want to look for an adhesive designed to bond well with a variety of surfaces, including concrete, tile, and asphalt, and can withstand exposure to water, chemicals, and high shear,” seconds Smith.

The chemical composition of the adhesive, in this case solventbased, is noteworthy. “In order to achieve robust adhesion for challenging floor graphic applications, it is recommended to use a chemical-resistant solvent acrylic adhesive with a coating thickness falling within the range of 2- to 2.5-mil. This specific adhesive type and thickness contribute to the desired level of durability for the application,” suggests Richardson.

Permanent versus removable adhesive is another consideration. “Tough environments need a strong adhesive and removable adhesives will usually not hold up to the demands. The adhesives on FloorSignage products are solvent-based, pressure-sensitive permanent adhesives that typically release clean,” says Causey.

There is some argument for removable adhesives, especially because a permanent adhesive presents challenges. “Removable adhesives are ideal. Environmental factors such as moisture, grit, and abrasion play into the longevity of the graphic. Permanent adhesives are also used, however you need to take into consideration the clean up for when the graphic must be removed,” explains Gibson.

Overlaminate Needed

Floor graphics placed in hightraffic environments benefit from an extra layer of durability, but that doesn’t mean that every job necessitates an overlaminate.

Causey notes that the combination of a vinyl overlaminate and printed vinyl can work for shortterm applications where there is heavy pedestrian traffic, however it cannot withstand the torque of automobile or forklift tires. Also, when applied to surfaces such as outdoor walkways, overlaminates need to be heated to conform to the texture.

“In the case of DreamScape’s textured floor media combined with a durable UV ink, an overlaminate is seldom needed. DreamScape floor media is specifically designed to thrive in tougher environments without the need for an additional layer of protection,” explains Ritchie Jr.

It depends on location, how long the graphic is in place, and the surface. “If it’s a temporary graphic, you might be able to get away with a textured film that doesn’t need laminating. For long-term directional/warning/advertising signage, a tough laminate would be a must to help seal the graphic protecting it from wear and chemicals if the floors are being cleaned,” says Aldrich.

And if you do choose a laminate, Aldrich recommends “a ULclassified non-slip polycarbonate laminate that will protect from abrasion from foot/high-low traffic and against any chemicals that might be used to clean the floors protecting the graphic or sign.”

April 2024 | Digital Output { 18 } companies mentioned INFO# COMPANY WEBSITE 100 ACCO Brands 101 Canon U.S.A., Inc. 102 Continental Grafix USA, Inc. 103 DreamScape 104 Drytac 105 FDC Graphic Films, Inc. 106 FloorSignage, LLC 107 Jessup Manufacturing Company 108 Mactac See page 26 for more info. 3
3) Continental Grafix’s UltraProtection Laminate is a non-skid, chemical resistant, 24-mil overlaminate for long-term, high-traffic floor graphics.

A laminate is necessary, according to Smith, when the print media in question does not have a slip-resistant texture. In this scenario, the overlaminate provides an extra layer of protection and durability for the printed surface, especially if it is exposed to harsh elements and heavy traffic.

“Certainly, in such environments, an overlaminate is essential to provide an additional layer of durability. Opting for a heavyduty laminate, such as Jessup’s ARMORLam 23, is advisable as it serves to safeguard the graphic from potential scuffing and abrasion, ensuring prolonged protection and maintaining the visual integrity of the floor graphic,” shares Richardson.

In conclusion, “it all depends on how long you expect the graphic to last. Adding a layer of laminate can indeed contribute to prolonged durability, providing extra support for the graphic’s lifespan, particularly depending on its location and intended duration,” states Georgiou.

Tips to Spec and Win the Job

When a customer enters a print shop and presents the opportunity to print and install a floor graphic in a high-traffic situation, there are a few considerations/ questions to ask upfront. This helps the print provider determine the best material for the job.

“Factors to consider include how long the graphic is expected to be in place, whether is it indoor or outdoor, what surface is it being applied to, how much/what kind

of traffic will it need to endure, will this floor be cleaned, and what kind of chemicals are used,” says Aldrich.

Smith agrees with all of Aldrich’s points and adds that “the graphic needs to be slip resistant and certified for safety” and depending on the base material, an overlaminate may be required.

“Always look for a pendulumtested slip rating when picking an overlaminate and ensure the self-adhesive vinyl you are using has a suitable adhesive,” recommends Blacknall.

Gibson stresses the importance of print providers knowing “the slip resistance of the materials they choose in producing floor graphics and requesting technical data

sheets with slip-resistant ratings recognized by ATSM.”

In regard to environments or scenarios where a floor graphic is under extreme stress from vehicles for example, Richardson believes more specific information must be gathered. “The provider must assess whether car tires will come into contact with the graphic and if there will be instances of the tires stopping and turning on the graphic. The weight of vehicles and forklifts, coupled with the torque generated during tire turns, poses significant challenges for graphic media. Addressing these concerns is crucial in selecting a robust and resilient floor graphic material that can withstand the unique stresses imposed by vehicular traffic and turning movements.”

“Factors such as expectation for longevity; type of traffic—foot, luggage, forklifts, cars, heavy equipment; exposure to chemicals; and exposure to weather are considerations,” adds Kempf.

Heavy Weight

Understanding where a floor graphic will be placed is an important factor when designing, choosing material, and printing the application. If it’s a high-traffic area—pedestrian traffic, vehicular, heavy-duty machinery—special attention should be placed on media’s adhesive to avoid peeling since such extra force/weight will be placed on the graphic.

We delve into this topic in more detail in our March webinar, available at webinars. D April 2024 | Digital Output { 19 } #7
INFO# Company Website 120 3M Commercial Solutions ★ ★ ★ ★ 121 A.T. Inks ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ 122 Absolute Inkjet ✦ ✦ ✦ ✦ ✦ 123 ACTEGA North America, Inc. ✦ ✦ 124 Advanced Color Solutions, Inc ✤ ✤ ✤ ✤ 125 A ord Inks a ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ 126 Agfa ★ ★ 127 Alphachem Company Ltd. ★ ★ ★ ★ 128 American Printing Systems FLORA ✤ 129 ARMOR-IIMAK ★ ★ ★ 130 artience Co., Ltd. ✤ ✤ ✤ ✦ 131 Avery Dennison Digital Inks Solutions ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ 132 Big Systems LLC ✦ ✤ ✦ ✦ ✦ ✦ ✦ 133 Budget Inks ✦ ✦ ✦ ✦ ✦ ✦ 134 Canon Solutions America ✤ ✤ ✦ 135 Canon U.S.A. ✦ ✦ 136 CET Color ★ 137 ChromaXpress, LLC ✤ ✤ ✤ ✤ ✤ ✤ 138 Colorwen ★ ★ ★ ★ 139 DigiFab Systems ✦ ✤ ✦ 140 Digital Dolphin Products ✦ ✦ ✦ ✦ ✦ 141 Digital Ink Technology ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ 142 Diversified Nano Solutions Corp. (DNSC) ✦ ✦ ✦ ✦ ✦ ✦ ✦ 143 DTG Connection ✤ ✤ 144 DuPont Artistri Digital Inks ✦ ✦ 145 Durst Image Technology ✤ ✤ ✤ 146 Earl Mich Company ✤ ✤ ✤ 147 Eastman Kodak ✦ ✦ 148 EFI ✦ ✦ ✦ ✦ 149 Engineered Printing Solutions ✤ ✤ ✤ ✤ ✤ ✤ ✤ 150 Epson America ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ 151 EPTA Inks Digital ✦ ✦ ✦ ✦ ★ 152 FIREBIRD Digital Inks ✦ ✦ ✦ ✦ 153 Fluid Color ✦ 154 Fujifilm NA Corp. ✦ ✦ ✦ ✦ 155 Glaser Digital ✤ 156 Global Imaging ✤ ✤ ✤ ✤ ✤ 157 Graphic Resource Systems, LLC ✤ ✤ ✤ ✤ ✤ ✤ 158 Graphics One, Inc. ✤ ✤ 159 Grimco ✤ ✤ ✤ ✤ ✤ 160 GSG ✤ ✤ ✤ ✤ ✤ 161 Hilord Chemical Corp. ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ 162 HP Inc. ✦ ✦ ✦ 163 Image Armor ✦ ✦ 164 InkTec Co., Ltd. ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ 165 INX International Ink Co. ✦ ✦ ✦ ✦ ✦ ✦ ✦ 166 J-Teck (a brand of JK Group SpA) ✦ ✦ 167 Kao Collins Inc. ✦ ✦ ✦ ✦ ✦ ✦ 168 Kiian Digital (a brand of JK Group SpA) ✦ ✦ 169 Kornit Digital ✦ 170 Kothari Info Tech Pvt. Limited ★ ★ 171 Lawson Screen & Digital Products ✤ ✦ 172 LexJet ✤ ✤ ✤ ✤ ✤ ✤ 173 Marabu North America ★ ★ ★ ★ 174 Mimaki USA, Inc. ✦ ✦ ✦ ✦ 175 Mutoh America, Inc. ✦ ✦ ✦ ✦ ✦ ✦ 176 Nazdar ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ 177 Nazdar SourceOne ✤ ✤ ✤ ✤ ✤ 178 NUtec Digital Ink (Pty) Ltd ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ 179 OCP-GmbH ★ ★ ★ 180 Paradigm Imaging Group ✤ ✤ ✤ 181 Polymeric ★ ★ ★ ★ 182 Polyprint USA ✦ 183 Premier Colour, Inc ✤ ✤ ✤ ✤ ✤ 184 Prism Inks, Inc. ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ 185 Ricoh ✦ ✦ ✦ 186 Roland DGA Corporation ✦ ✦ ✦ ✦ ✦ 187 Sackel Corporation ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ 188 SPGPrints B.V. ★ ★ 189 Splash of Color ✦ 190 SPSI, Inc. ✤ ✤ ✤ ✤ 191 StratoJet USA Inc ✦ ✦ ✦ ✦ ✦ 192 STS Inks ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ 193 Sun Chemical Corporation ✦ ✦ ✦ ✦ ★ 194 Supply55, Inc ✦ ✦ ✦ ★ 195 swissQprint ✤ 196 Valloy Incorporation ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ 197 Vanguard Digital Printing Systems ✤ INK TYPE °This category includes acid, disperse, pigment, reactive, and sublimation ink. Choosing this category does not reflect a vendor carries all options, please contact the vendor for specific product portfolios. Key: ✦ Both ✣ Distributor ★ Manufacturer April 2024 | Digital Output { 20 } #22 Aqueous Bio Eco-Solvent Latex/Resin Solvent Textile Ink° UV

Print service providers (PSPs) have options when it comes to which ink set to employ in their shop. They can commit to just one, and enjoy the benefits that it brings, or employ multiple types to satisfy customer demand.

Aqueous, latex/resin, solvent, and UV are the four main categories of ink we discuss in this year’s state of ink feature. Each is explored in terms of usage percentage worldwide, popular applications, and why a PSP prefers it over its counterparts.

Additionally, ink packaging and white ink is addressed. How ink is packaged is changing. The physical material of the containers as well as the amount of ink found in them are designed in response to the popularity of bulk packaging options as well as to meet sustainability goals. White ink continues as a specialty trend due to continued challenges in its chemistry. New formulations offer stability.

Above) Using the Mutoh XpertJet 1462UF UV LED flatbed printer and Mutoh UV inks, its possible to create raised, tactile effects. April 2024 | Digital Output { 21 }

Aqueous Ink

Aqueous inks are the first segment to review, but note we are not covering aqueous-based textile inks. For a deep dive into ink for textiles, flip to page 32 for our feature,Intense, Stable Color

Simon Daplyn, product and marketing manager, Sun Chemical, believes there is a trend towards

aqueous solutions, in part due to legislation on materials use and the perception of their increased sustainability benefits.

Aqueous inks are mainly used to print to paper due to the low cost of capital equipment and high quality of printing, according to Pedro J. Martinez, CEO, AFFORD.

“While they were big 20 years

ago, they are now in the minority, with maybe five to ten percent of the existing market at the moment in print shops.”

“Print providers prefer aqueous inks to other inks mainly because aqueous inks are environmentally benign, odorless, and regulatory compliance is easier,” shares Nitin Goswamy, president, A.T. Inks.

Other reasons printers choose aqueous inks are because they “tend to—but don’t always—have lower hazard labelling and can be easier for operators to handle. There is also minimal odor. The thin ink film can concentrate the pigment and increase vibrancy. They also offer good light stability and water fastness,” adds Daplyn.

Latex/Resin Ink

Latex/resin ink sets are water based, but due to the addition of resin we categorize separately.

“Latex/resin is added into aqueous inks to improve the durability of the prints as well as enhance adhesion of aqueous inks on nonporous substrates and bolster weather resistance. Additional advantages with latex/resin are improvements in dot gain, improved gloss, and better edge acuity,” shares Goswamy.

Compared to other segments, Martinez estimates in developed markets that latex accounts for approximately 25 to 30 percent of the market share. He also sees this increasing with new additions to the market segment.

Environmental considerations make latex/resin advantageous.

“A pivotal factor in latex/resin market adoption has been its water-based formulation, making it a preferred choice for companies aiming to minimize their environmental impact. The aqueous nature of resin ink eliminates volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions and unpleasant odors,” shares David Lopez, product manager, Professional Imaging, Epson America Inc.

Another reason PSPs prefer latex/ resin to other ink sets is the combination of dry time and durability. “In many applications they can avoid lamination or can laminate shortly after printing, which for many users is an advantage,” suggests Martinez.

“There is no outgassing with these inks, eliminating the need for waiting periods before laminating. This immediacy in workflow is a significant advantage, allowing for faster job completion,” agrees Patrick Donigain, senior manager, marketing, Canon U.S.A., Inc.

Latex/resin presents media versatility, which in turn means many applications benefit from these ink sets. “Its primary use cases include vinyl for printing vehicle wraps, canvas signage applications, and most traditional roll-to-roll based signage output. Given its ability to accommodate a range of media, resin can be used in additional cases such as textiles—natural fibers such as cotton—as well as uncoated canvas and papers, which is not possible with solvent ink,” adds Lopez.

April 2024 | Digital Output { 22 }
mentioned INFO# COMPANY WEBSITE 215 AFFORD 216 A.T. Inks 217 Canon U.S.A., Inc. 218 Epson 219 INX International Ink Co. 220 Mutoh America, Inc. 221 StratoJet USA 222 Sun Chemical See page 26 for more info.
1) The Epson SureColor V7000 UV flatbed printer features a ten-color UltraChrome UV ink set, including red ink, opaque white ink, and varnish.

“These inks are used for printing wallpapers and murals due to their low odor, environmental friendliness, and the ability to adhere well to different substrates,” suggests Sohil Singh, VP, StratoJet USA.

Paul Edwards, VP of the digital division, INX International Ink Co., agrees. “Essentially, print quality, decent adhesion range, low odor characteristics, and selling it as an eco-friendly alternative makes latex/resin ink popular in many wide format applications.”

Solvent Ink

This includes true solvent options, as well as eco and mild solvent.

Tony Simmering, eco-solvent and dye-sublimation product manager, Mutoh America, Inc., argues that eco-solvent printing is the backbone of traditional print shops. “The ink has higher outdoor durability than UV LED and enhanced/ stable color output compared to other solutions like latex and is also easy to work with after print.”

“You cannot ignore solvent printing because it maintains a substantial market share. The variety of non-porous substrates and media that work with solvent, the cost of print, the vibrancy of the colors produced, the option of doublesided printing, the ease of drying, and its decent to good weatherability are a combination that can’t currently be replicated by other print segments,” admits Goswamy.

Solvent and by association ecosolvent ink is used about 35 to 40 percent in the occidental world, suggests Martinez. He says new formulations free of dangerous

ingredients/chemicals make for valid reasons to continue using this technology, mainly because the inks offer good adhesion, light fastness, and are economical.

Solvent and eco-solvent inks work with a range of materials, which means a number of applications are printed using the consumables.

“Any sticker, sign, or poster that is produced on flexible media like paper, PVC, or a prepared substrate can be printed with eco-solvent. It is specially advisable for car wrapping and other highly demanding applications,” admits Martinez.

Solvent inks are known for their excellent outdoor durability and weather resistance, adds Singh. As such, “print providers serving outdoor signage and graphics markets may prefer solvent inks for their longevity in challenging environmental conditions. They can withstand exposure to UV radiation, harsh weather conditions, and other environmental elements without significant degradation.”

Lopez says a key selling factor of solvent ink is its achievable color gamut, which is expansive. “This makes it easy for customers to reproduce hard-to-create colors, including oranges and reds, and makes it possible to adhere to precise branding color.” With an expansive color gamut, solvent-based printers are used in giclee, proofing, and packaging prototypes.

PSPs prefer solvent because they “appreciate the fast drying, color vibrancy, and high durability of the inks in a range of applications and substrates,” summarizes Daplyn. April 2024 | Digital Output { 23 } #1 #15

UV Ink

UV, UV-curable, UV LED, and UVgel all fall under this category of ink.

“UV inks are currently about 30 percent of the market but are trending up as more equipment and ink sets are made available. Shops entering new markets that rely heavily on UV inks such as promotional items and braille can bring UV inks by necessity,” shares Ken Parsley, UV product manager, Mutoh.

According to Goswamy, “various market studies have put the use of UV inks in wide format between 30 to 40 percent in mature markets—balance is aqueous, latex, and eco-solvent—and in developing markets between five and ten percent—balance solvent, latex, aqueous, and eco-solvent.”

Donigain looks at usage based on print width. “In the 64-inch space, UV printing constitutes a minority share, but it is gaining ground. In the 3.2-meter segment, UV printers dominate and handle the majority of printing tasks. Despite positioning itself differently from traditional UV, UVgel is making strides in the 64-inch space.”

Growth is a sure thing. “With UV inks 100 percent solid and not having any VOCs, this environmental advantage, together with their ability to provide adhesion on almost any type of substrate allow this segment of the market to experience growth over the next few years,” predicts Martinez.

PSPs prefer UV ink “due to its instant-drying properties. It forms a polymeric thin film on the surface

of the substrate, which results in a very tough and durable print. The instant drying can also enable a faster print speed, increasing overall output,” adds Daplyn.

“Traditionally UV inks were used on hard substrates like PVC, other rigid plastics, and metals. However, with the advent of flexible and hybrid inks, UV is used for all types of applications. UV inks offer compatibility to an array of substrates as diverse as glass, acrylic, coroplast, MDF, wood, HDF, paper, PVC, leather, and banners,” shares Goswamy.

Lopez lists primary applications for UV ink like rigid signage, real estate signage, and in-ground posters using corrugated plastics, PVC, and acrylic; as well as promotional items like pens, golf balls, and cell phone covers.

With UV ink providing the ability to build up ink to a tactile level, braille signage is growing in popularity in terms of applications used, notes Parsley.

Another application is heat transfer films. Donigain notes that the largest volume user of Canon UVgel specializes in heat transfer films. “The flexibility of our inks, offering both matte and gloss, broadens application possibilities.”

The movement from traditional arc or mercury lamps to UV LED lamps contributes to popularity. “Print shops may shift towards UV LED systems for their energy efficiency, reduced heat output, and the ability to cure a broader range of heat-sensitive materials,” says Singh.

Pack Up

Ink packaging is important. Regardless of ink type, the container must be sealed well, if not the properties of the ink will change. Once a design achieves this goal, it’s not redesigned very frequently—however ink packaging has recently been influenced by environmental efforts as well as safety and health concerns.

“The containers often depend on the system and whether ink packs can be attached directly to the printer rather than poured into a feed tank. Some cartridge use has moved to pouches where it is easier to maintain the degassing of the ink. Other trends point towards lighter weight and more recyclable packs with items such as bag-inbox packs rather than hard-walled bottles,” explains Daplyn.

Goswamy admits that with sustainability becoming more mainstream, as well as many printers now having containers that fit snugly in the printer, there are some changes in ink packaging.

Epson shifted from traditional ink cartridges to ink bags over the last few years. “The ink bags reduce plastic usage and are more space efficient when compared to their cartridge counterparts. Ink bags store flat, are easier to dispose, and contribute to a more sustainable printing practice,” says Lopez.

Bags hold more ink, creating a bulk scenario. “Cost efficiency and the desire to streamline procurement processes drive the adoption of bulk packaging. It can contribute to cost savings—especially for high-volume print shops—and

April 2024 | Digital Output { 24 } #14

minimize the frequency of reordering,” suggests Singh.

“Mylar bags are popular because they adapt to different systems. They reduce the amount of plastic that ends up in landfills from cartridges,” shares Parsley.

Maintaining White

Undergoing years of research and development, today’s white ink is much more manageable than some of the first iterations.

Inks with low viscosity are where challenges remain. “Recirculating printheads have improved the reliability of white inks as compared to non-recirculating printheads. However, solutions are limited for printheads that use low-viscosity inks. Low viscosity limits the ability of the ink formulator to provide print quality along with jetting reliability,” shares Goswamy.

“White pigments need to be larger in size than colored pigments to contribute to the ink’s hiding power, requiring careful management of the stability of the low-viscosity ink,” adds Daplyn.

According to Singh, new formulations of white latex/resin ink include stabilizers and additives, which help maintain the stability of pigment particles, reducing the likelihood of clogs.

According to Edwards, UV white ink features a higher viscosity target due to the printhead technology. “This higher viscosity not only allows for greater stability of the pigment in the ink, but it also has a high pigment load that provides more opaque white inks.”

“Due to the slight higher viscosity of the white UV inkjet inks, inks can be kept with very little maintenance today,” admits Martinez.

Minimal maintenance refers to the ink being constantly in motion either through recirculation or agitation. “UV white ink still requires a continuously stirred sub-tank and recirculation between main and sub-tanks to prevent settling,” explains Goswamy.

At Canon, the UVgel white ink offers a notable advantage in regards to cleaning, says Donigain. “The gel-based ink does not evaporate, as the formulation—particularly in handling titanium dioxide particles in white ink—ensures a slower settling process, reducing constant agitation to prevent settling.”

Sediment settling can lead to potential issues like nozzle clogs and printhead failure. In response, white ink circulation systems are found in UV printers like Epson’s. “This system ensures that every 30 minutes, white ink circulates through the lines, preventing sedimentation buildup. This continuous movement helps to ‘shake’ the ink and reduces issues associated with static white ink,” says Lopez.

Ink for Any Job

Ink chemists continue to develop solutions that meet market demands. A true focus is on quicker dry times, while still yielding a quality result. Each type of ink offers a variation of these goals, but is dependent on materials printed to and their environment. There is an ink out there for any job—it all depends on what you choose. D April 2024 | Digital Output { 25 }
#12 #2
#25 #24 #27 #26 INFO# ADVERTISER PAGE WEBSITE 1 3A Composites USA 23 24 Alpina Manufacturing, LLC 26 25 Alpina Manufacturing, LLC 26 2 Arnold Flexmag Industries, Inc. 25 18 Arnold Flexmag Industries, Inc. 30 3 ASLAN Selbstklebefolien GmbH 7 26 Delivery Signs 26 4 Digitech 9 5 FDC Graphic Films, Inc. 14 19 FDC Graphic Films, Inc. 31 6 FELLERS 5 27 Good Guys Signs 26 7 Graphic Finishing Partners 19 8 Jessup Manufacturing Co. 17 9 Laminators, Inc. 7 20 Laminators, Inc. 30 10 Lintec of America, Inc. 13 11 Mutoh America, Inc. 35 12 Newlife Magnetics LLC 25 21 Newlife Magnetics LLC 31 22 NUtec Digital Ink 20 23 Panel Processing 30 13 Signs365 36 14 Supreme Color Graphics 24 15 TEKRA LLC 23 16 Trim USA 13 17 Zund America, Inc. 2 INFO# COMPANY PAGE 207 3A Composites USA 27 216 A.T. Inks 21 111 A.T. Inks 32 100 ACCO Brands 15 208 Acrylic Design Associates 27 215 AFFORD 21 112 AFFORD 32 101 Canon U.S.A., Inc. 15 217 Canon U.S.A., Inc. 21 102 Continental Grafix USA, Inc. 15 103 DreamScape 15 104 Drytac 15 200 Durst Image Technology US, LLC 14 201 Elitron America 14 218 Epson 21 202 Falconboard from Packaging Corp. 14 105 FDC Graphic Films, Inc. 15 106 FloorSignage, LLC 15 219 INX International Ink Co. 21 INFO# COMPANY PAGE 113 INX International Ink Co. 32 107 Jessup Manufacturing Company 15 114 Lawson Screen & Digital Products, Inc. 32 108 Mactac 15 220 Mutoh America, Inc. 21 210 PLASKOLITE 27 221 StratoJet USA 21 115 StratoJet USA 32 222 Sun Chemical 21 116 Sun Chemical 32 203 Xanita 14 204 Zund America, Inc. 14 April 2024 | Digital Output { 26 }

igid substrates are commonly used in display and point of purchase (POP) environments. A number of rigid materials are printed to directly, like foamboards and plastics, including acrylics, HDU, polycarbonates, polystyrene, PVC, and styrene.

“Plastics like acrylic are used in a variety of solutions, including retail displays, LED fixtures, signage, and other design features. Often, these materials are used for permanent and semi-permanent solutions,” offers Bill McNeely, Jr., president, Acrylic Design Associates. “Due to its relatively low cost and weight, foam materials are frequently used when creating large, cut-out letters for semi-permanent or temporary applications.” April 2024 | Digital Output { 27 }
Left) The smooth, HIPS facers of GATORPLAST from 3A Composites allows for vibrant colors and vivid images, making this high-performance foamboard ideal for digital printing applications.

Supporting Dimensions

Plastic- and foam-based rigid materials are utilized to produce three-dimensional (3D) displays and structures.

There is certainly an increased interest in 3D displays and structures. “We see customers migrating to digital acrylic or PVC due to the excellent adhesion characteristics. This eliminates additional rework and product movement during the fabrication process, saving time and money,” shares Scott Walton, national sales manager, sign and graphics, PLASKOLITE, which now owns VYCOM.

“Today’s sophisticated technologies—CNC cutting machines,

wide format, direct-to-rigid substrate printers and design software—have enabled designers to create extraordinary, eyecatching, practical, 3D products. The momentum for 3D displays, fixtures, and signage will only continue to grow as marketers and merchandizers factor these capabilities into their plans as the technology and cost barriers fall,” offers Charles A Kunze, director, product management and marketing; graphic display and industry and transport divisions, 3A Composites USA.

To support demand for this type of work, Kunze says as a U.S.based manufacturer of these materials—FOME-COR, SINTRA,

GATOR—3A Composites offers run-to-size and cut-to-size options. “For large orders and special projects, we can provide custom sizes, which can maximize material yield.”

Size requirements for these materials vary widely, depending on the project. “We handle everything from small table-top displays to custom signs with nine-foot tall letters. Foamboard can also be printed with a wood grain and serve as a less expensive lightweight alternative for things like ceiling lattices,” explains McNeely.

McNeely says Acrylic Design Associates asks its design engineers to “begin with the end in mind. Our team works with our clients


to understand their goals and to then design and engineer solutions that minimize waste and use recycled or other eco-friendlier materials wherever possible.”

Another way Acrylic Design Associates helps its clients is by providing a free carbon savings estimate. “This estimate calculates the savings from using recycled acrylic in place of virgin acrylic— and is based on an academic study that we commissioned in 2022,” says McNeely. “We also explore other options for reducing waste and cost. By using specially formulated inks, for example, we are able to print directly onto aluminum composite material (ACM)—and then bend the ACM into signs or other shapes without having the ink crack or chip. Other suppliers typically look at these types of projects as requiring a vinyl overlay—but our technology eliminates the need for that extra layer, reducing both cost and waste.”

The Sustainable Debate

As pulp-, paper,- and fiber-based materials are introduced as ecofriendly alternatives to plastics, acrylics, and foamboard, there is still a demand for these mediums.

“The interest in sustainable solutions continues to gain steam and the motivation to use eco-friendly products has never been higher, while the availability of relevant products is growing daily. However, traditional product solutions for graphic display—paperfaced foamboards, plastic-faced foamboards, and expanded PVC boards—have collectively served the market well, providing a

April 2024 | Digital Output { 28 } companies mentioned INFO# COMPANY WEBSITE 207 3A Composites USA 208 Acrylic Design Associates 209 PLASKOLITE See page 26 for more info.
PLASKOLITE has a broad product offering available for display and POP. 2) Acrylic Design Associates works with and prints on a variety of high-performance plastics.

range of solutions that are costeffective, flexible in application, robust, lightweight, and familiar to the trade. To be competitive, eco-friendly options need to offer minimal trade-offs—quality, durability, and cost—in order to facilitate more widespread use and higher growth. Eco-friendliness alone is not enough, the products must meet the market needs for performance, durability, and value as well,” shares Kunze.

“Our clients have been asking for a recycled alternative to virgin acrylic for years, which is what led us to introduce Recrylic,” says McNeely. Recrylic is a line of certified, recycled acrylic. It is designed to look, perform, and cost the same as virgin acrylic, with reduced carbon emissions by 90 percent. “This makes it a great alternative for virtually any project that might otherwise use virgin acrylic,” adds McNeely.

It is also important to note that in some cases, recycled acrylic may actually be a more eco-friendly alternative compared to a composite paper-based material that includes various bonding agents. “Of course, we do also print on paper-based substrates to create certain displays, so the answer really depends on the context,” says McNeely.

“There is no question that the demand for eco-friendly products is on the rise. Products that are sustainably sourced, manufactured, and recyclable have growing appeal in the market,” shares Kunze. “3A Composites is committed to extending our range of eco-friendly products in

2024, bringing new products to the market that are sustainably sourced, recyclable, and efficient ly manufactured and delivered to the market.”

In addition to its acrylic offer ings, 3A Composites has offered DISPA—a 100 percent recyclable paper display board for several years, which Kunze says is ideal for short-term display and POP.

Recycling Considerations

Another aspect of sustainabil ity is recyclability. And even if a substrate can be recycled, doesn’t mean it is always easy to do.

“Ultimately, the optimum solu tion for recyclability is to make use of existing recycling pro grams,” shares Kunze. “That being said, we continue to investigate practical recycling or take-back programs for our current products. Additionally, making foamboard and plastic boards recyclable is a major area of improvement for our future product development efforts.”

The VYCOM Recycling Program, launched in 2019, and now through PLASKOLITE takes back printed and unprinted PVC, acrylic, and HDPE sheets as well as cuts and drops from finishing and fabrication. The material is repurposed into long lasting, performance products.

for recycling as new Recrylic sheets. “One of the nice things about acrylic is that it can be recycled an indefinite number of times as itself.”

Walton says that to date, VYCOM has recovered over 8,000 pounds of scrap from four signage and graphics trade shows.

McNeely points out that Acrylic Design Associates is able to

Acrylic Design Associates can accept used acrylic that is any color—printed or painted. However, it can’t accept acrylic that has film, tape, or vinyl applied, as these are “too prohibitive to remove as part of the recycling process,” shares McNeely.

no cost for this program, other than the sender’s cost to get the materials to Acrylic Design Associates. From there the company handles the cost to send materials to its supplier for recycling.

Rigid Requests

The range of rigid options continues to grow. While new paperbased options gain acceptance, the need for acrylic or foamboard solutions is the right choice for certain jobs and is still in demand. D April 2024 | Digital Output { 29 } 2
April 2024 | Digital Output { 30 } APPLICATIONS INFO# Company Website 230 3A Composites USA 3 3 3 231 3M Commercial Solutions 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 232 Acrylic Design Associates 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 233 ACRYLITE 3 3 3 3 3 234 Adams Magnetic Products 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 235 All Weather Products LLC 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 236 AllSquare Digital Solutions 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 237 ALPOLIC Materials 3 3 3 3 3 238 American PERMALIGHT, Inc. 3 3 239 Arlon Graphics 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 240 Arnold Magnetic Technologies 3 241 ASLAN Selbstklebefolien GmbH 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 242 Athens Paper 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 243 Aurora Specialty Textiles Group Inc. 3 3 3 3 3 3 244 Avery Dennison Graphics Solutions 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 245 Beaver Paper & Graphic Media, Inc. 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 246 Better Life Technology 3 247 Calsak Plastics, Inc. 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 248 Canon Solutions America 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 249 Canon USA, Inc. 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 250 Canson Infinity 3 251 Continental Grafix USA, Inc. 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 252 Curbell Plastics, Inc. 3 3 3 3 3 253 DAF Products 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 254 DreamScape 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 255 Drytac 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 256 DuPont Tyvek 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 257 Epson America 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 258 EVOLV 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 259 Falconboard, part of Packaging Corp. 3 3 3 260 FDC Graphic Films, Inc. 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 261 Fedrigoni Self-Adhesives 3 3 3 3 3 262 FELLERS 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 263 Fisher Textiles 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 264 Flech Paper Products 3 3 3 3 3 265 FLEXcon Company, Inc. 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 266 FloorSignage, LLC 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 267 Fredrix Print Canvas/Ecker Textiles 3 3 3 3 268 GBC SEAL 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 269 General Formulations 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 270 Glantz 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 271 Grafityp Selfadhesive Products 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 272 Gregory, Inc. 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 273 Griff Decorative Film 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 274 Hahnemühle 3 275 HEXIS 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 276 HP 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 277 Innova Art Ltd. 3 3 3 3 278 Inteplast Group 3 3 3 3 3 279 Jessup Manufacturing Co. 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 280 JetComp Films 3 3 3 281 K&R Plastics, Inc. 3 3 3 3 282 KAPCO Graphic Products 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 283 Kernow North America 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 284 Kodak 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 Apparel Backlit Banners Billboards Building Wraps Décor Fine Art Floor Graphics Labels Magnets Packaging POP Displays Proofing Trade Show Displays Vehicle Wraps Wallcoverings Window Graphics #18 #23 #20 April 2024 | Digital Output { 31 } APPLICATIONS INFO# Company Website 285 KPMF 3 286 Laminators Incorporated 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 287 Lamitech 3 3 3 3 3 3 288 LexJet 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 289 Lintec of America 3 3 3 3 3 290 Mactac 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 291 Magnum Magnetics 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 292 Mako-Board 3 3 3 3 3 293 Master Magnetics, Inc. 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 294 Moab, by Legion Paper 3 295 Monadnock Paper Mills, Inc. 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 296 Neenah 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 297 Nekoosa 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 298 Neschen Inc. 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 299 Newlife Magnetics LLC 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 300 Oppboga 3 3 3 3 3 3 301 ORAFOL Americas Inc. 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 302 Panel Processing Inc. 3 3 3 303 Permalite, Inc. 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 304 PHOTO TEX GROUP INC. 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 305 Plaskolite, Inc. 3 3 3 3 3 306 PRESTOTEX 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 307 Primex Plastics Corporation 3 3 3 3 3 3 308 Quality Media & Laminating Solutions, Inc. 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 309 Recognition Systems/Dot Works 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 310 Red River Paper 3 3 3 311 Rochester Magnet 3 312 Roland DGA Corporation 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 313 S.W Specialty Papers 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 314 Saint Clair Textiles 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 315 Seattle Textile Company 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 316 SENFA 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 317 Sign Again LLC 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 318 Sign Technology Products LLC 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 319 SIGNWarehouse, Inc 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 320 Simple Walls 3 3 3 3 321 Solar Graphics 3 322 Sonoma Graphic Products 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 323 SPACETAILOR 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 324 Spandex 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 325 Stafford Textiles Limited 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 326 Substance Inc. 3 3 3 3 3 3 327 Supply55, Inc. 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 328 Tekra 3 3 3 3 3 3 329 Tricel Corporation 3 3 3 330 TVF 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 331 UFabrik 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 332 Ultraflex Systems, Inc. 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 333 UltraPartners LLC 3 3 3 3 3 334 Veritiv 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 335 Verseidag / Serge Ferrari 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 336 Vescom Digital Wallcovering 3 3 337 Vycom, part of Plaskolite 3 3 338 Xanita 3 3 339 Xcel Products, Inc 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 Apparel Backlit Banners Billboards Building Wraps Décor Fine Art Floor Graphics Labels Magnets Packaging POP Displays Proofing Trade Show Displays Vehicle Wraps Wallcoverings Window Graphics #21 #19 EXTENDED CHART WITH MORE VENDORS AVAILABLE ONLINE!

he variety of inks used to print to textiles is vast and touches many fabrics—cottons, polyesters, silks, and blends. With this variety, we felt it important to take a more drilled down look at the options, separately from the annual state of ink report.

Top Use

When thinking about ink used for printing with textiles, dye-sublimation (dye-sub) or sublimation, pigment, and reactive dye are primary considerations for users.

Nitin Goswamy, president, A.T. Inks., explains each of these three in a bit more detail. Dye-sub is preferred for polyester and bolster blends. “Dye-sub inks use products which sublimate upon heating and turn into a dye. This creates a lock between polyester polymer chains to provide vibrant colors and high wash fastness and abrasion resistance,” he notes.

Pigment inks are used for all types of fabrics. “Pigmented inks have the advantage of being substrate independent and have the best light fastness.

However, pigmented ink suffers from poor wash fastness and relatively poor jetting reliability,” shares Goswamy.

Reactive dye inks are preferred for cotton and cotton blends. “Printed on pretreated cotton fabrics, the inks are ‘fixed’ onto the fabric after printing using steam and then the excess, unfixed dyes are washed away. Printing using reactive dye ink on cotton uses a considerable amount of water,” says Goswamy.

Above) A.T. Inks provides high-density digital inks that yield vibrant, bright, and color fast images.

April 2024 | Digital Output { 32 }

Another ink set for digital printing to fabrics is acid dye, which is common for silks and nylons.

“Reactive and acid inks are typically used by more industrial printers who have invested in steaming and washing capabilities from an analog business. While they impart high color vibrancy and fastness, the workflow can be prohibitive for a smaller wider format print business,” explains Simon Daplyn, product and marketing manager, Sun Chemical.

According to Pedro J. Martinez, CEO, AFFORD, it’s hard to pinpoint which type is used the most. “It depends on the final application. Pigment inks are the dream, but have taken a long time to provide the desired color intensity and stability, so sublimation and dye have been the most popular.”

“Sublimation transfer printing ink is the most digitized type of textile ink,” comments Goswamy. “The simplicity of use and a low capital cost are the two major reasons for dye-sub printing dominating inkjet printing of textiles.

The rise in soft signage and customized athletic wear plays a role in popularity. “The increasing popularity of soft signage for events, trade shows, and retail spaces drives the demand for sublimation inks. Sublimation inks are a preferred choice for custom sportswear and apparel due to their ability to produce full-color, durable prints,” adds Sohil Singh, VP, StratoJet USA.

“By far the most common application is dye-sub ink technology. It

has grown over the last decade as a part of the overall wide format ink volumes,” seconds Paul Edwards, VP of the digital division, INX International.

Daplyn agrees that “the most prominent technology in wide format printing is dye-sub due to the simple process and versatility of the technology.” However, he shares that pigment printing is a growing ink segment.

“Much of this is focused on garment printing, be that direct to garment or using the direct to film process. Some wide format pigment printing is becoming more established due to the simple workflow created by a water-free post process,” continues Daplyn.

If garments are a favored application, “it is most likely a pigmentbased ink” that is chosen, suggests Taylor Landesman, VP, Lawson Screen & Digital Products, Inc.

One Over the Other

Print providers have their preferences, and this is true with textile ink. Since the choice of textile ink is based on specific fabrics, the application(s) a print shop offers are also a large consideration.

“While dye and sublimation inks are only suitable for polyester printing, pigment inks will work on cotton, polyester, and other fibers. It really comes to the need of the printer,” explains Martinez.

Goswamy agrees and says it’s challenging to pinpoint one or even two reasons as to why print providers might prefer one ink over the other. “Print providers April 2024 | Digital Output { 33 }
1 2
1) Part of Sun Chemical’s Experience Transformation campaign, these inks are sustainably transformed for digital textiles. 2) INX Digital offers inkjet inks for textile applications including encapsulated pigment inks for t-shirts; inks for cotton home decor—upholstery and curtains; and dispersed dye/dye-sub inks for polyester soft signage, trade show graphics, and sports apparel.


Direct to garment (DTG) and direct to film (DTF) are currently industry buzzwords. Associated with textiles, the inks used in these machines differ from the ink found on wide format devices used for textile printing.

This is true in terms of chemistry and composition. One example, white ink. “While in DTG, colors are printed on the white base on a textile, in DTF, the white ink is printed on the back of the colors with a powder resin and the image is transferred to the fabric. The difference in surface and ink-ink interactions means the chemistry is different,” shares Simon Daplyn, product and marketing manager, Sun Chemical.

“DTG and wide format printing inks are different since the printing speed and drying processes are different,” explains Pedro J. Martinez, CEO, AFFORD.

Also, the substrates being printed to differ, which necessitates other ink formulations. “DTG/DTF inks are high in solid contents and hence need to be handled with much more care whether it is ink handling and storage or printhead maintenance,” notes Nitin Goswamy, president, A.T. Inks.

“The ink used for DTG/DTF-specific printers differs from that used in wide format devices due to the specific requirements of each printing method and the intended applications. The formulation of the ink is tailored to optimize adhesion, durability, color accuracy, and other factors relevant to the unique characteristics of the printing process and the materials being printed on,” shares Sohil Singh, VP, StratoJet USA.

typically consider various factors like business opportunity, technology maturity, printing speed, capital availability, investment requirement, and operational cost.”

“The type of applications a print shop specializes in, such as outdoor banners, soft signage, or fashion textiles, play a significant role in the selection of textile inks,” admits Singh.

Further, Singh says that sublimation ink is preferred for its vibrancy, durability, soft feel, and wide color gamut. Pigment ink is popular for its versatility, durability, and eco-friendliness. Dye inks

are used for vibrant colors and soft touch.

“When looking at wide format textile applications, customers usually want to print onto noncotton fabrics. Dye-sub is designed for polyester, which is the substrate of choice. Dye-sub inks also have a much brighter color gamut than pigment inks, especially when printing materials are to be viewed from both sides,” shares Edwards.

Ultimate End Use

Wide format print shops are known for versatility. As such, many operate with the flexibility

to offer almost any application/ material combination.

In terms of textiles, one of the main applications seen in sign shops is exhibition/display—this includes panels, as well as backlit for light boxes, says Martinez.

“A trend over the last decade is to replace previous vinyl banners with polyester banners using dyesub. This was due to the environmental issues with the vinyl, as well as the economic benefit of using polyester since it is a much lighter material to ship. It also makes handling of the banners easier,” adds Edwards.

Goswamy agrees. “Dye-sub is popular in soft signage due to its ease of use, high resolution, print quality, and lower capital cost required to set up a print shop compared to reactive dye printing. In addition, polyester is a strong, high-quality substrate that can be used in backlit and frontlit applications.”

Other popular applications for sublimation ink include sportswear, activewear, and promotional products. “Custom sportswear and activewear benefit from sublimation printing, as it allows for full-color, durable prints that do not compromise the fabric’s breathability. Sublimation is commonly employed for printing on various promotional products like mugs, mousepads, and phone cases made from polyester-coated materials,” says Singh.

For those offering garment-type solutions printing with pigment ink, “most garment printers

will print on t-shirts, hoodies, and other similar goods,” shares Landesman. “Printers are becoming more advanced for the types of garment materials they can decorate. For example, we are seeing an expansion of printers being able to decorate polyester and poly-blended fabrics as well as cotton.”

“Pigment inks are commonly used for printing on natural fibers like cotton and blends, making them suitable for fashion textiles, including t-shirts, dresses, and casual wear. Pigment inks are also chosen for printing on textiles used in home décor applications, such as curtains, upholstery, and linens. Due to their durability and resistance to fading, pigment inks are used for outdoor applications, including flags, banners, and signage,” shares Singh.

Reactive dye is “commonly used in fashion and home textiles for vibrant colors and high wash and rub resistance on cotton,” shares Daplyn. He also points out acid dye as another ink option, which is used for accessories from silk to high-end swimwear.

The Textile Landscape

Print providers currently printing to textiles—or even those considering it—are presented with options when it comes to ink sets. Each type performs best for a specific fabric. As advancements in ink chemistries as well as printer hardware push the other to excel, we will continue to see positive changes in color vibrancy, wash fastness, abrasion resistance, and durability. D

April 2024 | Digital Output { 34 }
companies mentioned INFO# COMPANY WEBSITE 111 A.T. Inks 112 AFFORD 113 INX International Ink Co. 114 Lawson Screen & Digital Products, Inc. 115 StratoJet USA 116 Sun Chemical
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