Mimaki shows TraPis textile prints at Fespa

TRAnsfer Pigment System first previewed at ITMA

Monti Antonio showed this C03RP-1800 calendar press. which is suitable for the Trapis concept.

At this year’s Fespa event, Mimaki showed off an interesting pigment transfer concept that it first previewed at last year’s ITMA show, which it calls TraPis, standing for TRAnsfer Pigment System.

The idea is to print an image onto transfer paper and then transfer it in a calendar heat press, which is essentially the same process as for dye sublimation. But the difference is that the image is not sublimated into the fibers of the material and instead sits on the surface, as with most pigment ink textile solutions.

Marc Verbeem, supervisor of product management at Mimaki Europe, says that this gives it a textured finish, and so it’s mostly suitable for home decor such as pillows or towels rather than apparel. It has all the certification required to produce clothing but Verbeem says that the texture is not so comfortable to wear. Also, the ink will only survive 5-10 washing cycles, which is fine for home decor use but not nearly good enough for clothing.

He explains, “The advantage is that you can use any type of fabric without needing any form of pretreatment.” It will work with cotton, wool, nylon and even polyester. That said, the material does have to be able to withstand at least 150°C heating in the calendar. More heat generally improves the washability but too much heat will also limit the colour gamut that it can reproduce.

Mimaki has adapted its TS330-1600 dye sublimation printer with new firmware to be able to run the inkset that the TraPis approach requires. Otherwise, it’s a relatively standard 1.6m wide roll-to-roll printer for transfer papers.

The system uses a water-based pigment ink with an eight-color inkset that consists of CMYK plus red, green, blue and light black. As with most textile pigment inks, it will print to a wide range of different fabrics.

It does require a specific transfer paper with a coating designed to hold the TraPis ink. This transfer paper is made by Coldenhove but it’s only available through the Mimaki dealer channel.

Once printed, the image is transferred from the paper to the textile via a calendar heat press. However, it will not work with the majority of calendars because it requires much higher pressure – at least 8 bar – whereas most calendars designed for dye sublimation can only manage 6 bar. This limits the choice to Klieverik and Monti Antonio, both of which can supply suitable units. As with dye sublimation, the heat within the press releases the ink from the paper but it’s the high pressure that then forces the ink onto the fabric.

The key advantage to this system is that there’s no need to pretreat the fabric, and there’s no need for any washing or steaming, which eliminates the need for water as well as the time this would take. Judging from the samples shown at Fespa, the results seem quite good. Many printers will be familiar with the concept of printing to transfer paper, and this does offer a reasonably cost-effective approach, albeit there’s a limited choice of calendar units and transfer papers.

It’s also worth noting that Mimaki previewed another technology prototype last year with its NeoChromato process for recycling polyester prints that have previously been dye-sublimated, such as exhibition graphics. I’ve already written about this technology here, which will be shown at drupa.

Mimaki will also use its stand at drupa to highlight its work with the Indian Tiny Miracles foundation, which supports women working in local communities. For drupa, the group has produced environmentally friendly, Mimaki-branded cotton bags which are helping to replace plastic bags.

Although Mimaki used Fespa to officially launch the TraPis system, it won’t be available until June of this year. You can find further details from mimaki.com.

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