Current production methods are very resource-consuming but, with new technology and new thinking, the consumption of water, energy and chemicals can be reduced. In addition, the amount of waste products is minimised.
– It’s a major paradigm shift, says Vincent Nierstrasz, Professor of Textile Materials Technology at the Swedish School of Textiles. In order to make production more efficient, flexible and sustainable, a new system has been developed in Borås, in which a digital inkjet printer is used in place of the traditional printing roll. This reduces the chemical usage to the lowest possible amount necessary for successful pattern printing, and rids the process of superfluous ink which would otherwise be washed away by repeated water-baths. It also makes it more economically feasible to produce smaller quantities.
– We simply make it possible to produce only what is needed, Vincent says. Curing water-based ink can make it water-insoluble. In addition, it is possible to print coatings, and there already exists, for example, a system for UV curing. The textile industry has shown a great deal of interest in the unique printing system and the possibility of reducing both production costs and environmental impact. The system also facilitates the precise construction of complex patterns or structures in multiple layers, all at industrial speeds. In turn, this fusion of design and technology stimulates innovation and creativity.
The research project is carried out in collaboration with several industrial partners. The Swedish School of Textiles contributes with, among other things, the development of functional ink. The technology has proven to be excellent for both functional and smart textiles. At the time of writing, a single-stage process isn’t viable, but the goal is for the inkjet printer to dye and provide functionality in a single run, which would save considerable amounts of time.
At the Swedish School of Textiles’ labs, there are two models of smaller printers which actually fit on a desk. In the future, a full-width printer will be developed by industrial partners, which will make it possible to produce textile prints in small, as well as large, formats – all according to what is in demand.
Researchers: Vincent Nierstrasz, Sina Seipel, Junchun Yu, Mats Johansson