By just-style.com | 14 October 2003
Decorative designs produced on the Vari-o-matic VP2
Introducing decorative effects to garments immediately adds value and makes them stand out - so it is not surprising that there is increasing interest in the relevant technology. Here, Niki Tait looks at some of the latest developments in heat transfer, ultrasonics, digital fabric printing, sewing machines, appliqué and laser cutting equipment.
Traditionally, decoration is added in two key ways. The first uses a variety of embroidery techniques from hand embroidery and manual single thread chain stitch to automated machinery effects like lockstitch and chain stitch embroidery, chenille, taping, ribbon attaching, appliqué, sequins and laser cutting.
The other method is screen printing, though the effects available are becoming more variable and diverse with the widespread use of digitally produced transfers.
DST, for example, has developed a patented technology said to combine the best of digital and screen printing. The printed design is developed in a normal CAD package and can be reproduced to almost photographic quality. The image is transferred to paper using the four-colour 650 dpi Xerox Docu colour printer.
Only two screens are required: one to print the DST opaque white base mask onto the transfer image which is then heat cured, the second to apply a special adhesive glue to the DST white, which is also heat cured. The cured print is then transferred from the paper to the fabric using a heat press.
The resultant fabric piece is durable, machine washable to 90º, dry cleanable, soft and elastic. Because of the reduced number of production processes the printing method is fast and flexible and can be used for short runs and sampling as well as mainstream production. It is suitable for fabrics including nylon, polyester, cotton, blends, stretch fabrics, neoprene, knits and wovens, as well as a wide range of garments.
The heat transfer market continues to grow at a tremendous rate. Three-quarters of garment decorators have apparently now incorporated some form of digital heat transfer system.
Systems from Xpres transfer technology, a division of Charterhouse Holdings Plc, incorporate three main ingredients: speed of production, ease of operation and the ability to produce 'one off' or several hundred transfers.
Target Transfers' annual, full colour catalogue contains around 500 stock designs from licensed rock/pop and character designs to animal motifs. A separate brochure contains a wide range of lettering and numbering for the sports market. Materials, cutters and heat presses are also available.
Global zz567 series zig-zag fancy stitch machine
Football association licensee Chris Kay (UK) Limited, official manufacturer and supplier of numbers and player's names for England kit and replica kit since 1999, has now produced the team kit identification in an exclusive lightweight water based adhesive transfer system called Art-Tex.
Art-Tex numbers and letters, which incorporate covert counterfeit protection features, are precision cut on film, and have a complex six-layered printing process which builds up a light sheen surface capable of fine detail. The transfers have a dry smooth feel, are hard wearing, can be ironed over, and once applied have a degree of elasticity.
Polymark Techographics' Ultrastretch/Polystretch transfers appear on football shirts, swimwear and gymwear around the globe. Its Multiweave decorates outdoor coated fabrics and Minerva is used for decoration on mass products such as T-shirts. Polymark supplies brands such as Nike, Adidas, Marks & Spencer, Mattel and Fruit of the Loom worldwide, and manufactures in both the UK and USA.
ICI Imagedata produces T-Shirt Transfer, an inkjet transfer media for creating and printing designs on fabric. Designed for use with most current inkjet printers, the iron-on colour or mono transfer can be applied to white or pastel fabric items, such as T-shirts, baseball caps, banners or even handkerchiefs. It is offered in bulk packs of 1000 sheets (A4 format) to the incentive and marketing industry.
Recognising that the more traditional heat application methods involving flat bed presses could not cope efficiently with high volumes, Reliant has developed the new Transwift garment decoration machinery. The range enables continuous production of cut panels or made-up garments and reel to reel fed fabric, and can process the full range of heat applied garment decoration effects, including, glitter, foil, transfers, diamante, glossing, beading, sequins, flock, embroidery etc.
Korean company Vision Tech utilises ultrasonics to market a range of products for decorative effects. The Dairo Machine Co DK-2000 ultrasonic hot-fix setting machine, for example, uses ultrasonics to heat the glue on the back of rhinestones and sticks them to any type of fabric.
The Yongnam Engineering Co patented computerised hot-fix motif machine automatically sticks the rhinestones onto transfer paper based on a CAD design pre-developed within the machine's computer. The patterns are then transferred to the fabrics. Feeders enable up to six different rhinestone variations of size (2-5 mm) and/or colour.
Ultrasonic seaming machines such as Sonobond Ultrasonics' Seam Master/Lace Master Series that seal, 'sew,' and trim nonwoven and synthetic fabrics in one step can also be used to provide decorative effects. Changing the pattern wheel simulates a range of stitch types, hemming, lacing, quilting, embossing and printing.
Both the SeamMaster and the Lace Master perform their stitch patterns in one quick pass saving time, labour, and material costs. Fabrics best suited to ultrasonic bonding are 100 per cent synthetics or blends with up to 40 per cent natural fibres. Applications include hemming and lacing of blouses, dresses, lingerie, bathing suits, tablecloths, as well as embossing and printing of fabric trim, edging, and special effects.
Digital fabric printing
For the digital ink jet printing of lace strips Optotex has replaced UV ink, which should not be used next to the skin, with acid reactive dyes - rendering this new innovation of particular interest to lingerie manufacturers.
The lace repeat is scanned into the system; the design to be coloured is added to the scan on the computer screen using Adobe Photoshop software; the CCD line-scan camera recognises the lace band pattern and compares it to the memorised repeat, then adapts the print to cater for any variations in the fabric. The area to be printed can be up to 7cm wide, though by cascading up to four rows of print heads it can be enlarged to 28cm.
The company has also updated the Optocutter 2001 for the internal cutting of shaped lace designs. Using similar technology to that described above, a camera detects the lace design's cutting line and the knife is adjusted accordingly.
Printex Technology's Textile Falcon 220 eight colour variable dot production inkjet printers are aimed at the textile sampling and digital production market. Incorporating high speed and high-resolution output, the printer is said to be as equally suited to swimwear and knitwear as woven fabrics. Textile Falcon has a print speed up to 47.2 square metres per hour.
An interesting feature incorporated into the TF 220 printer is 'Dynamic Variable Dot Imaging Technology' which enables multiple and unique dots to be to produced independently and adjusts the size of the ink droplets produced by each of the print head nozzles on-the-fly. The result is finer detail and smoother gradients in highlighted areas and crisp colours in the mid-tones and shadows.
Kansai Special, more commonly associated with chain and cover stitch machines, is currently focusing on decorative stitch machines. Its patented MAC-100, for example, offers a wide variety of zig-zag and flower picot combinations for edge decoration on women's and children's wear.
Traditionally, shirring elastic is fed through the needles with blind loopers underneath resulting in an insecure single thread chain stitch. With the new 12-needle Kansai Special DFB-141P SSM-ET the elastic is fed through the loopers with normal thread through the needles, resulting in a more secure double thread chain stitch. With nine different pattern cams moving side-to-side, plus different holes for feeding up to 12 smocking threads, a wide variety of decorative effects can be achieved.
The Treasure handle operated universal lockstitch zig-zag embroidery machine enables various types of decorative work, including the attachment of cords, tapes, sequin strings, bead strings, ribbon fringes and pin-tucking.
Jumper decorated using the the Vari-o-matic VP2
Global produces a range of decorative zig-zags, including the Sunshine 5302W double needle differential feed 2800 rpm faggoting chain stitch zig-zag and the ZZ 567 fancy lockstitch zig-zag series.
USA based Atlantic Attachments produces the 1325 range of rufflers for decorating girls' wear. Constant, intermittent, sandwich, top, bottom, double blade, top and bottom, edge-to-edge and topstitch ruffling are all possible. It can be used for intermittent ruffling in sleeve setting, ruffling lace between a two-ply collar whilst inserting cord and piping, and three-piece topstitch (yoke) ruffling.
Vari-o-matic's Vari-Smocking machine can be used on thin knitted fabrics and georgette as well as medium and thick knitted fabrics and denim.
Not exactly sewing, as no thread is used, the Vari-o-matic VP-2 pastel punching machine adds surface design by tufting yarn or a secondary fabric onto a base material in what it calls "no-thread embroidery." To aid the security of the tuft, particularly to cope with washing and dry-cleaning, a thin sheet of fusible web can be sandwiched between the two, tufted in automatically during the operation.
The Treasure ES-1114-30 needle punch handle operated 'embroidery' machine uses a six prong felting needle to enable cord and tape to be attached to the surface of garments. Applications include decoration on sweaters, outerwear and gloves.
Appliqué and laser cutting
Appliqué has always been an important method of producing decorative effects and can be cut using a variety of tools from dye, knife to laser.
The Ioline 300 Design, Cut and Sew System creates appliqué designs from images drawn or scanned with CorelDraw and from custom or stock designs created using embroidery software. The system also allows users to digitally cut the designs from a wide variety of appliqué and heat applied materials.
Proel Srl, best known as an embroidery software house, also produces laser machines for cutting/engraving fabric. The GalvaLaser is the latest in the range and is equipped with a carbon dioxide laser source with galvanometric laser beam movement system which gives very high working speeds (up to 99,000mm/s) and, consequently, high productivity. Two interchangeable cutting planes allow embroidery machine hoops to be hooked onto each one, so that embroidered fabrics can be cut without removing them from the hoops. Three to four fabric layers can be cut simultaneously, up to a maximum of 2-4mm.
The Interlas Technology laser cutting machine, supplied by Spanish company Bits and Volts finds many applications in the embroidery, apparel, leather and footwear industries. An optional video camera and computerised vision software allow the system to seek embroidered or printed patterns on a fabric, properly position the head, and cut the emblems or label outlines with little or no human supervision.
Niki Tait, C.Text FTI, FCFI heads Apparel Solutions, which provides independent assistance to the apparel industry in the areas of manufacturing methods, industrial engineering, information technology and quick response.
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