Single-pass printing is a newer printing technique that enables faster printing at a higher quality. The fast speed is due to many print heads that are used for this technique. Instead of having a few printer heads moving from left to right over the substrate, single-pass printing uses multiple printer heads which are positioned along the whole width of the fabric. This enables faster printing since the fabric moves at a constant speed through the printer and the total image is created in one pass.
Two important benefits of single-pass printing are the high production speed and the high sharpness. As there are no multiple layers of image that might miss-align, the image is always crisp and sharp. A single-pass printer can print up to 40 linear meters per minute, whereas a multi-pass printer cannot produce more than a few linear meters per minute.
A disadvantage of single-pass printing is the high initial investment as it is more expensive than multi-pass textile printing because of the many print heads that are needed to cover the whole width of the printer for each colour. Print heads are costly components, so the more printer heads there are incorporated in the machine, the more expensive the machine will be. Using single-pass printing, therefore, requires a large investment. Secondly, all print heads need individual drive electronics, which also contribute to a higher cost of the printer.
With the introduction of the Lario in 2012, MS Italy presented for the first time a digital textile printing machine offering similar production performance as a traditional rotary screenprinting machine. In the meantime, beside MS ItalySPGPrints (PIKE), Konica Minolta (Nassenger SP-1) and Atexco (Vega One) have sold and installed single pass digital textile printing machines in the industry.
The market for this type of equipment is limited so far since an interested investor has to relyon an industrial environment (pre- treatment and finishing equipment) and has to have an annual production volume of more than 2mn running to be produced on the single pass machine. In theory, there are many potential customers around the world however main challenge for them is that they simply don’t know how to sell the added value of digital, thuscannot achieve a volume of minimum 2 mnthat are necessary to justify the investment in single pass. A single pass digital textile printing machine has to be operated 24/7 in order tobe profitable.
Advantages of Single Pass
- Capability to produce important quantities in a very short time
- Fast style change (design, colors) with nearly no installation time
- Production speed as rotary screen printing
- Nearly unlimited flexibility
- Heavy investment
- Limited market
- Fast changing technology
- lifespan of print-heads
- Quantity of suitable orders to fill capacity
- Industrial environment (pre- and after-treatment necessary)
Once the technology is mature, production cost is further lowered and the reliability of printheads is given there is the potential to replace an important partof installed rotary screen printing capacity.