Why Digital Textile Printing Is More Eco-Friendly Than Rotary Printing
The solution to this question is clear to everyone who has visited a typical rotary or flat-bed screen textile printing factory. When you factor in the rapid change in retail dynamics and print sizes, you have an industry that was designed to start manufacturing and is now trying to adapt to a modern age of on-demand printing.
A conventional rotary screen machine with a steam or gas dryer, automatic colour kitchen, and screen washing zone would need over 5,000 square feet of manufacturing space to print 12 colours at 3.6 metres high. A similar automated print machine with the same materials, on the other hand, would take up less than 400 square feet. When you add in a large amount of storage space used to store rotary printing screens and large bulk colour barrels, as well as ancillary equipment, the size difference between digital and rotary print operations becomes significant. In comparison to a high-tech digital textile printing installation, screen printing requires nearly twenty times space.
In the field of sustainability, a high priority is placed on reducing resource use. When comparing factory space, automated textile print equipment significantly decreases the manufacturing footprint and establishes a new sustainability benchmark in textile processing, simply pointing the way for more sustainable usage of the planet’s capital.
The second, and similarly important, the distinction is between the quantities of water and ink. Water and ink are everywhere in a conventional rotary screen-printing facility, in stark contrast to the modern printing world. However, many of the analogue printing machines in use around the world are workhorses that produce millions of metres of printed fabric on a regular basis. While several new advances have been made in recent years to change the environmental effects of high-volume analogue mills, the conventional rotary printing factory remains a challenging environment.
Why does rotary screen printing use too much ink and water? When rotary screen printing, ink is pushed through the screen mesh by a flexible squeegee and used at a rate of 35-60 cc per printed metre, depending on the mesh size and fabric weight. Digital textile printing, on the other hand, uses between 6 and 9 ccs per printed metre, thanks to Piezoelectric print heads that spray microdroplets of ink onto the fabric’s surface.
In non-scientific words, this means that a 10,000-meter print run on a rotary panel printer would use over 540 kilos of ink vs 90 kilos on a computer printer. Since water is the primary component of aqueous ink dispersions, the digital textile printer can save 600 per cent on water.
But digital textile printing’s water-saving storey doesn’t stop there. Rotary displays must be drained of excess colour at the end of each print run and then cleaned before being stored. If the clothing manufacturing effluent is not handled, polluted water will flow through the factory’s effluent scheme, which in many situations consists of a clear river drain, creating extensive environmental damage.
In comparison, where post-fabric finishing is a dry operation, the optical textile printing process produces no wastewater or effluent.
When you look at the ease of the digital process, the distinctions between it and rotary textile manufacturing become obvious. When all ink and print technologies are mixed, the digital ink-jet process leaves a lush, clean footprint. Rotary printing necessitates a squad of technicians as well as the use of auxiliary tools such as an ink kitchen, screen engraving, cleaning, and finishing, to name a few.
Digital textile printing’s water-saving credentials now offer a welcome environmentally sustainable alternative to the textile industry’s negative environmental history.
What are the benefits of modern textile printing in terms of energy savings?
The energy required to run a conventional rotary screen print system, which includes screen print stations, print blankets, and gas dryers, as well as the installation’s exhaust fans and colour mixers, is considerable.
According to a recent comparative analysis conducted by the Epson Textile Solution Centre, the carbon footprint of a traditional rotary printing device (without ancillary machinery) produced 139.56 kg of CO2eq, while the modern system used 85.66 kg of CO2eq, saving approximately 40%.
Beyond these basic sustainability criteria, the beneficial environmental impact of the digital print market model must also be considered. Competitiveness is only accomplished in the conventional rotary screen market model by volume manufacturing. For both those involved in this transaction, this involves shipping and storing vast quantities of print in preparation for selling and shipment around the globe. The standard textile supply chain is inefficient and built for stock, putting all owners, their assets, and their finances at risk.
Across the dynamic supply chain, digital textile printing begins to challenge the conventional textile business model. The rise of on-demand manufacturing, aided by the global pandemic, continues to create and encourage a risk-averse climate by drastically lowering the risk of stock clearances and close-outs. Ink-jet printing is guiding the textile print industry away from its detrimental environmental past and into a more positive path for all players in the supply chain.