Konica Minolta has launched a single-pass inkjet textile printer, the Nassenger SP-1. It prints direct to fabric that is fed under a fixed print unit. Konica Minolta claims that it will typically run at around 2,000 linear metres per hour, but can be anywhere between 1,500 and 6,000 linear m/ hr, which should be enough to keep up with a screen printer.
Akiyoshi Ohno, Senior Adviser and former head of Konica Minolta’s inkjet division, explained: “With single-pass inkjet technology for textile printing, the inks we use are reactive die for silk and cotton and disperse die for polyester. We have control over the ink as well, which means virtually no ink wastage. Everything that has been developed with this technology comes under our own control. It’s all OEMs, not a third-party. This guarantees the quality and, for instance, if there’s a faulty printhead there’s no arguing about who’s to blame.”
He added: “Our philosophy is to minimise on downtime. We have world-leading technology that includes unique features such as intelligent nozzle sensors. In essence, this means if a nozzle stops working properly, information is fed back to the CPU so that those either side can jet even bigger droplets. Up to three nozzles can stop working and it’s still working – the same brilliant print quality is maintained.”
The SP-1 was unveiled at the ITMA textile show in Milan, where Konica Minolta also showed two other new printers, the Nassenger 10, which has a print speed of 580 sqm/ hour and Nassenger 8, with a print speed of 240 sqm/ hour. Both of these are scanning systems. All three printers use a newly-developed inkjet printhead from Konica Minolta
Nobody knows for sure, but Konica Minolta estimates that the current world market for textile printing is 20 billion linear metres per year. Ohno said: “Certainly our aim is to capture 50% of the world textile printing market in inkjet for the single-pass market.”
He explained further: “In the global textile market, there are ever-increasing demands for low-volume high-mix production to cope with shorter lead times, improved print quality, saving resources and environmental considerations.”
He added: “Reducing downtime is critical. Our new systems do this and open up huge new opportunities for customers, who share our belief that this is gamechanging technology. As an example, while screen printing machines with print speeds of 2000-3000 sq m / hour are used for high-volume printing in most cases, users of these machines are now calling for inkjet textile printers with the print speed of screen printing machines.”
It’s a bold claim, but if the SP-1 is fast enough to keep up with a screen printer, and reduces makeready and turnaround times between jobs, then this would indeed by a game changer in terms of the digital textile market.