Durst shows fifth generation Alpha

Durst has introduced the latest version of its textile production press, the Alpha Series 5, in both the 190 and 330 versions, with the 330 version on show at the recent Itma exhibition. The new Alphas feature a number of improvements including a new advanced digital pigment ink for waterless one-step production.

Durst has made improvements to its Alpha series textile printers, with the introduction of the fifth generation of these machines.

Axel Stuhlreiter, Durst’s product manager for Fabrics, says that this latest version has benefited from all the feedback Durst has had from the market. This includes improvements to the materials handling, particularly for knitwear. He adds: “It has a dual roll which we developed especially for the Pakistani and Indian markets where they need the high volume. They are running 24:7 with this configuration and printing around 5 million square meters per year so dual roll was really important for them.”

The system can control the tension independently on both rolls so that users can run different materials and with different amounts of materials on each roll. It’s particularly effective when used with the larger 3.3m Alpha 330 and can significantly boost the productivity. 

Durst has added a SuperMultipass mode, which is said to give 30 percent better performance than comparable systems. Durst says that it has added new technologies in the printheads, inks, drying units, and in the interaction of software. The company has stuck with the Ricoh Gen5 printheads but is now using the latest version with recirculation. Stuhlreiter comments: “And that’s our advantage in comparison to the competitors who are mainly using Kyocera without recirculation so they have a challenge for direct disperse or pigment inks.”

The Alphas have eight colour channels, with 32 heads as standard though this can be doubled to 64. Resolution is up to 500×600 dpi, with variable drop sizes from 7 to 21pl. The Alpha 330 can run at up to 460 linear metres per hour, assuming single pass mode at 300×600 dpi.

Durst has also improved the temperature control around the printheads with a water-cooling system for more precise temperature control, as Stuhlreiter explains: “We are not only heating the ink but also cooling the heads so we have always the same temperature because otherwise you would be changing the viscosity of the ink.” 

Durst has also improved the maintenance round the press with an automatic oiling system that applies oil to the rollers from time to time. This is also being offered as a free upgrade to existing machines.

There’s also an automated system to apply some chemistry to the wash water to refresh the glue on the sticky belt, which can lose its stickiness over time due to the binders from pigment and disperse inks that spill onto the belt.

In addition to the press, Durst also has a new advanced digital pigment ink that is said to have good light fastness and wet rub fastness and can be used on all types of fabric. There are eight colours in total – CMYK plus orange, red, green and blue. Stuhlreiter adds: “For Europe and the US pigment is the future product. It’s very important for the new web-to-print based customers because its sustainable.” 

He says that this ink is optimised for printing without pretreatment but that Durst still recommends a pretreatment to achieve the broadest colour gamut, explaining: “For some garments it might work but we would recommend a pretreatment because then you have a perfect colour result as well as fastness.” He adds: “The pigment gives excellent feel without post-treatment so it’s an industrial-level product. In the past the hand feel has been stiff but now we have really good hand feel and fastness.”

Durst showed off new inks for the Alpha printers, broadening the range of fabrics they can print to.

This now gives Durst quite a wide range of different inks including water-, acid- and reactive-based ink systems. There’s also a Durst Disperse HD ink for polyester applications such as home textiles, apparel, fashion, flags, banners and outdoor signage, and Durst Reactive HD for use with home textiles, apparel and fashion. All these inks are Oekotex 100 and GOTS 5.0 compliant. 

Durst has an arrangement to sell the SwiftJet, which I covered here last week, for an in-line solution for pretreatment, which is particularly valuable for short-run and fast-turnaround jobs. However,Stuhlreiter says that he believes that it makes more sense to use the SwiftJet for post-treatment, explaining: “Normally a production business will have stable suppliers and your supplier will apply the pretreatment and has the machines and experts to do this so I don’t think that pretreatment is an issue. Post-treatment is more of a challenge as customers don’t usually have the machines to do this. So for me the idea would be to use it for post-treatment because then you could apply a softener.” But he also says that it doesn’t really matter if you use the SwiftJet for pre- or post-treatment, noting: “The biggest challenge was to find a reliable system.”

These printers also feature Durst’s new workflow and its Durst Analytics monitoring tool, as well as the Durst Smart Shop, web to print application which I’ve already covered briefly and will return to in more depth later this summer. Also, on the software front, Durst has worked with the Romanian software company behind Gemini Cad, which has developed solutions for fashion and apparel as well as furniture and interiors, plus a new digital printing suite that covers everything from design and preproduction through to printing and cutting. This allows customers to upload their own designs, along with their sizing information. 

Martin Winkler, Durst Group’s Segment Manager, Textile Printing, commented: “ITMA is another important platform to demonstrate our proven Alpha technology and advanced software. The fabrics, soft signage and textile markets support fast turnaround short runs and sustainability using digital technology. Our growing number of customers make savings in colouring inks and water consumption, as well as in production costs and delivery times. They are backed by world-class support from skilled consultants and integrators provided through Durst Professional Services, as well as comprehensive training in our Customer Experience Center at our head office in Brixen.”

The Alpha costs around €650,000 depending on the configuration. It’s a reasonably compact solution that’s clearly been designed for continuous industrial production. You can find more details on the Alpha printers from www.durst-group.com.

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