Sign & Digital Graphics

July '16

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S I G N & D I G I T A L G R A P H I C S • July 2016 • 41 Most industry experts agree that it poses less of a challenge to print on more rigid fabrics, but stretchy fabrics are very versatile, especially when it comes to retail signage, silicon edge graphics, backlit signs and trade show booths. Scott Fisher, president of Fisher Textiles in Indian Trail, N.C., says that graphic designers need to take the stretchiness of fabric into account when making their designs. They also need to gure out how taut they want the fabric to be as it moves through the printer. That will determine how small or large a design looks when it comes out the other side. Transfer printers have an easier time of printing onto stretchy fabrics because the image is printed before it reaches the fabric. As long as the fabric goes through the heat press without too much tension on it, the image should turn out ne. If there is too much tension or not enough tension, the printed design will turn out larger or smaller than expected. Fisher advises print shops to make sure the tension isn't too high on either end. On some printers, there is a place to put a roll of fabric and another roll at the end to uptake the nished product. "On the exit side of the transfer machine, the fabric's very hot and can be almost permanently stretched, not 100 percent, but it denitely can elongate the bers. This goes for stretch materials and non-stretch materials," he says. If the bers are stretched upon exiting the machine, the print will be longer than you want it to be. "You have to take the stretch into account when you lay out your design and decide how much tension you want on the fabric while it is on the frame. Some people may purposely undersize the graphic so that they can stretch it two or three inches on every side so it is nice and taut. Whereas with rigid fabrics, you wouldn't be able to do that," Fisher adds. When printing direct, the same advice holds true for the intake and outtake of the machine. Many printers have ten- sioning devices on them so that a printer will have better control over how the fabric moves through the machine, but stretch fabric is still hard for direct print- ers to handle, he adds. "The stretchier the fabric, the harder it is to handle." Fisher Textiles tries to design fabrics that have less stretch in the machine direction for that reason. It has a popular fabric called Power Stretch, which is 94 percent polyester and 6 percent Spandex that is about 20 to 25 percent stretch in the machine direction and 50 percent in the width direction. It can be printed both directly or transferred. "If it was the opposite, 50 percent in the machine direction of the fabric, it would be very challenging for someone to print that," he says. "Twenty to 25 per- cent makes it easier for them to handle." The good part about fabric is it has good wrinkle resistance. If the fabric has at least 20 percent stretch, the fabric doesn't have to be sewn within a quarter inch of the edge to make it t. The fabric can just be stretched to t. "If a client is very particular that a logo needs to be dead center, that becomes an issue. Depending on the image and the client's expectations, stretch fabric can be a benet or something that is a chal- lenge," Fisher says. Stretch fabrics can be used effectively for backlit displays. (Image courtesy of Value Vinyls)

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