Big has had its day. From cars, to computers, to mobile phones, the message is that good things really do come in small packages as people begin to realise that size bears no relation to quality. Being compact is now seen as a desirable commodity as technology enables us to produce an ever greater output – but with minimal input.
Think back to your first computer,ichiteck video player or music centre: they seem almost like outsized comedy props in comparison to their sleek 21st century equivalents. However, these compact shells contain a powerful technology that we could only dream of a decade ago – with the added advantage of costing a fraction of the price by today’s standards.
So, the computing power that first propelled man towards the moon in the 1960s is now contained in a child’s throwaway toy or given away in a Christmas cracker. As size has decreased, the technology we use in everyday items has increased in power exponentially.
There’s no doubt that technology brings great opportunities and innovation – but it can be difficult to keep up with its relentless advance. The printing industry has benefitted from invention and innovation as much as any other, but it can be difficult to keep abreast of what all this new technology enables us to do. For example, you may have heard of nano technology, but are you aware of nanodot technology and what it can do? Is it just hype for another product that we don’t really need – or does it have the potential to take production processes to a new level?
The Nanodot revolution
Nanodot technology is a new process that has been developed over the past few years and some believe is set to revolutionise the print market. More specifically, it is will almost certainly have a dramatic influence on the field of large format inkjet sublimation. The process ensures optimal pigment dispersion due to a combination of reducing the nanoparticles combined with fixing ionic polymers on the actual particles. To those of us without a science degree, in a nutshell this ensures improved ink flow, faster drying and better stability during the print process. However, due to the huge production investment in the latest laser spectrometers and medical filtration systems involved in producing nanodot inks, only one European company is currently producing them.
Originally developed in Italy, many countries such as Australia and Germany have started to use the nanodot technology with great success. This significant new technology was introduced in the Italian sportswear and garment manufacturing sector last summer, causing an unprecedented wave of production houses to change inks. At the same time, some major German flag makers began using this new ink technology and saw impressive results. The flag manufacturing industry is notorious for its highly competitive price structure, so when one company starts using a new form of technology to improve results and cut production costs, its competitors are keen to find out what’s going on. Thus far, the UK has been slow off the mark in making use of this new technology – but that is set to change later in 2008.
Nano Pigmentation Technology (NPT) – how it works
As with many great innovations, the theory behind Nano Pigmentation Technology (NPT) is relatively simple. “With NPT sublimation ink, the dye particles are ground to sub micron size and ionically fixed,” explains Enrico Grasselli Head of R&D at J-Teck srl. “The combination of minute sizing and the fixing process reduces friction as the inks pass through the printing heads, yielding a more even dispersement within the ink fluid itself. This more even dispersement allows a denser concentration of dye to be used and less water is needed to reach the optimum viscosity for peizo heads.”
With versatility an important part of the printing process, various NPT inks have been developed for use on a range of different sublimation applications. Grasselli explains that, when transfer printing, the lower water/dye ratio has the advantage of less paper cockling – and even offers the possibility of using a more cost effective, lighter 100g paper.
Companies using the inks when working with direct to textile printing have reported that the NPT inks bleed less and show higher colour values resulting in a higher quality print. Add to this the advantages of a faster drying and pressing times reducing production times further – and as we all know, time is money, whatever marketplace your organisation operates in.