Most professional fabric graphic printers understand that there’s more to a project than just printing. Once you print it, you have to finish it and oftentimes, finishing techniques can make the difference between a high-end looking product and something that isn’t compelling enough to compete in the marketplace.
While the options are numerous, the equipment to perform these tasks is also formidable. Fabric steamers, heat presses, calendars, industrial-strength sewing machines, sergers, welders and seamers all contribute to the successful finishing of soft signage and textiles.
- Fabric Steamer — Fabrics made of natural fibers, such as silk, wool or cotton, need to be steamed after they are printed. The steaming fuses the dyes to the fabrics.
- Heat Press or Calendar— With dye sublimation printing, polyester fabrics need to be heat set or transferred on a calendar or heat press after printing. In order to fixate the dyes to the fabric, they must first be heated at 400˚F for at least 30 seconds. Any variation in consistency of time, temperature and pressure can impact color, ruin the job and in the end, cost you more money. (For detailed information on heat presses and calendars, Click Here.)
- Industrial Sewing Machine — Most print shops finish fabric graphics by sewing them. There are a variety of industrial level sewing machines on the market today designed for many different applications. Heavier duty applications may require a double stitch: some sewing machines have this capability automatically built-in. A serger sewing machine is also a valuable tool for sewing graphics requiring a heavy duty stitch that has some stretch. They are also very helpful for adding strength to a seam. Keep in mind that while a serger can do a wide variety of applications, it will not replace a standard sewing machine for basic seams.
- Hot Knife — All shops doing dye sub should have a hot knife on hand for cutting graphics that cannot or may not need to be hemmed. A hot knife basically has a blade that is heated above the melting point of the polyester fabric and sears the edges as it cuts the fabric and prevent fraying.
- X/Y Table Cutter — Although more commonly associated with cutting rigid substrates, an X/Y table cutter can be very beneficial for high-production needs. Some manufacturers carry special blades that will cut fabric very easily.
- Vinyl Welder/Seamer — Polyester fabrics can also be welded, similar to how welded vinyl graphics are created. Although this isn’t as popular as sewing, it can leave a very clean edge for those applications where a sewn edge or seam is not desired. It can also create a very strong bond that can be more durable than the fabric itself.
- Grommet Machine — Fabric banners often require grommets for hanging. Both automated and hand-action grommet machines are available. Both are excellent solutions; the choice depends on the volume of jobs produced that require grommets.
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