Reactive printing is a multistep process formulated for printing on natural fabrics. It involves 4 main steps: pretreating fabrics, printing, steaming and washing.
The pretreatment process involves coating fabrics in a finely tuned chemical mixture that stiffens the fabric and helps bond the ink to the fabric. Once coated, the fabrics are digitally printed with reactive inks using color profiles suited to each fabric. It’s quick and insanely accurate! The CMYK ink set translates your artwork into millions of tiny drops that are jetted out from the technologically advanced print heads. After printing, steaming is where the magic happens! The fabric slowly moves through a steam chamber heated to 102 degrees Celsius which opens the fiber’s cells. Once opened, the ink can transfer into the fibers. After steaming the print will be at maximum vibrancy and color depth. The last step is washing to remove all excess inks and residual pretreatment. The fabric passes through 3 different temperature baths and we add special detergents and finishers to wash and significantly soften the fabrics.
It’s a long process but it’s worth it! All fabrics printed with a reactive process are fully washable with no fading and perfectly soft and ready to use for any project.
Reactive vs. Pigment
Unlike the reactive process detailed above, pigment printing is a short cut for natural fabric printing. It results in surface prints on natural fabrics where the inks do not penetrate into the fibers. While it is a fast process, pigment inks are not wash-fast and will fade with washing and rubbing. The colors produced in pigment printing are generally subdued since pigment inks are composed of not only the nanopigments (colors) and water, but also a glue to adhere the ink to the fabric surface. The glue also means your fabric feels stiffer after printing with no hope of softening without washing and color-loss. In contrast, reactive printing includes all the 4 steps detailed above and the end product is fully washed and ready for any end use. Reactive printing on natural fabrics means there’s never any compromise between colors, feel, finish, or wash fastness.
Environment Impact of Reactive On-demand Printing
Reactive printing on-demand is a low waste process. Since every meter we print is for a specific customer, we never have overstock or deadstock. Fabrics that print incorrectly can simply be washed and reprinted. Our washing machinery recirculates water to minimize water usage. The steamer uses less than 40 liters of water most production days. We use natural gas heaters to power the printer heater and practice widely accepted energy saving techniques daily within our facility including recycling all cardboard, papers, and plastics.