During the past 10 years, Kornit Digital, a global company that develops and manufactures industrial and commercial digital printing solutions for the garment, apparel and fabric industry, has launched 1,000 systems in the field of direct-to-garment market. The broad array of textile-printing systems includes entry-level desktop garment printers, such as the Breeze, up to the mass-production Avalanche and the Allegro single-step roll-to-roll printing system.
Kornit introduces below the company’s NeoPigment process, the key to high quality printing results of its products.
By Omer Kulka, Director of Kornit Digital’s wide-format division
The goal in developing the NeoPigment process was to bring all the benefits of textile pigment printing to the digital world – this performance is achieved by a unique printing process, combining NeoPigment inks with the Kornit’s inline fixation mechanism. That way, Kornit prints with the same ink-set on all types of fabric and eliminates the need for any external steps of pre-treatment or post-print wet processes.
At the core of the NeoPigment architecture lie two internal process counterparts: a unique integrated and automated chemical fixation mechanism and the actual printing process itself. The unique chemical reaction that occurs on the surface of the textile when the ink and inline fixation agent meet and react with each other during the printing process is the core of the NeoPigment printing process and the high-quality results.
Our water-based NeoPigment inks are constructed on the principle of a solid phase colorants architecture. The most basic and necessary requirement in order to achieve our goal of bringing the benefits of textile pigment printing to the digital world is by all means the most challenging one: Avoiding print-head nozzles clogging and other continuous inkjet interference phenomena required us to use nanometric colorant particles. A task that proved extremely demanding, both from development and manufacturing perspectives, since nanometric pigment particles tend to cling together and form undesired large particle conglomerates.
Years of in-house development, using the best knowledge and talent of Israel’s inkjet industry, resulted in our unique NeoPigment architecture. The NeoPigment nano-particles, optimized in size distribution for use in our machines’ inkjet printing engines, are dispersed in a specially developed suspension, preventing them from forming any larger particle conglomerates.
Kornit’s unrivalled levels of experience and ingenuity in the development and manufacturing of these sustainable ink formulations, based on the NeoPigment nano-particles, have resulted in precision droplet handling, along with excellent production capabilities, a larger gamut size and excellent color efficiency.
Complementing the inks, we find the supplementary action of the inline fixation agent, which is imperative for completing the full cycle of the NeoPigment printing process on the textile surface.
By developing the inline fixation agent hand in hand with our NeoPigment ink-set, we were able to specifically design and control the chemical interaction intensity and timespan, thus achieving optimal results in terms of color gamut and efficiency, measured in terms of color saturation to ink quantity ratio (See figure).
By optimizing the chemical interaction between the NeoPigment ink and the inline fixation agent we were able to enlarge our color gamut by 50%, using the exact same amount of ink. An effect that can be used either for achieving extra color saturation or reducing ink consumption by taking advantage of the high color efficiency.
Using gamut volume comparison, in CIE LAB units, figure #1 demonstrates the optimization of color saturation and efficiency, using full cycle of the NeoPigment process. The outer surrounding gamut shows a clear 50% increase of volume compared to the inner gamut, obtained by printing with the same amount of ink at the same resolution, but taking advantage of the optimization effect of the NeoPigment inline fixation mechanism.
Curing of the inks is another essential part of any textile printing process – a step that holds some of the key benefits of NeoPigment printing. All dye-based printing solutions require additional wet processes for curing the inks and finalizing the printing process. These steps, such as steaming, washing and disposing of dye-polluted wastewater, all consume a lot of energy and turn out to be very harmful for the environment, especially in regards to water pollution.
By incorporating the NeoPigment process in our Allegro solution we eliminate the need for all these additional steps and implemented an entirely dry printing process.
Developing the Kornit Allegro, based on our NeoPigment process at its core, I am proud to say that we have met the challenge we set for ourselves. Successfully overcoming technological barriers we were able to develop and engineer a true standalone textile inkjet printing system that brings all the benefits of textile pigment printing to the digital world.