Sectors covered:Technological innovation in textiles and clothing
Innovation priority: Advanced digitised manufacturing, value chains and business models
ELIIT funding: €70 000
Inkjet printing is one of the most promising techniques for digitising textile printing. Implementing it through an automated process using robots could reduce labour costs and bring production back from Asia to Europe.
Moreover, robot-based inkjet printing creates new opportunities in design and shape. For example, the possibility for colour printing on curved or complex objects like clothes worn by mannequins.
Based on a partnership between an Austrian research institution and technology provider, Profactor and Slovak SME Enhanced Inkjet, the Print Me Unique Labels (PRIMULA) project is formulating a new robot-based method for digital printing on clothes.
What's the goal?
PRIMULA aims to develop and implement an integrated, automated system for the on-demand printing of clothing. As part of this, Profactor is replicating a printing system with an industrial inkjet printhead operated by a 6-axis robot. This is being improved to enable printing on t-shirts, blouses or shirts worn by mannequins.
Once the process has been validated, the whole system will be transferred to Enhanced Inkjet’s site in Slovakia for installation and use in an industrial environment.
As part of the industrial roll-out, a start-up called Made2mybody has been launched. It will provide the system and related equipment to high street brands, retail chains and independent stores based on a regional franchise concept for the on-demand production of labels and patterns.
Inkjet printing on curved 3D surfaces brings various challenges to processes, materials and quality control. These will be solved throughout the project. Precise knowledge of the process is necessary to ensure that each system component is correctly attuned. Enhanced Inkjet’s expertise in integrating automatic ink supply technology into industrial systems is beneficial here.
Another challenge is the selection and testing of suitable inks for printing on textiles and appropriate materials. The partners are performing this task together.
How has ELIIT helped?
The financial support from ELIIT has enabled the partners to develop the project’s first phase further and validate the idea of implementing a large-scale customisation process within the global clothing industry. ELIIT has also given the frame for cooperation between the partners, assisted by offering a mentoring programme, and authorising promotion at a trade fair.
Meet the partners
Enhanced Inkjet has been bringing its unique solutions to the industry since 2007. It has generated significant expertise in technology transfer between traditional analogue printing systems and innovative and flexible digital inkjet systems.
The company’s know-how also encompasses areas such as printing liquid crystals at high temperatures and printing human cells and tissue. The addition of a robotic arm can enhance its proprietary inkjet printing system.
Profactor is a non-university research institute owned by Upper Austrian Research and the Austrian Institute of Technology. Its research includes robotic assistive technologies, image processing and 3D printing using functional surfaces and nanostructures.
Profactor’s Functional Surfaces and Nanostructures department is engaged in developing processes and materials for surface functionalisation, surface modification and functionalisation using nanoimprint lithography and inkjet printing.
Its Machine Vision Group has extensive experience in industrial image processing, autonomous robot systems, intuitive assistance systems and software implementation. The institution also has generative manufacturing expertise in hybrid and robot-based inkjet printing.
SME: Enhanced Inkjet s.r.o.
Tech provider: Profactor GmbH