Rotary screen printing is so named because it uses a cylindrical screen that rotates in a fixed position rather than a flat screen that is raised and lowered over the same print location. Rotary presses place the squeegee within the screen. These machines are designed for roll-to-roll printing on fabric ranging from narrow to wide-format textiles.
In rotary printing, the fabric travels at a consistent speed between the screen and a steel or rubber impression roller immediately below the screen. (The impression roller serves the same function as the press bed on a flatbed press.) As the fabric passes through the rotary unit, the screen spins at a rate that identically matches the speed of substrate movement.
Estimates indicate that this technique controls approximately 65% of the printed fabric market worldwide. The principle disadvantage of rotary screen printing is the high fixed cost of the equipment. The machines are generally not profitable for short yardages of widely varying patterns, because of the clean-up and machine down time when changing patterns. Flat screen printing is much more suitable for high pile fabrics, because only one squeegee pass is available with rotary screen. However, rotary machines are used for carpet and other types of pile fabrics. Most knit fabric is printed by the rotary screen method, because it does not stress (pull or stretch) the fabric during the process.
The rotary garment screen printing machine, developed in the 1960s, is the most popular device for screen printing in the industry.
Digital textile printing is described as any ink jet based method of printing colorants onto fabric. Most notably, digital textile printing is referred to when identifying either printing smaller designs onto garments (t-shirts, dresses, promotional wear; abbreviated as DTG, which stands for Direct to Garment) and printing larger designs onto large format rolls of textile. The latter is a growing trend in visual communication, where advertisement and corporate branding is printed onto polyester media. Examples are: flags, banners, signs, retail graphics.
Digital textile printing started in the late 1980s as a possible replacement for analog screen printing. With the development of a dye-sublimation printer in the early 1990s, it became possible to print with low energy sublimation inks and high energy disperse direct inks directly onto textile media, as opposed to print dye-sublimation inks on a transfer paper and, in a separate process using a heat press, transfer it to the fabric.