Investigate the world of roll-to-roll printing with Emily Crane of Xpres

If you’re looking to expand the services your company offers, then roll-to-roll dye sublimation printing is well worth investigating as more companies look to manufacturing in the UK as a way of reducing their carbon footprint, as well as to avoid potential issues with shipping delays, increased costs and customs hold-ups.

A survey of 750 founders of UK ecommerce brands late last year by global fulfilment firm ShipBob found that 38% believed the biggest boost for their business would be to reshore their overseas manufacturing operations to the UK so as to avoid import challenges and rising freight costs. Creating bespoke, dye-sublimated sportswear, fashion apparel and home furnishing in the UK could, therefore, be a highly profitable enterprise.

In this step-by-step, Emily Crane, who is product development assistant at Xpres, uses the Mimaki TS100-1600 dye sublimation printer and Texpres Piece and Roll Calender Press PX180F to create a perfectly printed roll of fabric. “This machine delivers cost-effective dye sublimation printing while maintaining high quality and productivity with double the print speed of other conventional textile printers,” she explains.

While putting the ink on the paper is fairly straightforward – Emily used the Subliprint Universal 95gsm Paper as she says it offers the “perfect balance between weight and ink transfer” as well as providing “excellent stability, reducing the chances of rippling or creasing during printing and calender pressing” – it is essential that the correct profile in the print RIP is selected before sending anything to print. The profile controls the amount of ink used, the speed of the printer, and the colours that are output.

While generic profiles are available for different types of media on RIP software, Xpres does its own profiling in-house, and these are made available to customers.

The most problematic or challenging part of the process is the “webbing-up” of the calender press, says Emily.

“Ensuring that the fabric, protection paper and print are all installed correctly, aligned perfectly and with just the right amount of tension, takes practice. We’d recommend, to begin with, two people work together when loading the calender press and that close attention is paid to any manufacturer guides or instructions provided with the machine.”


(1) Load the sublimation paper onto the media rollers at the rear of the printer and feed the paper through to the front of the machine. Making sure the paper is loaded straight, drop the pinch rollers and attach the media clamps to ensure the edges of the paper remain flat during printing

(2) When printing roll to roll a cardboard tube/core should be fitted to the take-up unit located on the front/bottom of the printer stand. Install the tube and tighten securely in place, making sure it lines up with the already installed paper

(3) Attach the paper to the take-up tube using tape and wind one to two metres onto the tube prior to printing and the same again at the end of the print. This is required when feeding the print into the calender press

(4) Open the artwork in Mimaki’s RIP software, Rasterlink. When printing a repeating pattern, Rasterlink has a “Step and Repeat” feature, which allows a design to be repeated as many times as required

(5) Using the recommended profile for the paper and substrate, send your design to print (we used Mimaki SB610 dye sublimation ink). During printing, the paper will be wound onto the tube, providing the necessary tension

(6) When the print is finished it should be moved using the take up tube and loaded onto the Texpres calender unit. The printed paper and the desired fabric (we used our 100% polyester Deluxe Knit fabric) need to be webbed up onto the Texpres along with calender protection paper to prevent ink contamination

(7) Firstly, feed the protection paper through the calender and then feed the printed paper face up and then the fabric print face down on top. There are take-up reels on the back on the calender to take up the waste papers and to roll the fabric onto a core. Once fed through and webbed correctly, the machine can be left to print the fabric

(8) Once complete, tear the protection paper and remove the roll of printed fabric. Your printed roll of fabric is now complete