Ratti and different fabric printing techniques: quality, tradition and innovation

The culture and specialisation of local artisans, in terms of printing techniques, is the most authentic distinguishing feature of the Ratti quality and style. Elements that have led the company to become, from the very beginning, one of the world’s largest producers of printed fabrics for clothing, ties, shirts, beachwear and furniture.

At Ratti, fabric printing techniques are the synthesis of heritage and innovation, as well as mastery and dedication, allowing the Group to last through time. Generations of passionate workers specialised in this art, as well as in the knowledge of different natural and composite fibres, including the most innovative.

Ratti manages and oversees the entire production cycle: from the creative idea developed around a design, to the design of the fabric to the finishing phase, it boasts several internal departments dedicated to fabric printing. Here all techniques are used, from the most traditional to the most cutting-edge. 

Fabric printing, colour and dye

At the basis of every dyeing process or printing technique, Ratti creates a strong bond between the textile fibre and the dye. More specifically: in exhaustion dying, the colour passes from the solution to the fibre, where it spreads. In printing, on the other hand, the dye is mechanically applied to the points that need to be coloured. In summary, the colour is applied as if it were a normal editorial print or illustration. 

Among the fabric printing techniques used at Ratti, direct printing is the simplest case, in which the colour is only applied to the areas of the fabric where the motif is required and is fixed at a later time. 

Usually the dye is applied starting from a concentrated aqueous solution that is thickened with particular starches or glues, until it reaches the consistency of a more or less dense fluid called printing paste. This is spread across the whole fabric according to a pre-determined pattern, dictated by the motif. The thickeners used in the printing paste have the function of increasing its viscosity without gluing the colour onto the fibre, so that they are eliminated during the washing phase of the fabric. In the case of direct digital printing, the dye has a more liquid appearance, the same as ink that is printed on the fabric through a colour jet. 

The discharge printing technique starts from an already uniformly dyed fabric. The dye is then removed by printing a chemical agent. Supposing we start with a fabric dyed in a dark colour, the motif of the print will have a lighter colour on a uniform background. In this case the printing paste will only contain bleaching or colour-destroying agents; if instead the paste contains colours resistant to chemical treatment, we simply obtain coloured motifs.

With the resist printing technique, we start from a paste containing a wax or resin capable of making the fabric (temporarily) waterproof, printing the motif in negative. The fabric is uniformly dyed or printed with the required dyes and immediately after fixation the resisting agent is eliminated. The colour in the “resistant” areas is not fixed and these keep the original colour.

The last fabric printing technqiue used by Ratti is heat transfer printing. The procedure consists in placing the print paste on a “means of transport” (at Ratti a special paper is used), which subsequently, with the aid of a hot calender, transfers the pattern to the fabric. It is a printing technique that uses the sublimation process, i.e. the dye is transformed into a gas that penetrates the fibre. This technique is generally used on polyester fabrics.

All of these printing techniques are carried out using different technologies, including traditional table printing, whether hand, trolley or rotary, and digital ink-jet printing. The excellence achieved by Ratti in the world of fabric printing is the result of constant work as well as way of being and thinking. For these reasons, the company continues to believe and invest in both traditional printing as well as its most innovative technical expressions.