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Printing Industry Exchange ( is pleased to have Steven Waxman writing and managing the Printing Industry Blog. As a printing consultant, Steven teaches corporations how to save money buying printing, brokers printing services, and teaches prepress techniques. Steven has been in the printing industry for thirty-three years working as a writer, editor, print buyer, photographer, graphic designer, art director, and production manager.

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Large Format Printing: Printing Bikinis and Houses

In the last PIE Printing Blog article, I discussed novel uses for 3D custom printing, including the specifications Nokia has made available to enable phone owners to 3D-print their own phone cases, and a stem-cell 3D printing firm called Modern Meadow that 3D prints hamburgers.

Tonight’s articles of note include “RELLECIGA Bomb You with the Latest Stylish Digital Print & Lace Bikinis” (Sacramento Bee, 1/28/13) and “Architect to build home using 3D printer” (CNN, Doug Gross, 1/23/13). Both articles extend the notion of custom printing just a little further.

“Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini”

I reviewed the lyrics for Brian Hyland’s song released in 1960 about a girl in a bikini. I didn’t see any references to inkjet printing, but it actually seems to be a good way to print this fabric, if you read RELLECIGA’s promotional material.

In prior years, fabric printing had been the domain of rotary screen presses, with each print job comprising several thousand yards of fabric. Considering the time and cost involved in preparing screens for multiple colors, custom screen printing runs have had to be long (in much the same way as time, effort, and capital must go into make-ready for an offset printing run, with unit costs dropping as the run lengths increase).

The first half of the article, “RELLECIGA Bomb You with the Latest Stylish Digital Print & Lace Bikinis,” sounds like most fashion marketing collateral, with references to the “beauty of its design, its intricate handiwork, and the dignified taste of the wearer,” but the tone quickly shifts, and RELLECIGA begins to explain the benefits of inkjet printing the bolts of bikini fabric compared to custom screen printing the fabric.

These benefits include small batch printing, customization, prototyping, and experimenting. The article also notes that “RELLECIGA Digital Fabric Printing Process can reproduce unlimited colors and shades” and that this “reflects the beautiful intricacy made possible by digital printing.” And when there are no screens to prepare for printing, you can print as little as one yard of fabric economically (rather than thousands).

Interestingly enough, as fabric custom printing technology improves (whether it be inkjet or dye sublimation), digital printing is becoming the preferred technology in many cases. With manufacturers producing inks that can maintain color contrast on various fabrics and that are formulated for each type of fiber, and with designers becoming adept at the post-press operations used to cure the ink (such as applying heat or steam, or washing and drying), inkjet printed fabrics can withstand multiple washings and day-to-day wear.

Finally, the article notes that the technology is priced within reach of the “average illustrator.” When technology is inexpensive enough, manufacturing processes can migrate from the factories back into small shops, where quality and uniqueness can prosper.

Print My House

No, really? All it takes is a large 3D printer. The CNN article “Architect to build home using 3D printer” references architect Janjaap Ruijssenaars’ “Landscape House,” comprising “one surface folded in an endless Mobius band.” Basically, when you walk through the house, you can “seamlessly merge indoors and outdoors.”

The house doesn’t come cheap. It will cost between $5 and $6 million to construct. However, there’s already a market for this architect’s work (including museums and individuals).

The crowning achievement will be to produce this house using 3D custom printing technology. Janjaap Ruijssenaars has found a huge aluminum 3D printer that uses sand, which it forms into a solid material similar to marble.

Ruijssenaars will use the 3D printer to produce solid blocks that are approximately 20 feet by 30 feet. He will add fiberglass and concrete reinforcements as he constructs the “Landscape House” from these large blocks. He plans to complete the first house in 2014.

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