When we talk about textiles in Belgium, it is important to mention that it has been known for several centuries to be prolific in the creation of lace. Of Italian and Belgian origin, lace has been produced for a very long time in Belgium. Without being able to precisely date its origins, it is known that in the 16th century, the Italians designed many models of needlework, of the same kind as lace, and that Belgian women were very skillful in executing them.
Aside from its long tradition of lace, Belgium has a rich history when it comes to printing.
Indeed, from the 15th century, offset printing workshops (indirect printing, because the transfer of inks is not done directly from the plate to the paper) were widespread throughout the territory: Aalst, Brussels, Mons, Bruges, Antwerp, etc. At the turn of the 15th and 16th centuries, we observe an intensification of intellectual and commercial exchanges on a European scale which will benefit them. The peak of humanist printing will correspond to the years 1550-1590.
Printing on paper dominated the field until the arrival of digital. There were of course hand fabric printing workshops for the reproduction of the Indians which we have referred to a lot in previous articles, as well as block printing, which will later turn into screen printing. Despite this, printing with sheet-fed presses was ubiquitous.
Since the advent of digital in the 1980s, the market has changed enormously. From now on, we recommend more the smallest editions with more different visuals. Digital technologies have completely transformed print shops. It was finally possible to print without ink, but with thermostatic powders, at very high speed, with perfect precision and reproduction. Direct printing has made it possible to start printing on new media: acrylic, aluminum, PVC, styrenes and others, thus providing new, more durable and resistant materials for commercial signage.
Transfer printing, an innovation of the 1960s
Eventually, the technology of sublimation printing on fabric appeared. The technology itself was invented in 1957. Then, in 1965, transfer printing was adopted by the Prouvost and Masurel spinning mill, which registered the technique under the name Sublistatic.
The 1970s: we enter the digital age
From 1975, computers opened up new paths for the textile printing industry. Digital printing can be applied to digital printing (inkjet) or to transfer printing and makes it possible to reproduce all kinds of images by four-color process, with an unlimited number of colors. Initially reserved for thick products (rugs, etc.), it has been used since the end of the 1990s to print small series in clothing or furniture, as well as for sampling or personalization.
At the time of ecological balance sheets, digital printing appears to be a textile printing solution that requires less resources and less pollution than screen printing processes.