When wastewater treatment emerged as a serious environmental issue, industry observers began to talk about the decline of Korea's huge textile industry, which was concentrated in the Daegu-Gyeongbuk area. Due to inherent industrial characteristics, large-scale textile printing enterprises were disposing of wastewater containing chemicals into the nearby Nakdong River, causing the water quality of the river to decline sharply.
In response, DTP (Digital Textile Printing), a digital printing technology emerging in line with the development of digital technology, was adopted as an alternative process that maintained excellent printing quality, while dramatically improving the wastewater treatment problem at the same time.
Most of the former textile printing companies in advanced textile countries in Europe and other traditional centers have already been ousted from the market and replaced by digital printing firms, while new investments are focused on this field. To increase productivity and economic viability, all traditional dyeing industries have moved to China and Southeast Asia where labor costs are cheaper.
Digital printing is not a technology capable of being developed by an individual enterprise or a university alone. There are about five essential core technologies associated with digital printing and only when these technologies are developed professionally and cooperatively, can the process be commercialized.
The Korea Dyeing Technology Center (DYETEC) is a key research institute in this field. It is developing DTP technologies together with universities, related organizations and enterprises, while leading consortiums in respective sectors. DYETEC also plays the role of combining the results of several research institutes specialized in specific essential technologies.
Located in the Daegu Dyeing Industrial Complex, DYETEC introduced digital printing technology at the initial development stage as a model project. With a total investment of 10 billion won, DYETEC, after dividing five related essential development technologies among universities, related organizations and enterprises, is managing technology development progress to complete the model project by the end of this year. DYETEC then will integrate the research results of these developers and prepare a total solution.
For the past three to four years when the total solution was first established, DYETEC has been selling finished digital printed cloth. As it is a not-for-profit organization, the center supplies printed cloth already coated with pre-treatment agents on request. DYETEC R&D Division Director Yoon Seok-Han said, "If a domestic market is created in five to 10 years, the number of related companies is expected to increase. It would be desirable for the government to make available application technology development funds to grow the market and also provide policy support for development of commercialized technologies."
At present, about 100 experts are working at DYETEC, including five doctoratedegree holders and 30~40 master's degree holders pursuing R&D in the fields of textiles, environment, analysis, pilot products, site tests, CAD, designs, etc.
As DTP is a digital-based technology, development of software as well as hardware is critical. Since photo processing programs, etc. used in existing OA are not applicable to textile printing, they have to be revised to coincide with the colors seen on screens and colors printed on textiles through development of proper applications.
Dyes that are compatible with textiles, solvents and various additives are required for textile inks. As a standardized blending ratio of these chemical substances has not been developed yet, this is an area for R&D. In the pre-treatment process, agents are used in coatings so that inks can be absorbed appropriately into the cloth. DYETEC is intensively working to develop agents that will prevent the spread of ink and technologies to treat the coating agents evenly.