Single-pass versus multi-pass scanning
what is the difference?
by Jos Notermans.
Throughout the years, digital textile printing has developed
from 'suitable for sampling only' technology to high-speed
fabric printing for production. Innovative techniques have
resulted in acceleration and improvement of the digital printing
process creating more and better possibilities for textile
printers. These innovations have contributed to the creation of
the two main digital printing techniques that are used nowadays:
single-pass and multi-pass scanning printing. What is the
difference between these two printing techniques and how do you
decide which technique best fits your and your customer’s wants
Multi-pass scanning textile printing
Multi-pass scanning textile printing shows some resemblance
with the inkjet printer that you use at home or at the office to
print your documents. Multi-pass scanning textile printing means
that the printer heads move from left to right over the
substrate (hence the name 'scanning'). After moving along the
whole substrate, the printer heads move forward and start
printing another horizontal bar, but this time they move from
right to left. All these horizontal bars (partly overlapping,
hence the name 'multi-pass') together create the whole design.
An advantage of multi-pass scanning printing is that you only
need a few print heads to print your designs on fabric. Since
print heads are quite expensive, choosing multi-pass printing
can help you minimize the investment you have to make when
purchasing a new textile printer. The main advantage of
multi-pass printing, however, is that an error that might occur
in one pass of the print heads, is masked by the next pass of
the heads over the same part of the design. So the more passes,
the more likely that individual print errors in one strike are
Obviously, the main disadvantage of multi-pass printing is
the reduction of speed: the more often the print heads have to
move over the same fabric area, the lower the speed in linear
meters for the printer. Furthermore, the fact that the total
image is created by printing multiple layers of image on top of
each other, will reduce the overall sharpness of the image
because a minor mispositioning of one layer to the others will
lead to a lesser sharp image.
Single-pass textile printing
Single-pass printing is a newer printing technique that
enables faster printing at a higher quality. The fast speed is
thanks to the many print heads that are used for this technique.
Instead of having a few printer heads moving from left to right
over the substrate, single-pass printing uses multiple printer
heads which are positioned along the whole width of the fabric.
This enables faster printing since the fabric moves at a
constant speed through the printer and the total image is
created in one pass.
Two important benefits of single-pass printing are the high
production speed and the high sharpness. As there are no
multiple layers of image that might miss-align, the image is
always crisp and sharp. A single-pass printer can print up to 40
linear meters per minute, whereas a multi-pass printer cannot
produce more than a few linear meters per minute.
A disadvantage of single-pass printing is the high initial
investment. Single-pass printing is more expensive than
multi-pass textile printing because of the many print heads that
are needed to cover the whole width of the printer for each
color. Print heads are costly components, so the more printer
heads there are incorporated in the machine, the more expensive
the machine will be. Using single-pass printing, therefore,
requires a large investment. Secondly, all print heads need
individual drive electronics, which also contribute to a higher
cost of the printer. Using single-pass printing, therefore,
requires a large investment.
Another important factor to consider is the fact that it is
intrinsically more sensible for print head errors. When one of
the nozzles gets clogged, no ink can be printed on the substrate
which will create white stripes in your design. On top of that,
the lanes have to match up precisely to create a high-quality
image. If the printer is not properly adjusted, this will also
result in white stripes.
How to choose between single
and multi-pass printing
When choosing a digital textile printing technique, there are
a few questions you have to ask yourself. The first question
should be: how much volume do you want to print with the new
printing technique? If you’re printing between 0,5 to 1,5
million meters per year, multi-pass printing best fits your
production process. Do you want to print between 4 and 20
million meters per year? Then single-pass printing helps you to
reach the desired speed for producing large quantities of
A second important decision factor is the amount of money you
want to invest in a new printing technique. Since single-pass
printing requires a substantial investment, asking yourself this
questions helps you to realize if single-pass printing might be
an option for you.
The last decision factor is flexibility. Do your customers
require you to be very flexible in the type of fabrics to be
printed? If the customer wants to change the fabrics then,
multi-pass printing can be a suitable technique for you.
Single-pass printing, on the other hand, enables you to print
large quantities of an virtually unlimited amount of designs on
a limited amount of different fabrics.
Growing your business with
single- or multi-pass printing
Do you still find it difficult to choose between these two
digital textile printing techniques? Two of our customers faced
the same problem. Adalberto Estampados wanted to keep up with
the growth of fast-fashion and meet their customer’s demands.
Turkish printer Tekboy Tekstil, on the other hand, wanted to
meet demands for shorter-runs, rapid-turnarounds, and on-demand
Both found their solution in a different printing technique.
Adalberto Estampados managed to increase their production
efficiency and expand their design offering with single-pass