Cut to the Chase
A WELL DESIGNED piece of apparel with equally eye-catching embellishments is what today’s consumers tend to seek. While embellishment and printing techniques, such as embroidery, rhinestones and silk screening are widely known and used, less is known about the cutting-edge technology of laser etching—on apparel, that is. When this process is considered, generally products such as plaques and nameplates come to mind. However, Craig Warnimont, regional account manager at Colorado Timberline, Denver, said laser etching is as useful and effective on apparel as it is on other surfaces.
According to Warnimont, laser etching is the process of “carving an image or a logo onto a fabric, while still maintaining the fabric’s integrity.” To do this, all that’s required is submitting art files online as a 100 dpi black and white JPEG. The black portion of the art is removed by the laser and ‘etched’ onto the garment. “The laser heat melts the top layer of the fabric, while the fabric integrity is maintained,” said Warnimont.
Colorado Timberline only recently adopted the process (February 2006). “As of a year ago, we had been the first to introduce it in a large scale to the industry,” said Warnimont. “It has been well received by our customers.”
So, what makes laser etching stand out from other embellishment techniques? Warnimont said it offers a “unique tone-on-tone quality, no backing is required (as with embroidery) and a large area can be done economically.”
Furthermore, the process can be completed in seconds. “The garment is laid flat under the machine, which is about the size of a drill press,” explained Warnimont. A computer controlled laser beam moves across the fabric generating enough heat to sear the fabric’s surface. The process is managed via a simple interface on the machine. No human interaction is necessary until the etching is complete.