TECH TALK Print­ing It Right

With the tex­tile print­ing in­dus­try grow­ing by leaps and bounds, Anurima Das takes a look at the fu­ture of dig­i­tal tex­tile print­ing.

Apparel - - Contents July 2018 -

De­cod­ing the fu­ture of dig­i­tal tex­tile print­ing ng

Ac­cord­ing to the Smithers Pira re­port on the fu­ture of dig­i­tal tex­tile print­ing, the mar­ket is set to grow by 17.5 per cent over the next five years to reach a mar­ket value of $2.66 bil­lion. The print­ing mar­ket is a very ver­sa­tile and creative seg­ment of the tex­tile in­dus­try. The di­men­sions of this seg­ment guar­an­tee so much va­ri­ety on the clothes that there can never be a gar­ment with or­di­nary prints on it.

Tex­tile print of­fers a di­ver­si­fied mar­ket ow­ing to its vast ar­ray of pos­si­bil­i­ties. From t-shirts to leg­gings and dresses to home ware, ev­ery­thing re­quires a print touch to get re­vived. Print is slowly be­com­ing a taste and a choice for peo­ple who want to wear colour­ful chic clothes. Apart from the sta­tis­tics, on the ground re­al­ity, print is rag­ing ahead like a bull and win­ning busi­ness like never be­fore. Mike Horsten, Gen­eral Mar­ket­ing Man­ager, Mi­maki had, last year, at an ex­hi­bi­tion men­tioned that ev­ery­thing in the tex­tile value chain is soon go­ing to get dig­i­tal. Many like him be­lieve that print is set to change the facets of the in­dus­try for the bet­ter and the dig­i­tal rev­o­lu­tion has al­ready been ini­ti­ated.


Con­sumers are print ready and so are the na­tional and in­ter­na­tional print providers. Com­pa­nies rang­ing from print­ing ma­chine man­u­fac­tur­ers to paint and colour man­u­fac­tur­ers, ev­ery­one is sym­bi­ot­i­cally work­ing to­wards trans­form­ing the dig­i­tal print­ing seg­ment of the tex­tile in­dus­try. Dig­i­tal print­ing is a key fac­tor rest­ing on which the dig­i­tal­i­sa­tion of the tex­tile sec­tor will un­furl. In ad­di­tion to be­com­ing pre­dom­i­nant in the fast fash­ion sec­tor, print looks to oc­cupy the chief spot in home fur­nish­ings and tech­ni­cal tex­tiles too.

Un­like screen print­ing, the rea­son for dig­i­tal print­ing’s gain­ing promi­nence is the con­ve­nience and time-sav­ing ap­proach it guar­an­tees. Mak­ing the screens for print­ing was an ex­pen­sive and ex­haus­tive af­fair, wherein you needed unique screens for each colour used in the de­sign. Here, dig­i­tal print­ing of­fers a cheaper so­lu­tion and has the abil­ity to print small runs for each de­sign, giv­ing screens a miss. The screen built-up also made de­signs suf­fer, as once the screen was done one had to print in bulk to meet the ris­ing cost of the screen. This gave rise to yards of sim­i­lar bor­ing prints.


Dig­i­tal prints al­low you to cus­tomise de­signs, print as many lim­ited yardages you want us­ing one de­sign and then move on to in­no­vat­ing one print at a time. The inkjet print­ing tech­nol­ogy used in dig­i­tal print­ing was first patented in 1968. Pro­gress­ing to the 1990s, this printer found its ap­pli­ca­tion ex­clu­sively in the paper print­ing press. This tech­nol­ogy was in wide­spread use for years un­til the mode of the printer was spe­cialised and re­vived to han­dle a va­ri­ety of sub­strates, ev­ery­thing from paper to can­vas to vinyl, and of course, fab­ric.


Dig­i­tal print­ing ma­chines are made keep­ing in view var­ied fab­ric types in­clud­ing the likes of cot­ton, silk, polyester, ny­lon, etc. To start the print­ing process, the fab­ric is fed through the printer us­ing rollers and ink is ap­plied to the sur­face in the form of thou­sands of tiny droplets. The fab­ric is then of­fered a fin­ish­ing touch, where us­ing heat or steam, the ink is cured. Var­i­ous print­ers and print­ing tech­niques also re­quire a spe­cial wash­ing stage where the printed fab­ric re­quires wash­ing and dry­ing. Dig­i­tally printed fab­ric will wash and wear the same as any other fab­ric. How­ever, some­times the wash­ing stage is in­cor­po­rated to fade cer­tain colours from the fab­ric.

The best part of dig­i­tal print­ing is that the de­signs can be cre­ated us­ing a range of eas­ily avail­able soft­ware or can even be hand-drawn. This you can later scan and feed onto the fab­ric us­ing com­puter graphics. This flex­i­bil­ity makes it eas­ier for you to ma­nip­u­late de­sign to print ori­en­ta­tions. While Ep­son, Mi­maki, Zim­mer, etc.


to­day lead the dig­i­tal print­ing ma­chine mar­ket, brands like Archroma, Camel, etc. lead the global mar­ket for dig­i­tal colours and print sol­vents. The in­dus­try is now headed to solve the prob­lem of chem­i­cals with the use of nat­u­ral colours. Also most of these ma­chines de­liver pre­ci­sion in ev­ery print cy­cle, guar­an­tee­ing zero wastage.

The var­i­ous types of dig­i­tal print­ing tech­niques avail­able to­day are: Di­rect Print, Dis­charge Print, Re­sist Print, Pig­ment Print, Re­ac­tive Print, Acid Print, Dis­perse Print, and Spe­cialty Print. Each tech­nique has di­ver­si­fied us­age and each piece of gar­ment and fab­ric can be mod­i­fied with a de­signer touch, us­ing print­ing. The dyes used for dig­i­tal print­ing de­pends on the fab­ric, for ex­am­ple, acid inks are used on silk and ny­lon; dis­perse inks on polyesters and re­ac­tive inks are used on all cel­lu­lose based fab­rics such as cot­ton, linen and rayon. Apart from the eco­nom­i­cal as­pect in terms of de­sign de­liv­er­ance, dig­i­tal print­ers are en­vi­ron­ment-friendly and there is no dis­charge of chem­i­cals dur­ing the run process. This negates the pol­lu­tion fac­tor com­pletely.

Print­ing has pro­gressed a great deal to­day and al­most at ev­ery trade show hosted on a global level, a spe­cial pav­il­ion is kept ded­i­cated to dig­i­tal print­ing. At Heim­tex­til 2017, the Dig­i­tal Tex­tile Mi­cro Fac­tory was set up. This gave a live il­lus­tra­tion of the en­tire dig­i­tal pro­duc­tion cy­cle, from de­sign, dig­i­tal print­ing and au­to­mated cut­ting to se­rial man­u­fac­tur­ing in­te­grated into the work­flow. This was a unique op­por­tu­nity for the vis­i­tors to wit­ness how a sim­ple print­ing ma­chine can trans­form an or­di­nary piece of fab­ric into some­thing ex­traor­di­nary in just a few min­utes. Ac­cord­ing to ex­pert re­ports on growth op­por­tu­ni­ties for this seg­ment of the in­dus­try, num­bers pre­dict that the dig­i­tal print share is set to pros­per, reg­is­ter­ing a seg­ment mean growth of three per cent through this year. The mar­ket in 2016 for the dig­i­tal tex­tiles mar­ket was about 2.8 per cent of the over­all print vol­ume.

The re­tail in­dus­try is ready to step ahead with a va­ri­ety of dig­i­tally printed clothes and fab­rics. From the A-list designers to the do­mes­tic man­u­fac­tur­ers, ev­ery­one is set to ben­e­fit from the dig­i­tal­i­sa­tion trend and dig­i­tal print­ing is here to stay! It won’t be too late when you will see the re­al­ity of prints tran­scend­ing ev­ery nook and cor­ner of the tex­tile in­dus­try, rev­o­lu­tion­is­ing lit­tle de­tails all along its jour­ney.

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