Dye Sublimation Printing Vs Digital Printing who will win the battle ?
With estimates of annual growth reaching 25%, the digital textile market is becoming a tremendous opportunity. The textile market has been evolving and printing has been gaining a foothold in this sizable field. While screen-printing was the initial choice for printing fabric, the market for digital printing is now emerging rapidly, moving out of the preliminary laps and gaining momentum in India.
It is estimated that in every financial year, around 100 machines are installed/month in every state of India for digital textile printing. More and more shows dedicated to digital textile printing like Federation of European Screen Printers Associations (FESPA) are showcasing the strengths of digital print with textiles. The reason is obvious: size plus growth. Digital printing machines are used for various applications. Many such machines are being brought to India by garment exporters who use these for sampling purposes.
It has dual application in printing, acting both as a sampling and production tool. In sampling, digital printing offers immediate results, provides tremendous flexibility in design and coloration while saving time and money. As a production tool, it helps in minimising inventory waste as there is no discharge of dyes and chemicals, reducing downtimes, cutting costs and providing the option of mass customisation.
In the past, this part of the job was done through process houses, but again, the possibility of the work getting delayed or being expensive would have made the process inconvenient for the exporters. Then came the need to install a digital printing machine in-house, getting the pre-treated fabric from the process house and get it printed and make the garment to get the approval of the client. This kind of sampling is very convenient for them. It is but natural that most digital printers are bought by this segment.
Some rotary printing houses in India typically use digital printers as sampling machines. Earlier, the bulk production rotary printing machine was used for sampling, due to which productivity was lower. Now, it has been arranged in such a way that sampling will be done on the digital printer, while the bulk production will be done on the rotary printing machine. More digital printers are being bought for this purpose. Then, there are niche segments like silk or high value added products, where runs are very short; digital printers are used for such purposes. There are also high speed production machines which are used for furnishing fabrics, home textiles and bed sheets.
There are a lot of changes in terms of technology also and while initially inkjet was used for prototyping and was oneoff, in due course of time the cost involved in setting up screens paved the way for inkjet based printing.
Traditional wide format original equipment manufacturers are continuing to introduce new technology that will print on fabrics which includes signage and displays (i.e. soft signage) such as banners and posters, tradeshow graphics, POP/POS displays, flags, etc. Then there’s interior décor that includes wall, chair and sofa coverings, drapes and curtains, bed sheets, table and furniture coverings and even carpeting. Finally, the very popular garment/ apparel category includes wearables such as T-shirts, caps, sportswear and more. All these applications are experiencing tremendous growth.