Printwear & Promotion turns 30

By Phil McMullin, Pro Graphics sales manager, Epson UK

Digital textile production has arguably undergone one of the most rapid and inspiring evolutions in the printing industry.

From very humble beginnings it is now increasingly an attractive, sustainable, viable and business winning challenger to traditional, high volume, analogue production processes that are considered to be wasteful and environmentally harmful.

Its significant growth will continue according to Smithers’ The Future of Digital Textile Printing to 2026. By 2026 digital textile printed volume will increase 13.9% CAGR to 5.531 million square meters from 2.89 billion square metres in 2021.

Driving popularity is the quality achievable with affordable and easy to run systems that can be seamlessly integrated into print production environments.

Interest has also been accelerated by the pandemic thanks to the diversification and growth opportunities digital textile print technology delivers such as:

  • Design creativity and customised fabrics – With digital print, designers have the flexibility to customise designs and produce exact quantities on site and on demand. This results in very little waste going to landfill or being sent abroad for disposal.
  • Production responsiveness for short print runs – Operations are reviewing supply chains to deliver the right quantities at the right time and adapting to an on-demand business model for greater control of production in terms of quality, turnaround times, cost and profitability.
  • Order flexibility with e-commerce and quick reordering capabilities – Embracing a business model where users print what they have sold eliminates the reliance on mass production, shipping and storage.
  • Sustainable manufacturing with print on demand and reshoring supply chains – As part of an increased focus on sustainable practices, many companies are making the move towards reshoring and local production to reduce transportation. Digital textile printing provides significant reductions in water and electricity consumption in comparison to traditional screen printing, too.

Epson’s entry into the market came in 2003 with the Monna Lisa 160B inkjet digital textile printer. The solution was built on Epson proprietary print head technology – a core component within Epson’s rapidly expanding portfolio.

Story behind the creation

The Monna Lisa 160B inkjet digital textile printer

At the time the Monna Lisa was developed, the textile printing industry had started using digital textile printers for the preparation of samples. However, manufacturers were hoping for advances in digital processing technologies and inkjet technology for volume printing. The Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Textile Association of Como was promoting digital textile printing to revitalize the industry. With this encouragement, Italian textile manufacturing equipment manufacturer Robustelli, with a 50-year history in textile printing, and Epson with its inkjet technology for the consumer printer market, formed a business alliance aiming to develop a digital textile printer. The Monna Lisa was the result of these efforts.

Today, it is the high performance and quality results possible with Epson PrecisionCore print head technology that repeatedly remains a key deciding factor in purchasing decisions.

Supporting consistency and reliability is Epson’s own developed UltraChrome DG Ink Technology. Compatible with 100% cotton and cotton blends, it creates clean, bright images with superior washability on dark and light garments.

Epson ensures performance is continually improved and systems evolve in step with market requirements via its commitment to research and development. More recently a €125 million investment was made in two inkjet printhead production lines in Japan.

This has led to the creation of solutions such as the popular, versatile Epson SureColor SC_F3000 that combines high levels of accuracy and a low total cost of ownership for mid/large garment and T shirt production companies and the fast, high-volume Epson SureColour SC-F10000 dye sublimation printer.

Do your future growth plans include digital textile printing? If not, maybe the time is right now!

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