The Digital Textile Revolution: Why Inkjet is Here to Stay
From clothing and outdoor graphics to carpeting and bed sheets, printed textiles are seemingly everywhere.
Among designers, brand owners and consumers alike, there’s heightened demand for shorter runs, quicker turnarounds, more sustainable products, seasonal product lines, and a desire to compress supply chains.
Because of this, more and more printed textile work is falling within the grasp of digital print technologies.
In fact, a recent InfoTrends study forecasts the digital textile printing market, valued at $7.5 billion globally, to grow significantly at a 34% CAGR through 2019. This easily makes it one of the fastest growing, yet largely untapped, opportunities in print.
Despite breaking onto the scene in the early 2000’s, digital textile printing remains in its infancy in terms of adoption, representing less than three percent of the overall printed textile market.
To help print providers succeed in this market, Mohawk has focused on one of the largest and fastest-growing opportunities in digital textile printing – soft signage and display graphics. By introducing 12 new canvas and textile products designed for wide format inkjet printers, we’re committed to making it easy for print providers to extend their offerings and expand their customer base.
In this series of articles, we’ll give you a better understanding of the digital textile market, its application opportunities, the factors driving its growth – and most importantly – why you should take notice.
What is Textile Printing?
In its simplest terms, textile printing is the process of applying color and designs to fabric or other materials.
Textile printing is generally classified into three broad categories:
• Sign and display: Spanning a range of indoor and outdoor signage, including banners, posters, graphics, point-of-sale/point-of-purchase (POP/POS) displays, and more.
• Garment and apparel: Including clothing and accessories, such as shirts, sweatshirts, caps/hats,uniforms, sportswear, bags, towels and more.
• Décor: Consisting of wall coverings and murals, upholstery, furniture coverings, carpeting and more.
How Are Textiles Printed?
Far and away, the most recognizable and common textile printing method is the analog process of screen-printing. As is the case in the traditional printing realm, digital methods are quickly gaining momentum for their ability to efficiently handle small runs in an on-demand, cost-effective manner.
Among the digital textile printing methods, sublimation processes (both dye-sublimation and direct-to-fabric, otherwise known as disperse dye) are the most widespread, holding better than 58% share of volume in the marketplace.
But another technology, inkjet, is becoming a serious contender within the digital printing category, offering unique advantages that have caught the attention of print providers. This includes production using Latex and UV-cured inks, which are expected to grow at 14% and 20%, respectively, through 2019.
Advantages of Inkjet in Digital Textile Printing
Inkjet is an attractive alternative to sublimation processes, as up-front investments are minimal and media does not require any pre-treatments or post-processes. For print providers who are already adept at using traditional digital printing technologies, textile printing with inkjet is a very familiar process– simply load the media and print.
In particular, UV-curable and Latex inks have made major strides in the soft signage market – a segment that has historically been dominated by sublimation processes. Today, these inkjet technologies are granting smaller print providers with an affordable entrance into a fast-growing segment, while satisfying the need for improved durability, lightfastness, operational efficiency, and output quality.
Another advantage of inkjet is its material flexibility. Where sublimation processes are largely reserved for materials with high polyester makeup, inkjet is suitable for a range of natural fiber fabrics, such as cotton and linen, in addition to polyester.
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