Digital print will conquer textiles

It was clear from the machinery on display and the range of new exhibitors at the event that digital printing has reached a milestone in the textile market and is poised to make significant advances in the next few years. What until now been the preserve of proofing and prototyping is now becoming viable for short-run production. Devices from Durst, Kornit, Konica Minolta, La Meccanica and Stork Prints all address this new category. There were also new devices from established wide-format inkjet fabric players Mimaki, Mutoh and Roland DG to better address the prototyping and sampling markets that previous generations of their products have served.

The textile market has all the hallmarks now that graphic printing markets displayed when they were on the cusp of digitisation. With the short-run production of printed textiles currently dominated by flatbed screen, there is an obvious parallel with wide-format graphics five to 10 years ago and the impact of UV-cured flatbed printers.

Likewise, inkjet has always begun in the proofing and prototyping space, then encroached on production as the market and the technology matured. There are other aspects of the supply chain in textiles that will need to be digitised for inkjet to take off for production in areas such as workflow and colour management but the signs are encouraging that these areas are also being addressed, but as with other sectors hardware developments have a head start on software.

InfoTrends will publish a full analysis on the developments at ITMA soon, but in the meantime it is clear that another industrial market is about to shift from analogue craft-based production to digital manufacturing.

Barney Cox is a senior consultant at InfoTrends Europe


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