They say that the looks are the first thing that attracts you to a thing or a person. Most of us enter a shop when we see something that pleases our eyes and makes us feel happy or wow. Isn’t this rule applicable to the thing we shop the most for, clothes? We all want to look our best and buy the best clothes. What is it that attracts you to clothes?

The patterns of the lines, the colors of the flowers, the colors, etc. are the things that attract me to a piece of cloth or outfit. In the past, people used to stitch these designs for days on an outfit. Even today, handmade designs are very well known and appreciated. However with advanced in technology, we along with hand weaving, digital prints have extensively entered the textile industry.

Digital printing directly prints designs on the fabric. Per Textile Intelligence report, the current global output of digitally printed textile is growing at a steady annual rate of 25 per cent. Though digitally printed textile’s worldwide share is mere 2 per cent currently, the rising pressure of shipping products in short duration is expected to increase the share in global textile printing to 5 per cent by 2017. Many designers and manufacturers have started using digital textile printing over the other form printings due to its practical approach. Before we study the market and growth of digital textile printing, let’s try and understand what is digital textile printing.

Digital textile printing is described as any ink jet based method of printing colors onto fabric. Most notably, digital textile printing is referred to when identifying either printing smaller designs onto garments (t-shirts, dresses, promotional wear; abbreviated as DTG, which stands for Direct to Garment) and printing larger designs onto large format rolls of textile. The latter is a growing trend in visual communication, where advertisement and corporate branding is printed onto polyester media, for example: flags, banners, signs, and retail graphics. It started in the late 1980s as a possible replacement for analog screen printing. With the development of a dye-sublimation printer in the early 1990s, it became possible to print with low energy sublimation inks and high energy disperse direct inks directly onto textile media, as opposed to print dye-sublimation inks on a transfer paper and, in a separate process using a heat press, transfer it to the fabric.

Within the digital textile printing for visual communication a division has to be made in:

  • low-volume dye-sub printers (e.g. ATPColor,Roland, D-Gen, Mimaki, Mutoh)
  • mid-volume wide format printers (e.g. Atexco, ATPColor,Roland, Durst, Hollanders Printing Systems, Vutek)
  • high-volume industrial printers (e.g. Atexco, Reggiani, MS, Osiris, Stork, Konica-Minolta, Zimmer)

With changing time and fashion, the application and requirement of the ‘textile market’ keep changing. The future use of the fabric is the starting point to identify exactly what is needed to produce a specific end-product. A ‘textile’ product may vary from natural yarns for garments, through to synthetic fibres for flags and banners.

As well as material concerns and application issues, economics come into play. Where the traditional textile print industry is accustomed to mass production with long-runs, the digital inkjet business mostly produces short-run non-textile products. This approach to digital textile printing is very different, and so is the expectation. Where sign-makers are familiar with a single process system, traditional textile printing is accustomed to several production steps. In the balance of the economics behind production needs, it is important to understand the entire production flow. An example lies with the choice of fixation equipment and the subsequent implication of energy and resource cost; for example, a steamer needs water and energy, and a calender needs to heat up and uses lots of energy plus considerable amounts of paper.

Additionally, the impact on business by legislation and requests from customers with regard to environmentally friendly products, are increasingly becoming a factor.

The reasons for a steady growth of digital textile printing are numerous. Digital printing is not only a higher creative form of textile printing; it also provides greater design flexibility, compared to screen printing. Designers prefer digital printing for small prints, as it is more cost efficient. The ask for the green and eco-friendly printing is also met by digital printing. Its eco-friendly form with lesser physical inventory levels leaving smaller amount of carbon footprints.

Digital printing includes direct printing on fabrics with printers, which saves almost 95 per cent of water and energy usage is reduced by 75 per cent, leading to minimum textile waste. Moreover, manufacturers that rely on digital textile printing easily adapt to swift changes in global trends in comparison to people involved in other forms of printing. The most complicated designs, which might take a long time if done by traditional printing or hand stitching, can be done easily using digital printing. The low cost of printing and fast-paced work, helps in the quick bulk production. One of the very fine examples of quick and dynamic digital printing is IPL tournament. With every season, we see change in each team’s uniform. The colors change, the prints change, the designs change, and even teams are added. Digital printing helps in fulfilling this dynamic and quick demands.

These factors support the rising graph of digital printing in global textile sector. Nevertheless, the future growth of digital textile printing widely depends on deeper penetration of digital printing into commercial print production. The machine manufacturers also need to develop technologically advanced production printers in order to survive competition from conventional forms of textile printing machinery.

It’s not only about the competition from traditional printing methods but also technical hitch was the print speed of digital printing, something which has been taken care of. From adding more heads in a row to increase the firing frequency or increasing the number of nozzles, modern digital textile printing machines are advanced and offer great printing speed.

Digital printing is next big thing in the textile industry, which is already capturing a lot of attention. It is only going to grow in coming years and become more and more advanced.