The soft touch: textiles
What do you think?
POST A COMMENT
By Morwenna Kearns
6 February 2011
Companies like Hybrid have high hopes for the soft signage industry
A couple of years ago, FESPA saw enough potential in the textile printing market to devote a sub-exhibition to it within its overall show, and in June 2010 FESPA Fabric was born. The show will return, co-located with FESPA Digital, in May 2011, suggesting that the market for printed apparel, promotional products and soft signage is something sign-makers and printers should consider.
The environmental benefits of printed fabric for advertising and signage are evident: it can be manufactured from recycled materials and be recycled itself, and can be folded up into small packages to reduce space during transportation – and thus the number of trips needed to move it. Flags positioned outdoors also grab attention simply through wind powered-movement, and can be printed with VOC-free inks.
It's for these reasons and more, then, that interest has increased. Duncan Jefferies, marketing manager at Mimaki's UK and Ireland distributor Hybrid Services, notes: "We're seeing a continued growth in investment in dedicated sublimation and direct-to-textile hardware from Mimaki and it's encouraging to see the shift in substrates at long last in the UK and Ireland.
"Printed textiles are a rising trend in the sign and display arena with many print companies both expanding into the product sector or augmenting existing set-ups with new digital kit. The broad appeal of an aqueous print onto an environmentally friendly polyester fabric has attracted the high-street chains and brands into requesting it for POS, exhibition graphics and event signage and to deliver such a product requires investment in a dedicated printer, a calender press and a bit of extra training."
There are a number of manufacturers who claim their digital machines are ideal for fabric printing, but Jefferies disagrees. "Whilst results can be achieved with existing hardware, the look, feel and vibrancy of a sublimation print cannot be bettered by other technologies so the advantages are clear to see," he says. "Whilst going superwide in this market has a price tag attached to it, a complete entry-level system (including printer, press, inks and software) can be put together for around as little as £20,000 – with feather flags, window displays and additional products being quick to produce from such a system."
As Jefferies suggests, the largest of textile displays are not so cheap – or easy – to produce as small-scale flags, but their effect can correspond with the time and money spent on them. Mesh covers are used increasingly to obscure scaffolding and construction work at prominent buildings, often printed with an artist's impression of the finished job. Textiles are strong and durable yet light enough for this type of work, let through light but not dust, and limit noise.
Printed textiles are also finding a more stable place indoors, in both home and corporate environments. One product to have caught the attention of various industry members – including Roland DG, which has used it in its Creative Centre demonstration facility – is Landor UK's Phototex. It is a textile-based digital wallpaper designed for ink-jet printing and requires no specialist training to apply it, says Daniel Wood, marketing manager.
"Textiles in commercial and home environments continue to see substantial growth with Landor Phototex being a part of this evolution process," he continues. "Commercial printers, home printers and consumers are much better educated in their understanding of the possibilities with digital printing and are taking advantage of easy-to-use substrates to satisfy their creativity."
Wood adds: "Digitally printed textiles are already in a customer's mind, be it canvas, soft textiles or digital wallpaper. By providing hassle-free, or even easier-to-use, products then conversion will take place, as is being seen."
Some of the machines suitable for direct-to-fabric printing, such as the new Viper TX Professional from Mutoh, can be used for apparel as well as display fabrics. However, there is such a huge variety of specific garment printing units that it'd certainly be worth a company researching these if they were considering T-shirts and sweatshirts as more than a sideline. As well as at FESPA Fabric, apparel devices will be on display at the Decorated Apparel Expo and Imprinted Sportswear Shows events in the USA, and Printwear and Promotion Live in the UK, among others. Broader signage shows like Sign and Digital UK will also represent fabric printing and embroidery.
When all of the end products of textile printing are considered, it's small wonder that FESPA and others consider it a potential growth area, but it remains to be seen how far the uptake will go in coming years.
Comments in chronological order (Total 0 comments)
There are no comments yet for this article.