The global textile industry is a huge business. Grand View Research, Inc., a San Francisco-based consultant firm, places the overall global textiles market at $830.0 billion in 2015, reaching an estimated $1,237.1 billion by 2025.
It is also a tremendous opportunity for printers and the ink industry. Printing is an important manufacturing technology, and digital printing is on the rise, as the ability to produce prototypes, customized products and short runs economically through inkjet printing becomes increasingly more common.
In its report, “Digital Textile Printing Market: Global Opportunity Analysis and Industry Forecast, 2014-2022,” Allied Market Research places the global digital textile printing market at $1.245 billion in 2015, possibly reaching $3.9 billion by 2022, at a CAGR of 17.9% between 2016 and 2022. In “The Future of Digital Textile Printing to 2021,” Smithers Pira places the value of digital textile printing at €1.17 billion in 2016, with 12.3% CAGR through 2021, reaching €2.42 billion in 2021.
The capabilities of digital textile printing are becoming more exciting. For example, Epson hosts its annual Digital Couture event in New York City, bringing leading designers to create a line of apparel using the Epson SureColor F9200 dye-sublimation printer.
As new presses with improved capabilities come online, more printers are entering this growing field, and ink companies are developing new technologies as well.
The Digital Textile Ink Market
There are many possibilities for using inkjet for printing textiles. From clothing and furniture coverings to soft signage and much more, printing is being adapted to new applications at a rapid rate.
Mike Wozny, senior product manager, EFI Inkjet, spoke about the soft signage market as one opportunity.
“Shortly before drupa 2016, at the Fespa Digital tradeshow in 2016, we unveiled our aqueous inkjet VUTEk FabriVU soft signage printer, and it was really a key addition to our portfolio to address the rapid migration happening in the market from traditional vinyl signage to fabric soft signage,” Wozny noted. “In many markets, that transition has continued to accelerate. Look at any major tradeshow today and the signage is almost all textile, and the premium look possible with soft signage makes it very popular in high-end point-of-purchase retail applications as well.”
Dr. Christophe Bulliard, marketing director, Sensient Imaging Technologies SA, said that among industrial applications, textile printing has found the grounds to ensure strong growth of digital printing.
“This is, of course, gearing the interest of many a player, now that the pioneers have created the environment,” Dr. Bulliard added. “Some of the technologies are maturing, but we expect to provide interesting developments in the improvement of some of the printing processes.”
Tommy Martin, product manager, Textiles & Apparel Business Development for Mimaki USA, said that improvements in digital printing are driving gains in the textile market.
“As digital textile printing gets faster and easier to integrate into new and existing operations, it will certainly be the talk of the town,” Martin reported. “Also, as new fabrics are being developed or optimized, it is easier to apply digital print solutions to those fabrics and add overall value to the finished product.”
Tim Check, product manager, Professional Imaging, Epson America, Inc., said that Epson is seeing increased interest in digital textile from traditional textile printers looking at ways to increase profitability and offer greater capabilities to their customers.
“In addition, we are also seeing interest from entrepreneurial-type customers looking to offer on-demand personalized apparel,” Check added.
Key Growth Markets for Inkjet Textile Printing
The expanding use of digital printing for textiles is opening up numerous opportunities. Jos Notermans, commercial manager digital textiles at SPGPrints, said that above all, the fast-fashion market has been a major beneficiary because inkjet printing brings the possibility of shorter lead times and cost-effective shorter runs that allow more frequent design changes.
“However, it must be noted that inkjet printing is being used for high-end markets as well, as it enables enhanced margins when supplying limited editions and one-offs,” Notermans added.
Tony Cox, business manager, Sun Chemical, said that the company is continuing to see solid growth in the digital textile printing market.
“The key areas where digital printing of textiles is making gains include apparel and fashion, sportswear, home furnishings and soft signage, including flags and banners,” added Cox.
Jim Lambert, VP, GM – Digital Division of INX International Ink Co., said that most of the interest INX has seen globally is with dye sub and pigmented inks, with less interest in dye.
“A new focus on the upholstery market has become apparent with digital printing on a multitude of applications,” said Lambert. “It includes furniture, carpet, curtains, blinds and more.”
“Nowadays a major part of sublimation printing is done digitally,” Dr. Bulliard added. “We expect reactive to go from the current 3-5% digital to 10-15% within the next few years.”
EFI’s Wozny noted that substrates are part of the evolution in inkjet printing.
“Some of the transition in soft signage is not from analog/traditional to digital, but rather it is from digitally printed vinyl to digitally printed textile,” Wozny reported. “And while textiles are often more expensive than traditional signage media, soft signage graphics command a higher price with buyers because of the higher-end look and feel of fabric graphics.”
The lighter weight of fabrics is a key advantage for end-users and is driving growth in that area.
“Other benefits printing companies offer to their customers with soft signage completely re-write the economics because soft signage is lighter weight than vinyl and it’s re-usable,” Wozny continued. “The lighter weight means it’s cost effective to ship and install. A printing company’s customer will buy signage, use it once for a period of time, discard it and then purchase a new sign the next time that graphic is needed. But with textile, the signage is easy to fold up and store without damage for re-use.”
Check noted that there is a growth in inkjet textile printing in a number of areas, adding that the most significant gains are in the apparel market.
“There is a dramatic shift in the apparel market from mass producing for an entire season to smaller production runs that will only be in stores for as little as two weeks,” Check observed. “The smaller production runs allow retailers to constantly have new designs in store to keep customers coming back, as well as reducing excess inventory.”
Martin said that all of the major textile markets are gaining with this technology several key elements that help benefit the client and the consumer, including speed, on-demand customization, quality and price.
“Here’s an example,” Martin continued. “Just two weeks ago, I went online and fully designed a dress shirt, with a custom printed pattern set into the collar, cuffs and placket. I was able to choose from more than a dozen special design features and see the shirt rendering as I was making the changes, all of which cost less than $100. I received my shirt yesterday and it is a very high quality dress shirt. And this is just one example. This is happening in just about every textile market, be it business-to-consumer or business-to-business.”
Outlook for the Market
All of the ink manufacturers anticipate that the market will continue to expand in the coming years.
“Digital textile printing is a fertile market with a lot of growth potential,” Cox noted.
Dr. Bulliard pointed out that more companies are entering the field, which is creating challenges.
“We expect further strong growth of the volumes, with other entrants trying to take their part of the pie,” Dr. Bulliard said. “This is putting pressure on the prices, which are beneficial in a sense, but also limits the possibility of further investments.”
“I am seeing the integration of digital printing with direct-to-garment screen printing for specialty functions such as flocking, puff, metallic, etc.,” Martin said. “More improvements in the area of ink and fabric technology are expected.”
“This market segment,” said Susie Mendelssohn, North American sales manager and international marketing manager for INX Digital, “will continue to see tremendous growth, with a large part of the growth to come direct-to-fabric versus transfer.”
Wozny noted that digital textile printing is definitely one of the fastest-growing segments of the print industry.
“IT Strategies has predicted that soft signage in particular is growing 8% annually from 2015 to 2020,” Wozny added. “In some instances the migration is dramatic – we have customers that have seen a double-digit percentage shift in the amount of work going from vinyl to textile.”
Notermans said that SPGPrints expects to see continued growth, because only digital printing, with its accelerated time-to-market, offers the flexibility and the cost-effectiveness to meet the needs of the fashion house, the retailer and the consumer, especially with the growth of online retailing.
“Consumers expect greater variety and immediate availability, and as a result product life cycles are much shorter today,”
Notermans concluded. “Those retailers that are best placed to survive will be able to meet changing demand at shorter notice, by being able to renew their collections more frequently – on a monthly rather than a seasonal basis. Frequently changing collections enable the retail industry to retain fresh appeal and compete against online retailers, giving consumers a reason to return often to the store. Only digital printing facilitates this, with significantly reduced stockholding costs, and thus minimal financial risk.”