Nine things you must know about the textile market and its opportunities.
There are a large number of equipment vendors in the digital textile printing market. However, not all players cater to markets internationally, and rather engage in selected markets. Vendors tend to focus on either a specific segment of the market, such as fashion garments or home furnishings, which often leads to a geographic focus as certain regions that have a specific focus on a specific segment of the market.
For the most part, each of these vendors – particularly those who have a stronger presence in the market in terms of installed base – offer products that are capable of printing with any of the five primary types of inks used in this space, including reactive, acid, pigment, disperse-dye, and dye-transfer.
Digital Textile Printing Inks and Their Uses
The use of a certain type of ink for digital textile printing is usually determined by the type of material that it is to be printed on. Most print service providers using digital have a strategy involving multiple inks. This allows them to print on the wide variety of materials that are typically used for garment, décor, and industrial purposes. These textile categories are so widely varied, ranging from natural to synthetics, that it is understandable that one ink type could never be suitable for all fabrics.
This segmentation is necessary, but also results in fragmentation of production processes. The need for certain inks to be used for certain materials causes many print service providers to own multiple devices, each with its own inkset. It’s technically possible for some devices to use multiple inks, but in practicality, it’s a time consuming process to switch ink sets and it’s not feasible to do so on a regular basis.
E-commerce, Sustainability, and Education
• Service providers looking to enter the market should consider an e-commerce, on-demand delivery model for ultra-short-run work. Much of the garment and décor-based market is well established, and would appear foreign to a new entrant. Examples: Spoonflower and First2Print.
• Sustainability should be a part of the message from system vendors as well as print service providers. The big trend today in the fashion industry is toward sustainable business practices. Overcoming the inertia of transforming existing processes through digital won’t happen easily. One lever that could help advance this, however, is making the point that adherence to environmental standards and labeling conventions can be leveraged effectively through the use of digital printing of textiles.
• Textile buyers and specifiers need to be educated regarding the value and benefits of digital. Some of the lack of acceptance and stronger growth of digital textile printing is due to the purchaser’s lack of knowledge of the benefits and new opportunities that digital can offer. Educating this population starts with the manufacturers, suppliers, and integrators, and needs to carry on through the producers to their customers.