Discover the reasons for growth for Digital Fabric Printing
There is no argument that the rate of growth in Digital Fabric Printing has been huge over the last 15 years, especially between 1999 and 2008. This nine year period stands out as the most significant in the change and development in the world of textile printing.
Up until 1999 the desire to see mass market growth was limited due to the uncoordinated approach being adopted by the market as a whole, whether it is from the textile, ink or machine manufacturers. These three key areas have been responsible for the staggering growth in Digital Fabric Printing but for long periods each faction worked towards their own goals with insufficient appreciation of how important it was to coordinate their activities. This caused inevitable delays in growth and meant there were long periods when frustrations came to the fore and caused negativity from all parties but most crucially from the printers themselves who, at times, took backward steps primarily because they had deadlines to meet which meant they would revert to proven technologies and substrates in order to remain commercial.
By the turn of the century a far greater understanding and acceptance of the technologies had developed to support the drive for growth in Digital Fabric Printing. Printers were demanding from the three key areas the support and advances in technology that would enable them to be able to produce short and long runs of bespoke print.
Machine manufacturers were being pushed hard and they would in turn work more closely with the ink producers. They both needed to provide answers for their customers who by now were increasing the amount of Digital Fabric Printing that thy wanted to sell. The printer’s customers liked the idea of being able to produce short runs at much more reasonable prices than screen printing. Printers started to move a lot of their traditional screen printing work onto their digital print machinery because the machines were new, it was far quicker to set up artwork and for shorter runs it was more economical.
This increase in usage meant that machine manufacturers came under more pressure to produce machines capable of printing textiles not as an afterthought or an add on but as a dedicated all out textile printer.
Once this was understood and fully grasped then serious work was put in to co ordinate the development of suitable textiles that could perform in line with the machines and inks. At last the desire and understanding for Digital Fabric Printing to be taken very seriously had arrived and the level of communication and activity between all four parties – machine, ink, textile and printer had now become truly focused on a common goal.
Crucially the textiles had to perform to exact standards both from a physical and print result point of view. For successful Digital Fabric Printing you need a textile that will lie flat, have both edges that are neat and equal in width throughout the roll, minimal faults or fault free, standard lengths, free of bow and skew etc. As well as these physical properties you need a textile that will allow the inks to develop into strong vibrant colours and to give high definition with no bleeding between colours.
All these attributes are required for successful Digital Fabric Printing and it was only once all three parties came together to allow the printer to be able to operate with a commercially acceptable product that the growth curve truly began to be steep.
Article by Chris Drury