Will Digital Fabric Printing production continue to grow?
All the current indications and all the trade press are very clear that the growth curve in digital fabric printing is becoming ever steeper. The UK is now rapidly realising what their European colleagues have known for the last six to seven years that the potential for fabric printing, using digital technology, is there to be exploited right now.
Mainland Europe has seen the opportunities for digital fabric printing earlier as they have traditionally been an area where flags have been flown in far greater numbers than in the UK. As a result of result of this the use of fabrics for outdoor commercial advertising was a more natural progression for our European neighbours.
The fact that mainland Europe was already a more developed region in screen-printing outdoor flags and banners, they embraced the new digital technology much more readily. Very soon they were buying new machines to run in small one to three men businesses with just one or two machines. The larger more established screen printers then began to realise that digital fabric printing was not a threat but something they also needed to embrace to run alongside their, comparatively, high volume screen-printing production.
Hence the market for digital fabric printing took off. Not only was it the traditional flag and banner markets that were enjoying this development but also the ability to now produce printed fabrics in small volumes – commercially – was now a reality. This rapidly led to growth in other markets such as point of sale, exhibition graphics and architectural applications.
The ever-increasing size of this market is now being boosted further by the realisation of the machinery and ink manufacturers that this market needs their close attention. This has resulted in a rapid growth in the research and development being spent on this specific area. Now the technology is far better and allows printers to invest a more modest amount in order to set up commercially to be a digital fabric printer.
Print results are now excellent on a wide range of fabrics with different characteristics. Definition is razor sharp and colours are wonderfully vibrant.
Digital fabric printing offers the end user a more exciting range of soft signage and is far more eco-friendly than the huge volumes of PVC substrates that it is rapidly replacing.
Article by Chris Drury