THE CURRENT STATE OF TEXTILE PRINTING: VOICES FROM ESMA MEMBERS  

Adriana Puccio, EFI

With new generations now becoming consumers with their own purchase power, and ‘Generation Z’ much more concerned about the environmental impact of their purchasing choices, sustainability is becoming increasingly crucial to the textile industry. In the last five years, big brands such as Inditex, GAP or sportswear brands like Adidas and Nike, have started to increase transparency along the supply chain. This is really pushing printing companies to change their workflow and demonstrate that their entire production process is sustainable. In this context, digital printing is really the perfect solution.

Another big benefit is that digital really enables you to print only what you need, when you need it. So you don’t need to have huge amounts of stock being stored unsold in warehouses, which might end up being trashed, creating more waste. Instead you can just produce what the market requires, and all with a short lead time.

The home textile market evolution is related to consumer’s behaviour: in Western countries, and in Asia progressively as well due to the urbanisation and rise of the middle class, we are observing a rising attention to home decoration and care. This is reflected in a different approach to home textiles: consumers do not buy anymore once for life but are willing to renovate frequently. This attention to the aesthetic of living the house is likely to drive to an increasing personalisation trend, as we are progressively observing for apparel. The empowered consumer is really the architect of his life in any detail, so personalisation and customisation are the directions now taken by early adopters that, we expect, will be progressively followed by a wider portion of consumers. In this context digital printing is the ideal answer to this trend thanks to its being ideal for the fast turnaround time, shorter time to market and cost effectiveness also for shirt job lots.

The benefits of digital printing for home furnishing stays in the enhanced uptime and minimum set up time needed, the possibility to ensure better, richer, wider colour gamut reproduction and smooth transitions, as well as richer and more detailed designs. Moreover, the market is rewarding not only productive efficiency but also sustainability, emerging economies now demand productive plants with lower environmental impact and digital is the greenest printing solution, reducing water and energy consumption.

Samuele Paravicini, EptaNova

For years now, the market has taken a decisive turn towards two major technical areas of textiles: organic fabrics and technical fabrics. For the first, the predominant factor that leads the user to the selection of these fabrics is undoubtedly the sustainability. For the second, however, it is the technical performance related to preparatory treatments that give "functionality" to the garment. The circular economy also enters the technical textile sector, where recycled fabrics have become commonplace.

The interaction between pre- and post-treatments has become an important technical topic: the maximum expression of this interaction are the "hybrid" digital-screen printing treatments where the pre-treatment of the fabric, the digital ink, and the final post-treatment all play an important role and linked at the technical level with each other.

The dramatic global situation of COVID-19 has also highlighted post-treatments related to fabric disinfection, a technology that has been in use for years. More interesting is the development of technologies related to the disinfection of finished garments through permanent, semi-permanent or one-shot treatments.

David Zamith, Ruy de Lacerda

In Europe we saw the textile industry flattening down by the delocalisation to Asia, later some reshoring back from quality or functionality application and now some obvious value chain re-localization due to pandemic. We observe the new re-industrialization project announced within the Recovery Plan, where EU has come together and left the ground to give the necessary support, in an engine of recovery and resilience.

Textile industry has different levels depending on each country or continent as well the orientation towards digital printing. Inkjet was originally developed for paper and that is one of the reasons why on Textiles some limitations occur, due to industrial ambient, dust, statics, fabric substrates, raw materials, as well on ink or design. The great advantage of inkjet starts with the digitalization, by colour management to final product. If we see what happened in graphic applications, the growth of inkjet (a mature technology) was evident due to new market exigencies like smaller production runs and product personalisation. 

Today all printing technologies are alive and kicking, depending on application, logistics or add value and differentiation mode. More and more different printing technologies are mixed together or companies having in-house different orienting technologies are more prepared to serve the market.

Simon Daplyn, Sun Chemical

Selecting the right ink for digital printing textiles can be the difference between profit and loss. Often, ink choice is based on the textile to be printed and the printer and printhead technology, but other considerations are quality, consistency over time, printing performance and overall production cost. In addition, there are standards that many producers require, such as validation for the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) or the ability to conform to OEKO-TEX Class 1 for garments. OEKO-TEX also offers a specific certification for inks, the Eco-Passport. This independent certification assesses individual components within an ink and whether they could be deemed harmful to human health. The Eco-Passport label provides transparent proof of which inks meet the necessary criteria for ecologically responsible textile manufacture. The Eco-Passport certification also pre-approves the ink for compliance to Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals (ZDHC), a cross-brand initiative to remove toxic and harmful substances from the textile supply chain. Many brands have their own restricted substance list on top of the ZDHC agreement and any ink used to decorate their products must not contain highlighted materials above a certain limit.

ESMA: Connecting the Dots of the Printing Industry

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