Textile Division of ESMA

Looking at the current growth rate of digital textile, and considering that screen printing is still the main solution for garment applications, we recognise the need to bring together manufacturers and suppliers in the printing side of textile. Digital textile printing has been around for over 20 years now but it has never played a major role in this conservative market. There is however a visible shift from analogue to digital taking place in segments such as apparel or home textiles. Various estimates expect a growth of digital textile printing between 6% and 20% in the next decade. A new association can become a global voice for that entire market and can enable growth and strengthen the industry. 

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Our target group includes all manufacturers of products used in textile printing workflow (digital or screen). This involves also all products and supplies that support the handling of fabrics (pre- and post-treatment). The textile printing applications can be soft signage (to a lesser degree), fashion, apparel, sports and swimwear, home textiles, technical textiles and home decor. We will focus first on suppliers of products for textile printing, and in the next step on printers, value added resellers and maybe even brands. It is important to cover the whole supply chain involved, in order to maximise the market change.

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Our goal is to create a united community focused on improving and guiding changes in the textile printing industry. Change management in general will be important in the textile sector and printing will play an important part in it. The core focus and working area will be Europe, but the rest of the world will also be included in our activities. The association wants to bring together the textile printing industry, as well as all those involved in the workflow and all side processes required in combination with print.

The rapid change in ecological and social awareness impacts textile markets, from business models to production shifts, calls for optimisation of textile printing and creates opportunities. Our association wants to look at all critical factors and global trends which influence the textile market condition today and in the nearest future: “fast fashion”, “cleaner” businesses,  quality and sustainability concerns, personalisation…

Moreover, the ongoing change to digital demands a higher level of education on using the new technologies: understanding colour management, specifics of inkjet and its implementation into existing business concepts.

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Our engagement in textile printing

As the importance of printing grows, we currently see no textile association which would focus on that aspect. Textile printing is a market with its own dynamics. Applications such as apparel or fashion are transforming to a much shorter supply chain with shifting responsibilities. In general, the market evolves in two directions: cheap production in South-East Asia and high-end smaller series in the Western world.

The advances in digital printing technology are reaching a tipping point and therefore a dedicated association could offer guidance on several levels: technology, health, safety and legislation advice, as well as business support for diverse applications such as soft-signage, home textiles, fashion, apparel, garment, technical textiles or smart textiles.

We understand the Textile Division of ESMA as the home for the textile printing manufacturers: suppliers, printers and even brand owners.


Sustainability: We observe a growing challenge with the increasing installations numbers of bigger and faster digital textile printers. Bad prints, wrong substrates, unsatisfactory quality, artefacts, wasted jobs… The loss suffered amounts up to hundreds of million dollars per year globally and has a direct effect on the ROI of printers who made the investment.

Standardisation: The workflow standardisation remains an issue even for the biggest companies. After an investment in multi-million-euro-worth equipment the margin for error should be close to zero. (Six Sigma). However, pitfalls still arise and there are not really solutions in place which would guarantee self-updating and self-correcting systems (machine learning) keeping a closer watch on the entire workflow. 

Colour management: In commercial printing, standardisation has been established quicker and tighter because it was a less complex environment than textile printing. In the last years, many switch to newer and more advanced equipment and the period between the two installations poses challenges. Re-runs of older print jobs become a nightmare due to colour mismatch. This is one example of many, but the problem is larger and can only be solved with a broader approach, supported by a  larger group of suppliers and printers. 

Regulations: Textile printing is highly chemistry-related process which includes advanced handling for pre-treatment, inks, substrates and post-treatment. Especially clothing, upholstery and other skin contact products are demanding in terms of following the correct procedures. The dynamically changing regulations, ecology and sustainability standards are critical topics within the growing segment of printed textile production.

ESMA: Connecting the Dots of the Printing Industry

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Peter Buttiens [ESMA General Manager]

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  + 32 (0)16 894 353