Epson Acquires Robustelli to Secure its Position in the Production Digital Textile Printing Market

James Hanlon
Jun 27, 2016

Epson Group and Epson Italia S.p.A. announced that they agreed with the Robustelli family to acquire 100% of the capital of Fratelli Robustelli S.r.l. (“Robustelli”). This agreement aims to help Epson and Robustelli gain share in the fast-growing digital textile printing market.

Robustelli was one of the early innovators that used Epson’s printhead technology to develop the Monna Lisa product line. These products are considered the standard for high-quality digital textile printing. Located in Como, Italy, Robustelli had 25 employees and an annual turnover of over €12 million in 2015. The company’s heritage is in the textile machinery industry, developing, manufacturing, and selling Monna Lisa inkjet textile printers. Epson will deploy its worldwide sales and service network to sell Robustelli’s high-end printing systems in more countries and regions around the world, expanding its current footprint and reaching emerging digital markets.

Sunao Murata, COO of Epson’s Professional Printing Operations Division, will be appointed as President of Robustelli. Murata commented, “This is a very exciting development for the Epson Group. As the market for high-quality digital textile printing expands, formalizing our partnership with Robustelli puts us in a great place to meet the needs of customers who are seeking to leverage the advantages of advanced digital solutions and drive their businesses forward. We will work closely with our colleagues at Robustelli to take Monna Lisa to the next level and remain leaders in the field.”

“We are happy and proud to become members of the Epson Group,” stated Valerio Robustelli, one of the proprietors of F.lli Robustelli. “Our cooperation with Epson led to the development of Monna Lisa, an industrial digital textile printer that is now a market benchmark for high-quality textile printing. The combination of our respective skills is the natural conclusion to a process of innovation that will satisfy customers in Italy and around the world.”

Robustelli Mona Lisa Tre

Robustelli Mona Lisa Tre

Robustelli’s Monna Lisa series was developed with Epson in 2003. The product line includes the ML180, ML 220, ML 320, and the newly-introduced Mona Lisa Evo Tre and Mona Lisa Vinci. These products come with 16, 32, or 48 printheads. The print speeds are clearly dependent on the required resolution and the number of passes, but 540 x 720 dpi 4-pass printing normalized at 1.5m width can range from 198m2/hour on the ML180 and up to 1000m2/hour on the ML Vinci.

Back in 2012, Epson entered into a joint venture with For.Tex and acquired 50% of the company. These relations added digital printing to For.Tex’s capabilities in the textile materials, supplies, and equipment businesses. For.Tex’s goal was to assist in go-to-market implementation. The partial partnership converted into full ownership and the creation of EPSON Italia in 2015. The results of this relationship were demonstrated at ITMA 2015 in Milan, Italy. Also at ITMA 2015, EPSON Italia and Robustelli introduced two new products to the portfolio. These products were the result of the partnerships with For.Tex and Robustelli. The Monna Lisa Vinci (designed by For.Tex) and the Monna Lisa Evo Tre (designed by Robustelli) demonstrated productivity, quality, and reliability from the combined team.

Robustelli Mona Lisa 180

Robustelli Mona Lisa 180

The machines use Epson’s new TFP PrecisionCore heads, increasing quality and accuracy on all substrates. These new heads also have an increased lifetime of about two years. Both machines use Genesta, vacuum-sealed water-based inks created by For.Tex specifically for textiles. The development of these two machines is the culmination of Epson’s devotion to the textile printing market. Epson has been on an interesting path when it comes to digital textiles. The company might have led itself to a point of irrelevancy, but its recent actions have steered it in a new direction.
This acquisition follows several other industry transactions that are indicative of the growth potential for digital textile printing. For example, Dover and EFI were able to expand their textile investments with some key acquisitions:

  • In February 2014, Dover acquired MS Printing Solutions, a manufacturer of analog and digital textile printing solutions. This was quickly followed by its acquisition of JK Group (a supplier of materials and inks for the textile industry) in October 2015.
  • EFI acquired Reggiani Macchine, a supplier of analog and digital textile printing and related equipment, in July 2015. In March 2016, the company acquired Rialco Limited, a U.K.-based supplier of inks, dye powders, and color products for the digital print and industrial manufacturing industries. Just last week, EFI acquired Optitex Ltd., which offers workflow solutions for clothing and pattern design.

The digital textile printing market continues to grow and evolve. As technologies are reaching parity with more traditional printing methods, this compounds the demand for digital solutions. The ability to mass-customize textiles at high speeds and low costs is becoming more appealing for PSPs and consumers alike. According to InfoTrends’ textile forecast, the value of the digital textile printing market will experience a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of about 34% between 2014 and 2019. The market will continue to grow and evolve at a rapid pace, and innovators like Epson, EFI, and Dover are all looking to become industry leaders with their latest technologies. Epson’s latest move will likely help the company regain some lost ground and pave a path for new innovations in digital textile printing.

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