HP Stitch – HP Enters the textile printing market

Ron Gilboa
Apr 26, 2019

HP’s long-awaited entrance into the textile market was unveiled at the ISA Show in Las Vegas this week with a well-attended event where two new machines were front and center. Prior to this event, analysts and journalists got a sneak peek at HP’s European Innovation Day where the company’s future strategy and innovation were discussed.

Under the umbrella brand “HP Stitch,” the company plans to build out a range of products to ‘reinvent’ or possibly ‘disrupt’ the market going forward and doing so using their core HP thermal inkjet.  With the new ‘S’ sublimation range of devices it is clear is that HP is dipping its toe into the fast expanding digital textile fabric printing sector, in the process expanding on its leadership in graphics market, where the has long been involved with its aqueous, latex, solvent and UV inks.
The two devices that were officially launched at the show, were the S300 and S500, are 1.6m (64 inch) machines targeting the polyester-based sportswear, fast fashion, and soft signage market. Furthermore, the company will also launch a third product in the family the HP Stitch S1000, at the upcoming FESPA in Germany in May. The HP Stitch S1000 is a 3.2m (126 inch) device and will be targeting soft signage as well as the contract home décor market that uses a high proportion of polyester based fabrics.

HP Stitch Entry into the fashion world

HP Stitch Entry into the fashion world

Building on its in-house thermal drop-on-demand inkjet printhead technology, HP has integrated some interesting features into the S range that will set it apart from the competition and potentially show the fabric printing world that the company means to resolve some of the shortcomings of digital fabric printing. One of these issues is color consistency across devices and locations. This new product line is equipped with an inline spectrophotometer mounted on the carriage; this technology saves the color references while printing to enable consistent color reproduction for every job and ensure it is repeatable across fleets and sites. In this class of machine, it is for now a unique feature. Additionally, improved uptime and simpler user maintenance are also key features that HP brings to the Stitch with its user replaceable printheads, Smart Nozzle Compensation system and preventive maintenance with HP Smart Services software.

At the event, HP stated that it sees the machines being utilized initially in soft signage and migrating into apparel and home décor as well. This will allow HP to leverage its current latex customer base, bringing these clients over to their newest hardware. Speaking with Tom Wittenberg, Large Format Strategy, Planning and Content Marketing Manager, Sign & Décor, he indicated that the Stitch line will also see use in smaller textile shops operating in fast fashion, customization, and personalization markets.

The HP Stitch Lineup at a Glance

HP Stitch Product lineup

HP Stitch Product lineup (Source: HP)

According to HP, the main selling points of its new Stitch range include:

  • Color consistency calibration and tracking made possible by workflow tools and an embedded spectrophotometer built into every model. Tested in 6 pass mode on transfer media and direct to fabric printing HP claims their printers can achieve consistency better than 1.5 delta E.
  • High saturation of inks giving great vibrancy and strong definition with deep blacks. These inks are Eco Passport certified by OekoTex.
  • Instant drying of the ink due to the characteristics of HP technology that allows proximity between printheads and dryers.
    Note: that dye sublimation transfer paper requires subsequent calendaring onto the fabric.
  • The Stitch product family all have HP developed thermal printheads with 12 picolitre drop sizes and 1200 native dpi resolution
  • A range of workflow, media, heat transfer and cutting & sewing partners that offer complementary product to make the HP Stitch a end-to-end solution.
  • HP Smart Services to enable real time preventative maintenance as well as user replaceable printheads – within 20 minutes. This will alleviate downtime and service calls outs. HP also have Smart Print Connection and cloud fleet management tools, that allows users to monitor print remotely to enable overnight unattended printing and to aid consistency across sites.
  • Front loading – This reduces the footprint for space and allows devices to be placed back-to-back.
HP Stitch Solution Partners

HP Stitch Solution Partners

The S300 is HP’s entry level device, with a planned launch price of $14,995. The 1.6-meter-wide Stitch S300 uses 4 HP thermal inkjet printheads with a maximum speed in two passes of 62m2 per hour and production quality of 34m2 per hour with 4 passes.  It also comes equipped with HP’s version of Ergosoft RIP Color Edition so that new users experience a simple plug and play solution. HP, in their presentation stated that they believe that these products will ‘democratize’ digital textile printing, meaning that users previously unfamiliar with sublimation or textile printing will be able to easily enter the market.

HP Stitch

HP Stitch

The S500, priced at $27,995, is positioned as a 1.6m workhorse – with printing up to 110 m2 per hour at 1200dpi resolution in one pass or production quality 3 pass printing at 43m2 per hour (the 1.6m size harkens to the S500 Latex technology legacy). It uses a symmetrical dual CMYK printhead configuration and has its Optical Media Advance Sensor (OMAS) enabling tracking and accuracy of media movement through the printer. The HP Ergosoft adapted RIP is optional, but the device is useable with many of the industry recognized RIPS commonly used for dye sublimation printers. Ink supply and media handling were designed to enable unattended overnight operation that can be monitored with the Smart Print connection app.

The machines are transfer paper sublimation devices but can do direct to fabric for short runs on dimensionally stable fabrics. HP highlighted this as advantageous for backlits and other show-through applications but, for stretchy materials, paper transfer must be used. HP has also launched a range of HP Dye Sublimation Paper designed for use with HP Stitch dye sublimation inks.

Keypoint Intelligence Opinion

HP’s venture into textile printing follows HP’s typical methodical approach to new product introductions.  A product line with a range of models to meet end user needs that provide distinct advantages in production efficiencies, serviceability, quality and robust end user facing tools.  Issues such as color consistency, downtime due to printhead replacement and complex design to print workflow are problems that have had negative impact on business productivity and profitability. These have all been addressed by HP with this new product family.

HP’s introduction expands its reach beyond the applications supported today by their latex inkjet in rollfed as well as rigid media. HP Stitch dye sublimation printers enter a market producing over 1.4 billion M2 in digital print volume in 2019 and growing at a 15% CAGR based on the Keypoint Intelligence Digital Textile Forecast 2017-2022.  This market consists of soft signage, garments and décor applications and is crowded by many vendors who have been serving this market for decades. That is a challenge HP is addressing by introducing solutions that are fully integrated and aimed at easing end user learning curve and maximizing productivity.

Keypoint Intelligence believes that these introductions mark the beginning of HP’s expansion into the world of textile printing. With its aim of disruption, it will be interesting to see how HP intends to expand into industrial segments which may require a holistic approach for improving the supply chain as well as the environment by using innovative workflow, advanced print technology as well as expanded range of ink types for textile.  These could enable the industry to more effectively address the needs for vertically integrated manufacturing for both imports and domestic production.

 

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