ITMA 2011 shows textile printing is poised for inkjet upswing

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Sep 27, 2011

Last week I attended ITMA, the international textiles exhibition in Barcelona, to understand how digital printing technology was being adopted in this significant part of the industrial printing market.

It was clear from the machinery being displayed and the range of new exhibitors at this year’s event that digital printing has reached a milestone in the textile market and is poised to make significant advances in the next few years. What until now been the preserve of proofing and prototyping is now becoming viable for short run production. Devices from Durst, Konica Minolta, Kornit, La Meccanica and spgprints (Stork Prints) shown for the first time at ITMA all address this new category for short run production. There were also new devices from established wide-format inkjet fabric players Mimaki, Mutoh and Roland DG to better address the prototyping and sampling markets that previous generations of their products have served.

The textile market has all the hallmarks now that graphic printing markets displayed previously when they were on the cusp of digitisation. With the short run production of printed textiles currently dominated by flatbed screen, there is an obvious parallel with wide-format graphics five- to 10-years ago and the impact of UV-cured flatbed printers.

Likewise, inkjet has always begun its adoption for proofing and prototyping before the market and the technology have matured and it has encroached on production. There are other aspects of the supply chain in textiles that will need to be digitised for inkjet to take off for production in areas such as workflow and colour management but the signs are encouraging that these areas are also being addressed, but as with other sectors hardware developments have a head start on software.

InfoTrends will publish a full analysis on the developments at ITMA soon, but in the meantime it is clear that another industrial market is about to shift from analogue craft-based production to digital manufacturing.

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