Digital Textile Printing Driven by Signage
and Now Expanding Into New Areas
The digital printing of textiles has been going on since the mid 90s with electrostatic (e-stat) and inkjet printers, either by direct printing (in the case of inkjet) and via dye sublimation transfer (inkjet and e-stat). Today advances in inkjet printers, e.g., direct to fabric sublimation printers, combined with growth in textile applications such as soft signage and apparel are driving the market for digital textile printing. I.T. Strategies estimates that in 2005, 2,300 dedicated digital textile printers (units) produced more than 900 million square feet of digitally printed textiles. Of this 75% (just under 700 million square feet) was signage related and 25% (233 million square feet) is in newer application areas such as interior furnishings and apparel. By 2010, I.T. Strategies expects that digitally printed textiles will grow at a CAGR of 19% to more than two billion square feet printed on more than 5,000 dedicated digital textile printers.
Soft signage is a sub-segment of the larger signage market. The reasons for the success of digitally printed soft signage are: that it is different from paper/vinyl and therefore will get the viewer's attention; fabric signage creates an upscale impression; reduced costs related to the fact that fabric is lightweight and flexible meaning that shipping costs are lower; and finally, if the competition has it, then other shops have to follow. The growing competition in the signage market has caused some Print-for-Pay shops to look to other areas for growth. One of those areas is decorative products. Technically speaking it is a relatively small jump from advertising-related signage into these new applications.
According to Patti Williams, Consulting Partner at I.T. Strategies, "The market for soft signage has been around for more than seven years and is fairly well understood. Newer and less understood is the market for digitally printed textiles for non-signage applications. In this area some of the drivers include: the value of brand as companies such as Herman Miller and Steelcase use digital printing to customize textile-based office structures with a customer's brand or logo; new systems of parallel, low-throughput inkjet printers printing simultaneously, such as the DPA system developed by Stork; Italian companies using inkjet printers to respond to Chinese competition; and designers and crafters entering the market and making investments in inkjet textile printers such as the DuPont Artistri."
source IT startegies