The ITMA Blog

 
 

The digital challenge to rotary

by Adrian Wilson | 16 Nov, 2015

A 2-minute silence was observed at the NSC booth yesterday evening, as well as at the press dinner organised by Oerlikon, in honour of the victims of the terrible attacks in Paris.

Everyone is thinking of the 129 dead, the 350 people who were wounded and of their relatives and friends, and of Paris in mourning.

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The futility of this latest atrocity was further heightened at the press dinner, where friends from across the world – and of all cultures – were reuniting; having discovered with pleasure so much in common over successive ITMA shows. Similar reunions were doubtless taking place across Milan last night.

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Without doubt, the biggest development here at ITMA 2015 is the coming of age of digital printing and it’s no surprise that this sector has its own chapter at the exhibition for the first time.

Digital printing technology is perfectly in alignment with the show’s theme, ‘Master the Art of Sustainability’, in offering huge benefits in terms of vast reductions in the use of raw materials, water and energy.

In general, applications for industrial soft signage have been responsible for much of the growth in digital textile printing worldwide to date – and despite growth rates of around 25% annually, it is still comparatively tiny, representing around just 1.5% of the overall textile printing market.

All of this is surely about to change.

At Konica Minolta Inkjet’s press conference on Friday, Senior Advisor and ex-President, Akiyoshi Ohno, outlined the rapid development of his company’s digital systems and explained why the latest single pass machines now make sound business sense.

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In 1999, when the company introduced its first Nassenger 1 machine, achievable speeds were ten square metres an hour. By the time of ITMA 2007 in Munich, machine speeds were up to a hundred square metres per hour. With the 2015 Nassenger SP-1, achievable production speeds are 1,000 metres per hour.

“At the same time, the textile printing business is calling for more flexibility, with smaller lots being required to meet the fast fashion needs of brands like H&M and Zara, but the Nassenger SP-1can handle both big and small-run requirements and without the costly and time-consuming need for screen changes,” Ohno said.

Konica Minolta has just opened a new €5 million textile innovation centre at Como close to Milan.

“This investment in a new training, education and demonstration centre is a real and practical commitment,” Ohno stressed. “We are deadly serious about this market and helping customers to maximise the opportunities within it.”

Value and influence
Although Italy now represents at most 3% of the world’s printed textiles by volume, both its value and influence are considerably higher.

Milan is home to some of the biggest names in the fashion world – Armani, Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci, Prada, Valentino and Versace among them – and the Italian prêt-à-porter industry was certainly the first to fully embrace the potential of digital printing.

“Digital printing is among the key technologies that has been responsible for a revolution in making the most up-to-the-minute Italian fashions available to the world,” observes noted industry consultant Giovanni Sommariva. “The full textile production chain has been totally modified to provide flexibility and just in time supply, including RFID and bar-code tracking, inspection and packaging systems for complete traceability. Inkjet printing provides just in time production, low energy consumption, waste reduction and easy operation.”

Monna Lisa
Robustelli, based in Villa Guardia, Como, is acknowledged as the forerunner in the Italian textile digital printing machinery field, with the introduction of the first Monna Lisa machine fifteen years ago.

Here in Milan, the company has introduced its latest Monna Lisa 48T.

It is characterised by 48 of the company’s new type T2 printing heads in a geometrical lay-out that allows new modes and print resolutions to be achieved, along with a significant increase in production.

A Como printing company has already installed the first Monna Lisa 48T, where it joins 15 earlier models.

“Our company was the first in Italy to produce a digital textile printer and via continuous development with our customers, Monna Lisa technology is being used by 85 per cent of the printing companies serving the high fashion brands in Italy,” said company chief Valerio Robustelli. “Digital printing has brought a radical change to the entire textile industry here. In addition to the economic advantages, it has allowed a considerable increase in printing quality and at the same time, greatly reduced processing time. The opportunity to obtain any shade and any number of colours provides the high fashion sector with a unique instrument with no limits to the creativity of designers and stylists.”

This is no longer confined to Italy, however.

“The Monna Lisa is now present in many markets where the target is no longer just quantity but quality as well, including Turkey, South Korea, Japan, Vietnam, and India,” Robustelli said.

Acquisition
Earlier this year, Reggiani Macchine, based in Bergamo, was acquired by Electronics For Imaging (EFI), based in Fremont, California, in a deal worth around €125 million.

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“This acquisition gives EFI an immediate leadership position in one of the world’s largest industries undergoing the transformation from analog printing to digital,” said EFI CEO Guy Gecht, at the time of the acquisition. “The textile printing market is just beginning that transition, which will enable manufacturers to shift from long-run to on-demand manufacturing, responding to the increasing demands for short runs and customisation.”

Addressing the full scope of advanced textile printing, Regianni’s printers are suitable for water-based dispersed, acid, pigment and reactive dye printing inks.

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The latest Renoir Next 1.8 metre-wide beltless digital printing system can print on both fabrics and paper using the same ink set. It offers simplified material handling, a compact footprint and a lower acquisition cost, making it an ideal entry-level unit. Like other EFI Reggiani printers, its high quality sublimation inks are complemented by its ability for high-speed throughput with the lowest total running costs.

All EFI Reggiani inkjet digital textile systems are based on new eco-chemistry and making their debut at the show are Artistri PK2600 inks developed by DuPont for cotton textile roll-to-roll printing. The new inks offer the colour and feel comparable to reactive printing, with excellent fastness performance and without the need for steaming or washing production steps.

Fluorescence
Mimaki is meanwhile introducing two new fluorescent inks for its TS300P-1800 inkjet textile printer, designed for the digital low-cost production of high-value applications.

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The powerful combination of this machine with the new inks opens up a new range of possibilities for textile printers, designers and garment manufacturers.

“Fluorescent colours are in increasingly high demand in the fashion and sportswear markets,” says Mike Horsten, of Mimaki Europe. “With these new neon inks, designers and garment manufacturers will be able to extend the potential of digital printing solutions to the production of high quality running clothes, sportswear and other applications that are personalised or have unique designs and need to stand out. These new inks will allow production of such bespoke, quality products on a much larger scale.”

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Space prevents me from mentioning more developments in this exciting field from a number of other companies – and not forgetting the 25-metre-long PIKE system from SPG Prints I provided details of earlier – but without doubt, digital textile printing is opening up many new opportunities.