Focus Label Machinery discusses how changes in behaviour and disruptions in supply chains during this year have affected the textile printing industry, and whether they have accelerated the migration to digital printing.
The devastating impact of Covid-19 on the textile industry has been evident since January, with regards to global lockdowns, a general retail shut down, closing factories, disrupting supply chains and eliminating demand completely. As customers and businesses have reprioritised, garment manufacturers and their retail partners in many countries have shifted to e-commerce.
On demand printing
Within this unprecedented context, parts of the garment and fashion industry have gravitated towards an on demand, digitised production model – only producing items when they are sold, to boost profitability and eradicate inventory concerns. Printing providers have had to adapt quickly. Digital textile printing features sampling and shorter run lengths, and is better suited to sporadic, on demand orders than flexo printing, so this could mean that it is used more commonly going forward. Dependable digital inks and equipment are vital to create ‘first-time correct’ digital production runs and samples.
Sustainability and flexibility
The technology used for digital textile printing lends itself well to serving flexible, e-commerce-based garment producers, because there are no set-up times and production cycles are fast. Digital presses can deliver detailed designs in unlimited colours, and generate reliable profits from the outset – in contrast to conventional analogue printing. Better still, it does this using consumables that are safe and eco-friendly, which appeal to modern end-users who expect sustainable production practices – regardless of the chaos caused by the pandemic.
The price and supply of the dispersion dyes used in flexographic printing have been notably affected by factory closures in China. These water soluble dyes are used for colouring polyester and other synthetic fibres, which Chinese manufacturers specialise in. On polyester, digital printing involves a two stage dye sublimation procedure that is virtually waterless. Firstly, patterns are printed onto transfer paper; then heat converts the colour into a gas cloud, which fuses with the polyester. This digital method is useful in countries like India, where the government has reeled in the textile sector to conserve water supplies during the pandemic.
Resilient supply chains
With digital printing, the production cycle is more efficient, because only a printer and heating system for the ink are required. This means that printing operations can be focused on one location, or alternatively, numerous printing systems can be managed across multiple regions – concentrating on local production for faster deliveries. In any event, businesses that go digital can opt for a production model that suits their requirements, making supply chains more flexible and responsive, which helps to safeguard them from disruption caused by potential future outbreaks.
The end of analogue printing for textiles?
Sometimes, digital textile printing is overlooked in textile printing because its per printed metre cost is higher. It’s true that analogue printing still delivers better cost per unit on large print runs. Nonetheless, over the coming months, the need for fast delivery and versatile orders may matter more to businesses than per printed metre costs, speeding the uptake of digital printing in the sector.
Digital inkjet and hybrid technology from Focus Label
Focus Label supply Printing equipment for the Garment Trim sectors covering Printed Ribbons, labels & Elastics. These machines are designed for low to high volume production runs. In 2019 the company launched its latest dTex digital printing machines that use Ink Jet technology, along with numerous LX range of flexographic print arrangements. These presses are perfect for low to mid volume orders, and for handling variable images and data.
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