Printing Gets Sustainable, But Digital Still Has a Long Way to Go

Berlin is where all the action seems to be happening. This week it is FESPA 2022 which has key industry suppliers coming together to showcase the latest developments in wide format, digital, offset, textile, and direct-to-garment printing, as well as embroidery, signage and much more. texfash.com gets the whole blob for you.

Long Story, Cut Short
  • FESPA is all things print, but textiles/garment printing form one of the key areas of all FESPA exhibitions.
  • The event brings together over 16,000 printers from all over the globe.
  • The 'Sustainability Spotlight’ will provide informative and actionable advice to address the needs of people, planet and profit.
With the global digital textile print market set to reach $8 billion by 2030, new opportunities are opening up for enterprising print professionals.
Big Market With the global digital textile print market set to reach $8 billion by 2030, new opportunities are opening up for enterprising print professionals. FESPA

When it all started, except for those immediately connected within the value chain, printing was not something many cared about. It was neither a priority area, nor seen as something that separated the wheat from the chaff.

But both priorities and perspectives have changed in this millennium, and this is 2022. Today's realities are stark and, possibly ruthless. Now, if the printing, be it screen or digital, is not classy, or not sustainably carried out, a number of players in the printing sector can find themselves out of business—printer manufacturers, software developers, ink producers, and a host of others.

The realities might seem to be the same as in any other business—move with the times (preferably ahead of it) or get left behind. But those actualities get accentuated in this industry because textiles printing is not just that, but is a tad bit more. It is a lot about finesse and sophistication.

The place to visit, not only to see what's trending but also to plan ahead, is FESPA Global Print Expo. The 2022 edition got under way yesterday (31 May) in Berlin. As the FESPA website says in simple language, the venue would be where "key industry suppliers will come together to showcase the latest developments in wide format, digital, offset, textile, and direct-to-garment printing, as well as embroidery, signage and much more." Kind of sums it up.

According to a report published by Allied Market Research, the global digital textile printing market garnered $2.2 billion in 2019, and is anticipated to reach $8.8 billion by 2027, registering a CAGR of 19.1% from 2020 to 2027.
Phenomenal Growth According to a report published by Allied Market Research, the global digital textile printing market garnered $2.2 billion in 2019, and is anticipated to reach $8.8 billion by 2027, registering a CAGR of 19.1% from 2020 to 2027. FESPA

FESPA as hub of all things print

FESPA, of course, is all things print, but textiles/garment printing form one of the key areas of all FESPA exhibitions. Unlike other sectors in the textiles-apparel-fashion industry, which have a number of big ticket trade events, printing has only one: the FESPA Global Print Expo.

FESPA itself has come a long way since the formative general assembly in 1962 when the French Printers Association decided to create FESPA with seven European Associations. The first exhibition was held at Paris in 1963, and as FESPA completes 60 years, it has 37 national associations as members.

This also spells out why the FESPA Global Print Expo is so big—FESPA is a global network of national printing industry association, So, it should be fit that one of the features to be launched at the Berlin event would be the 'Associations Pavilion'. The event website says, "For the first time, we will bring together the best example of print across this community, representing our membership base of over 16,000 printers worldwide. Be inspired by the power of print and learn more about becoming a member of your local Association and how it could support you and your business."

Associations that will be featured at the pavilion include the local FESPA organisations for Italy, Bulgaria, France, Greece, the Netherlands, Spain, Belgium, and the UK, as well as a host of other bodies such as Printing SA, the Czech Screen and Digital Printing Association, the Polish Screen and Digital Printing Association, Canagraf, Verband Druck | Medien Österreich, SZSDT, ARED, and the Sri Lanka Association of Printers.

Digital textile printing presents a compelling argument for sustainable manufacturing, where alongside numerous benefits, carbon emissions can be reduced by as much as 80% using digital technology.
Advantage Digital Digital textile printing presents a compelling argument for sustainable manufacturing, where alongside numerous benefits, carbon emissions can be reduced by as much as 80% using digital technology. FESPA

Turning the spotlight on sustainability

The other new feature at Expo 2022 will be the 'Sustainability Spotlight’. This area will provide informative and actionable advice to address the needs of people, planet and profit. In some ways this might come across as misleading, since it would sound as if FESPA is focusing on sustainability for the first time.

These sessions include ‘Information for textile printers on GOTS requirements and certification’ by Franziska Dormann, Representative to Global Brands, Global Organic Textile Standard. Nicolas Coupry, Senior Market Manager & Sustainability Lead, Antalis will discuss ‘Switching to more sustainable solutions with high performance’ and Johnny Shell, Director of functional and industrial printing for KeyPoint Intelligence will speak about ‘Digital Textile Printing: Meeting Consumer Demand for Sustainable Fashion and Apparel’.

Other subjects to be covered over the four days include energy management, carbon foot printing operations, sustainability certification schemes, graphic products, textile products and aquatic and atmospheric pollution control.

Those are just sub-event aspects. The over-arching sentiments were laid out in a blog post by FESPA President Christophe Aussenac in the run up to Berlin: "But no two print businesses are the same and there’s no single roadmap for sustainability, which means printers need to evaluate their specific production and business requirements to tailor their sustainability approach. And it’s not something that can be done once and then ignored, your approach needs to be continually reviewed in line with changing customer demands and industry trends”.

Happily, the shift to more environmentally-conscious practices is easier than ever before with innovative digital technologies, automated software solutions and eco-friendly substrates. Many technology and consumable suppliers have responded to the urgent demand for environmental progress in the market which has brought about rapid developments in many aspects of digital printing, enabling print service providers to make production greener."

Waste is not often discussed when considering the value of print, and yet the ability to print on demand delivers valuable reductions in unused meterage, unsold products and precious resources.
Minimal Waste Waste is not often discussed when considering the value of print, and yet the ability to print on demand delivers valuable reductions in unused meterage, unsold products and precious resources. FESPA

The digital way of getting it right

A brute majority of textiles/garment printing is still by screen. According to a researchandmarkets.com report published this March, the global market for textile printing was estimated at 22 billion sq m in 2020, and is projected to reach 28.2 billion sq m by 2026 growing at a CAGR of 4.3% over the 2022-2026 analysis period. Screen printing, one of the segments analysed in the report, is projected to grow at a 2.8% CAGR to reach 24.6 billion sq m by the end of the analysis period.

The report said, "Renewed emphasis on eco-friendly procedures and toxic-free ingredients would emerge as a major trend in the textile printing ecosystem. The new sustainability awareness can potentially trigger the switch from traditional textile printing to digital textile printing, as digital approach is more sustainable and more viable in the long-run. Besides digital printing, shorter run lengths also influence the demand for high quality rotary screens, which still represent the most economical textile printing method."

Much of this would sound repetitious if one recollects similar reports published in the last five or six years. The death knell keeps being sounded out for traditional printing, but traditional printing still holds sway. This can only mean that digital printing technology, in spite of the promise it holds, has a long way to go.

The advantages of digital printing for a sustainable future has long figured in the FESPA ecosystem. In 2019, an article on the FESPA website had outlined, digital textile printing saved over 40 billion litres of water worldwide in 2018, offering an efficient solution when compared to traditional water usage for rotary screen printing which is in the region of 50-60 litres of water per metre. Digital textile printing also uses smaller quantities of colour, typically 10% of the volume used when compared to screen printing. Using pigment inks as an example, and its requirement for fixation only finishing (no washing) uses less than 10 litres of water per metre."

It's still a long way to the top for digital textile printing.  So, are we in for a disruptive element any time soon?

 
 
  • Dated posted May 31, 2022
  • Last modified May 31, 2022