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Market Trends

Textile and Garment Print

From fashion to interior design, Print Monthly takes a look at the opportunities available to commercial and traditional printing companies across the busy textile and garment print markets

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Be a Trendsetter

When it comes to the subject of textile and garment print, conversations about the sort of work on offer in this sector can go on for some time. This is mainly due to the sheer volume of sectors within these two markets and, perhaps more importantly for those printers on the lookout for ways to grow their business, where they can make the most money.

Print service providers (PSPs) need to identify the areas with the most potential for growth, as well as ensure there is enough demand among their current client base to ensure they can make a successful move into the market and that they have the right level of both kit and knowledge to take on this one.

Here, Print Monthly speaks with several manufacturers and suppliers that work with print companies across these markets to find out more about where the core opportunities lie for those seeking to expand and how they can go about capitalising on demand for textile and garment print.

Ups and Downs

Up first is Agfa, which counts larger-format textile print solutions among its portfolio of solutions. Mike Horsten, senior PR and press manager for digital printing and chemicals at Agfa, explains that there is a lot of consolidation in the textile markets with several key trends having emerged in 2024.

Agfa says its Avinci CX3200 is a popular choice for textile print work

“Many smaller companies are now investing into equipment for direct to fabric (DTF) garments or DTF systems,” Horsten says, adding: “On the other hand, the fashion productions are slowing down in Europe and moving back to low labour countries. The exception is soft signage where there is a trend for higher speed and higher quality prints needed for backlit and other specialty applications.

“In terms of target areas for PSPs, they should consider that any event company, stage companies, theatres, and other show companies can use textiles and benefit from many of the textile applications like low weight, recyclability, and ease of installation of the fabrics. Selling textiles into these segments makes sense and is a win-win for PSPs currently offering this type of media.”

Going into further depth, Horsten says Agfa has many customers that are printing for growth markets in textiles, counting the Olympics, trade shows, football centrepiece openings, branding of events and music festivals as among the projects they have been working on. Horsten says many of these events in the past have been using vinyl and hard materials for the events but, unfortunately, these materials are heavy and not easy to dispose.

“Textiles enabled these organisations to offer the right product to the right audience,” Horsten says, adding: “Textiles are a sustainable way to work and print; they’re easy to handle, lightweight, and fast in production.

Textiles are a sustainable way to work and print; they're easy to handle, lightweight, and fast in production

“The trend is up, and Agfa is ready for this trend with its own developed and produced high ink load sublimation inks, the fast high-quality printers like the Avinci and the software complement of Asanti. Offering the ECO Passport certification, low ink usage, and a good cost per square meter price is what makes the difference in the market.

Horsten picks out both backlit and front-lit as common applications in these areas, but also highlights short-run full-colour flags, as well as event dressing as areas for PSPs to consider when looking at ways to grow their business.

“The big advantage is that making a backlit with textiles is that there is no cracking of inks on the media leaving ugly patches,” Horsten comments, continuing: “This results in bad back-lits especially if the images are dark. As for event banners like cycling the use of non-woven materials is an absolute benefit for long and powerful messaging.”

Large-format Shift to Textiles

Also weighing in here is RA Smart, an approved distributor of HP machinery in the UK. Alex Mighall, who is responsible for sales and marketing at RA Smart, agrees with Horsten in terms of opportunities with textiles in the exhibition sector. He says this is particularly true with tension framing systems and having the ability to produce high-quality exhibition stands that are quick to erect and reusable.

“The added benefit of working with textiles for this sort of work is that shipping is much easier as all the graphics can be folded up small,” Mighall says, adding: “Couple this with a compact and versatile framing system, such as REXframe, and you can save a considerable sum in transport and labour costs, increasing your return on work as a result.

“It would appear that the large-format graphics market continues to pivot towards textiles; these are a more versatile and sustainable solution for signage and exhibition work, and we expect this to continue leading into 2024 and beyond.”

So, what machinery does RA Smart have to support those PSPs looking to take advantage of demand for this work? Mighall says that the company has seen “great” success with the HP Stitch S1000 3.2m-wide dye-sublimation printer in recent time, with multiple installations of the machine throughout the past year both in the UK and Ireland. The HP Stitch S1000 offers both fabric and dye-sublimation printing. It runs at a top speed of 220sq m/hr and can handle material as wide as 3.2m and roll weights of 300kg.

“The HP Stitch S1000 would be the ‘go-to’ recommendation for anyone looking to get into superwide 3.2m dye-sublimation printer, or even those looking for very high production at 1.6m wide, as there is now the option to run dual roll technology,” Mighall says.