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Business Opportunities

Wide-format in Fashion

Printing technology is used to fill stores the world over with fashionable clothing, textiles, and homeware. Jo Golding looks at the kit working tirelessly behind the scenes

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By bringing wide-format printing for fashion in-house, print-service-providers reduce turnaround time and minimise their inventory by having a digital textile workflow, all of which is boosting the UK fashion industry

À la mode

The UK’s fashion industry is worth £26bn and 800,000 jobs to the economy (British Council, 2016). With this in mind, it is no wonder that printing companies have decided to seize opportunities in this sector.

Whether you are looking for an entry-level machine to get started or something more substantial to expand your offering further, read on to find out exactly how technology from three major manufacturers is being used to offer fashion to everyone.

EFI Reggiani has 70 years’ of experience in textile imaging and highlights its new textile printer, the EFI Reggiani Vogue, as the perfect product for those looking to enter the fashion or textile market.

The EFI Reggiani Vogue printer has a production speed of up to 325sq m/h

Adele Genoni, general manager of EFI Reggiani, comments: “Whether it is for apparel and accessories, sportswear or footwear, the EFI Reggiani Vogue can handle it. The new printer, along with the entire EFI ecosystem of products including Optitex 2D/3D design software, Reggiani digital printers and inks, and our newest Fiery Pro Server offering, create an effective, more efficient manufacturing model for the fashion space.”

The Vogue printer is the first in a series of EFI Reggiani printers that will incorporate new electronics for industrial textile printing. It prints at resolutions up to 2,400dpi with 16 printing heads, eight colours, and four- to 72-picolitre drop sizes.

It also boasts a recirculation system that saves ink and reduces maintenance during machine operation and between stoppages. It can use virtually any type of textile ink. The recirculation system also reduces the need for specific air conditioning and humidity controls, saving energy and reducing overall usage costs.

Genoni continues: “An innovative enclosed print head design on the Vogue simplifies the carriage layout and ensures easier print head removal. A new composite carriage with a steel head plate eliminates the need to align individual heads. The printer also automatically detects substrate widths, centres images, and sets margins for jobs. As a result, operators no longer need to measure fabrics before loading them.”

Boom sector

EFI Reggiani has seen particular success in Pakistan, with more than 26 digital printing machines by EFI Reggiani now installed in the country; EFI Reggiani’s Pakistan representative is called Acmatex. In a case study from EFI, the company says: “The boom in the retail fashion sector of Pakistan is largely due to the success of digital printing technology that allowed shorter runs and exclusive textile designs for the discerning urban populace of

Digital printing of fabric with the EFI Reggiani Renoir Pro at Sapphire Textile Mills, Pakistan

Sapphire Textiles is one success story in Pakistan, as director Nabeel Abdullah explains: “Our first consideration was the acquisition of a rotary printing machine by EFI Reggiani. Digital printing was initially not under consideration. However, when we visited EFI Reggiani in Bergamo, Italy, the Renoir digital printing machine impressed us very much.

“Besides EFI Reggiani’s rotary machines, we have four machines by EFI Reggiani installed in our digital printing division. We started off with the 16 head machine and then we bought the 32 head machine with 3.2m width with the home textiles business. These machines ensure us the high standards of productivity, reliability, and quality.”

With the support of the additional textile printing manufacturing the company has added, Sapphire Textiles opened its biggest store at Emporium Mall in Lahore, which sells a wide range of clothing for men and women, as well as accessories and shoes.

Abdullah adds: “We have received tremendous response from our flagship store in Karachi.” The company provides the same in terms of fabric, designs, and service to its patrons in Lahore. “The idea is to sell a ‘designer’ product at an affordable price to all,” says Abdullah.
UK fashion revitalised

Mimaki is another company with a strong presence in textile and dye-sublimation printing technology for fashion applications, with opportunities from entry-level to large-volume production. Hybrid Services, Mimaki’s UK and Ireland distributor, believes developments in the printing industry are “revitalising” the British fashion industry.

Brett Platt, textile and apparel product manager at Hybrid Services, comments: “Key influencing factors in the industry at present include the new ink technology that has brought ink costs for fashion production down, making it more cost-effective to produce on home soil, something which is revitalising the British fashion industry.”

Brett Platt from Hybrid Services says: “Producing cotton fashion garments requires the use of reactive inks and delivers a soft handle garment, with bright colours and good wash fastness”

For fast-fashion polyester garments, Platt recommends the Mimaki TS30-1300. He says: “Mimaki’s new kid on the block, the TS30 1.3m dye-sublimation printer was released in 2017 for print providers looking for an entry-level and easy to use option that gives them the tools to roll out short runs of finished garments or samples. Printing with dye-sublimation inks onto transfer paper, the TS30 is highly productive for apparel creation and at just under £7,500 it makes it very accessible for those entering the market for the first time or for producing samples direct to the final fabric.”

The Mimaki TS30-1300, at just under £7,500, is accessible for those entering the market

Two of Mimaki’s most popular printers—the JV150 and JV300 series printers—are well placed to serve the fashion industry when used with Mimaki’s dye-sublimation inks.

Platt expands: “Ideal as a production option where longer runs and higher demand are of importance, the JV series dye-sublimation printers provide stunning prints and vibrant colours for creating beautiful fashion. Available up to 1.6m wide, these production machines harness all of Mimaki’s textile printing prowess, with long-lasting, vibrant inks, high print speed, and ease of use.”

Platt builds on this, saying for print-service-providers looking to produce fashion garments with natural fabrics such as cotton, or to print both natural and man-made materials, the direct-to-textile Tx300P is the “quintessential choice”.

He explains: “Producing cotton fashion garments requires the use of reactive inks and delivers a soft handle garment, with bright colours and good wash fastness. High print speeds and print quality are a given, as with any of Mimaki’s portfolio, but other benefits include an advanced textile feeding mechanism for optimum fabric tension, nozzle check unit (NCU) for reliable continuous print operation, and a cockling reduction transfer mechanism for higher quality print.

O Factoid: In the UK, textile and fashion exports alone are estimated to be worth over £6.5bn
(UK Fashion and Textile Association Manifesto 2012).

“The majority of these Mimaki printers are available with a bulk ink system making it far more cost-effective than ever to both sample and produce fashion in the UK and reduce the lead times of buying abroad. By bringing wide-format printing for fashion in-house, print-service-providers reduce turnaround time and minimise their inventory by having a digital textile workflow, all of which is boosting the UK fashion industry.”

By bringing wide-format printing for fashion in-house, print-service-providers reduce turnaround time and minimise their inventory

One establishment that invested in Mimaki’s TX300P-1800 textile printer is Heriot Watt University’s School of Textiles and Design, meaning its 25 final year Design for Textiles students were able to output designs onto a range of fabrics for their degree show. Senior technician, Dr Roger Spark, says the printer is a “vital addition” to the school’s print capabilities.

Production boost

Epson’s technology is also very prominent with fashion and textiles applications and indeed textiles manufacturer Threadster recently installed two Epson Sure Color SC-F9200 dye-sublimation printers and a SC-F2000 direct-to-garment (DTG) machine. The equipment was supplied by digital transfer specialist Xpres. With the new kit, Threadster revealed it has increased its production capacity by 30 percent.

Andy Evans, founder and managing director of Threadster, is full of praise for the machine: “Epson has always been a brand we can trust and our decision to take these three printers was straightforward. We were happy with the quality of print tests.

Threadster has purchased two Epson Sure Color SC-F9200 dye-sublimation printers

“The increased print speed of the SC-F9200s had great appeal, helping us to increase our capacity, but also enabling us to keep and exceed our turnaround deadlines. As you can imagine when you are printing fabric to order and then making products from it in a single day, despatching the order between 2pm and 4pm, we have a lot to get through as early as possible in the morning to ensure there is enough time for our machinists to make everything. The faster printing has made a noticeable difference to our morning routine.

“We had seen the results of printing with the latest HDK black ink and wanted to take advantage of this. It has also provided cost savings because of the reduced ink usage.”

Environmentally-friendly printing has become highly important today and Threadster is no exception, with Evans saying: “We like knowing that our ink comes from a reputable source and is completely safe for adults, children, babies, and dogs alike.”

We like knowing that our ink comes from a reputable source and is completely safe for adults, children, babies, and dogs alike

The Sure Color SC-F2000 will expand Threadster’s cotton-based production, such as homeware and accessories like clutch bags. Threadster has already launched a brand printing t-shirt design and cotton apparel and accessories; now it is looking to use DTG for one off and small batch CMT items, including printing sewing patterns onto cotton-based cloth.

Threadster is using an Epson SC-F2000 to expand its cotton-based production, including homeware and bags

Evans adds: “Xpres has been amazing and gone above and beyond to ensure we made the right decision. It has ensured the printers and new ink set sit well within our workflow and that every print, RIP, and output unknown was tried and tested. It is incredibly open when it comes to sharing their digital printing knowledge and techniques.”

Whether you are looking for a machine to get started with or something for large-volume applications, there are certainly plenty of options to choose from, no matter where you are in the world. In the UK, developments in the printing industry, such as new ink technology resulting in more cost-effective production, are giving a boost to British fashion, while the globe is seeing more digital printing for fashion applications than ever before.

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