By Tim Greene
In recent InfoTrends research, we have found growing demand for the applications and the characteristics of dye-sub inkjet printing. The leading applications for wide-format digitally printed textiles include banners and soft signage. Wide-format printing companies continue to report high levels of interest in new market opportunities in general and in textile printing in particular, and buyers want printers to use more recyclable print media, such as the polyester usually required for dye-sub inkjet printing. Another aspect of our research indicates that wide-format printing companies are increasingly finding themselves price-shopped, so it is imperative that print service providers achieve the lowest possible cost while maintaining high levels of quality.
Stork Prints, a leader in the rotary screen press market, has been an innovator in textile printing for many years, and it has recently launched a line of dye-sublimation inks for digital printing. A Stork representative told me that the company has seen more than 100-percent growth in the dye-sublimation market since the launch of these inks, which has been accomplished primarily because of the ink’s strong color performance.
Stork has seen strong acceptance in the Italian market—a proving ground for digital textile printing technologies. In the United States, Stork signed Aurora Specialty Textiles Group as an exclusive distributor of these sublimation inks.
Dye-sub printing has its limitations, including the equipment that is required, such as heat presses and wind/rewind systems. This kind of equipment is not typically found in many wide-format graphics shops as many shops don’t do enough textile printing to justify the investment. However, the development of single-pass wide-format dye-sublimation systems has somewhat lowered the initial investment threshold.
New hardware solutions lower the cost of entry point for dye-sub printing. An example is the $9,000 Mutoh RJ-series printer, a CAD printer often sold as a low-end dye-sub solution by systems integrator Graphics One.
Looking ahead at the industry, we’ve got new printing equipment hitting the market that should increase the number of sites running wide-format digital dye-sub printers to meet the demands of the growing soft-signage market; we’ve got increasing buyer demand for the characteristics that dye-sub output offers; and we’ve got improved quality and competitive pricing of new inks—a combination that’s good for the industry.