There can be no better example of the possibilities of digital printing on large-scale designs than the Milan Expo that is currently drawing huge crowds to the city.
Under the theme of ‘Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life’, Milan Expo features the pavilions of 145 countries, many of them enlivened by detailed graphic designs that have only been made possible by digital printing.
It also provides a foretaste of the internationalism that will be much in evidence at ITMA 2015.
Fittingly, on June 26th, ACIMIT – the trade association representing Italy’s manufacturers of textile machinery which celebrates its 70th anniversary this year – organised a visit to the Milan Expo for international textile journalists.
This was followed by a press conference at the Villa Erba on Lake Como to outline Italy’s success on the global market and provide details of the innovations that are under development and will be highlighted at ITMA 2015.
ACIMIT president Raffaella Carabelli said that Italian textile machinery sales in 2014 were €2.3 billion, with exports accounting for around €1.94 million. Exports to Asia amounted to 41% in 2014 and those to Europe 40% (with a further 16% sold within Italy itself).
“As far as ITMA 2015 is concerned, around 30 per cent of the total exhibition space at this year’s show will be taken up by Italian machinery manufacturers, with 430 companies occupying 31,000 square metres of space,” she said. “This is an increase of over fifty per cent compared to the last ITMA in Barcelona.”
The textile machinery sector, she added, is moving towards more competitive production processes, where reduced production costs, through savings in the consumption of water, energy and raw materials, are combined with greater attention to environmental issues.”
Industry consultant Giovanni Sommariva spoke at the event of the tremendous advantages that have been made in the dyeing of fabrics, in terms of reducing water, energy and dyestuffs consumption, and also of the significance of inkjet digital printing.
“Inkjet printing has been driven by Italian technology and provides just in time production, low energy consumption, waste reduction and easy operation,” he said.
It has also called for new developments in the machines for steaming, washing and drying.
“Digital printing is among the key technologies that has been responsible for a revolution in making the most up-to-the-minute Italian fashions available to the world,” Sommariva said. “The full textile production chain has been totally modified to provide flexibility and just in time supply, including RFID and bar-code tracking, inspection and packaging systems for complete traceability. In addition, Italian technologists continue to develop new after treatments for garments, by laser, robotised brushing, enzyme, ozone and bleaching.”
Robustelli is acknowledged as the forerunner in the Italian textile digital printing machinery field, with the introduction of the first Monna Lisa machine fifteen years ago.
At the ACIMIT event, Valerio Robustelli said that the latest model, the Monna Lisa 48T, will be unveiled at ITMA 2015. It is characterised by 48 of the company’s new type T2 printing heads in a geometrical lay-out that allows new modes and print resolutions to be achieved, along with a significant increase in production.
A Como printing company has already installed the first Monna Lisa 48T, where it joins 15 earlier models.
“Our company was the first in Italy to produce a digital textile printer and via continuous development with our customers, Monna Lisa technology is being used by 85 per cent of the printing companies serving the high fashion brands in Italy,” said Robustelli. “Digital printing has brought a radical change to the entire textile industry here. In addition to the economic advantages, it has allowed a considerable increase in printing quality and at the same time, greatly reduced processing time. The opportunity to obtain any shade and any number of colours provides the high fashion sector with a unique instrument with no limits to the creativity of designers and stylists.”
This is no longer confined to Italy, however.
“The Monna Lisa is now present in many markets where the target is no longer quantity but quality, including Turkey, South Korea, Japan, Vietnam, and India,” Robustelli said. “At ITMA 2015 we will see digital printers with very high speeds that will allow them to compete with traditional rotary printing, along with printers with more contained speeds, offering superior printing quality and aimed at the market of high fashion.
Since it entered the market for digital textile print in 2010, Durst, headquartered in Brixen close to Italy’s border with Austria, has already installed 130 systems.
The latest developments to the company’s Kappa Series of digital direct printer systems will be unveiled at ITMA 2015, along with the Rhotex Series for soft-signage applications.
“Our customers aren’t just classical producers of textiles – producers of large format and of advertising media also use our systems to produce banners, displays, wall decoration, signage, flags or backdrops,” says CEO Christoph Gamper. “Our latest Rhotex 180 TR is enabling us to expand our range of potential customers by providing uncomplicated access to digital textile production. Transfer printing does not require a profound knowledge of pre- and post-treatment of the textile fabric and no further investments such as a washing installation. Printing on paper and the subsequent transfer process using a calender minimise the production effort and therefore enable companies from other industries to enter into textile production. The trend towards individualization of consumers, the growing number of textile solutions for POS, as well as web-to-print and print-on-demand requirements, all provide new market opportunities.”
Less than a week after ACIMIT’s press conference it was announced that Electronics For Imaging (EFI), based in Fremont, California, had established a leading presence in the inkjet textile printing market with the strategic acquisition of Reggiani Macchine, based in Bergamo, in a deal worth around €125 million.
Reggiani has an extensive line-up of industrial inkjet printers employing water-based inks for printing on fabric which will be rebranded as EFI Reggiani – although whether in time for ITMA 2015 remains in question.
Addressing the full scope of advanced textile printing, Regianni’s versatile printers are suitable for water-based dispersed, acid, pigment and reactive dye printing inks.
“This acquisition gives EFI an immediate leadership position in one of the world’s largest industries undergoing the transformation from analog printing to digital,” said EFI CEO Guy Gecht. “The textile printing market is just beginning that transition, which will enable manufacturers to shift from long-run to on-demand manufacturing, responding to the increasing demands for short runs and customisation.”
“Reggiani’s customers recognise that inkjet is the most important technology of the future of the textile industry,” added Ambrogio Caccia Dominioni, who will be managing director of the new EFI Reggiani. “But I wanted our company to be part of EFI not just because we will be joining a world-leading industrial inkjet technology company, but also because EFI is a leader in print industry workflow solutions and has a much larger sales and marketing platform around the world.
“Together, EFI Reggiani can further extend its position as a global leader in digital inkjet textile printing technology with products that accelerate the analog-to-digital transformation – all of which is vital to the future profitability of our customers.”
Another Italian ITMA 2015 digital printing technology pioneer is MS Printing Solutions, which last year was acquired by the $7.8 billion Dover Corporation.
With the introduction of single pass machines, digital printing is becoming capable of operating at speeds faster than rotary printers and MS, based in Caronno Pertusella near Milan, has been the very first to introduce one of these machines, the Lario, with a high resolution speed of 35 linear metres per minute and an overall maximum speed of 75 linear metres per minute.
China’s Shandong Ruyi Group was the first company to take delivery of a Lario system at the end of 2014.
SPGPrints of the Netherlands has also announced that it will launch its own single pass system at ITMA in 2015 and digital print technology innovations can also be expected from other exhibitors, including Roland DG and Konica Minolta of Japan and M&R Companies in the USA.
Without a doubt, there will be an even greater spotlight on the transformational potential of digital printing technology at this year’s ITMA than at previous editions.