Page 52 - Print 21 Magazine March-April 2019
P. 52

Fabric Printing
in textiles
Analysts say digital textile printing is set to offer serious opportunity to printers. Print21 editor Wayne Robinson visits solutions developer Kornit Digital to find out how serious.
Commercial print business owners and managers looking for additional revenue streams with sustainable margins
are beginning to take a long hard look at textile or fabric printing, and the reason is the growing availability of digital printing technology, combined with the societal drive to personalisation and on demand products.
At present less than one per cent of all textile is printed digitally, which leaves more than 99 per cent of the market open to conversion. Place these mouth watering figures in front of any savvy business person and watch the eyes glaze over with possibilities, especially when combined with the literally billions of pieces of printed fabrics that are produced each year.
Textile digital printing can be broken into four main areas: t-shirts, home décor, soft signage, and garments, or apparel. You can buy digital t-shirt printers for less than
$10,000, but the serious money is in the high performance systems which offer productivity and colour fidelity. This is where Kornit Digital can be found, as well as in the home décor and promotional products areas.
The economics of digital t-shirt printing vary, but as a rule of thumb a printer should be paying $3 for the t-shirt, printing may cost another $3, for an item that can be sold for anywhere between $20-$40.
From a standing start in 2003 Kornit Digital is now selling $150m worth of hardware and inks a year, a figure it expects to double in the next three years, and reach $500m in five years’ time.
The Israeli-based company is currently building a new $62m ink manufacturing centre, and is in the middle of a new technology launch programme . This has seen a new version of its best selling Avalanche, an entirely new printer with more than double the productivity in
the Atlas, and this month the first polyester printer, the Poly Pro.
Firing ink droplets through printheads onto fabric at high speed is no mean feat, at least not if you want to print to any sort of standard. There are major issues with ink migration, adhesion, washing and wear that have to be addressed. Traditionally screen printing has been used, but this is expensive, for short runs especially. Digital inkjet by contrast, like all digital printing, is the same cost unit cost for one
or 100 or 1000. And with the trend everywhere for short-run on-demand digital textile printing is a great untapped well of possibility.
Kornit Digital listed on the Nasdaq in 2015, and has just raised more capital to invest in developing its business, partly in the technology and
“I think textile printing for commerical printers now is in the same position as cutsheet digital was 20 years ago, and wide format inkjet was ten years ago.”
– Andy Yarrow, president Asia Pacific, Kornit Digital
52  Print21 MARCH/APRIL 2019
Kornit launching swag of new solutions for direct-to-textile, including polyester
The Storm was the first Kornit digital printer, and today it is in its fourth generation, and still the model that most printers install when they are looking to get into the market. ANZ country manager at Kornit Jamie Weller says, “You only need to be printing around 30 t-shirts a day to make it pay within 18 months.”
Like all Kornit systems Storm has two pallets where the t-shirts are loaded onto for printing, enabling non-stop printing - one is loading while one is printing.
The big differentiator for Kornit from other solutions is in the pretreatment of the item. All fabrics need some
kind of pretreatment, to stop the ink from migrating along the fibres of the textile and giving a visually blurred or
muddy image. The common route for pretreatment is prior to loading the item into the printer, but Kornit’s printers
are all in one, so the garment is loaded, pretreated and printed in one pass, with obvious time, labour and therefore money saving benefits. The patented solutions also prints wet on wet, again while other systems have to wait for the pretreat to dry Kornit does not, the ink goes straight onto the pretreat, with drying taking place post printing in the offline dryer.
Weller says, “One of the benefits of the Kornit solution is that the image has a brilliant impact, the ink stands out, as
it is not flattened by a heat press. This is one of the Kornit patents. Heat presses flatten the textile, and the image. Kornit
images can look and feel like embroidery if required, the hand feel is outstanding.”
Building on the Storm the company released the new Avalanche, and the fourth generation of this printer came late last year, with higher productivity thanks to a dual bridge printing system which separates the white and the colours, for more continuous printing in parallel production. Like all Kornit systems it uses Fuji print heads, with the latest Avalanche firing 35 picolitre drops, a significant change from the 80 pl drops in the previous system.
In January this year Kornit launched Atlas, which Weller says came as the result of customer feedback. It is a high performance printer printing 160 A3

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