Packaging Innovation
June 11, 2019

Sustainability & Operational Efficiency – The Cornerstones of Digitally Printed Textile Growth

Digitally printed textiles are big business and according to new figures from Packaging Testing and Market Intelligence authority Smithers Pira, the market is set to grow to €4.9bn (£4.22bn) by 2023, representing an enviable compound annual growth rate of 11.6%.

From flags and banners to digitally printed home décor, the opportunity for inkjet technology developers and printers alike becomes clear – sector growth equates to around 2.17 billion square meters of fabrics printed on inkjet machinery, reflecting an emergent and dynamic market as buyers migrate from traditional Point of Sale and signage substrates to textile variants.

The textiles sector has embraced digital technology as sustainable practice and businesses that harness and leverage this ethos stand to be the biggest beneficiaries of market growth.

Industry organizations and authorities have responded to the rapid growth of the sector in kind; FESPA Global Print Expo for example, has doubled the floorspace of its textile print area from its inaugural inclusion in 2018 to now covering an impressive 637m2. As the market expands, it’s imperative that the print supply chain expands its capabilities to match this growth or risk being left behind.

The brisk expansion of the sector can be attributed in part to a number of driving forces that have enabled change. Achieving best value from processes and substrates has optimised return on investment, particularly relevant in periods of economic uncertainty. In addition, reducing the need for reprint by minimising errors or defects is realized through more efficient workflows, generating cost savings in material overheads and expenditure.

The greater return on investment afforded by sustainable qualities and operational efficiency has helped to bolster the bottom line of the textile print industry and becomes the foundation of growth, as well as marking out the digital textile print supply chain as a great example of industries reducing waste to support profit.

What’s more, sustainably managed print has become a pivotal influence on customer demand, particularly in the wake of the global ‘Blue Planet Effect’. Given the intense scrutiny that printers now operate under, businesses within the industry look to make sustainable changes to operations where they can.

Central to this growth have been the core pillars of sustainability and operational efficiency. Textile print businesses that have been able to harness these qualities have found that they can take full advantage of the growing market and generate optimal profit. It therefore becomes critically important that digital textile printers keep a close eye on how its supply chain is managing waste reduction as well as reaching peak efficiency.


Point of Sale and marketing collateral that is demonstrably eco-friendly has become more of a requirement – when green credentials are at play, consumers vote with their wallets. They need to be assured that the supply chains they purchase from minimize waste not only in the materials but in their processes. Digital printing can lay claim to sustainability figures that traditional fabric printing methods cannot match.

Typically, digitally reproduced textile through its production requires a mere 3.5% of the electricity that its screen-printed counterpart fabric does. What’s more, conventional reactive printing uses between 50 and 60 liters of water per meter, whereas digitally produced fabric uses a fraction of that, virtually eliminating the production of wastewater and noxious effluents. As processes become more efficient, production rates increase to match rising market demand and meeting commercial opportunities.

Operational Efficiencies

Achieving greater use of resources goes hand in hand with sustainability and maximised returns. Inkjet printing already brings capability benefits with it, such as shorter lead times with ‘print-on-demand’, as well as reduced ink usage – particularly important in the face of rising global ink pricing.

Technological innovations in print have enabled heightened capacities and superior efficiency, reducing time to market and streamlining the supply chain process. Developments such as UV resistant ink sets have extended the life of soft signage products, making them a much more attractive prospect as a marketing medium. The soft signage industry in particular has embraced new web-to-print formats, with customer-facing platforms that streamline artwork production and reprographic processes.

Hardware and software advancements across the board have allowed the market to flourish with increased productivity and accuracy. Technologies have revolutionised the world of textile print, connecting people with presses, machines, and platforms that operate with leading productivity. One such innovation is the Motorized Roll Feeder (MRF), launched by Esko in 2019.

Designed to perfectly complement the Esko Kongsberg C64 digital cutting table, the technology is designed with efficiency in mind from the first cut to the end of the roll. Working in tandem with the Esko Kongsberg’s built-in software, the Motorized Roll Feeder uses advanced algorithms to eliminate inaccurate cuts on soft signage and tensile material by compensating for cutting distortion caused by wrinkles, stretch distortion or imperfectly wound rolls. The innovation also facilitates rolls up to 300kg/666lbs, with a maximum outer diameter of 470mm/18.5”. The feeder is capable of producing large jobs even when they extend beyond the work area of the cutting table.

To achieve a consistently accurate cut every time, the Motorized Roll Feeder smoothly feeds the material to the cutting table rather than pulling it, assisted by an adjustably weighted dancer bar providing the correct tension. The growing digitally printed textile market requires stable volumes of product to be readily available, satisfying the demand. The development of the Motorized Roll Feeder ensures that high volume print runs of soft signage are reliable, consistent and accurate.

By pro-actively reducing waste from inaccurate or faulty cuts, printers handling high volumes or extended print runs can achieve greater efficiencies, keeping production streamlined and optimizing productivity. This organic boost to sustainable processing ultimately allows businesses to take full advantage of the imminent growth.

As the future of digital soft signage printing looks bright, there’s never been a better time to invest in technology that meets the challenge of modern textile printing, ensuring that your business is ready to match the demands of the growing market.

For more information on the Esko Motorized Roll Feeder, follow the link.