Sign & Digital Graphics

November '12

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Printed textiles represents a $165 billion market, and demand is increasing for custom and personalized fabric design. Q: What are the practical challenges of entering each market? A: Many of the challenges for enter- ing these markets are similar. As textile printing is still very much a craft, cer- tain aspects need to be considered before jumping headfirst into this market space. For example, when fabric is sublimated to, there will be some amount of fabric shrinkage due to the high temperatures in the sublimation process. It is impor- tant to recognize this before printing graphics so sizing can be appropriately adjusted in the RIP software. It is also important to note that the different char- acteristics of the many fabric options on the market need to be considered. For example the many variations of knits and weaves may have different stretch attributes to them, as well as shrinkage rates. Part of the craft is mastering your materials and equipment so that you can go into true production. Specific markets have their own chal- lenges that providers need to be aware of as well. If for example, if a company is planning to get into the tension or stretch fabrics segment of textile printing, it is important to realize that there are many other things to contend with beyond the print. Many of the structures and graph- ics in this market space are three dimen- sional by nature. A provider may need to source fabrication for the graphic frames (if they are not already doing fabrication in-house). Additionally, graphics need to be designed and printed with the three dimensional aspect in mind. This may require having someone with CAD expe- rience on hand to ensure graphics are set up properly for this sort of application. In all cases, it is important for the print service provider (PSP) to under- stand all of the aspects of the process— from prepress to production to finishing —to ensure a solid product. Q: What are the driving forces for digital textile growth? A: Profitability and demand for a bet- ter end product are key drivers as digi- tal imagery and printer output quality continue to improve. Fabric has a high perceived value which is opening many doors into a higher-end clientele and enabling printing businesses to increase their margins and market share. Transportation, handling, drayage and overall fabric management are less costly as well. In many conventional sig- nage markets, the cost of shipping and drayage can far exceed the cost of the original graphics. Textile printing has seen growth in Europe for many years. We are only starting to feel the upswing in demand and know-how here in the U.S. As men- tioned before, this is not yet a commod- ity, so margins remain high. The wide- format industry in particular is on the leading edge of textile printing—with faster machines, improved ink technolo- gies, printhead development, high pro- ductivity and quality output. Q: When does it make sense to move from outsourcing to in-house dye-sub production? A: This is really an individual business decision based on market demand, inter- nal talent, growth goals and competition. However, the more expertise PSPs can develop in the applications and services they offer, the more successful they will be. This is a way to differentiate their business and remain competitive. If a PSP is currently outsourcing as a start point for their sales and market- ing efforts, it is a good rule of thumb to say that when your monthly equipment lease rate is close to or more than what you're outsourcing, it is time to bring it in-house. This model may help explain how to approach the decision. Buying New Equipment? Contact Global Imaging. Leading U.S. Distributor for Wide Format Equipment, Supplies and Technical Services. 800.787.9801 Our Brands • Everything You Need for Wide and Grand Format Success Use INFO # 161 SIGN & DIGITAL GRAPHICS • November 2012 • 51

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