Digital is the way ahead

Digital is the way ahead

The digital textile printing market is estimated to be worth $8.8 billion by 2027.

The digital textile printing market is estimated to be worth $8.8 billion by 2027. Quicker turnaround
time and increasing demand for customisation, especially in the clothing and home décor industries
are fuelling the development of digital textile printing market globally.

Textile printing is a mature market but digital
printing is yet to thrive. The market share of
digitally printed textiles might be near to the
ground when compared to conventional
printing, but the market for the former is growing
exponentially. The production of printed textiles is
expected to reach 36.8 billion square metres by 2024
and digital textile printing (DTP) is estimated to control
about 5 to 10 per cent of the textile printing market.

The global digital textile printing market was worth
$2.2 billion in 2019 and is expected to touch close to
$8.8 billion in 2027, with a CAGR of 19.1 per cent from
2020 to 2027 as per Allied Markets research. Smithers
Pira estimates digitally printed textiles occupy a share
of 5 to 6 per cent of all textile printing worldwide and
projects a growth of 13.2 per cent in the coming few

Globally, Europe dominates the DTP market owing
to technological advancements in this niche and
increasing use of digital printing for advertising,
packaging, and clothing especially in the UK, Italy and
Germany. The Asia Pacific DTP market is expected to
grow significantly and as per the report exhibits a CAGR
of 20.7 per cent during 2020-2027. This growth is
accounted to increasing number of local players in
economies like India and China.

Niche segments within DTP

The DTP market is segmented into niche pockets
based on its application, ink type, substrate and
printing process. On the basis of ink type, sublimation
occupies the larger share in the global DTP market due
to its varied applications which range from clothing to
signages. This is followed by reactive, acid, direct
disperse and pigment inks. With more speed wideformat
and grand-format roll-to-roll (R2R) inkjet
systems venturing into commercial print production,
hybrid direct and sublimation inks are becoming
popular options. Reactive inks are a preferred choice
for natural fabrics such as cotton and offer a wider
colour palette. Aqueous pigment inks offer similar
possibilities while being environmentally friendly.

Substrate-wise cotton occupied the highest share in
2019, followed by polyester. Silk is gaining increasing
interest in DTP too and is expected to be a lucrative
segment as per Allied Markets report. Fabric or
substrate handling is an indispensable part of digital
textile printing process.

When it comes to application of digital printing in
textiles, soft signages occupy the largest share of the
pie. Soft signages refer to large scale display graphics
printed on textile materials. This category includes
products like banners, flags, backdrops, parasols,
point-of-sale/point-of-purchase displays, indoor wall
graphics and outdoor advertising. According to a
Smithers Pira study further growth is predicted in this
niche with availability of UV- resistant inks for outdoor
advertising applications such as flags and banner
Second in terms of applications is the apparel sector.

Fast fashion especially swimwear, haute couture, and
sportswear and growing demand for customisation in
the clothing industry are speculated to drive the digital
printing market. Clothing accounted for three quarters
of value in the market in 2018 – €2.13 billion and is
expected to maintain this position till 2023.
Smarth Bansal, DGM – Product
& Brand, ColorJet India,
“The most growth in market can be
seen in the garmenting segment as
the fashion industry is never going
to fade and with the advent of fast
fashion the industry has got an
impetus. Home textiles, signages
are also growing segments but it is the garment
industry which is taking the major chunk of the pie in

Abhishek Pachauri, Director,
Reckon India,
in agreement said,
“Garment industry is growing pretty
quickly within DTP. Some good
exporters have also invested in their
own set up by doing backward
integration which helps keep their
designs more secure and they can be innovative, so in
terms of top trends in DTP are exporters investing with
their own set up.”

The use of digital printing in home textiles like bed
linens, carpets, and curtains is witnessing strong
growth. Many home décor and interior design
companies have started providing options to customise
items like upholstery and mock-up products. This is one
of the fastest growing segments application-wise. On
the other hand, technical textiles, is one of the slowest
growing in DTP applications. Meditech, autotech and
protech are some segments where DTP is used.

Digital versus traditional

The world today demands faster and accurate
results from the textile industry. This is especially true
in the fashion and apparel industry. Digital textile
printing can shorten lead times and quicken
turnarounds. Sampling also becomes faster and a less
expensive affair when compared to screen printing,
where a new rotary screen in needed for every
adjustment. The biggest advantage of digital printing is
reduction in fixed cost since there is no screen
engraving and colour separation required.

Pachauri said, “The key reasons influencing the DTP
market are better printing quality and sharpness,
secondly quicker output, better turnaround time,
smaller batch size output, easy usability, and low space
utilisation.”Clothing retailers and fashion brands invest in 15-20
new designs every season. DTP can provide them a
wide range of options in terms of design and reduce the
risk of unsold products. DTP allows designers and
brands to maintain exclusivity in terms of their designs
since there is no restriction in printing volumes; it can
be done on a one-metre cloth or on a large roll too.

Bansal, said, “There are a lot of pivotal drivers
influencing the DTP market. Digitalisation, innovation
and sustainability are going to be the key drivers to
helping the textile and fashion industry grow. As short
runs will be more popular going forward, this will give
to the rise of fast fashion with designs and fashion
changing every fortnightly.”DTP also opens a gamut of colour and design
possibilities, which may be restricted in conventional
printing. Computerised alterations also lead to
increased flexibility and accurate geometry in textile
printing. Enhanced design aesthetics and higher
resolutions are also key reasons why digital printing is
making inroads in textiles. DTP can be done on cotton,
silk, polyester and other materials. But a grave aspect
which makes DTP a truly better alternative as opposed
to traditional printing is sustainability. There is no
disposal of excessive dyes and chemicals, unlike rotary
screen printing, which translates to less wastage and
lesser harm to the environment. Since DTP doesn’t
employ washing treatments to apply new colours, the
water footprint of the process is low. DTP as a
technology provides a shift from printing in larger
production units to smaller industries which focus on
specialty printing applications.Stressing on sustainability, Bansal commented,” as
the awareness of sustainability is increasing, DTP is
being seen as the best option as it is a more sustainable
printing solution than the other traditional methods.”

Rise of direct-to-garment printing

Between direct-to-fabric (DTF) and direct-togarment
(DTG), the market for the latter is flourishing.
As per Key Point Intelligence, DTG printed apparels
account to 9 per cent of the t-shirt printed market
globally. North America remains a dominant market in
terms of DTG print volume and retail value. A research
by Future Insights the DTG printing industry was worth
$1.76 billion in 2018 and is pegged to increase to $2.31
billion by 2023.

The pre-dominant factor driving the DTG printing
industry is mass-customisation. Graphic printed
clothing is on the rise among the younger generation.
DTG helps suppliers reduce wastage, minimise
inventory and quicker turnover time ensuring a
smoother supply chain, key to efficient apparel
manufacturing. With fashion becoming more
individualistic and stronger self-expression needs of
consumers, personalisation is a growing industry trend.

On-demand and small-batch printing can be facilitated
by DTG.The growing demand for sustainable printing and
the increasing pressure upon apparel manufacturers to
reduce their environmental impact is making DTG a
more lucrative choice. Sublimation inks are the most
widely used in DTG printing. Due to advantages like
colourfastness, damage-resistance, non-solubility and
presence of zero harmful substances, sublimation inks
occupy a large market share.

The improved margins, robust demand, and designto-
order possibilities ensure that DTG printing will fuel
the transition to digital in the days to come.

India’s DTP market – slow but steady

The Asia-Pacific market is expected to grow at a
CAGR of 9.5 per cent from 2019 to 2025. This figureaccounts to the growing consumption of printed
clothing in countries like India, China, Thailand,
Indonesia and Japan. The adoption of digital fabric
printing is expected to rise in China and India, owing to
increasing sales volumes of apparels sold through
e-commerce portals.

Majority of digital textile printing is done on
polyester fabrics using sublimation dyeing. India began
to see a growth in sublimation digital printing post
2010. Sports events like IPL gave the sublimation dye
printing on polyester and DTP in sportswear an
impetus. DTP made inroads in the Indian market due to
easy printability and low cost of sublimation dyeing.

However, cotton and other blends are building slowly
with growth of reactive printing. Although it is hard to find statistics to quote a
number as to India’s digital printing market, the digital
applications in textiles are growing. There is a change
from inkjet printing being used for prototyping and
one-offs to adoption of DTP for customisation and
production efficiency being witnessed in India. Pachauri
said, “DTP has just begun in the Indian market and it
has not yet spread its wings completely. There has been
a tremendous growth in DTP in the last five years and
the exponential is yet to arrive and the various
applications of DTP in reference to textile itself are yet
to arrive.”

Bansal said,” The DTP market is growing

exponentially in India and the sub-continent. It is still at
a nascent stage where the market share of digital
printing being only around 10 per cent whereas the rest
of pie being occupied by the traditional printing
method majorly screen printing. The DTP market in the
last 5 years has grown at a rate of 15-20 per cent and is
expected to grow further at a CAGR of 20 per cent for
the next 5 years as well.Sighting reasons for this shift in the Indian market,
Pachauri commented, “Space constraint, better
turnaround time, smaller batch size, better print
quality, less dependency on manpower, better
consistency on print are few of the factors which areturning the tables towards digital printing from
conventional printing. It will still take a little more time
but will surely happen.”

Digital printing is an obvious choice for print service
providers in segments like garment decoration where
margins are good and demand is robust. At the same
time, however, digital printing on textiles requires a
fundamental understanding of supply chain business
practices and production processes. Understanding the
unique standards within this segment (e.g., crock,
wash-fastness) is critical to success. There are many
solutions that can enable print service providers to expand
their opportunities, but it is important to establish a
realistic business case before jumping into any new market
sector. Opportunities abound for businesses that can
effectively integrate design-to-order capabilities with
increased colour complexity, and the rising demand for
mass customisation will continue to fuel the transition
to digital.

When it comes to digital printing, there are different
solutions available for different applications. The versatility
of digital printing supersedes conventional printing leading
to better business opportunities. Digital printing makes it
possible to have faster lead times, mass personalisation
and unlimited designs, all of which are necessary to stay
competitive in the global textile and apparel market.

Bansal insisted that, “DTP is going to be the next go to
option in the textile printing industry. With the
introduction of single pass machine, the production speed
of the DTP machines is increasing day by day and hence
the urge to shift to digital is increasing.”

“The pandemic has shown people a different view of
the world where people want to work more virtually
through digital mediums and would not want to stay
together in large numbers in one place. With the
traditional printing methods being labour intensive and
requirement of huge space setup, people will turn to more
digital printing methods as it requires a lot less labour as
well as space and can be controlled more easily and
remotely. Also, the pandemic has forced the people to
think more about short runs. As traditional methods
requires bulk printing/manufacturing, the amount of
wastage is also more. With digital technology it is possible
to print short runs which in turn leads to less wastage and
is the need of the hour,” he further added emphasising on
why digital is the way ahead.


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