Digital Textile Printing: Sustainability & Efficiency Are Key
To wrap up the special Digital Textile Printing special event during PRINTING United's educational sessions, Debbie McKeegan, CEO, TexIntel, touched on how digital printing is revolutionizing the textile marketplace in two key areas: sustainability and speed.
Regardless of the size of a print business or the marketplaces served — apparel, home décor, signage, etc. — there is one constant, she noted: “demand will always force the marketplace to change.” McKeegan pointed out that consumers are increasingly expecting their products to be customized, if not fully personalized, and they want it yesterday. This new paradigm is nearly impossible to meet with the older, analog technologies.
“There is a huge demand for design diversity and customization,” she said. Fast fashion, in particular, where consumers see something on Instagram, purchase it immediately, and then wear it only once, is forcing the entire market to adapt. Automation is a big part of that, but every facet of the process needs to become more efficient. Then factor in the fact that today’s global population is 7 billion people, ballooning to a projected 9 billion in just five years, and they are more affluent in general, with more money to spend on “fast fashion,” creating the perfect conditions for digital printing to explode on the scene from niche player to major driving force.
“The traditional model just doesn’t work anymore,” said McKeegan. “It costs a fortune and takes a lot of time.” And brands, she said, are no longer looking to order huge numbers of SKUs, with hundreds of meters each — they want just a small selection, in small, on-demand quantities.
Digital solves many of the sustainability problems inherent in textiles production. McKeegan noted that right now, 10% of global pollution and 20% of worldwide wastewater comes from the fashion industry. Digital, she said, saved 40 billion liters of water in 2018 alone, and could save as much as 2 trillion liters if all textile production moves to digital processes.
Traditional processes result in $50 billion lost every year in clothing and textiles never sold, costs digital printing can eliminate completely. Plus, digital uses 63% less energy than traditional textile production.