Textile Solution Centre

Textile digital printing enters a new era

Textile Solution Centre

The Textile Solution Centre, with a surface area of 3000 sqm spread over two floors, combines the entire industrial textile production cycle. It has set its sights firmly on becoming the leading centre for digital printing research and experimentation.

The textile market: An overview

Textile printing is capable of generating significant volumes of sqm in relation to textile production on an international scale. According to current data, this is equivalent to 29.5 billion sqm of fabrics printed every year. China produces 29% of total volume; EMEA (Europe, the Middle East and Africa) 23%; India 18%; the rest of Asia 17%; America 13%.

The market is predicted to grow to 32.5 billion sqm in 2017 - an annual increase of 2.5%.

Digital printing on fabric has steadily gained importance since the 2000s, reaching 420 million sqm in 2013. Growing at an annual rate of 25% this is predicted to be over one billion sqm in 2017.

Roll-to-roll printing (mainly used for clothing, accessories and home furnishing) represents around 168 million sqm today, and is predicted to reach 360 million sqm in 2017, due to total growth of 114%. The remaining 252 million sqm have been generated from the digital printing of signage and sporting apparel; traditionally produced using sublimation printing.

The Como Silk District (North Italy)

In the Como district in North Italy, famous all over the world for extremely high-quality printing on silk (for all the major high-fashion brands), the upgrade to digital printing has already been realised. Textile digital printing has grown from 2% of total production in 2003 to 58% in 2013 and is predicted to reach 81% in 2017. This means that 8 sqm out of 10 sqm of fabrics will be digitally printed.

Spurred on by the need to stem the production-drain to the Far East and conscious of the need to focus on creativity, the Como district took the initiative to invest in cutting-edge digital printing technologies and now uses a large number of digital printing systems.

The main advantages of digital printing over traditional printing

Digital printing on fabric is becoming ever-more competitive compared to traditional printing – such as silk-screen printing – thanks to a series of advantages:

  • Reducing time to market, creating the possibility of bringing back production to Europe from the Far East;
  • Allowing small, very high-quality production (an infinite number of colours and details) - ideal for high-fashion work;
  • Lowering costs of production;
  • Reducing environmental damage: inkjet technology delivers a saving of more than 75% in terms of water use and more than 40% in terms of electricity use, compared to traditional printing;
  • It is the base of new business models requested by the prêt-à-porter market, where collections no longer follows the seasons, but evolves continuously.
Textile Solution Centre: the first global focus-point for the promotion of textile digital printing

It is the world’s only centre and was strived for and created by Epson, the global leader in printing technologies, and For.Tex, a company that has been active in the Como textile district for more than 30 years. With a global investment of euros 2 million, the Textile Solution Centre (TSC) is aiming to become the leading player in research, training, promotion and development to benefit those who already work in digital printing and those who want to digitally print on fabric.

“To compete on a global level”, said Pietro Roncoroni, president of For.Tex (in which Epson holds a 50% share), “just having the best technological equipment available is not enough. We must continuously perform research and development, helping clients to tackle the challenges set by new fabrics or processes and, in parallel, train new recruits - from stylists to machine operators. This is why we decided to create the Textile Solution Centre, first for Europe, to be followed by other countries around the world.”

“Epson has a long-term vision,” said Daniela Guerci, CEO of Epson Italia. “As leaders in digital printing on fabric, we have to create the right conditions until this technology consolidates itself and grows, not just in Como. This is why we decided to invest in the Textile Solution Centre as a cutting-edge hub for research and training on digital printing on fabric. Through innovation and skills we will create real growth”.

A cutting-edge centre in Como, with Epson’s most advanced technologies

The Textile Solution Centre offers something completely unique to the industry: it reproduces the industrial digital printing on fabric production process fully, from pre-treatment to printing, right up to the post-treatment phase with drying and finishing. At the core of the process is the digital printing area, including the latest generation Monna Lisa – the industrial printer developed and produced by the Robustelli brothers in Villa Guardia (Como) and based on the Epson inkjet technology that has revolutionised the high-quality fabric market. Also present is the Epson SurePress FP-30160, the first direct to fabric printer entirely designed and built by Epson. This latest model, designed for sampling and short runs, is designed to complement the Monna Lisa.

Together, the two printers create a complete production system, which offers significant advantages:

  • Companies that print fabrics can move easily from sampling to large-scale production;
  • Young stylists can produce small samples at an affordable cost;
  • Fashion houses and style departments can meet the market’s demand, which is ever-less seasonal and ever-more orientated to multiple collections, and reducing time-to-market.

The digital printing area also includes the Epson SureColor SC-F series: sublimation inkjet printers up to 64-inch wide, used to customise promotional material, clothing or signage via heat transfer onto polyester fabrics; and the Epson SureColor SC-S series: inkjet 64-inch printers for imaging on special materials, including vinyl and canvas for signage and internal/external advertising.

A Japanese stylist chooses Epson inkjet technology for his creations

Kansai Yamamoto, one of the leading contemporary Japanese stylists, is known for his striking kimonos, which have partly gained their popularity due to a very special fan: David Bowie. Yamamoto’s unique creations helped create Bowie’s androgynous look during his Ziggy Stardust tour.

But the Yamamoto name is also connected with Epson, whose inkjet technology has allowed the renowned Japanese stylist to print around 30 of his creations using modern digital textile printers for a total of more than 1000 sqm of cotton, polyester and silk. The creations, made with Epson printers, were recently exhibited, together with other creations belonging to Yamamoto’s forty-year career, at the “Fashion in Motion: Kansai Yamamoto” event, which took place at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

The artist’s creations were printed on silk, cotton and polyester with special Genesta inks and the Monna Lisa printing system.

“I managed to tackle this challenge thanks to Epson’s passion for innovative technology”, said Yamamoto. “I’m convinced that the passion that Epson and I share for the creation of marvellous pieces will be shared all around the world.”