Digital printed dress

In early 2020, the first post-Soviet digital textile printing plant will open in Stupino, Moscow Region – Digital Textile (DTex); the company website is counting down the days before production starts. The company will use Nassenger inkjet printers from the Japanese supplier Konica Minolta. The initiators of the project believe they are preparing a revolution in apparel manufacturing, as head of the Textile Department at Konica Minolta Business Solutions Russia Maxim Maximov told Invest Foresight at the All About Fashiontech conference at the Kalibr tech park.

From Japan to Stupino

“Russia has a very limited selection of interesting fabrics, so for the most part everyone uses the same collections. Most customers are satisfied with what they have here, but some go on shopping tours to other countries. With the opening of our plant, Russians will have a great alternative,” says DTex CEO Margarita Zybina.

The first phase of the project involves installing a Nassenger 8 printer in Stupino. It is not the flagship Konica Minolta model – Nassenger SP-1e – which prints at over 100 sq.m. per minute. Nassenger 8 runs at 380 meters per hour at maximum load. Its maximum print width is 1850 mm; it features eight-color printing, automatic misprint recovery, conveyor feed and other functions. By the time the DTex plant reaches its full capacity at the end of the year, it will have several such printers. The manufacturer will use fabrics and knitwear made of high-quality cotton and viscose stern with the addition of elastane. The digitally printed textiles will be used to make clothing.

“Digital printing is not only substantially cheaper than the traditional textile technology printing in small quantities. When the scale reaches 3K to 4K m, the price becomes commensurate. The printing speed increases while the number of operations decreases. To say nothing about the process being significantly easier, energy-efficient and environmentally friendly,” Maxim Maksimov believes.

However, DTex did not reveal the prime cost of printing and how much it plans to earn over the first year.

Rethink textile

Currently, there are over 30 printers in Russia that can do various textile printing techniques, according to the Digital Textile magazine. But we have not reached the industrial scale of digital textile printing yet unlike Europe that has major fashion houses, Japan which is Konica Minolta’s domestic market, or India and China with their growing economies. What we have so far is several small companies that produce limited quantities upon request. Solstudio Textile Design is one of them. CEO Yelena Lyalina says that their designs immediately start to trend and feature in fashion magazines. But digital textile printing can dramatically change the garment industry.

“Thanks to digital printing, collections will be launched faster. Companies will profit from advance orders and then produce the items, which is the opposite of today’s rules. Fashion brands will significantly reduce their stocks. And finally, digital printing is clean. Conventional printing is the second largest water pollutant after metal production,” claims Digital Textile Editor-in-Chief Mikhail Shpilkin.

The clothing company Inditex send 120 km of fabrics for printing for its retailer Zara. The order was completed within four days with the use of the Konica Minolta Nassenger SP-1 printing machine, and a week later, a Zara store in Tokyo sold the last dress in the collection. The analog production requires at least three weeks for coordinating and printing processes. Zara’s business model is printing a small garment collection which is then distributed to 2,000 stores and sold fast. The world’s second-largest global clothing retailer H&M has most part of its manufactured products either one-colored or having classical stencil patterns, which results in large stocks of the manufacturer’s products often accumulating in warehouses and the company incurring substantial losses at the end of each financial year.

Market to double

By 2023, the textile printing market is expected to double. As of today, traditional fabric dyeing technologies amount to over 80% of the market; such fabric has no prints. Of the remaining 20%, 94% is the fabric manufactured with the use of analog printing methods, with only 6% made with dye-sublimation printing on heat transfer paper (4%) and direct digital ink-jet printing (2%); the total amount is 2.5 bln sq.m. of printed textile.

Half of the world’s facilities that produce fabric using direct digital printing method are so far located in Europe. In the coming years, such facilities will appear in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Egypt and Russia, with their total amount to be on par with that in Europe and China.

Along with Konica Minolta, textile printing machine manufacturers also include such major producers as MS Italy и Kornit.       

By Natalia Kuznetsova

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