Interview with Vasudevan LK

Vasudevan LK
Vasudevan LK
DGM (commercial and industrial products)

Digital printing on verge of capturing bigger share in India
Epson is a global technology leader in the printing industry. With a lineup that ranges from inkjet printers and digital printing systems to 3LCD projectors, smart glasses, sensing systems and industrial robots, the company is focused on driving innovations and exceeding customer expectations in inkjet, visual communications, wearables and robotics. Vasudevan LK, DGM of commercial and industrial products, Epson India, describes the potential of DTP in India.

Tell us about the peculiarity of Epson's next generation digital textile printers.

Epson is a leader in the commercial and industrial printer markets; the professional printers from Epson combine high volume and high speed production printing. The core of Epson's printer technology is the PrecisionCore print head technology which consists of thin-film Piezo print chips which are built using MEMs manufacturing technology for high-performance printing. Using no heat, the PrecisionCore print chips enable the development of superior Epson ink formulations that can print across a variety of media ranging from posters and signage banners and other creative installations. Multi-size dot control delivers precision printing for high-volume and high-speed printing applications.

As to the ink being used, Epson UltraChrome DG Ink is a water-based pigment CMYK + white ink and Epson Ultrachrome DS Ink is a water-based dye-sublimation CMYK ink which is manufactured to deliver precise, repeatable performance and superior image quality. The inks are developed together with the printhead technology to ensure optimum compatibility for clean, uniform and accurate colours for garments with amazing finishes, as well as to prevent nozzle clog. 

Currently, Epson offers four products in digital textile printing: Epson Surecolor F6270 (44"), Epson Surecolor F7270(64"), Epson Surecolor F9330 (64") and Epson Surecolor F2000. These printers range from entry-level printing to voluminous printing. While Epson Surecolor F6270 (44"), F7270(64") and Epson Surecolor F9330 (64") are suitable for use in sports, garments, fashion, soft signages and specialty printing; Epson Surecolor F2000 (16") is suitable for direct printing garments, preferably 100 per cent cotton t-shirts, tote bags, pillow covers, etc.

Please advancements in your printing technology elaborate on the latest.

EPSON's PrecisionCore technology and the Epson UltraChrome DG Ink is the latest technology that we have brought to the national and international markets. PrecisionCore is a thin film piezo printhead technology that merges advances in materials science and MEMS fabrication with Epson's deep portfolio of inkjet technologies. With the flexibility to deliver high-speed solutions for commercial, industrial and office printing, it is capable of very high production, with very little downtime for maintenance, ensuring that production lines will always be up. The printer is also equipped with an automatic printhead cleaner which keeps the nozzles clean, ensuring minimum maintenance. 

Some of the other advancements that we have made includes the Epson UltraChrome DS Ink, continuous high-speed roll-to-roll productivity, Wasatch SoftRIP and Epson DS transfer papers.  

Epson-exclusive UltraChrome DS ink with an all-new high density black produces an extreme colour range which has an improved black density for rich blacks and better tonal transitions and grey scale. The new ink also provides fast drying times and improved ink efficiency for a low total cost of ownership. The SureColor F-Series printers are designed to be used exclusively with Epson UltraChrome DS inks and not with any other brands of cartridges or inks.

With regard to the continuous high-speed roll-to-roll productivity, the printers have a highly accurate take up reel and substrate system which delivers winding accuracy within ±2.5mm on transfer paper rolls. We have also have included Wasatch SoftRIP software which enables users to print sellable products immediately out of the box. Workflow: Wasatch SoftRIP enables users to print sellable output immediately out of the box with specialty features designed for textile printing.

Where is demand the most in Asia? Which are your biggest and upcoming markets?

The demand for dye-sublimation technology is seen mostly from sports garments and fast fashion apparel. We have identified a CAGR of 20 per cent YOY basis from FY13. We foresee the trend will continue stronger as polyester adaptability is increasing rapidly. In India, Surat is the biggest growth driver market for dye-sublimation technology , which  brings in almost 60 per cent of overall business. Besides Surat, other key markets in India are Ludhiana, Tiruppur, Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata. Besides India, we have noticed a steady increase in sales from Sri Lanka as well.

What is the size of the digital textile printing (DTP) market in Europe and globally? At what rate are both these markets growing?

The global digital textile printing market is expected to reach $2,114 million by 2023, growing at a CAGR of 17.2 per cent from 2017 to 2023. Europe is the major market for DTP inks and is anticipated to grow at a CAGR of 16.5 per cent during 2017-2023. In Asia-Pacific, rise in urbanisation, in countries such as China and India, is expected to fuel the market growth and create lucrative growth opportunities.

What is the USP of these printers/solution providers?

Epson professional printers combine high volume and high-speed production printing with quality print output along with affordability, which has helped its growth in India. The USP of the printers consists of the technology that has been implemented in the printers, i.e - PrecisionCore print head technology, Epson Ultrachrome DS Ink, etc.

What are the challenges and opportunities in the printing industry?

The textiles sector is undergoing a huge churn due to automation, digital printing and the relentless rise of e-commerce. This sector is the second largest employer (after agriculture) with over 32 million workers. Currently, in India, digital printing has a 25 per cent growth rate and is expected to continue growing at a steady pace.  There is a growing demand for printed clothing, and we have seen an increase in the use of digital textile printers. This will lead to many opportunities such as employability in this sector. One of the major challenges faced by printing industry is quality control. It is not just specialists from within the digital textile print sector citing the need for quality control, but also companies that manufacture the equipment used in this busy market. Digital textiles are not simple to make and the result can be seen only after the product is finished. Hence, their needs to be workflow maintenance else the results may vary.

Which segment in DTP is more popular-garments, home textiles, or signage?

Digital printing is on the verge of capturing a bigger share in the Indian market due to advancement of technology in this sector. In Asia-Pacific, the application of digital textile printing inks market in household segment is anticipated to grow at a CAGR of 20.7 per cent during the forecast period, according to a report by Allied Market Research. Fashion apparel is the biggest market for DTP, holding 70 per cent of overall DTP in India. The second largest growth driver would be home furnishing segment securing 10 per cent of the market. These two segments are addressed by direct-to-fabric digital textile printers. With Epson's digital textile printing, we are addressing garments and fashion apparel markets using dye-sublimation. A new age printing solution for e-commerce start-ups is the direct-to-garment printing and the demand for it is slowly catching up. We designed Epson Surecolor F2000 using the latest advancements in performance imaging, like our purpose-built Epson PrecisionCore TFP print head, along with our all-new garment ink technology - Epson UltraChrome DG - the SureColor F2000 series has set new benchmark in high-performance garment imaging.

What is the latest trend in prints? What will be the next big thing in DTP technologies?

As of now there is no specific new trend noticed in prints. But for DTP, the technical knowhow is the key factor. Hardly 1-2 per cent is converted into DTP. In order to increase DTP technologies to 20-30 per cent there is lot more to be done. Considering the market opportunity, high-speed printing plays a vital role in the growth of this particular market. So, bringing in more production machines will be the next big thing in DTP technologies. Based on production, ink pricing is also dropping significantly.

How cost-effective is DTP compared to the traditional technologies?

Digital printing has come in the forefront in the past decade as it has benefitted from a surge in popularity due to the combination of increased affordability, technical advancements, and the availability of more options than were previously possible in digital print. Hundreds of new digital print companies have opened their doors online, making commercial print solutions more readily available to everyone. With digital printing, there is a shorter turnaround time and the cost for small prints is lower. Currently, due to high ink pricing, the digital printing running cost is more than double when compared to conventional methods. The DTP market has already witnessed a 50 per cent drop in ink pricing compared to last year. With the increasing volume of printing, we can expect a further drop in the pricing. We foresee, by FY2020 digital printing would be 10-20 per cent higher than conventional printing. This will be a big turning point for many conventional players to adopt digital printing. Thus, we are not far off from creating the biggest revolution in DTP.

How will digital printing generate more employment opportunities?

The advancement and growth of the digital textile printing industry will lead to creation of new job roles which will in turn generate more employment opportunities. DTP will certainly affect employment, especially in the printer market. Post-printing process will remain the same; so there won't be loss of employment. Currently, any conventional flat-bed or rotary screen printing machines requires a minimum of 5-10 workers depending upon the machine configuration. But in case of DTP it will reduce the number to two workers. The only key challenge here would be getting trained workers for DTP.

How does your R&D team operate?

Since the debut into textile printing in 2013, Epson has been working towards developing better digital textile printers. In 2016, Epson established the Innovation Research Lab and the Printing Research Centre in Como, Italy. The Innovation Research Lab, focuses on ink technology R&D. while the Printing Research Centre, aids future development of Epson inkjet core technology dedicated to textile printing.

Is your company involved in any sustainability initiative?

We will aim to continue to drive growth in the signage, textile and label industries as these are high-growth markets. We also aim to shift to digital support in the textile industry to support the demand for short-run print jobs. We will continue to leverage our strengths in our core technologies to introduce new innovations that will help our customers to strengthen their business and lower their overall total cost of production.

How was your company's performance in the fiscal 2017-18? What are your future plans?

We are almost halfway through the fiscal year and so far, we have seen good growth. In signage products, we have doubled our growth while in CAD plotters we have seen a growth of 40 per cent.  Also, we have achieved a 15 per cent growth in the textiles market. Looking at the trends and opportunities available in this sector, we are expecting to close the fiscal year with a 20 per cent growth rate as compared to the previous year. Currently, Epson holds an 80 per cent market share in photo and proofing, 60 per cent in textile (dye-sublimation), 27 per cent in signage (eco-solvent or similar) and 9 per cent in CAD. We are expecting the signage, CAD and textile sectors to grow over the next few years. Epson is committed in addressing the market requirement in each of these categories with their futuristic products. (HO)
Published on: 09/10/2017

DISCLAIMER: All views and opinions expressed in this column are solely of the interviewee, and they do not reflect in any way the opinion of Fibre2Fashion.com.

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