Interview with Marc Van Parys

Face2Face
Marc Van Parys
Marc Van Parys
President
Unitex
Unitex

What is focus of the 5th International digital textile congress to be held in September 2018?

The event will feature everything about the state-of-the-art, developments, innovations, applications and future prospects concerning digital technologies for the textile and garment industries. The main theme of the congress is- digital plug-in for the textile factory of the future. Participation in the congress offers visitors the opportunity to keep abreast of the latest developments in digital product and process technologies and to meet experts from these fields of research and from suppliers. The congress focuses on following core topic areas:
  • Digital printing/finishing, fabrication principles and processes;
  • Developments in digital inks, new business strategies. ware, software and pre and post treatments of textiles;
  • Functional inks (electronic, OLED, hydrophobic);
  • Lab2Fab;
  • 3D printing;
  • Digital workflows - applications;
  • Designing, fashion;
  • New business models, e-commerce.
During the congress, a lot of exhibitors will demonstrate their new developments, products and applications. More information on the congress website - digitaltextilecongress2018.be


What will the digital textiles of the future be like? Can you cite a few examples?

Digital technologies are still a niche, but the gap with conventional printing is closing fast. Speed or widths are today not an issue anymore.  Printer manufacturers offer a broad range of digital printers (direct or indirect) going from low (10-20 sqm/h) to high speed, industrial production even up to more than 4.000 sqm/h in different widths up to 5m. But also, digital printers are available for narrow fabrics and even yarns. It is estimated that more than 37.000 digital printers are in operation worldwide, 2.300 new printers were installed in the 1st half of 2017. 

According to WTIN, the top five countries investing in digital printers are China, India, Turkey, Italy and the US. About 4 per cent of the textile printed textile is digital, the global output is over 1.7 billion m2 and this figure is increasingly substantial for replacing/increasing capacity and/or for new businesses. Main applications are signage (communication textile), followed by (fast) fashion, (fast) home textile and carpets. Upcoming sector is technical textile where the demand for digital printed textile is growing steadily. 

Digital technologies mean rethinking marketing and strategies requiring new operating models. Digital technologies mean flexibility, reduced set-up costs, fast delivery of orders and changes in business models (a game changer) ('less of more' instead of 'more of less'), allowing mass customisation and responding to the need of personal expression. Today, we notice the start up of a number of small enterprises dealing with digital technologies and starting e-commerce business.

Which major technologies will act like game changers in the field of digital textiles?

This boost is mainly coming from the many continuous developments in piezo-print heads but also the broad range of waterborne inkjet inks (reactive, acid, disperse, pigment) with improved printing performance (consistency, problem free and higher quality) contributes largely to the actual and future success of digital printing. The selection of the inkjet inks is dictated by the textile material and the end-use (desired properties). Although the usage of pigment inks is still low, we notice the increasing interest for pigment inks for indoor and outdoor textiles because of the excellent light fastness properties (important in case of interior and outdoor textile), possibility to print fibre blends, ease of post-treatments (limited to thermal curing), lower investment costs (no steamer, no washing units) and as a consequence savings in water and related energy consumption. 

Recently, Dystar in collaboration with machine manufacturer Zimmer introduced a new class of inkjet inks namely vat inks for cellulosic substrates. Although the more complicated printing and post-treatment processes, higher are the costs and consumption. This new class could find application in the contract market for home textiles, technical textiles, uniforms and workwear and camouflage prints. Further evolution is expected in the developments of (100 per cent and especially waterborne) UV/LED curing inkjet inks for a broad range of textile supports even coloured materials (availability of white inks). Metallic inks are still a future-oriented development.

On the level of printers, we notice the introduction of double-side printers offering the possibility to print the same or different designs on both sides of the fabric (interesting for home and outdoor textile). In the near future, we can expect robot-assisted inkjet printing on to textiles or attributes (such as shoes, belts or even garments). New print heads allowing the jetting of more ink volume and inks with higher viscosity will enable us to apply digital technologies for finishing (uniform, localised/patterned) and dyeing. Printers equipped with two sets of print heads-one for digital printing, the other for finishing) are future development projects. (HO)

Published on: 15/05/2018

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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