Recent developments in digital fabric and textile printing have changed the landscape of the wide-format industry. Fabrics are cheaper, lighter, and "greener" and more companies are seeing the light. In an attempt to examine how fabric printing continues to expand the market, Wide-Format Imaging contacted a diverse group of wide-format print providers that are creating fabric signage. We asked them to discuss the impact of fabric graphics, recent trends, specific projects, and predict where the market will go from here.
Q: How are digital fabric graphics and textile printing changing the landscape of the wide-format industry?
Walter Bernard, Bay Area Imaging LLC—Customers for interior exhibit and event graphics often now prefer fabrics over vinyl banners because they drape much better and have a more upscale look. As for other substrates, digital printing on fabrics will replace screen-printing up to a certain extent.
Nicolas Crestin and Tammy Woods, Duo Display USA—Textile printing provides an innovative solution with many advantages: unmatched quality of image with intense colors and no curving effect; minimal time and labor and lower shipping and handling fees; quick set up and transportability; easily interchangeable graphics; non-flammable display solutions (M1); fabric is an architectural element; greener displays; durability. At Duo, we've been recommending Fabric Display for trade-show and retail since 2004. Our catalog has a section on Fabric Display Solutions.
Tony Schmitt, Optima Graphics—From our standpoint, we have seen an industry-wide switch from laminated graphics to fabric graphics. Once our customers learned the advantages and savings, they jumped at the textile graphics. Now, as with laminated graphics in the past, they are pushing the envelope of technology expectations and applications for printed fabric.
Hank Heatly, Catalyst Exhibits—Digital graphics and textile printing are changing everything about the trade show marketing industry…and the change is definitely for the better. For too long concerns about fabrication realities and logistics have ruled the day and dominated the client's budgets... in many ways the trade show business has devolved into a "cabinet" business. That's a real tragedy because it is bad for clients. And what is bad for clients is bad for us, and bad for our business. After all, we believe that the trade show business is a marketing business.
Fortunately, large-format digital graphics are changing everything: they allow for flexibility and responsiveness, while providing high-impact marketing value. They are logistically beneficial and fiscally valuable. We believe that trade show investments should be concentrated upon those things that trade show attendees experience. We encourage our clients to "concentrate on impact." Fabric graphics are high-impact solutions. They represent lightweight, easily transported and highly dramatic solutions.
We subscribe to the notion that the carbon footprint is a useful way of measuring our "green-ness." If, as the Wikipedia definition suggests, the carbon footprint is a "measure of the impact human activities have on the environment in terms of the amount of green house gasses produced, measured in units of carbon dioxide," then it must follow that it is better to ship lighter weight, large-format, fabric images from show to show than to do something heavier.
Aaron Kozar, Orbus, Inc.—I have seen a significant shift in the wide-format industry to fabric/textile and UV direct printing. All of the investments we have made in the last two years have been focused on dye-sub fabric printing and UV direct output. Additionally, new technology has allowed us to reduce finishing and production steps, which in turn allowed us to increase productivity and decrease lead times. Our Gandinnovations 3324, Aquajet allows us to print direct to fabric at 3-meter widths without having to transfer, which has been a huge time saver and has allowed us to be more productive and cost effective.