The Sign Connection: Soft Signage…No Longer a Hard Sell

The most successful companies find opportunities to differentiate their business and become more profitable in the midst of competition and deadlines. Textiles, fabric and soft signage allow us to stand apart from the rest and provide increased value to our customers. As the demand for soft signage increases, the widespread popularity of textile and fabric products will empower our businesses to achieve new levels of sales growth. Soft signage is no longer a hard sell as digital printing makes it easier to respond to our customers’ demands for more choices as well as offer unique solutions proactively to our customers and prospects.

Gaining a Competitive Edge

Our industry is experiencing growth in textile and fabric printing. To gain a competitive edge in this thriving market, companies can consider textiles and fabric as a cutting-edge solution for reaching customers and prospects with impressive graphics and astonishing details.

Textile prints can be placed into two general categories: clothing or wearables and soft signage. Soft signage provides signage and graphics companies new revenue streams and differentiation; soft signage allows polyester or cotton fabric to replace paper, vinyl or PVC signs. Close to 70% of all digitally printed textiles today comprise the soft signage market, and this includes fabric often found in retail spaces, trade show graphics and seasonal promotions.

Sales Growth in Textiles

According to InfoTrends, the textile industry market is estimated at $165 billion per year. Our textile manufacturers are reporting 20-30% sales increases over last year. A prime example of this growth in soft signage is feather flags, which increased sales by 20% during the recession.

A survey from the Federal of European Screen Printers Association (FESPA) points out that 29% of print service providers want to expand into textile printing and 38% of those surveyed plan to expand into interior textiles. This study is increasingly relevant since the U.S. often follows Europe closely in terms of printing trends.

The Billion Dollar Market

In a study associated with FESPA, the Printing Industry Research Association (PIRA) known as Smithers PIRA, has projected that the market for digitally printed textiles will grow to $1.3 billion by 2014. At the same time, the installation of textile digital printers will grow to 52,800 units globally by 2014. Currently, most textile printing has moved to countries with low labor rates. The emergence of digital printing means that production is expected to move back into North America and Western Europe since it is a production method that is significantly less labor intensive.

Making a Sustainable Choice

Many companies are choosing to go green. The cost of petroleum and vinyl has increased in the last few years, while competition has driven the selling price of products down. As a result, companies need to trim their costs wherever possible with eco-friendly solutions such as textiles and fabric.

Digital printing to textiles is a great example of a sustainable way to “go green” and save money at the same time. The advantages of inkjet digital printing technology are that less electricity is required and less noise is generated. The digital printing equipment requires less square footage and produces less by-products in the form of wastewater and dyes than the alternatives. It’s also important to point out that textiles are PVC free. And, textiles are lightweight, easy to transport and provide cost savings in transportation.

Lowering Costs and Increasing Productivity

Digital inkjet printing is ideal for the actual production of final prints and is replacing some silk screen presses used in textile printing. Digital inkjet printing allows more flexibility in design and production and decreases production time and money since custom silk screens are not necessary. Our businesses can increase both productivity and turnaround time and effectively lower costs with digital inkjet printing as well as generate new revenue streams.

Embracing Digital Inkjet Printing

Our businesses can embrace this fast growing segment of the textile industry, digital inkjet printing, with the help of two different inkjet technologies. The first technology allows fabric printing using a UV or latex ink based inkjet printer. Both UV and latex printers require that the fabrics be pretreated with a special coating. Digital inkjet printing uses UV and latex technology available for fabric applications and the development of newer ink formulations make it possible for printers to print on a range of textiles with more applications. This technology is a fast way to produce textiles from the customer proofing stage to the final product.

Dye sublimation is the second technology that provides digital inkjet printing to textiles and fabric. Dye sublimation does not require pre-treated textiles. While dye sublimation printing can be direct or by transfer, both methods require heat to complete the process. However, the benefit of dye sublimation is that textiles are permanently dyed and completely washable, without the risk of losing quality. Our customers benefit from the color that is dyed into the fabric and not sitting on the surface, improving the feel of the final product. The specialized print heads result in continuous tones that are comparable to photographs.

Unlimited Possibilities for Textiles

The versatility of textiles and fabric gives our customers many new possibilities with more ways to promote upcoming events, meetings and point of purchase displays. Printed images on stretchable fabric create contours and unusual shaped signage or displays. Our customers are expecting faster turnaround times and more customization. Soft signage can include table covers with logos, wall graphics, fabric banners and custom teardrop flags for trade shows and conventions. Textile soft signage is easily stored and shipped for customer ease and cost savings.

Completely machine washable, most textiles and fabric can be folded and stored in a briefcase for access on the road. Textiles and fabric are lightweight, easy to transport and quick to construct on-site. Another growth market for textiles is interior design as many designers are moving to digitally inkjet printing textiles for wall coverings, curtains and upholstery. Digital inkjet printing patterns allows for shorter runs and more customization. Textiles provide an increase in print quality and achieve the high-end look that our customers desire.

Digital printing for textiles, fabric and soft signage meets our customers’ needs for design, durability and flexibility. Our industry can expect that printers will continue to enhance textile and fabric printing, become faster, and improve on the future expectations of our customers.