Screen Printing - October/November 2017 - 34
Specialty imagers find, once again, that the question of analog versus digital isn't a black-and-white one. What could be the impact
on garment decoration if we leverage the best of both worlds?
Steve Duccilli, ASDPt
Courtesy of Flora (top) and MHM (bottom).
oes inkjet technology complement screen printing? Or is inkjet
destined to ultimately displace its analog cousin?
We first pondered this question in the signage and display market.
These are the applications from which screen printing itself emerged
more than a century ago, and are also where wide-format inkjet first
gained serious traction. From a traditionalist's point of view, the test
case must be considered cautionary. Inkjet eventually overtook screen
printing in segments like retail graphics and outdoor advertising, and
that's no longer an opinion, but a fact.
Inkjet developers have long had their sights on what they believe to be
bigger game in the textile industry. To this point, the results have been far
less conclusive. Most studies estimate that inkjet's share in textile printing, including garment decoration, is in the neighborhood of 4 percent
today. However, many of the same market forces that worked in inkjet's
favor in the signage and graphics industry - shrinking run sizes, growing
demand for customization, and increasing pressure on time to market,
to name just a few - are every bit as relevant in garment decoration. And
technology developers are beginning to respond with direct-to-garment
(DTG) systems designed for significantly higher throughput.
Yet, just as higher-productivity DTG units are emerging, we're also
seeing a flurry of new hybrid machines that combine inkjet and screen
printing in integrated production lines. This isn't a new idea; the first
hybrid machine, the Paradigm from Kornit, hit the market five years ago.
Yet at the FESPA 2017 exhibition in Hamburg, Germany, six hybrid lines
were shown, three of them for the first time. It's difficult to ignore so
much activity in such a short span of time.
Whether hybrid printing leads to a different end game than the one we've
witnessed in commercial graphics remains to be seen. But looking more