I had the good fortune of visiting Tel Aviv at the end of February. Not only was the weather, and the food fantastic, so were the people. Here I tell of my visit to Bordeaux, an InPrint 2015 exhibitor and a company that has gained a reputation for innovation. Bordeaux were established at the end of 1999 and were founded by current owner Moshe Zach.
According to Guy Evron, Bordeaux’s marketing director, Moshe is a classic entrepreneur with a background in the textile industry. He originally started out with a shop for fashion and garments and he ran a dying shop for the textile industry in Israel. Witnessing how the wide format printing industry has evolved, Moshe started Bordeaux with a vision of bringing a unique type of ink company.
So how is Bordeaux different?
“I guess it has to start with our CEO. Moshe has a mind that doesn’t stop working. He is full of ideas. Not all ideas are carried out but when they do they tend to be special. As a result, we are a very creative self-driven company. Initially, the business produced non OEM inks or what you might call ‘alternative’ inks. So I guess you could say that we started as a ‘me-too’ company with the development of hard, mild and eco solvent inks, and UV. These developments created a mind-set of a global outlook and international presence, from the early stages of the company.
From this starting point till now we have evolved into more than just a regular inkjet manufacturer and are now offering a range of solutions with one vision in mind - developing custom made solutions for print shops that address a market demand. The range of our solutions cover the following categories:
• Dye Sub
• UV and UV led
• Eco solvent
• Low mild and true solvents
• Liquid laminates and UV coatings
• Smart Bulk Solutions
• Textile pigment inks
“One of Bordeaux’s milestones was in 2008 when the company was the first in the market to introduce Mix & Match™ inks. Mix &Match means that Bordeaux’s inks can be mixed in terms of chemical compatibility so there is no need to flush the printer and they match in colours avoiding creation of new color profiles. It really is the easiest ink to convert to. This saves a lot on waste and has revolutionised the way that people look at non OEM inks.
Once we introduced mix and match, we were able to educate the market with a logical and easy way to make the conversion. I would say that now it is an industry benchmark.
Bordeaux continued its innovative solution with being the first to introduce a non OEM latex ink for Piezo printheads which yielded a major success.
In terms of the applications, Bordeaux inks offer solutions for all application types including graphics, industrial (ceramics, security, and home furnishing needs), packaging and textile solutions.”
So have you grown in recent years as a business, how many people do you employ?
"We now employ over 120 people. We have 80 here in Tel Aviv in Israel plus US manufacturing and R&D centres.
We have also opened a German branch and we now cover most of Europe and we are now able to give fast and professional technical support and logistics to the whole region. In addition we have warehouses in South America, Africa and Asia-Pacific
To supplement this infrastructure, we have a comprehensive distribution network composed of dealers and resellers who we regard as partners. Some of them have been working with Bordeaux as long as 15 years. The relationship is very important and a vital channel for Bordeaux products and we work with our partners according to their customer profile and needs to achieve a win:win situation.. Most partners are tied strongly to the company and this is how we like to work.”
So the company is developing internationally – how does your US operation differ?
“The US market has taught us some important things. This market is the most needed market for Plug & Print solution and in the past few years this has been the major driving force behind the company’s non-OEM ink business. Through the US market we had discovered that the need for 100% compatibility between the ink and the entire printer attributes is a must, not only for the printhead. We have developed a new line of “Printer Specific™” inks, which are designed for full synergy with specific printer models.
All of these inks come with a dedicated packaging for Plug & Print conversion and a specific chip or electronic solution in order for the ink to flow properly so it is the easiest possible conversion for any user introducing non-OEM ink without the need of a technician.”
What is changing with your ink development?
“With the printer specific inks we have shifted more towards UV because it is now easy for people to make the change – just like we did with solvents and mix and match.
Dye sublimation is growing but there are 4 other players in the market – so similar to the situation with smart phones when only IOS and Android were in the market and Microsoft introduced their operating system, they had a fight on their hands because the two main players had gotten quite established. Although the market is steady, it is getting more and more competitive. Bordeaux having started quite late is facing the challenge against those who were first. Furthermore, dye sublimation was our first step into the textile industry which led us to the understanding that there is a lot of new options in this market. The sole reason why digital textile printing hasn’t been able to pass the 5% market share is because there has not been an option for pigmented inks up to now.”
So the revolution is not yet here, but could be with pigmented inks, tell me more about this!
“The textile market is complex. Rotary printing and screen printing are all very traditional and people have done it for generations now. People came to us at InPrint and ITMA and were asking for a change. This is largely because the old system is limited and people cannot grow their businesses with it. The future lies in a more comprehensive yet simple solution for the digital textile printing.
Just think of online shopping, limited editions, and custom made products designed/made by end users, the potential for digitally printed textiles is significant.
Trends used to come and go. Fashion used to work in two cycles- summer and winter collections. This has increased over the years to 4 and now even 6 to the point that almost every 2 months a new collection comes out.
I will give you an example. Recently Michelle Obama was photographed wearing a particular dress, then an image of her in her dress was posted online and it spread like wildfire to the extent that the dress was out of stock in hours. If this dress could have been produced digitally, printers and retailers would have been able to meet this demand far more easily. This demonstrates that in our superfast and connected world, something micro can become macro literally in seconds. And in order to optimise sales, the world must accelerate the production, to be able to adapt to this demand.
However, in textile printing there are different types of inks to be used with different types of fibres, each have their own pre and post treatment processes. It is a complicated market which leads to a high degree of specialisation. So cotton printers specialize in cotton only, and cannot print on any other fabric, because they lack the machinery and experience.
For textile, it is the consumers who propagate this change. unlike in technology, where the companies come with the innovation and the customers adapt or deny it, in textile printing the demand comes from the field, Customers would like to print more freely with inks that can print on multiple fabrics, easily.
The market is eagerly waiting for the ability to take advantage of this trend and a pigment ink will help the process greatly. For example, Zara make clothes in cotton, nylon, polyester, acrylic and their different accessories use different fabrics for different uses. Yet the colours have to be consistent. A dress has to match a handbag and so on. Can you imagine the kind of pressure placed upon purchasing to get all of these different components to match?!
So how is the development of digital textile print machinery helping or hindering this?
“When you look at the available technology there are 4 general segments
1) 50-100 sq metres per hour (Roland and Mutoh)
2) 100 sqm per hour (Mimaki and many others)
3) 500 sqm per hour (Reggiani, Zimmer, MS)
4) 1000 sqm per hour (MS, Stork, Konica Minolta)
We see the real market opportunity not in the single pass super-fast category, but more in the mid-range. The mid-range printers can be exploited better to deliver products quickly in line with demand.
However the true market challenge is in the ink! If you need one ink for each fibre you are stuck. The solution must come from the ink changing the current cumbersome process to a simple one. Pigment ink is the solution for printing on all types of fabrics with one ink.”
Where did the idea for Velvet Jet come from?
“Moshe approached the R&D 4 years ago on the first day of ITMA. He said that in 4 years we will present a water based ink that can print on all types of fibre. This is how we tend to work.
We put a date in the calendar and then everyone works like crazy to meet the deadline”!
So why is pigment ink so important?
“The great thing with pigment is that they don’t have a chemical bond to the fabric. Similar to dye based inks, pigment particles remain on the surface of the substrate. In order to adhere to the fibre, they require a binder. For example, when you place an egg in an egg carton you maintain their position and this is similar to what you need to do with printing onto textile. You need the binder to secure the pigment in place on the textile.
So is Velvet Jet unique?
“We are the first to market to offer one ink that prints on all kinds of fabrics but we are not the only one working on this. I imagine all manufacturers encountered the same problems. The rub resistance is far lower – and it may not necessarily maintain the soft feel required in garment. it can take a few years to develop t pigments, binders and pre-treatments that would be suitable for the fashion and clothing industry.
Bordeaux successfully completed extensive trials and have started certifications with numerous companies, so I’m happy to say this ink actually delivers what it claims. The principle of ‘one ink all fabrics’ with a uniform colour is a major benefit for large retailers, clothing or home furnishing companies since colour matching across a range of clothing and accessories of different textile types printed with a single ink would really work well.”
However I hear that the market is questioning whether this ink is actually ready and usable? Is this sour grapes or do they have some basis for being sceptical?
“This is not a concept, this is an actual product. We have customers already using it – our claims with 5/5 rub and wash resistance and 7/8 light fastness are all backed up by non-affiliated regulatory bodies. We have already received GOTS certification and getting close to OEKO-TEX standard as well.
With the launch of this ink in InPrint and ITMA we have been approached by all printer manufacturers. So many of them understand the huge impact this is going to have in the market and wanted to test it for themselves. Some of these trials are at an initial phase and some are quite advanced. You will see printers coming out with the Velvet Jet pigment ink this year already. It is simply a matter of time. The best thing with this product is the ability to print onto blended fabrics which is difficult to do with the current inks in the market. The print process itself is aiming towards the simplest method possible. This is the key value. We want to remove the obstacles in order for printers to increase profit. Pre-treatment is done offline with a standard padder, and the rest of the printing process is done in one single line, regardless of the printed fabric. It is down to just printing and drying and you are ready for garment production. There is no need for steaming, washing and drying or any chemical post treatment. This advancement in digital textile print production really reduces the cost and time for printing whilst making the whole process simpler for the production of garments, linen, swimwear, accessories, technical outwear and home textile.
Another benefit for pigment is for décor and not just onto textiles. The ink prints very well also on wood and leather for example, so shoes, handbags and other accessories can be done in the same process. We are really opening a whole world of new opportunities for print shops used to just printing roll to roll in one pattern."
So who is demonstrating the most interest?
“I can tell you most of the interest is coming from manufacturers themselves – for example sportswear companies are interested for their shoes and sweatshirts since it all can be done with fewer print providers. It simplifies the supply chain and speeds up delivery.
Think of window shades that lose their colour quickly. You can now get them done with the same suppliers so it is a huge cost reduction and offers performance advantages.
With pigmented ink you get 7/8 for light fastness and 5/5 wash and rub resistance. For drapery, upholstery and home textiles this is unbelievable performance and it is similar to analogue, but with all of the benefits of digital.”
So it is as good as analogue textile pigment printing?
“To be honest, there is a slight trade off in terms of colouring – dye sublimation and reactive dyes are great in producing vivid colours but the Velvet Jet pigment ink is really getting close now. Keep in mind that for 80% of the needed applications the current color density is sufficient, but we are working to improve colours even farther. This is more or less the only trade off. I do think that pigment digital textile printing is a game changer because it is changing the playing field and as we move through the years, more developments will occur and the market will have to accept this is now as reality, whether it is convenient for our competitors or not, I don’t know but I think it proves this is possible, and if the whole market adopts pigment, we think there is opportunity for all of us.