Digital Textile Printing Beyond Fashion and Home Textiles

By Aditya Chandavarkar, Director, Inkjet Alliance 

The demand for Digital Textile Printing for apparel and home furnishings is rapidly growing owing to the numerous technology developments and increasing adoption of the technology. As accepted by various leading research reports, digital textile printing now contributes about 3% of the total printed textile output. 

We at Inkjet Alliance feel that considerable growth for digital textile printing will come from conventional applications like apparel, fashion and home textiles. However, development of new applications and business models for this technology is essential and will equally contribute to the growth and development of this technology.

One area, which makes a compelling case for all stakeholders to explore, is digital textile printing for industrial applications. Two key applications from our point of view include digital printing of automotive textiles and deposition of functional fluids onto textiles using inkjet technology.

Digital Printing of Textile for Automotive Applications

Automobile textiles are essentially non-apparel textiles widely used in vehicles. The term automobile textile in a broad sense means all type of textile components e.g. fibers, filaments, yarns and the fabric used in automobiles which includes both visible and hidden applications. Nearly two thirds of the automobile textiles are for interior trim which include seat cover, carpets, roof liners and door liners. The rest is utilized to reinforce tyres, hoses, safety belts and air bags.

From a value addition point of view using digital textile printing,among various uses of automobile textile, the target applications would be:
- Car upholstery-seat cover fabrics
- Car upholstery card body covers
- Automobile interior carpets
- Seat belt webbings
- Headliners.

It is projected that nearly 45 square meters of textile material is utilized in a car for the above areas. According to the International Organization of Vehicle Manufacturers (OICA), approximately 90 million cars were manufactured in 2015. Even if we estimate the target market as 10% of the total cars manufactured the total potential printable fabric would be 405 million square meters, which is a very good opportunity. 

Deposition of Functional Fluids on Textiles

The deposition of functional fluids on textiles also known as “textile finishing” is a process, which uses auxiliary chemicals to change the functionality of a textile substrate rather than providing it with a coloured design as is the case with conventional digital textile printing using dye based inks. These finishing techniques improve the properties of and/or add properties to the textile. There a wide range of functional components deposited or coated onto textile not limited to antibiotics, moisture absorbents, water repellents, antistatic agents, ultraviolet rays absorbents, infrared rays absorbents, optical whitening agents, swelling agents, magnetic material, flame retardants and perfumes with different physical properties which makes it impossible to have a universal deposition technology.

Conventionally many deposition and coating techniques including rotogravure, screen-printing, foularding and roller coatings are being used each with their pros and cons. Research suggests that deposition of functional fluids by inkjet printing acts as a precise, reliable and cost-effective technique of deposition with lower wastage and lower use of resources including water and electricity as compared to other deposition or coatings techniques. 

Advantages of using inkjet printing technology for functional deposition include:
-  Uniform layers of the functional fluid can be applied to the textile inkjet
   printing allows precision of dosage and print-head nozzle control
-  Relatively high concentrations of the functional fluids can be applied with  
   furthermore making interim drying and post-processes almost unnecessary
   in many cases. 
- The success of Single Pass Inkjet technology in conventional digital textile
   printing can be translated to creating systems which enable high processing  
   speeds and very precise forming of patterns. 
-  A further advantage of digital droplet deposition, is that it provides the
   possibility of on-demand delivery. Smaller series of different textile articles
   can be processed on a single upgrading device without complicated
   change-over operations which can have an adverse environmental and
   productivity impact.

To explore and investigate the opportunities for digital textile printing mentioned in this article and many more beyond apparel and conventional home textiles, Inkjet Alliance in partnership FM Brooks is organizing a conference titled, Industrial Digital Textile Printing – Beyond Apparel and Home Textile at InPrint 2016 in Milan on 16th November. The seminar will focus on pushing the envelope in terms of the potential of digital textile printing in industrial applications. Topics of discussion will include: 

- Development of Digital Textile Printing for Automotive Textiles
- Deposition of functional fluids on Textiles
- Digital Finishing of textiles
- Innovate Interior Decoration concepts using Digital Textile Printing
- Digital Textile Printing – Business potential beyond Fashion

If you have an interesting case study, a technical paper or are just happy to take part in a discussion and you are happy to share and discuss your work in the field of Digital Textile Printing for novel applications, then please contact Aditya Chandavarkar at with a title and a brief outline description of your proposed talk.

About Inkjet Alliance (IJA)

IJA is venture that provides consultancy services, market research, M&A services - and organizes seminars and events - focused on the fast growing range of industrial applications for digital printing. The company brings on board a wealth of experience and comprehensive understanding of the emerging industrial applications of inkjet. The founding directors are Stewart Partridge (originally the MD of digital printing consultancy – Web Consulting from 1993 – 2005) and Aditya Chandavarkar (Founder of Inkjet Forum India). The company has established offices in Shanghai - China, Mumbai – India, Suffolk UK.

About FM Brooks

FM Brooks is part of the Mack Brooks Exhibitions Group, one of Europe's largest independently owned industrial exhibition businesses.The Mack Brooks Exhibitions Group is a leading, privately owned organiser of global exhibitions throughout the world in engineering, transport, metalworking, information technology, textiles, food and beverages, railways, construction, tunnelling, printing, converting, airport management and aviation.

About InPrint 2016

InPrint is the exhibition for industrial print technology. This event is the only show exclusively designed for this emerging and highly promising sector of the print industry – a key marketplace for state of the art functional and decorative printing in industrial production, including speciality, screen, digital, inkjet and 3D technologies. Taking place 15-17 November, InPrint 2016 will feature some 150 exhibiting companies at Mico, Milan, Italy, perfectly positioned for visitors across the globe.


International Organization of Motor Vehicle Manufacture

Composition for continuous inkjet finishing of a textile article, 
Patent No: EP2284232 A1, Johannes A. Craamer, James E. Fox

Method of depositing materials on a textile substrate
Patent No: WO2006100273 A1, Johannes A. Craamer, James E. Fox, Gerhard H. Bouwhuis

SKA Polska Sp. z.o.o

Inkjet-deposited functional coatings for textiles, Tim Phillips.