Taking stock of 2010, and preparing your business for 2011 and beyond.
Question: Printing on fabrics seems to have become even more popular in 2010. Are you seeing this as well? If so, why do you think this is?
Marx: Fabric graphics pull a higher price point, and manufacturers continue to make innovative new products that stretch the boundaries of what digitally printed fabrics can be used for. The possibilities have grown. I think many imaging companies have entered some of the fabric graphics markets as a way to differentiate themselves from the highly saturated vinyl-banner market.
Greene: Yes, it has become more popular. There is definitely some inter-relationship between some of these market developments; the market decline caused print providers to look at new markets and additional applications, including higher-margin applications like textiles for soft signage. At the same time, fabrics appeal to the “green” element of the market with easier recycling and lower shipping costs.
Boer: Soft signage and related decorative applications are higher value products for two reasons: The output is printed on a more expensive substrate, and the substrate provides something paper or vinyl cannot: total flexible movement. It flutters in the air when hung, immediately drawing attention. When converted into a curtain, pillow, etc., it adds value well beyond the mere print. Lastly, it gives print service providers something new and exciting to sell to their customers, which may be the most important of all.
Mayhew: We’ve observed a growing interest in textile printing for some time and expect the trend to continue. There are a number of drivers including differentiation, perceived innovation and quality, and the apparent environmental benefits. Access to fabric and textile printing is also on the rise, with the installed base of capable printers growing steadily.
Chesterman: Digital print is perfect for the short runs and fast turnarounds that underpin the supply chains of today. The demand for increasingly fast turnaround times, especially in markets such as point-of-sale advertising, have made digital print essential for cutting the manufacturers’ time-to-market. At the same time, the fastest-growing sector for digital textiles, flags, and banners, increasingly offer marketers substantial practical advantages. Not only are they aestheti¬cally pleasing, but they are easier and cheaper to transport. And because they can often be recycled, fabrics are also proving environmentally friendly at a time when “green” printing is increasing in popularity.