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Kohan Textile Journal

Interview with Mr. Xie Xi, Sales Director, Greater China Region, FUJIFILM

ShanghaiTex2015 Premium Exhibitor Interview:
"Fujifilm's in-depth analysis on prospects and challenges for digital printing"


Q1: In recent years, along with the substantial increase in digital printing yield and rapid technological development, digital printing has entered growth stage and is gaining more and more market attention. What is the biggest difference between digital printing and traditional printing? How would you characterize its technological strengths?

While the general production speed of today's digital printing technology is still far slower than the traditional printing method, the jet speed of FUJIFILM Dimatixprinthead (such as the use of Starfireprinthead) can reach 8m / s which is 2-4 times of similar industrial printhead. It is known to be a better solution to the speed and penetration problems.

However, there are some distinct advantages of digital printing over traditional method:

1. Short-Run Printing

Relatively quick and cost-saving printing allows customization. It fulfills today’s “fast fashion” needs in the market.

2. Environmental friendly

Low ink wastage. Fewer environmental hazards would be caused with the use of aqueous based ink. The drastic reduction of the difficulties in sewage management is in line with the Chinese government’s environmental protection policy.

3. Increased design possibility

In digital printing, high precision and color complexity could be achieved. A variety of effects can be produced by printing on different kinds of fabrics. This could maximize the pattern design possibility in terms of, for example, color gradients, diversity, high saturation, exquisite detail and corner sharpness. All these have contributed to bring a design revolution to the digital printing industry.

Q2: Do you think digital printing will replace traditional printing in the future?

We firmly believe that digital printing will be widely accepted in the future. Similar scenario had existed in the ceramic industry, the usage of digital printing became mainstream in just 5 years.

Nonetheless, it’s hard to find a technology that serves all purposes. With growing maturity of digital printing technology, increasing demand of customized and eco-friendly products, and more effective cost control in production, it is predictable that digital printing will soon be taking a significant market share. However, certainly some parts of market will remain indispensible with the traditional printing method, for example, low-end mass production with lower precision requirements.

Q3: It is predicted that the global digital printing machine can reach 50,000 units by 2015, the total output of digital printing will account for15% of total output of prints. How would you comment on these numbers?

According to overseas data in December 2013, digital printing was forecasted to reach 5-7% from 2% in five years, so it is quite likely that the 2015 forecast will become true.
Every new technology has to go through stages from development, acceptance, rise, maturity and decline. While digital printing technology is now standing on a very good position between development and acceptance period, a number of technological and market factors affecting the forecast accuracy:

1. Accelerated development through integration of inks, printheads and mechanical components

Taking Dimatix’sprinthead technology as an example, we have specially designed and manufactured aqueous-based StarFireprinthead for textile industry.  

Expanded compatibility with aqueous-based ink: With a wider control on the ink such as viscosity, wider color range and higher color saturation can be produced. This can also bring a higher acceptance of ink manufactured in PRC.

High-speed jet & strong penetration: It is more suitable for high-speed industrial production as well as some specific areas like carpets and thick fabrics which a huge amount of ink is required.

With over 10 years’ research and development, our Samba printhead is also specifically designed for the new era of textile application. Concrete information is still confidential at the moment, please stay tuned until ShanghaiTex 2015. We strongly believe that all these technological developments will accelerate the advent of digital printing era.

2. Effective business model and cost control

To enter investment in this stage which the unit price of digital printing machine is relatively high, OEM and end users may also need to explore how to establish an effective business model. While the market is now talking about leasing or other ways to reduce costs, using a more rapid and less risky way to put digital printing machine into use might be a way to go.

Meanwhile, the cost control of ink and the durability of printheads are also big challenges affecting the end-users’ acceptance.  Suppliers should be aware of different aspects to maintain a better control. Taking printheads as example:

Starfireprinthead is hermetically sealed with all-steel construction to deliver a long service life with consistent and reliable output. Not only reducing the event of ink splash and linting of fabrics during high-speed scanning, the printhead also offers easy maintainability with removable modules for cleaning or replacement which production cost could be greatly reduced.

3. Feedback on market acceptance

The final acceptance level should lays on the end-users, that is the consumers’ feedback. The customers using the new products should be the one with professional discourse towards the new technology.

Q4: What is the current status of international digital printing industry in terms of its application?

Digital printing technology has been discussing around the Globe since several years ago. China is a key player in the World’s textile industry, the cognition time towards digital printing technology was almost simultaneous with other developed countries.

Compared to the Chinese domestic market, there is indeed a greater acceptance of digital printing in the international market: many mainstream fashion brands have already launched a variety of digital printed products. OEM should have a better grasp of information on the current application status.

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