First plastic, then glass and wood, and now — fabric.
At FESPA this week in Germany, HP touted its new lineup of large-format printers, marking the company’s first foray into the fast-growing $3.6 billion textile market for printing everything from festive event banners and team jerseys to chic, one-of-a-kind wallpaper and throw pillows.
The HP Stitch S Series portfolio of wide-format printers reinvents a 15-year-old process for printing on fabric that improves color accuracy, shrinks lead times and lower costs for print service providers. But perhaps most significantly, it helps tackle a problem that plagues the textile industry: sustainability. Digital production can help cut water usage (and pollution) and reduce the amount of unused clothing and fabric that ends up in landfills.
“All of the brands have on their agenda the topic of sustainability in textiles,” says Joan Pérez Pericot, global general manager, Large Format Graphics at HP Barcelona. “Digital printing has a massive impact on the footprint to the environment.”
HP took a critical eye to the dye sublimation process for printing on polyester and polyester blends. A technique that uses heat to transfer ink to a surface, the process has revolutionized production, especially for designs that require multiple colors, repeating patterns or photographic images. But going digital isn’t without challenges. For one, post-processing requires the intensive use of water, and lots of it.
The fashion industry produces 20 percent of global wastewater and 10 percent of global carbon emissions — more than all international flights and maritime shipping, according to the United Nations Environment Programme. Textile dyeing is the second biggest cause of water pollution globally, after agriculture.
“Water is huge for this industry,” says Ester Sala, global textiles business director at HP Barcelona. “The delta in consumption is potentially half to 70 percent reduction in the amount of water used from a more analog printing process.”