I.T. Strategies - 2/26/2007
Digital Textile Printing Driven by Signage and Now Expanding Into New
Hanover, MA - February 2007 -The digital printing of textiles has been going on since the mid 90s with
electrostatic (e-stat) and ink jet printers, either by direct printing (in the case of ink jet) and via dye sublimation
transfer (ink jet and e-stat). Today advances in ink jet printers, e.g., direct to fabric sublimation printers, combined
with growth in textile applications such as soft signage and apparel are driving the market for digital textile printing.
I.T. Strategies estimates that in 2005, 2,300 dedicated digital textile printers (units) produced more than 900 million
square feet of digitally printed textiles. Of this 75% (just under 700 million square feet) was signage related and
25% (233 million square feet) is in newer application areas such as interior furnishings and apparel. By 2010, I.T.
Strategies expects that digitally printed textiles will grow at a CAGR of 19% to more than two billion square feet
printed on more than 5,000 dedicated digital textile printers.
Soft signage is a sub-segment of the larger signage market. The reasons for the success of digitally printed soft
signage are that it is different from paper/vinyl and therefore will get the viewer’s attention; fabric signage
creates an upscale impression; reduced costs related to the fact that fabric is lightweight and flexible meaning
that shipping costs; and finally, if the competition has it then other shops have to follow. The growing competition
in the signage market has caused some Print-for-Pay shops to look to other areas for growth. One of those areas
is decorative products. Technically speaking it is a relatively small jump from advertising related signage into these
According to Patti Williams, Consulting Partner at I.T. Strategies, "The market for soft signage has been around
for more than seven years and is fairly well understood. Newer and less understood is the market for digitally
printed textiles for non-signage applications. In this area some of the drivers include the value of brand as
companies such as Herman Miller and Steelcase use digital printing to customize textile-based office structures
with a customer’s brand or logo; new systems of parallel, low-thruput ink jet printers printing simultaneously,
such as the DPA system developed by Stork; Italian companies using ink jet printers to respond to Chinese
competition; and designers and crafters entering the market and making investments in ink jet textile printers
such as the DuPont Artistri."