By all accounts the textile printing business is set to explode, thanks to digital printing technologies. For instance Fibre2fashion, analysts for the fashion industry, reckon that in 2017 the amount of fabric printed digitally will be more than one billion square metres and reach 2.5 billion square metres by 2020. They estimate that CAGR from 2015 to 2020 will be 28%, with 5% of that printed digitally, up from 2% in 2016.
The problem is not unique to digital presses, but how do you measure energy usage and the overall energy efficiency of a machine? With cars the most usual method is the miles per gallon, or how many litres of fuel it takes to travel 100 kilometres. Just in this example we can see how slippery the actual values are, how subjective. For instance do the calculations accurately take into account traffic, hills, darkness or temperature? The problem with energy calculations is that there are so many variables involved. The data on which the averaged result is based is likely to be deeply buried, so using the result in a meaningful way won’t be easy or convenient.
Guilt is a powerful driver for improving environmental impacts and recycling in particular. The paper industry has done a great job in teaching consumers that paper should not be thrown away, because it can be recycled. They have also done a great job in teaching people that resources are precious. However there is still far more that needs to be done to encourage the use of paper based communications.
As digital printing keeps up its steady march across the graphics landscape, it’s easy to forget about progress in conventional print. In addition to improvements in makeready times and energy efficiency on press, great strides have been made with consumables, especially printing plate technologies. Most attention gets paid to processless plates such as Agfa’s Azura, Fujifilm’s ProT and Kodak Sonora. But these are not the only technologies to have helped drive down environmental impacts.
The Fespa show in Hamburg last week brought together a huge lineup of players. They came from all parts of the sign and display business, including digital wide format and screen printing technology providers and users. The textile printing system makers and buyers were also out in force, keen to see a surging number of digital textile production systems for soft signage. The cohort included other textile production options for both roll to roll fabric printing and garments. There was even packaging and label printing equipment on show, plus a huge number of companies offering materials, components and inks. But very few exhibitors were shouting about their environmental credentials and the topic was mostly absent from the Fespa conference and seminar sessions.