The impressive growth of dye sublimation is expected to continue over the next five years, as the once-disruptive technology aligns increasingly well with market dynamics.
By Janine Young
In this environment, designers and suppliers – including printers – that can turn around new products quickly have a significant commercial advantage. Digital print platforms, such as dye sublimation, are a key enabling technology toward this objective, and the impact is multiplied when print service providers pair it with new software tools to collaborate with retailers and brands on designs in real time to create clothing more rapidly. The same online world enables more use of big data to determine how designs should change over short spans of time to maximize sales and profits.
However, moving just the design work online has limited benefits so long as the production model still involves large quantities and big distances between producers and points of sale. A parallel trend to online design collaboration is to reshore printing work to national markets where the consumers are, allowing the same-day printing and next-day delivery that modern consumers demand.
Automation across the value chain can lower the labor costs associated with making such a switch. It also allows retailers and brands to maintain more control over stock and quality, meeting the new expectations on delivery while minimizing inventory and the costs (financial and environmental) of transport.
Satisfying the Demand for Personalization
Despite the wider trend toward higher productivity on larger presses, about one-third of the newly released machines Smithers surveyed since the beginning of 2016 are designed primarily for direct-to-fabric or direct-to-garment work via transfer printing.
This indicates that the consumer market demand for unique personalized pieces – principally clothing – is far from satiated. Further evidence came through an analysis of recent patents filed by US-headquartered Hillman for a vending machine that employs on-demand dye sublimation printing. The customer places an order via a touch screen in store or a similar location, transmits an image file from a smart device, and the garment is printed immediately. If commercialized, this solution would optimize automation, efficiency, and customer interface.
This type of experience is entirely different from that of a long supply network for an industrial textile run, which produces undifferentiated garment designs for many international locations after many thousands of miles of shipping.
Janine Young is editor of reports and publishing for Smithers Rapra, a division of the UK-based Smithers Group. For more information about “The Future of Dye Sublimation Printing to 2023,” visit smitherspira.com.
Read more from the February/March 2019 issue, including additional info on dye sublimation.
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