I have been in the digital printing industry for almost fifteen years, and in the past decade I have focused on textile printing. One of the first textile companies that I came across at a tradeshow was DigiFab; I have known Mr. Avedik Izmirlian for almost a decade. He is the owner of DigiFab systems, a well-known digital textile manufacturing company with headquarters in Los Angeles, with a branch factory in New Jersey and distribution around the world.
Mr. Avedik Izmirlian was kind enough to grant us an interview, during ISA 2019 in Las Vegas.
Q. How many years have you been in the textile industry?
Since 1974, so 45 years this year.
Q. How did you enter the textile industry?
I did not start as an owner of course, but I did begin working in a vertical factory, where we did everything from the yarn to the finished printed or dyed textile, the whole process: weaving, printing and dying. Later, got more involved in production, development and design. At the beginning of 1990, I started to get into CAD (Computer Aided Design) and we fully entered the textile market, first with software for textile design and then software for textile printing (RIP). We started programing in DOS, and later on in Windows. After that we began manufacturing ink jet fabrics, heat presses, printers, inks and so on.
At that time, you designed on a computer and it was first tested on paper, in 1993 we began doing tests onto fabric with the Iris printer on sheets up to 34 by 47 inches. In 1994, when 36-inch rotary printing was the maximum available width, we began to do 36-inch continuous printing. We were the first company to have patents on coatings for digital printing onto fabric in the US, and we were the first company to have coated rolls of fabric with paper backing, ready to be used on the ink jet printers available at that time. It happened that since there were no textile printers you used a regular graphic printer to print onto fabric and you needed the paper to help the fabric run through the printer. We also introduced 60-inch rolls of coated fabrics into the market.
Q. Can you tell us little about digital textile printing in its beginnings?
A few years ago, and in response to the market demands, specific digital printers for textile started to be manufactured. The first was coverting existing graphic printers into textile printers by adding a belt to print onto fabrics, but as the market grew, printers specifically designed for printing onto textiles started to be designed and manufactured.
Q. What are some aspects that have improved in textile printing?
Pigment ink is now available for textile not just for paper. Printing quality, colors, lightfastness and water-fastness are quite good, so the user is more willing to print with this technology. Pigment is the ideal ink for printing textiles for its ability to print onto any type of fabric. Of course the color gamut is not the same as when using specific textile inks for each fiber.
Q. Do you think there is a textile ink that is overall better than the rest?
I don’t think so. For example, transfer printing is limited to polyester. You can only use it in interiors because of its lightfastness is very low, only 80 hours when the minimum should be 500 hours.
Pigment ink’s water and washing resistance is not as good but its lightfastness is excellent. So each technology has advantages and disadvantages.
Q. What aspects of digital textile printing need improvement?
In my opinion, printheads. Ink viscosity is still not what it should be for textile printing, so you have to add products to the fabric coating so that they react to the ink. These are usually added to the ink, but since the binders are so thick it is impossible to have ink with binder go through the printhead.
Q. What are your thoughts on digital versus conventional textile printing?
With time, as the cost of digital supplies and consumables decrease and printers become faster, digital will gradually substitute conventional printing. The main advantage that digital has and has had from the start over conventional printing is immediacy. You can do a print run quickly regardless of the amount of square meters and since the designs go straight from the computer to the printer; you skip the process of engraving cylinders hence the cost and time resulting from this.
Images are better, they don’t have color limitations they are practically unlimited. You can print photographic images, which you can’t do with traditional printing. The costs are still not as low as they should be but large print runs are less common than before. Now there is more variety and shorter print runs.
Q. Do you think digital will substitute conventional textile printing in the future?
Digital printing is taking more space in the market gradually, but I don’t think it will completely substitute traditional printing in the future because conventional printing also has its advantages.
Q. What are the next market niches for digital textile printing?
Now there is an overlaying between textile printing and graphic printing, more and more textile products are being used in the signage industry. So this is also a factor that drives digital textile printing to grow and will play a key role in lowering costs and improve printing speed.