Heimtextil, an exhibition for interior design and soft furnishings, is rapidly becoming a key event for inkjet technology providers. These companies are hoping to expand their markets as more traditional opportunities in display printing begin to reach saturation. In contrast wallpaper, soft furnishings, and textiles remain relatively untouched by digital technologies.
However, digital technology is making rapid incursions into wall coverings. Research carried out last year puts the European market for digitally printed wallpaper at 83.15 million square metres in 2015, up from 70.57 million square metres two years earlier and projected to reach 130.6 million square metres by 2022. Inkjet dominates and has a 9.6% CAGR while electrophotographic technologies are set to grow at 7.3% CAGR.
The print technology providers, however, remain very much in the minority at the Frankfurt event which attracted almost 3,000 exhibitors, but each year the presence increases and the visitor interest grows.
HP led the charge with a series of room sets decorated with wallpapers printed digitally. But where last year, latex inkjet technology was put to use in wallpaper production, this year HP introduced the Indigo wallpaper solution. This uses an HP Indigo 20000 web press, more usually targeting flexible packaging, to print decor with a quality more usually associated with gravure printing.
The Indigo system will deliver 1,515m2 of print an hour. Software has been adapted from label printing to give the repeat lengths expected of wallpapers while a number of paper suppliers are able to supply Indigo suitable substrates. Textiles for home furnishings will be printed on its large format Latex printers, just as short runs of wallpapers will be printed in this way.
However, the Indigo, along with Xeikon's Wallpaper Production Solution, is aimed at mainstream manufacturers where the appeal of digital is about trialling new designs, reducing waste and stockholdings and being able to offer more unusual or ‘out of print’ designs on demand.
IIJ took videos and sample from its high speed inkjet wallpaper project to the event. Ink performance and cost, print width and speed are no longer the issues they were, according to managing director John Corrall.
“We had a series of meetings lined up with key wallpaper manufacturers who are the ones demanding new solutions for digital printing wallpaper at full production speeds,” he says.
“We see this market as at a tipping point now. With the right solution digital has the potential to dramatically change the production of wallpaper. Not just the low volume mural applications, but also high volume mass production. We believe our solution will prove economic even for mass production, which will mean a major change for wallpaper designers who will suddenly find themselves free to radically change how we decorate our homes.”
Xeikon already has machines in wallpaper manufacturers offering exactly this. The Wallpaper Production Solution brings together print engine, finishing and software to offer and end to end approach. print speed has been enhanced to enable the unit to run at 900m2 and hour. Inline varnishing is also possible.
There is no question mark hanging over the suitability of the toners used, all comply the EN15102 standard and are VOC free. Software ensures that repeat orders will match the colour of a previous batch.
Inkjet printing was also in evidence for printing cushions, furniture and curtains. EFI Reggiani, Epson, SPG, Kornit, Mimaki and Mutoh had machines on the floor for printing textiles.
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