Our editor, Arvind Kumar, in an exclusive interview with Matteo Forte – Product Marketing Manager of MS and JK (A DOVER Company)
What are the latest developments in digital textile printing technology?
Nowadays the keywords are sustainability and recycling. These are the goals to reach in all the stages of the textile production chain. There are different approaches to sustainability. In some cases, it is a pure marketing goal; in others, it is an imposition of the authorities’ ambitious sustainability goals and the consequence of the norms and rules settled to reach those goals. However, part of the textile industry believes and opts for a consciously sustainable production chain. Thus, all the latest developments are moving towards solutions granting energy-saving, water-saving, surface occupied for the production lines-saving, and finally, recycling and re-use of resources. All these best practices allow us to move forward to a more sustainable production chain. Moreover, now that pigment has evolved enough to provide high-quality results, the promises of digital printing are more and more within reach: a faster process, with the best achievable compromise between process and performance, an on-demand production with an amazing time to market, and a high level of personalization, with no need of scale economy and a lowered environmental impact. These are the reasons for the huge success of our Pigment Solution at the last ITMA.
Tell us about the technology that you have launched recently. Which print head are you using and why?
ITMA has been the international showcase to display our latest innovations. Above all our Pigment Solution and New Era of Single Pass. Our Pigment Solution – a whole system – is made up of a printing machine, patent-pending ink, software and dryer that together have proven to be exceptionally innovative and useful. A set of innovations able to achieve all the target goals of sustainability and recycling that are fundamental to us. JK Group’s Digistar Pigment 4K is a patent-pending ink that does not require pre- and post-treatments while allowing an environmental impact reduction of 95% (on average), a 15 times reduction of CO2 emissions and a reduction of 85% in water consumption – in comparison with reactive digital printing process*.
A completely re-engineered version of MS PRINTING SOLUTION’s popular digital scanning printing machine – the JP7 – is another fundamental component of our solution. We have revolutionized our JP7, both in electronics and mechanics, so that in combination with our new water-based pigment ink it could give the best achievable results.
In addition, the machine has undergone other various improvements. It has been implemented with the Ink Recirculation and the Nozzle Shooting System, both developed to work on IDLE and while printing. These upgrades help the customers to keep the ink always running, therefore avoiding any sedimentation; to keep the nozzles active, As a result, there is an improved printing quality and enhanced Printhead’s lifetime. Such enhancements also increase the life of filters and degassers and allow to always offer the same printing quality and nozzles performance within different printing hobs or printing designs, since the Nozzle Shooting System keeps the nozzles active even when they are not used for a specific job or during the night.
Easy-Clean – The new carriage plate is a further upgrade. It improves the cleaning process of the carriage plate, significantly avoiding damage, while also empowering printing quality and efficiency.
The aim was process sustainability, which is why we implemented a new zero-wastewater recirculation system that will internally recycle a previously filtered, fixed amount of water in a dedicated tank. Pigment printing already is a waterless process, the only water involved is the one used to clean the belt. With this system, we reduce the amount of cleaning water up to 95% less*.
Last but not least, we have also changed JP7’s appearance. The new casing is lighter, with an interior space layout made even more rational than before, thus assuring the best positioning of the new electronic and mechanical components.
The new software and the new dryer both contribute to achieving the sustainability goals of our solution. The new compact dryer allows the curing and drying all in one and minimizes energy consumption and total CO2 emission. The new software, fully integrated into the solution allows to halve the calibration time (-50%) and increase the color yield (+20%). This perfect combination optimizes the time and consumable consumption.
Our New Era of Single Pass was born from a collaboration with an Italian company, printing non-woven organic fabrics. The new project will be the base platform for our future single-pass digital printing machines portfolio. This new generation of single-pass machines can boast the same performances of a single pass while taking up the same space of scanning, a machine up to 10 times smaller. In this way, we have the same excellent results, but fewer resources are needed in terms of money, consumption and people, all thanks to its compactness.
On top, we are developing a new technology based on Artificial Intelligence, applying it to textiles for the first time. Vision is our patent pending machine learning system capable of reading what you are printing and trained to potentially detect any mistake that could be in a print. This translates into less waste, together with time and cost savings.
*The data come from the environmental study developed by NEXT TECHNOLOGY TECNOTESSILE srl Società Nazionale di Ricerca Tecnologica. Following ISO 14040 “Principles and Framework (practice, application, limits)” and ISO 14044 “Requirements and Guidelines (preparation, management, critical review)”.
What edge does it have over the others available in the market?
We let customers say why our solutions are different from others. We prefer to highlight what is our approach in our R&D department in thinking and designing new projects. We develop innovative projects, seizing the opportunities of emerging technologies without forgetting our customers’ daily work. It implies the integration of sustainability best practices with functionality and efficiency. A goal may be achievable by choosing the right partners upstream in the supply chain, but even downstream, by calibrating the offer reserved for our customers. It is only through such an approach that we may reach results such as our new Pigment Solution and the New Era of Single-Pass.
What are the important factors end-users should consider while investing in digital printing machines?
Customers have many options available on the market and it is up to them to set the goal. We have the task of achieving it, but they decide whether to buy and trust a brand or not. We offer consistency and reliability, which are the result of more than 30 years of work in digital printing, it is a heritage not everyone can boast. We design high-quality reliable digital printing machines and inks to allow full control of the printing stage, increasing the print look and performance by responding to customer’s urgent need for a real sustainable textile production chain. We have been doing this since the beginning of the new millennium, we leave the last word to the customers.
How has the digital textile printing industry grown in the last one year in India? (In terms of demand for machinery)
The Indian textile industry values print for both men’s shirting and women’s garments. Companies can choose from a limitless selection of colors and volume, allowing for printing and innovation with new products. Last year, in India, we experienced significant growth due to the demand for digital textile printing after installing MiniLario and JPK Evo. The market is now open for a high-speed sublimation printer range. Both we and our Indian partner Orange Group are excited about our prospects for the next future. The government is also supporting the textile industry by offering schemes.
We are equally eager and excited to see how pigment printing can open new horizons. People are now interested in adapting to new processes that do not require additional equipment for pre-and post-treatment. Eliminating pre- and post-treatment will lead to huge water and energy savings and provide a competitive edge in the sustainable direct-to-fabric printing category. Innovations in pigment printing will provide sustainable print solutions in textiles for fashion apparel, kids’ wear, home furnishings and many other segments.
Business wise how was the year 2023 for you? How do you see the future?
So far, 2023 has been a huge year in terms of changes. Starting from 1st April 2023 we have revolutionized our organizational model by leveraging the synergies with another operating company from Dover Corporation: Markem-Imaje (www.markem-imaje.com). Improvement was at the heart of this move; an extended global footprint, upgraded operational efficiencies and enhanced customer service through an easier, more convenient, and faster business exchange. The result is a highly scalable model that is capable of quickly extending production according to peaks in demand and seasonality, thus simplifying supply chain stewardship.
The future? Well, we can clearly see that sustainability has become a mega trend, since we have always had an eye on the topic, we are more than glad to see it spreading. We have also always been attentive to our industry demands. By combining those two urges the result is sustainable innovation. Our present and most definitely our future too. This solution has been a natural step forward in our history, but we only followed a call that was already written in our DNA and it is now becoming a requirement. Sustainable innovation is the light that has been guiding us in our projects in the past few years, it is what our new products are permeated with and it is evident in what we showed at ITMA. We are also implementing our mindset as a company. We have always been aligned to what is now called “Industry 5.0” thanks to our attention to sustainable innovation, which doesn’t only focus on economic advantages, but puts sustainability first. Today, the areas targeted by an industry 5.0’s approach are expanding and developing, thanks to newly enhanced human-centricity, resilience, and competitiveness on a long-term basis.
What are the new developments in inks? Would you like to share some suggestions on choosing inks?
Choosing the right ink is one of the most difficult steps of the whole printing process. The choice depends on many factors. The first one is the type of fiber of the fabric to be printed; each class of fiber has a specific ink to achieve the best performance. Then, the machine and the printheads you are working with; last but not least, the target market and the directives, norms or voluntary textile standards everyone must comply with. That’s why who sells the ink should be, above all, a partner and an experienced consultant of its customers with whom it collaborates to ensure the best final results. While choosing inks, it is important to analyze the commitment of the inksproducers, e.g. to see if they manage and track the suppliers and the chemicals by partnering with suppliers and by removing hazardous substances from the manufacturing process, and the increase in talks about traceability seems to confirm this tendency. This is exactly what JK Group does for its pigment ink range with lowered environmental impacts since we put a lot of effort in research and development to innovate more and more and reach top-tier certified quality, complying with voluntary standards like ZDHC MRSL 3.1Conformance Level 3, brand owners’ standard RSL lists, ECO PASSPORT by OEKO-TEX®, together with constantly updating already existing inks’ formulas to always be aligned with regulations.
Do you think pigment ink is the future of digital textile printing?
We all are familiar with pigment since it has been in everyone’s mouth for a while. It is definitely an exciting opportunity for our market because it can boast both fewer steps and less waste. During a time in history such as ours, marked by conflicts, climate change, and energetic crisis, the chance to have an ink able to fix physically to most substrates, that doesn’t require pre- and post-treatments, that does not need water seems to be a lot. Doesn’t it?
Still, we all know pigment’s chemical formula as it is now doesn’t fully satisfy nowadays market requests, especially in terms of output. JK Group’s R&D team has succeeded in developing a pigment that could overcome its previous limits, a product capable of combining the already existing qualities of pigment with new, improved characteristics.
Today, Digistar Pigment 4K is an option presenting lowered environmental impacts*, thanks to a 50% reduction of the printing process steps – in comparison with pigment printing requiring pre- and post-treatment. It boasts a significant general fastness: as per UNI EN ISO 105 E04:2013(alkaline and acid perspiration) UNI EN ISO 105 C06:2010(domestic and industrial washing fastness at 40 degrees), all tests showed 5 as results. As per UNI EN ISO 105 X12:2016 (dry and wet rubbing) a 4 was scored. All while maintaining a high printability. Textile Standard certifications are an extremely concrete and tangible guarantee of the sustainable and ecological production of our latest ink formula and its low hazardous profile: Digistar Pigment 4K is certified Ecopassport (certificate nr 22EP00004) and ZDHC L3. Hand in hand with our reengineered JP7, our new dryer and software, pigment printing becomes an easy, waterless process that allows a real sustainable and cost-effective production chain.