The clothing industry thrives on being able to produce collections of clothes seasonally, think of spring, summer, fall and winter clothing lines. With new clothing to be produced every three months, it’s important that many clothing manufacturers can print both quickly and affordably.
Fast Fashion Leaders:
Luckily, today’s clothing manufacturers can use digital printers for direct to garment (DTG) printing. Digital printers allow inkjet ink to be absorbed by the fibres of the garment and help with the accuracy of colour matching, shortening run times and cost-effectiveness.
With these benefits and many more, it’s easy to see why DTG printing is expected to grow rapidly in the near future.
The Growth of DTG Printing
There’s a lot to love about DTG printing, including revenue projections and the near future. According to research and consulting firm Future Market Insights, the DTG printing industry was valued at $1.76 billion in 2018 and that number is expected to increase to $2.31 billion by 2023,
One of the biggest reasons for the growth of DTG printing is the buying habits of today’s consumers. Millennials are increasing their spending for graphic printed clothing featuring unique designs that are created through digital textile printing. T-shirts, in particular, are becoming more fashionable and trendy, thus creating a rise in the market value for DTG printing. The demand from millennials for more DTG printed t-shirts, long sleeve t-shirts, ¾ length tees, tank tops and other items of clothing are expected to be a key factor that ultimately impacts the overall value of the DTG printing industry in the near future.
Contributing Factors that have Helped Increase the Value of Printing on Fabric:
- The growing demand for sustainable printing
- Faster adaptability for clothing lines
- New emerging technologies in the fabric printing industry
- The reduced cost of printing digitally
- The growth of ecommerce clothing sales
- The influx of creative design in fashion
Direct to Garment Inks
As the demand for DTG clothing increases, so too will the demand for DTG inks. Sublimation inks are the most common type of ink used for DTG printing and they offer an array of benefits, like non-solubility, damage resistance, colourfastness and the absence of hazardous components often found in other types of ink.
Sublimation inks can be used on a variety of clothing materials, with each varying in the amount of time required for post-treatment heat. Materials such as polyester, acetate rayon, poly-lycra and acrylics take the longest time for post-treatment heat.
DTG Printing Outlook
The popularity of DTG printing will continue to rise as the consumer demand for printed designs on t-shirts and other clothing expands. This increase in consumer demand will grow the value of the DTG printing industry by approximately 31 percent by 2023. The impact DTG printing has and will continue to have on the ink industry is tremendous, with sublimation inks expected to be used even more to keep up with the fashion industry’s seasonal clothing lines.
From lottery tickets to pharmaceutical bottles, security ink keeps customers and businesses safe. As inkjet technology evolves, so too does the range of applications for security inks. The market for security ink is expected to be a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4%.
Security Ink Doesn’t Have to be Invisible
One common misconception about security inks is that they are the same as invisible inks. While many security applications of ink do take advantage of invisible ink, there are a variety of visible security ink solutions as well.
For example, many passports contain photosensitive ink that is visible to the naked eye, but changes colour or disappears when placed under a UV light. On the U.S. passport, the letters “USA” are printed with a security ink that appears gold when viewed from one direction and green when viewed from another.
On the other hand, many people assume security ink is only for protecting important documents like passports and paper currency, but that isn’t the case. There are a number of everyday applications where security ink is a common protective measure, including:
- Concert and sports tickets
- High-dollar branded products like watches and purses
- Prescription medicine bottles
- Lottery tickets
With such wide-ranging applications, security ink doesn’t just protect countries from master forgers. It protects consumers from fraud, deception and (in the case of pharmaceuticals) physical harm.
The future is strong for this product. The current market totals close to $1 billion and is expected to be a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4% through 2027.
What Makes Invisible Ink, Invisible?
Ink, by definition, does not have to have colour. In fact, while dyes and pigments are what give ink its physical colour in most applications, in security applications, the same dyes and pigments can be formulated to be naked to the visible eye. Additionally, taggants – particles added to ink that are developed in react in proximity of a unique “reader” or verifier – are typically microscopic in size.
Because invisible ink, by design, does not have colour, most applications of invisible security ink involve a taggant that reacts with a specially designed camera, light or scanner. When implementing security ink, the taggant is developed to react only with proper equipment using a UV, infrared or near-infrared light at a specific wavelength. While heat and chemical activating inks do exist, they are more popular in kids’ science experiments than it enterprise applications.
Just how specific is the scanner used? It depends on the level of security needed. In less secure applications, the ink reacts under a broad range of wavelengths. For example, ink on a concert ticket might fluoresce under any black light. In some high-security cases, the taggant reacts only under a light specifically calibrated for that ink.
In short, the components in an invisible ink are all developed and mixed to create a fluid that is transparent to the naked eye, but reactive (and visible) under certain operating conditions.
Creating Security Ink
To create a security ink for a custom application, ink manufacturers must consider a variety of elements:
- Substrate – What material will the ink be printed on? How can we ensure the ink adheres properly to the substrate?
- Operating conditions – Will the printed item be used once or many times?
- Detection mechanism – Is there specific equipment that will be used to validate authenticity (as in light-sensitive ink on a passport) or will it be validated by the naked eye (as in the watermark on a U.S. $20 bill)?
- Security level – Are there other security protocols being implemented for the application? Just how secure does this item need to be?
- Printing – What production speed needs to be maintained? What printing equipment or technology will be used?
These, and many other questions, lead ink manufacturers to develop an ink formulation that meets all of a customer’s needs.
Of course, the ink manufacturer isn’t the only participant in these discussions. Companies looking for security solutions often have to work with a printer as well as the security company that provides the taggant and the machine people will use to confirm the authenticity of the ink.
Security Printing in the Age of Inkjet
Security inks have been around for a long time, but technological advances made possible through inkjet technology innovation have greatly expanded the availability and capability of security inks.
Because inkjet printing requires minimal setup time, printed security ink can be customised at a per-unit level. For example, individual SKU markings on pharmaceutical bottles can help identify theft and counterfeiting at all stages.
For businesses, inkjet security ink has obvious value, reducing printer downtime and expanding production line capabilities. But consumers also benefit! Greater adoption of security measures by companies ultimately protects customers from harm.
Optical fibre is used abundantly in today’s advanced era of communication, high-speed internet calls for the use of fibre-optic cable to transmit signals over long distances. By using fibre cables, the speed of the internet vastly increases while the chance of a lost signal significantly decreases. Fibre is also used in newer computers to help create efficient transmission and processing. Recently scientists from ITMO University have been working to create fibre on a microscale to keep up with the demand for smaller and thinner devices, this microscale fibre is known as micro waveguides.
Waveguides have historically been created by laser ablation or photolithography, but these methods require complex equipment and a plethora of rare materials. Advancements in inkjet printing technology, however, have started changing the production of waveguides.
Inkjet Printing is Changing the Computer Industry
ITMO University scientists have figured out a timely and cost-effective way to inkjet print micro waveguides. Using a special inkjet ink composed of titanium dioxide nanoparticles, micro waveguides are able to be highly refractive to adequately conduct signals over long distances.
“It is obvious that the creation of elements of data storage and transmission of data based on the photons movement control is the basic technology for future computers. The most difficult part for the engineering of such devices is the creation of efficient signal transport lines. Our solution, actually, removes all the major limitations in this area and I have no doubt that soon we will see photon computing devices with waveguides created with our method.” Alexander Vinogradov, ITMO University Researcher.
The main benefits of inkjet printing micro waveguides are a quick turnaround time and the ability to print materials at an affordable price, unlike when waveguides are created through laser ablation or photolithography. By using a suspended solution composed of titanium dioxide particles, waveguides don’t need rare materials to be created, saving manufacturers a significant amount of money.
What the Future Holds for Inkjet Printing Waveguides
Inkjet printing waveguides will soon ensure that micro waveguides are printed as quickly and affordably as possible, while inkjet printing waveguides isn’t yet the standard, it only makes sense for those in the technology industry to shift in that direction. Inkjet printing elements are the future for computers, especially as devices and components continue to get smaller. Scientists are already hard at work to begin printing other elements related to processing and signal transmission.