Italy’s capital city of the industrial district, centre of excellence for high-quality fabric printing and recently at the forefront in the development of the digital textile industry, Como recently hosted the Epson Textile R-Evolution event, organised on the 20-21, November by Epson together with F.lli Robustelli and For.Tex. The event focused on present and future of digital textile printing, a sector in which Como has played a fundamental role thanks to local companies acting as experimental laboratories for the most innovative technologies to develop the worldwide trend. It provided attendees an opportunity to find out about Epson’s commitment, objectives and future strategies and to examine the latest technological developments presented with F.lli Robustelli and For.Tex – now part of the Epson Group.

(R-L) Riccardo Robustelli – Commercial Director, F.lli Robustelli s.r.l., Sandro Robustelli – Production Director, F.lli Robustelli S.r.l., Minoru Usui – President, Epson

With digital printing production exceeding 60 per cent, the evolution of the Digital Textile Valley Made in Italy is today a fact. This development has been boosted also by Epson which has been investing in the Como area since 1998 – the year it started to cooperate with Robustelli and For.Tex. This ongoing commitment is demonstrated by the opening in 2014 of the Textile Solution Centre, the state-of-the-art centre for sector research, training, promotion and development, and the recent creation of two other centres: The Innovation Research Lab, dedicated to digital fabric printing ink technology research and development, and the Printing Research Centre, created to support Epson inkjet technology’s future developments related to fabric printing.

While speaking during the event, Global President Seiko Epson Corp, Minoru Usui said, “Last year, Epson outlined its ten-year corporate vision in which we pledged to continue to boost the competitive advantage of our products and achieve growth in new domains by becoming a valued and indispensable partner. Textile printing is one such new domain as we believe the time for digital to replace analog is now. To this, Epson brings unique technological expertise including our original and proprietary Micro Piezo inkjet technology, which we have perfected for digital textile printing and includes our state-of-the-art Precision Coreprintheads.”

Inkjet printing: The future of textile printing

Originally created to speed production times and reduce pattern book production costs, in 20 years digital printing has taken a leading role in the design and production of printed fabrics. There is a consensus that inkjet printing is the future of the textile printing so that in the fashion industry – particularly sensitive to versatility, speed and customisation – an ever increasing amount of printed fabrics is realised using the inkjet technology. The advantages are not only economic and practical but also ecological. The sustainability aspects have found a powerful ally in digital textile printing.

To deal with this critical topic, during the event, the three companies presented.”Digital printing and sustainability,” the third of the Textile Solution Centre Book series. The report provides an in-depth examination of sustainability applied to the digital printing on textile sector. It started with an analysis of the economic and cultural background which the technology is now a part – its fashion sector connections and the continually evolving market dynamics. The technological aspects of printing processes are analysed along with the environmental impact of the technology and an outline of the trends in future developments. This stressed the extent to which Epson, For.Tex and Robustelli are committed to sustainability and how a total solution is typified by their continuous search to achieve a minimal environmental impact through practices such as eco-design and chemical certification. It is a constant quest for excellence which, after the launch of the first Monna Lisa in 2003, continues to offer the textile sector a unique solution and reference standard for the high-quality textile printing sector today with the Monna Lisa EvoTre – the latest model in this successful series of industrial printers.

Monna Lisa EvoTre goes live

Epson, a pioneer in digital textile printing technology, FOR.TEX and F.lli Robustelli, which now belong to the Group, during the event announced the revolutionary Monna Lisa EvoTre. This new digital textile printer is dedicated to a rapidly growing market. After the 2015 digital textile printing market milestone, it has been predicted that the industry will see annual increases of 17 per cent until 2019.

A single solution to meet the varied market quality and production needs. Designed by the engineering company F.lli Robustelli, the Monna Lisa EvoTre features innovative and exclusive Epson Precision Core proprietary printing technology. Its flexibility provides unprecedented higher productivity quality and reliability – features that make the new printer one of the most versatile digital textile printers on the market. One of the most important qualities of the new Monna Lisa is its flexibility. It provides users with a single printer to meet a variety of different production needs. It can print on any type of fabric from the most basic to the most complex designs with the highest quality, perfect speed and repeatability. This means a drastically reduced production time and in-line sampling with production. These are crucial to satisfy a demanding market, which is constantly looking for innovation, from the high-fashion sector to the entire textile and clothing sector.

These unique characteristics have made the Monna Lisa the best solution for all printing suppliers working with the best-known fashion, fast fashion and high fashion brands. Monna Lisa EvoTre is the heart of a high-tech Total Solution – a complete and seamlessly integrated system that sees the three companies working together to offer maximum guarantees and assistance throughout the production cycle. This means that there is a single supplier for all components: The print head, inks, before and after treatment chemical agents, and engineering support. This was shown by the recent launch of the new R&D centres, based in the Como area – the Digital Textile Valley. This region is a world-wide area of excellence and a reference for quality textile printing.

Digital printing and sustainability

Originally created to speed production times up and reduce pattern book production costs, in 20 years digital printing has taken a leading role in the design and production of printed fabrics. There is a consensus that inkjet printing is the future of the textile printing in both the fashion sector, which is particularly sensitive to versatility, speed and customisation, and other production sectors, such as interior design.

The third Book of the “Beyond the Silk Road”series was unveiled at the digital textile industry conference, organised by Epson. Created by the Textile Solution Centre Advisory Board by Epson, and F.lli Robustelli, the “Digital printing and sustainability”Book covers the latest environmental impact thinking within the textile industry. The publication was edited by Blumine, a textile and fashion industry sustainability research and consulting company, in collaboration with the Como technical institute Rete Clima.

The focus on digital printing is entirely justifiable as it is a well-established and ever rising trend,“In the first half of 2017, there were more than 982,300,000 sq mtr of digitally printed fabric. The many advantages of this cutting-edge printing technology can be found throughout the industry, from the companies to the final consumers. The economic, organisational and ecological benefits include waste reduction, fewer wash cycles and the related reduction in environmental pollution.

The “Digital printing and sustainability” Book provides an in-depth examination of sustainability applied to the digital printing on the textile sector. It starts with an analysis of the economic and cultural background, which the technology is now a part of, its fashion sector connections and the continually evolving market dynamics. Special attention is given to the research role and the production of low environmental impact chemicals. Printers are governed by laws, regulations, certifications and restrictive specifications produced by customers and brand in the fashion industry. This can be seen from the interviewed opinion leaders and from For.Tex’s daily experience.

Environmental advantages of inkjet printing

The study collects the data obtained by simulating the consumption of materials needed to print 1,000 mtr of fabric using conventional and digital technologies based on values provided by a printer run with both types of equipment. The processed data revealed that digital technology has a smaller carbon footprint compared to traditional printing. The report explains that a digital system produced less equivalent CO2 than a conventional rotary system – specifically, this is 139.56 kg of equivalent CO2 compared to 85.66 kg of equivalent CO2. This significantly limits the contribution to climatic warming.

Digital printing used 27 per cent less water, confirming yet another vital statistic, which has two environmental knock-on effects. This proces guarantees a reduction both in the volume of wastewater sent for purification and in the consumption of energy for heating process water. This further lowers the carbon footprint while using the printer.

Further analysis in the report includes a study of the environmental advantages evaluation introduced by the constant maintenance model at the production plant used by F.lli Robustelli. The evaluation used a Life Cycle Thinking approach and Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) techniques to the Monna Lisa EvoTre printer, the latest in the series developed by Fratelli Robustelli based on Epson technology. A circular economy logic and the non-replacement of the machine’s structural parts, thanks to optimised update and maintenance protocols developed by Robustelli Spa, reduces greenhouse gases in comparison with the more invasive alternative.

revamping process. This reduction is an indirect environmental benefit. Manufacturing a new printer (based on a small size Monna Lisa EvoTre) has a carbon footprint of about 13,900 equivalent CO2. However, it is now possible to keep more than 80 per cent of the machine in service at each five-year maintenance. The limited invasiveness of the maintenance work produces a clear economic benefit for the final customer and limits the environmental cost compared to more critical maintenance. The environmental cost of the parts replaced is equivalent to “only” 3,260 kg of equivalent CO2, or 25 per cent of the overall environmental cost of new production.

Visit to Textile Solution Center – A live Demo Center

Paolo Crespi, Commercial Director, FOR.TEX S.r.l.

On 21st November, the Epson organised a Tour to TSC -Textile Solution Center in Fino Mornasco, the state-of-the-art centre for research, training, promotion and development of the digital textile printing. During this visit Apparel Views Editor Arvind Kumar spoke to Paolo Crespi, Commercial Director, FOR.TEX S.r.l. According to Paolo Crespi, “Inkjet printing is an irreplaceable technology in a textile production system which has to cope with the daily demand for flexibility and customisation of production. It is a question of understanding how much digital printing is consistent with the demand for reducing environmental impact and chemical safety that the customers and brands are imposing on textiles manufacturers and printers. Our mission is to study the dynamics and drivers of cultural and technological innovation. The Textile Solution Centre was established to disseminate digital innovation culture among the textile printing processes. We do this through our training programmes for different public sectors: Both making our teaching available by running workshops in schools, businesses and research institutes that want the first-hand experience of the potential of inkjet printing and publishing the “Beyond the Silk Road” Book series.”

Commenting on FOR.TEX association with Epson he said, “We have the knowledge of textiles i.e. chemical knowledge. Print is just one of the process where we will find results that means we have to treat the fabrics first, then print with the fabric printers and then to finish the fabrics, the treatment process has to be needed according to the range we are using the fibre. For synthetic fibres we use disperse dyes, for cellulosic fibres reactive, for silk, wool and protech fibres we need acid dyes. But old processes are different so you have to manage the right chemicals and the right process. Robustelli does not have this kind of knowledge because they are machine maker and Epson too because they are focusing on technology. So, practically they needed someone to take care of this part because without if you cannot rant on customers for the service. If you don’t manage all the things final result will not be the same. FOR.TEX is important for the group and we are one which is in direct customers with customers. Our job is little different from Espon and Robestelli but it’s a daily job. We have to convince the customers before their investment that whole Monna Lisa project is good enough and we as FOR.TEX we invite here in our center and we teach them how to proceed because we give them proof well done, well printed and well finished.”

Speaking about his experience of interacting with Indian customers Crespi said, “In India, I have some customers for many years; this market is different from the European market but not so much. In India you have some customers that are looking for high quality as well, many others are looking for high production and lower cost but in the same market you have both so in the beginning when we start we are focusing first on the high quality one. The key issue is to give proof to customers in India that want to drive faster because we can do it and we can rand also the quality, faster and high quality and if possible, low mentainance cost. We needed to manage with a different strategy when we start ourselves; we tried to get the best customers as per our quality. Now with Epson organisation and branch office there we can think about a different approach to spread all over the country and also have to elute over the productivity but future is there for sure.”

When asked about the price part, Crespi said, “In future we can expect price of digital textile printing inks to come down and we can demonstrate. As when we started 14 year ago, the price of ink was 150 euro per kg and step by step every year Epson and our group brand to the customers for a new price down. So, even this year 2018, we are already talking with our customers and asked them to be calm enough because we will brand taking for a better price. The new prices of the ink will follow the total volume of inks. Epson strategic don’t want to get so much money but are looking for really a revolution. They will join the customers for better prices, the volume give us the opportunity for next year for sure.”

Speaking about their present market he said, “Today, Our district has plenty of Monna Lisa and we can say that we are the leaders here. Because in the beginning, when we started we focused on this district first and we are the leaders. Of course there are competitors because we were focusing on this district they moved to other countries first. And now they are trying to come to Italy, so it’s totally opposite to us. But today Como District is almost full, so their opportunities are limited. So, theoretically we have plenty of opportunities in other countries, more than the competitors as in our country.”

“As far as our target in 2018 is concerned, we wish to place as much as units as possible but talking about our possibility to produce; now we can produce from five to six units per month. Till today we have delivery of two three months so I think that it’s possible to place more than 50 units, and in India we wish around 15-20 installations. Today big market for us is Italy but Turkey and India are really important. If you look at future of course India and Turkey are the best and most important markets for us,” Crespi concluded.

Press conference during the convention

Giovanni Pizzamiglio DTF Sales & Marketing Director EMEAR & Americas, Epson

On the first day of the Digital Printing Convention, a press conference was organised by Epson, in which Giovanni Pizzamiglio, DTF Sales & Marketing Director EMEAR & Americas, Epson spoke about the “Epson Total Solution: Technologies and solutions for the textile industry.” While speaking exclusively to Apparel Views Editor Arvind Kumar, Giovanni Pizzamigilio discussed how Epson proprietary printing technology PrecisionCore makes the difference.

“The heart of Epson PrecisionCore technology is the latest generation printing chip, the Micro Thin Film Piezo (MicroTFP) designed to offer customers the highest performance and value. The development of micron thick piezo-electric crystals, which are a hundredth of a human hair thick, allowed the maximum ink supply from the more compact print engine, resulting in a higher density of the print nozzles. Combined with high precision nozzles and ink channels, the TFP print heads apply nearly perfect round drops on substrates with maximum accuracy. The technology of the PrecisionCore print heads is the result of the material science and MEMS systems manufacturing technology knowledge developed by the company to enhance TFP’s success,“ says Giovanni. “Integration of the innovative PrecisionCore Micro TFP printhead which, thanks to the extremely thin (micron thick) piezo-electric element, is uniquely efficient and resulting in high productivity combined with high print quality. THnk conservation: The exclusive vacuum-packed and degassed ink management system is designed to obtain the maximum efficiency and ensure that less ink is wasted. In the new version of Monna Lisa we have doubled productivity up to 650 m2/h thanks to the PrecisionCore Micro TFP printhead. This technology is only used by Monna Lisa, we do not provide any print head manufacturer the precision for this technology.

He also said the print head is not very expensive, so when asked how much in comparison to other brands Giovanni said, “The thing we are trying to establish in the market is price we had is much more competitive than today’s situation. To achieve that we need to optimise the volume of print heads. Of course Epson has power to use the economy of scale, in order to optimise the cost efficiency, therefore be able to offer the most competitive condition to the market. The precision core technology is basically not exclusive to the Monna Lisa, means within Epson range of product basically becoming certain standard. So, this is the kind of challenge to use the economy of scale in order to be able to offer the industrial in a more competitive price position. We are already more competitive than other brands in the market as those are more expensive than us.”

Especially for Monna Lisa the company has developed its own Genesta inks. “The water-based inks developed by Epson in collaboration with FOR.TEX are created to allow precision and fastness in fabric prints. Genesta inks – acid, reactive, disperse and pigment – enable to obtain the highest quality on any type of fabric. We are also trying to expand, the range of the ink at the different target course. We do we have ecosolvent ink dyes which are probably suitable for this type of material. This is now showing the positive return. The first phase was developing without really understanding the co-operation in each of the company developing horizon. Now every element is combined together so it is easier to develop the solution,” said Giovanni.

Global presence and importance of Indian market

Commenting on their leading markets especially in Asian region Giovanni said, “India, because we really have a good agent with good technical support there already. Generally, Asia is growing everywhere so India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Korea, Vietnam as well as China are important for us. But China at the moment really keep it off, we need to set-up the commercial stage there, but it ofcourse will be a top market in future.”

“At present, Turkey is the second largest market after Italy for Monna Lisa. We have an agent there, not only for sales but also for providing technical support. We do have a branch office in Turkey that is already supporting the clients. That’s why Turkey is very important for us and second in terms of no. of installations. We believe that we need to expand this further more by having more technical people. We have already some, but we need to expand more. The main markets are Italy, Turkey and then India. We see a lot of potential in Latin America, China, the US and believe the potential in these markets is growing even more. Besides, there is a lot of potential in European market as well,” added Giovanni.

What is the lead time they have for delivering Monna Lisa in the Indian Market? On this Giovanni said, “Ofcourse to grow bigger is to be really able to produce more. It is meaningless when we say we want to sell everywhere in the world, but not able to deliver. Since July last year we started adding more resources, no. of people working in Robustelli has increased significantly. We are already 35 and expanding more. These are being done with clear intention to expand the no. of units produced. Japan is also expected to help us to expand our production when it comes to Monna Lisa same as what we do here. So we can deliver faster. We will introduce several new models basically started matching through common platform. The working capacity has increased already so it’s a good time and lots of things to do. Everybody has a new mind-set. No. of people in Japan is increasing, there is basically continues flow of people to bring new ideas.”

When asked about the growing demand of pigment printing he said, “We do have pigment which is already part of our catalogue. We believe the level of our pigment is good and to really change the scale of digital printing, pigment is the key. Pigment will be the turnaround where everything will expand. Though it’s complicated but has long way to go. What you have in the market today is a sort of reference. You can find company talking more about pigment but there is no real significant difference. There is no economy of scale in the price of pigment inks. The market will completely change with launch of new generation of pigment inks.