Article published in Print Week by Sarah Cosgrove, Friday 13 November 2015
Konica Minolta is today holding the worldwide launch of its fastest yet single-pass inkjet textile printer, plus three other smaller machines.
The 1.85m-wide Nassenger SP-1 prints at between 1,500 and 6,000 linear metres per hour, depending on resolution.
Its 144 1.6m-wide printhead modules use Konica Minolta’s proprietary ink ejection control technology, which allows for small, medium or large drop sizes so that printers can opt for a higher resolution for fine patterns or colour gradients. It uses proprietary inks deposited at between six or seven picolitres.
The machine is also able to detect when nozzles become blocked and will automatically increase the size of adjacent ink droplets to cover patchy areas. The company said that three nozzles can be dysfunctional without affecting quality.
Former president of Konica Minolta’s Inkjet Division and now senior adviser Akiyoshi Ohno said just 30 of the machines, being unveiled at textile and garment machinery expo ITMA in Milan, Italy, could fulfil the current global market for textile printing.
“We want to make an industrial revolution with inkjet,” he said. “Our aim is to capture 50% of the world single-pass inkjet textile printing market.”
Ohno told PrintWeek that if a business used an SP-1 at the most likely speed of 2,000 linear metres per hour, and worked a typical six-day week and 11-month year, each machine would print 6.6 million metres of textile per year.
Meanwhile he said the printed textile market is estimated at around 20 billion metres of textile printed per year.
“Scanner printers are too slow so we have developed single-pass. Typically we are looking at people who are printing more than 20 million metres per year. They are now changing from screen to inkjet because screen isn’t very fast.”
Ohno said textile printers benefitted from reduced makeready time compared with screen, which is better suited to smaller runs.
“Now the print jobs are becoming smaller. 10 years ago there was always a big run in design, 5,000m or 6,000m. Now with fast fashion it can be 2,000m or 1,500m.”
According to Ohno, the average take-up for digital textile printing is between 2% and 5%, with 20%-30% in Italy and 10% in Turkey.
“We have UK customers interested,” he added. “Most people talk about Italy – it’s the biggest and most advanced market – but France, Spain, Portugal, the UK and Germany are also there.
“The UK was the starting point of the industrial revolution so there are very good printing companies there. Italy isn’t everything.”
He said he welcomed recent increased interest in inkjet textile printing.
“Konica Minolta has been involved in textile inkjet for the last 16 or 17 years so we know the industry. I welcome the recent moves because having no competitors is a boring life. I think the slow scanning manufacturers are doing a good job to wake people up.
“Maybe other companies can do relatively small but affordable machines. People can buy and try it. Now the game is changing, we are changing the world.”
Nassenger SP-1 technology on show at ITMA until 19 November. The company is also bussing customers to its newly-opened €5m (£3.5m) Demo and Training Centre in Bregnano, near Milan, for live demonstrations of the full printer, which retails for around €3m (£2.1m).
The company is also launching two new multi-pass inkjet textile printers. The Nassenger 10 has a print speed of 580sqm per hour which, the company said, can replace a flat screen printing machine, while the Nassenger 8, at 240sqm per hour, is suited to medium-volume printing needs ranging from sample printing to low-volume printing.
These both also benefit from Konica Minolta’s variable nozzle system and its detector technology.