Changing the Industry Through Technology Innovations, Communication
Printing United Expo, which was held Oct. 19–21 at the Las Vegas Convention Center, is one of the largest and most diverse marketplaces for printing technology and is an incubator for new directions. On demand the consumer-centric supply chain is replacing the old process of seasonal development and doing away with lengthy time and action calendars. Fast tracking, reading and reacting immediately to selling as well as the ability to produce garments based on P.O.s are all now available with new digital and software developments.
“This week has been surreal, seeing the industry come together after such a long time,” said Amanda Kliegl, vice president of public relations for the expo. “The direct-to-garment movement has brought many new customers to the show. Startups who initially began in their garages have grown and now are looking to see what’s available in technology and equipment to buy and build for growth,” Kliegl added.
Mimaki demonstrated its micro-factory along with strategic partners Tukatech, Greentex, Beaver Paper, Kieverik and Juki. This new wave in production provides same-day designs as the solution for less waste, no minimums and quick turn, solving so many of the issues previously involved in the production process. Its three-step approach to printing, finishing and assembly makes sale-ready products within hours, not weeks or months. Victoria Nelson Harris, Mimaki’s senior textile specialist, said, “The micro-factory gives full control of the supply chain with instant production, which is really cool. The complete solution.”
Chris Walia, COO of Tukatech, added, “Technology is so amazing yet underutilized in the apparel industry. We are poised to help companies make the necessary transition by providing cutting-edge product.” One of his goals is to promote micro-factories within the U.S. for speed to market.
At Epson, new-product introductions included six-color printers and a color-match system that reads any physical sample and produces the exact color at the click of a button. Tim Check, senior product manager for textiles, said, “This is another new tool to assist creatives, where their vision comes to life, communicating directly with the printer.”
X-Rite Pantone has made new advances in software and machinery that measure specific color for an exact match, eliminating the long process of color approval. Queenie Bhardwaj, product manager, said, “We are now able to make sure color standards are exact and can be given to our customers by elevating the visual process.”
HP’s innovations in digital printing allow for the elimination and expense of burning screens for small orders. Rolando Martinez, global head of programs and solutions, spoke to improvements in the area of packaging, “Today’s trend is definitely toward smaller runs. Packaging for small industries is now easier. Low MOQs for testing, fast turns and greater profitability are now achievable.”
Roland showed its solution for full photo printing using digital dots. Direct-to-garment printers can do up to a dozen pieces at a time. The new equipment includes a heat-transfer machine for entry-level apparel makers. At $2,500 with a promo price of under $2,000, this is a solution for direct-to-consumer sellers like those with Etsy stores who can now produce from home without a huge investment.
Los Angeles Apparel was at the show looking to reach screen printers as well as wholesalers. Pat Honda, president of wholesale, said, “We are reaching everyone who will touch our product before the end user. We’ve seen some customers from as far away as Canada. Connecting in person again has been great.” The company’s stock program of knitwear and accessories is available in custom colors for a 300-piece minimum in seven to 10 days. Its 6½-oz. garment-dyed T-shirt is the bestseller at $6.50 in 25 different colors.
Gerber Technology also showed its on-demand and customization technologies at the show. Its capabilities for photo-image printing recreates life-like imagery on textiles, including cottons, that have the appearance of denim.
Omniprint International featured daily panels to help businesses scale and grow and to address the importance of TikTok and other forms of social media. One panel featured influencers who spoke to the challenges they faced in building their business and answered questions from the audience. Attendee Chazz Owens, CEO of streetwear brands Twozzday and 222 Sports, said, “When I heard about this show, I thought I would check out what’s new and available for growing my brand. I’m looking to expand my line beyond online by collaborating with licenses and will need to be able to present collections and samples more quickly.”
The Kornit Digital Conference was held at the end of the expo’s first day. Ronen Samuel, CEO of Kornit Digital, opened the seminar and passionately spoke about wanting to “be the change” that is long overdue. “After three long years it is a pleasure to be in person,” Samuel said. “We are making fashion better, faster and more personal. Technology has in the last three years changed so much, and we are here to change the industry. Fashion is one of the last industries to go digital.”
Samuel added that tackling change through disruption is necessary. “There’s been a big e-comm boom, especially during COVID, which has made social media so important to what the consumer is responding to. The ability to produce what is actually sold, never run out of bestsellers and same-day reorders are just some of the customer-first changes,” Samuel explained. “What’s important to Gen Z is sustainability, and the industry is currently the second-biggest polluter. Kornit has made a commitment to tackle this issue and produces an environmental impact report to track these improvements.”
Don Whaley, vice president of Kornit Digital, spoke to the pixel-to-parcel cycle, wherein rapid-speed product moves closer to actual market in newly released systems. New equipment introduced included the Max System, which can print direct to fabric, not just to garments, the Presto Max and Max Poly. Coming soon is the Apollo, in which one person can produce 350–400 fully finished garments per hour.