Fabric Printing in the UK in 2018

The fabric printing industry in the UK has a long history, and flat screen or rotary screen printing has been the core print process for textiles for decades, however, as technology advanced, companies began investigating the idea of printing fabrics via digital inkjet printers. 

UK print companies first started to toy with the idea of digital fabric printing in the early 1990s, and by the late 90s there was already talk of digital textile printing being about to make screen printing obsolete.

As the years passed by, rotary and flat screen printing remained the leading method for fabric printing in the UK, and in most other countries, and digital fabric printing became regarded mainly as a handy process for sampling and for very short runs. 

Digital printing just couldn’t compete with screen printing for price, and in a very price sensitive industry, this appears to have held digital printing back from taking over the industry as had initially been predicted. 

However, fast forward just a few years, and in 2018 things have changed when it comes to fabric printing in the UK, which is seeing digital overtaking screen as the leading process for certain industries, especially for home textiles and fashion.

So why has digital fabric printing started to take over from traditional screen printing? Here are a few reasons:

Improvements in digital fabric printing technology. 

Digital Printing machines have become much faster and more reliable. Print speed has a direct correlation to print cost, and downtime and maintenance costs money, therefore increased reliability also, in turn, reduces the cost of digitally printed fabric. 

Improvements in digital fabric printing inks.

As ink technology has advanced, the colour gamut has become wider, fabric printing can achieve greater vibrancy, and can now stand up to more rigorous testing in terms of colour fastness.

Improvements with fabric, and fabric treatments. 

Reactive dyes require a pre-treatment in order to fix the print onto the fabric, and while pigment inks don’t require a treatment to enable fixing, treatments enhance the vibrancy of the print, and the colour fastness.

As the pre-treatments have improved, so too has the potential performance of digitally printed fabrics, both in terms of the quality, and the fastness of the print.

Affordability of digital fabric printers. 

Most of us can remember a time when the cheapest PC would cost a couple of thousand pounds, and of course over time as computer technology advanced at an incredible pace, the costs reduced accordingly. 

It is a similar story with digital fabric printers, they were prohibitively expensive in the early days of digital fabric printing, which meant there were very few print companies investing in them. 

Over the years as wide format digital textile printers have become more affordable, more and more printing companies have moved into digital printing either in addition  to screen printing, or instead of, which is often the case with startups.

No repeat restrictions.

When printing onto fabric via rotary screen, your repeat is restricted by the circumference of the screen, and with flat screen you’re also restricted by the screen size. 

When printing fabric digitally, these restrictions are lifted, and you’re free to create the repeat that you feel is right for each design.

Reduced overheads.

If you’re printing digitally, generally speaking, the space you will require for production will be smaller, and you won’t need as many staff as you would if you were printing fabric via rotary or flat screen. The result of reduced overheads is that your prices can be more competitive accordingly, so this is a factor when it comes to the price of digitally printed fabric reducing, and therefore becoming a more popular printing process as a result.

Increased competition.

As the price of digital fabric printers has reduced, and as they have become more reliable, and a less intimidating prospect for startups, there has been an increase in the number of companies offering to print on fabric digitally.

The increase in competition has helped to bring about a steady reduction of printing prices, which has lead to digital fabric printing being a more accessible process. 

Made in the UK – a great USP.

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We can see that digital fabric printing has become increasingly popular as a print process vs screen printing, but why are there now so many digital printing companies starting up in the UK?

Well, digital fabric printing opens up new opportunities when it comes to producing bespoke digitally printed textile products, with unlimited colours, no repeat restrictions, little or no set up costs and low minimums. 

But probably the main reason for the surge in popularity of digital printing within the past couple of years is the “made in the UK” factor, which is increasingly becoming an important USP.

British consumers generally regard products that are made in the UK, to be of a higher quality than cheaper imported products, especially when it comes to home textiles and fashion, and appear to be happy to pay a small premium for UK made products. 

Less investment and faster turnaround.

Another reason for the increasing popularity of digital fabric printing in the UK, is that sourcing textile products from the UK requires less investment in stock, and less waiting for products to be imported. 

If a brand is having a product produced in China, or India for example – the minimum order quantity is usually quite considerable, to satisfy the minimum order of the print firm and also to make it worthwhile when considering the costs of import. 

What this means is a considerable investment, and usually a wait of 6-8 weeks for sea freight even once the products have been made, which can lead to 10-12 week production times or longer.

Having your products printed and made up in the UK will usually mean a higher price per unit than if you were to import in large bulk, however, it will usually result in a much faster delivery date, and with far less financial commitment, given that you can order to fulfil the demand and re-order as necessary rather than holding several months worth of stock.

Popular digitally printed fabric products.

Digitally printed fabric is very versatile and can be used for many different products, but tea towels, oven gloves, cushions, aprons and tote bags are among the most popular within the UK.

Our bespoke digital fabric printing and product manufacturing service offers the customer a complete service from start to finish as we will digitally print the fabric before our CMT department turn the printed fabric into the product of your choice.

Because wo offer a complete service, which can also include artwork if necessary, we can offer a quality bespoke product at a competitive price.

Fancy a Brew? 

Fancy a brew, while we discuss our digital fabric printing?If you’re local enough to our factory and studio, in Poynton, Cheshire (roughly 9 miles from Manchester Airport, 12 miles from Manchester City Centre, 6 miles from Stockport, 7 miles from Macclesfield) why not give us a call on 01625 876618,  or submit a quotation request, and arrange to pop in for a cuppa so we can discuss your fabric printing requirements in more detail?

We’re a friendly bunch, and we won’t try to sell you anything, but we’re passionate about providing very high-quality digital fabric printing and product making services. So we’ll be very happy to answer any questions you may have about our products and service – and we’re told we make a fairly decent brew, too!