However, Maclaren says there is far more effort involved than just the initial equipment outlay.
“Setting up a dye-sublimation print process is not easy and needs substantial initial investment, as well as ongoing costs associated with the variety of finishes and complexity of these techniques,” he says.
“In order to have a full set-up in-house, the equipment required, other than the expensive printer, includes a fixation unit, to heat the ink once it has been applied to the fabric; sewing machines; heated cutting equipment, to prevent fraying; and heavy-duty eyeleting machines,” he adds.
Despite the effort involved, the move is paying dividends for the Lincoln company. It is forecasting revenues of £600,000 for its first year of trading and is currently producing flags, gazebos and street branding for a range of clients.
One manufacturer that has enjoyed growth in its textile offering is Mimaki, whose products are distributed exclusively in the UK and Ireland by Cheshire-based Hybrid Services. Hybrid marketing manager Duncan Jefferies says the challenges and rewards of investing into the sector go hand-in-hand.
“Textile printing is one of the largest growth areas within wide-format digital at the moment and the breadth of applications and sectors being influenced are substantial,” he says. “Sportswear, fashion and furnishings have long seen the benefit of digital print, so it’s no surprise that other markets are looking at benefiting from digital textile prints.”
According to Jefferies, one major area is soft signage and, in his opinion, the advantages of specific substrates such as digitally printed polyester graphics are three-fold.
“Firstly, an aqueous print onto a recyclable substrate ticks the all important green boxes – and this is something being led by the clients themselves,” he says. “Secondly, the carbon footprint of shipping a folded fabric graphics versus a roll of PVC banner or a pallet of sheets of board is substantially less. Thirdly, dent a roll of banner or chip the corner of a board and the whole print is ruined. That’s not a problem with fabric.”
However he is quick to point out the challenges involved in such a move, emphasising that, for a print provider to take on the practical challenges of textile printing, new skills will be required.
Whether it is in the design of jobs, the sourcing of fabrics, the production of the print – be it direct or via the transfer method – and perhaps most importantly, the finishing, the skills will be different to those many printers will be used to,” he says.
“A beautiful print onto a roll of polyester has little commercial value until it’s turned into a lightbox, a hanging banner or a sail flag; so hemming, eyeleting and finishing are a crucial aspect and add significant value to the print,” he says.