HP expands into digital textile printing

The first two models in the new Stitch S Printer series are an entry level machine designed for simplicity and for new and low-volume users, as well as a production workhorse.

The HP Stitch S500

HP has announced the new HP Stitch S Printer series, a portfolio of digital printers that mark its entry into the textile industry. The company believes that its technology, designed for this environment, can take advantage of and accelerate the trends that are reshaping textile printing.

“This is an exciting day,” said Joan Perez Pericot, Worldwide General Manager, HP Large Format Graphics Business. “HP is expanding into textiles.”

Perez Pericot said that while HP has a strong graphics solution business, textiles is a key area they have not addressed.

“Textiles was the next big opportunity where we were not playing,” he said.

The printed textile business has a $308 billion TAM – but less than 10 per cent of this is digitally printed, which is what HP is focused on.

“We see a $2.2 billion dollar market for hardware and ink for this, and we expect it to grow between 10 and 12 per cent over the next five years, to $3.6 billion,” Perez Pericot said.

He emphasized that the market is moving away from linear analog pipelines – where designers produce product, manufacturers buy them, it arrives at retailers and is then sold to consumers.

“That is the traditional pipeline,” Perez Pericot said. “It has a long lead time of 180 plus days from design to getting goods.” It also has a bias towards large companies.

The new digital pipeline, on the other hand, is more of a circular concept where the consumer is in the middle. Brands and retailers are there, as before, but designers has now been replaced by designer communities, where they share designs. There are also new players, particularly online marketplaces and local manufacturers, who don’t need brands to sell.

“Here everything is produced on demand,” Perez Pericot said. “The lead times are much shorter –  24-48 hours. For cash flow, consumers pay up front before production takes place. This is transforming the way textiles are being produced, which includes the fact that they can now be manufactured locally, not just in far east.”

Perez Pericot then laid out how HP plans to play and win in this market.

“We believe HP can be the company that accelerates digital transformation of textiles, making it accessible, sustainable, smart and limitless,” he said. “We can make every designer be a brand by themselves.” The keys will be to deliver product that facilitates on-demand capability, offers customers personalization, for which they will pay more, has intelligence, to manage counterfeit and add more value, and has circular sustainability for minimal impact on the footprint of the environment.

To do this, HP has decided to create a new brand – Stitch – rather than use another enterprise brand. The initial portfolio has two models which are being announced now, and a third, larger one, that will be formally unveiled in May.

Four markets are being specifically targeted, all of which have an emphasis on polyester, which makes up 60 per cent of the fabric in the space. These markets are soft signage (a $0.5 billion digital TAM and an 11% CAGR), interior decoration ($0.7 billion digital TAM and 9% CAGR), sportswear ($0.4 billion and 8% CAGR, and fashion, at $2 billion TAM and 12% CAGR.

“Colour consistency is the top challenge,” said Ester Sala, Worldwide Textiles Business Director at HP. “The second big challenge is waste and the cost of wasted materials, and the third is increasingly shorter delivery times.”

The HP Stitch S300

The two models in the HP Stitch S Printer series being announced now are the HP Stitch S300 64-in Printer, and the HP Stitch S500 64-in Printer. The third one the HP Stitch S1000 126-in Printer, will be announced in May at FESPA 2019, and details on it will be provided then.

The HP Stitch S300 Printer is designed specifically for new-to-dye sublimation professionals, prototyping departments, and growing print providers.

“This is the baby of the portfolio, designed to make dye-sublimation printing easy,” Sala said. “It brings a complete solution for peace of mind. Every single operator has highlighted as an advantage that you can do everything from the front or side.

The HP Stitch S500 Printer is designed as a production workhorse, with thermal inkjet technology that saturates colors even at high speeds, and can print 110 square metres per hour.

“Many customers print overnight to maximize production, so they need a reliable printer that can manage larger rolls unattended,” Sala said. “This can do shifts of 9 hours without requiring any intervention.”

The HP Stitch S500 Printer also requires 50 per cent less floor space than competitor models because of front media loading and spindle-less printing.

Sala highlighted what she referred to as significant technological innovations with these products.

“We have introduced new transfer media and the first dye-sublimation ink that can he used in a thermal printhead,” she said. “The [1200 native dpi] printhead you can replace yourself in 20 minutes. You don’t need eight hours with a technician.”

She also highlighted a new Drop and Dry Printzone dryer, a new drying system that instantly dries ink for much better sharpness, HP Media Advance Control, which controls banding even at high speeds, and a Smart Nozzle Compensation system for reliable image quality that eliminates white lines caused by nozzle outs, which the sport image business said causes a 5 per cent waste rate because they need deep colours. HP will also be selling its own dye sublimation paper.

“We are also introducing the first embedded spectrophotometer embedded, which constantly rates colour printer delivery to let them recalibrate and readjust in order to deliver the same color all the time,” Sala said.

Both the HP Stitch S300 and HP Stitch S500 are slated for availability in June.