Images met up with Yuji Ikeda, Mimaki Europe’s new managing director, at Fespa to talk about current trends in wide format digital printing

What are the trends in wide format printing at the moment?
At this moment we see a big split between the high production companies and those companies who’d like to try this type of printing: on one side the customers are demanding high production machines, like the Tiger-1800B [Mimaki’s new – and first – high production direct-to-textile printer], which costs more than €300,000. On the other hand, in a country like the UK, we’ve seen an increase in demand for entry level products, such as for educational purposes or for customers who’d like to expand their business into the textile segment.

We’ve seen a big increase of enquiries from this segment, not only in the dye sublimation segment, but also we get a lot of requests for textile pigment inks because the customers have to choose the right ink to print on a variety of textiles. For example, in order to print on polyester, customers have to go to dye sublimation ink. If they’d like to print on cotton, reactive ink is recommended. In the case of silk or wool, acid ink is required. This Fespa we have introduced a hybrid machine, the Tx300P-1800, which can print both textile pigment ink and dye sublimation ink and it has generated a lot of interest.

How has the wide format printing sector changed over the past few years?
We’re seeing a lot of demand from faster fashion. People used to do rotary screen printing, but because the trends change rapidly now, the dyeing houses and printing companies are seeing the benefit of digital printing. Especially in the fast fashion segment, the ratio between screen printing and digital has moved a lot toward digital.

Do you see that trend continuing?
Yes, because with wide format inkjet technology, we’re now able to achieve speeds close to screen printing technologies, so it’s entering the production segment.

Is the sports market still increasing?
In the sports segment, our first product was introduced in 2002, 2003. We don’t really see a big increase in this segment, although we do have very big business in it – I would say the current increase is coming more from the fashion industry and the interior decoration markets.

What are the main things to consider when buying a wide format digital printer?
First of all, we would recommend that customers choose the textile they’ll be working with. Like I said, customers have to choose the right technology, depending on the type of textile they like to print. They need to consider what type of ink to use, if pre-treatment is required, what sort of post processes are required. Unfortunately, there is no technology that can print on all kinds of textiles.

Next, they need to look at production: what the customer would like to achieve is also key, because there is such a wide range of textile printing machinery.

What kind of production speed the customer needs and what kind of textile the customer would like to print, those are the important areas.

What do you think is the main mistake people make when they’re using wide format digital printers, and how can they avoid it?
Often people from a traditional printing segment do not know a lot about the digital printing technologies. Digital printing requires a complete workflow – it’s not only printing but may also include post process and pre-process – and the printers are a bit more sensitive compared to rotary screen printers. Good education from Mimaki and our partners is needed. We try to provide a solution for customers complete with technical support.

What ‘s the one piece of advice you’d give Images readers on how to get the best out of their machines?
The important point is the variance between the quality and production speed. On paper, everybody says we can do this speed, but it does not mean that at this top speed we can print fine quality. Depending on the print data or the end results that the customer would like to achieve, we carefully advise customers which print modes to use. A Ferrari cannot run at 300 km/hour in the desert.

Yuji Ikeda

The new hybrid Tx300P-1800 from Mimaki