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Printing Industry Exchange (printindustry.com) is pleased to have Steven Waxman writing and managing the Printing Industry Blog. As a printing consultant, Steven teaches corporations how to save money buying printing, brokers printing services, and teaches prepress techniques. Steven has been in the printing industry for thirty-three years working as a writer, editor, print buyer, photographer, graphic designer, art director, and production manager.

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Commercial Printing: Print in the Fashion Industry

I have had an eye out for news about the fashion industry recently, since I have been helping a print brokering client find fabric printing sources for her new clothing line. I have mentioned her before in this blog. She started with a print book color system for choosing hues complementary to one’s complexion, and now she is expanding her color system into garment production.

This is what I have read recently.

3D Printing of Athletic Footwear

The first article I read was “Adidas’ latest 3D-printed shoe puts mass production within sight,” written by Fitz Tepper and published on techcrunch.com.

The article references a new 3D printing process used for Adidas athletic shoes, in which the 3D printed midsole can be varied in thickness and flexibility depending on the computer data. “Different patterns result in different density and feel” (according to the article), and presumably this will be variable at some point based on each individual buyer’s needs. The article notes that after the 3D printer has produced the midsole, it is attached to a fabric top of the shoe constructed in a more traditional manner.

What makes this 3D custom printing approach to shoemaking intriguing to me is that Adidas’ 3D printing company, Carbon (located in Silicon Valley) has developed a new form of additive manufacturing that works more quickly than prior technology (while also printing the shoe with a more flexible 3D filament material). The process is called Digital Light Synthesis, and it uses a special light in the printer to solidify the resin up to ten times faster than more traditional 3D printing.

Israeli Tech Firms in the Fashion Industry

The second article I read was “Five Israeli Companies Changing The Face Of International Fashion Tech,” by Kathryn Dura, published in NoCamels on October 15, 2017.

To quote from the article, “Ranging from e-commerce and 3D online shopping to 3D printed clothing, wearable technologies and eco-fashion, digital fashion is incredibly broad but making a strong and swift imprint.”

Dura’s article highlights a number of Israeli firms that have brought technology into the fashion industry, partially in response to declining sales at brick-and-mortar stores.

One of the start-ups noted in the article is Donde Fashion, which uses image recognition technology to allow consumers to identify and search for garments using images rather than the traditional words and phrases used in most Internet searches. Dura notes that “the Israeli startup has users narrow their search with images of clothing items, colors, clothing specifications (for example, sleeve lengths, necklines, etc.), materials, and patterns. Traditional filters of size, price, and brand are also available.”

Another Israeli start-up, Syte.AI, also uses an artificial intelligence and machine learning process to allow users to hover the computer cursor over an online image and find out where to buy a specific garment.

Still another Israeli start-up, Invertex, focuses on the actual fit of each garment, to make sure that whether a consumer is buying in a store or online, the product is a comfortable fit. According to “Five Israeli Companies Changing The Face Of International Fashion Tech,” “The company’s unique combination of accurate 3D-body-mapping technology and its cognitive AI fit engine allows consumers to enjoy a guided shopping experience on e-commerce and in physical stores, with the confidence that each product they select will always fit them perfectly.”

Finally, Dura’s article describes the fashion-based offerings of Kornit, which is what initially caught my interest, given my print brokering client’s (the “fashionista’s”) move from color swatch print books into garment manufacturing.

Dura notes that Kornit Digital has developed direct-to-garment printing equipment that is much faster than prior generations of garment printing machinery. While my client’s specific needs are for roll-to-roll custom printing (which will then be fabricated into finished clothing) rather than direct-to-garment printing, the article’s description of Kornit’s new technology makes it clear that Kornit is a company to watch. More specifically, if you’re doing fabric custom printing, a good way to start choosing vendors is to look for printers with any of Kornit’s many types of fabric printing equipment.

Printing Dress Shoes, Fabric, and Jewelry

Finally, I have been reading numerous articles on the 3D printing of jewelry, fabric (not the garments themselves but the actual material used in unique high-fashion garments), and even shoes.

We have already discussed Adidas footwear, but 3D printers go far beyond athletic shoes. I have seen many images of 3D-printed high-fashion women’s dress shoes based on intricate latticework patterns. The same goes for the complex 3D printed weaves of fabric used to construct women’s clothing. And you can see similar detailed patterns in the rings, bracelets, and earrings that appear on fashion runways. All of this is the product of advances in 3D commercial printing, also known as additive manufacturing.

What You Can Learn from These Articles

  1. Printing is expanding to include 3D manufacturing as well as the jetting of ink onto flat substrates. Just as you can create a virtual experience that is flat and decorative (a world in a book, a brochure, or a large-format graphic), you can produce a physical object with a 3D printer and plastic resin. In both cases you engage the emotions and aspirations of the consumer.
  2. Printing is expanding to embrace more and more functional or industrial venues. That is, in addition to producing educational and promotional materials, the commercial printing industry is employing digital and analog custom printing methods to create usable products (from signs to computer cases to keyboards).
  3. Digital creation and adornment of 3D products is expanding to printed tiles for walls, floors, and ceilings; wallpaper; and fabrics for clothing, interior design, and linens.
  4. The procurement of these products extends from brick-and-mortar stores to e-commerce websites.
  5. Technology facilitates all of this growth. This includes the technology of printing on rolls of fabric and garments themselves. It also includes 3D printing technology used to manufacture three-dimensional jewelry, footwear, and clothing. And it even includes the combination of artificial intelligence, tags embedded in garments, and big data manipulation to track how people use the fashion products they buy.
  6. In the long run this means that the definition of commercial printing is growing and changing, and the opportunities for the design and production of fashion items are also expanding. For those in commercial printing and the graphic arts, this is a most encouraging sign.

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