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Impressions Expo-Long Beach is the largest and most advanced trade show and conference in the western hemisphere dedicated to apparel decorators. The recent edition—held January 20-22, 2023 at the Long Beach Convention Center (Long Beach, California)—seemed to return to pre-pandemic attendance levels. There were notable features of the show that pulled the attention of attendees in several directions, and the aisles were difficult to navigate due to the visitors in attendance. Exhibitor participation was strong, but the exhibitor numbers fell slightly short of past events. Nonetheless, the event was a homerun in every other aspect—including the paid-seminar programming which saw numbers not seen in a very long time.
Notable Trends for DTF
Direct-to-Film (DTF) printing is still buzzing in the decorated-apparel industry, as evidenced by the new systems on display from CalComp Graphic Solutions, Omniprint, Ricoma, Roland DGA Corporation, and the M&R Companies. Numerous other exhibitors showcased DTF equipment packages and STS Inks demonstrated foil applications using DTF technology.
The most prevalent DTF brand was the CobraFlex line of DTF printers showing powder systems and printable adhesive systems; with these, the transfer adhesive prints at the same time as the white ink pass, eliminating the powdering process. The M&R Companies partnered with CobraFlex for an M&R branded system.
|M&R’s DTF system from CobraFlex|
Omniprint International showcased the new 15" OMNI DTF roll-fed printer that uses two Epson i3200 printheads that can print in resolutions up to 720 x 3,600 dpi. The system includes a powder adhesive shaker system and dryer. Print time for a 12" x 12" image at this resolution is three minutes.
|Omniprint International’s OMNI DTF|
Roland DGA Corporation launched its new VersaSTUDIO BN-20D DTF System that combines improved print quality with simple, reliable operation—making customizing apparel and accessories easier than ever. The system consists of specially formulated S-PG inks in CMYK and White, S-F164 direct transfer film, and S-POWDER direct transfer powder. The BN-20D can also be used as a standalone vinyl cutter, allowing users to expand their application offerings. The BN-20D DTF Printer comes bundled with VersaWorks 6 software.
|Roland DGA Corporation’s new BN-20D DTF printer|
Equipment Zone showed the new EZ-JET PRO 24 DTF, a 24" printer that uses a chip-free bulk ink unit with powder adhesive applicator and dryer that uses a built-in filter system that requires no external exhaust. The unit also incorporates a white ink recirculating system.
Notable Trends for DTG
The direct-to-garment (DTG) industry saw the first showing at a live event of the Polaris from the M&R Companies. The 16-platen device scans a barcode attached to the blank garment and loads the processing program for that item, adjusting pretreat, flash-curing, pressing, and print settings on-the-fly using two DS-4000 print engines. The first engine jets the white under base that is followed by flash-curing and heat-pressing and then the color pass.
KINWAH GROUP (Dongguan, China) showed the Poseidon SR 1416: a fully in-line DTG print system that includes pretreat, curing, pressing, robotic flattening, and two digital print engines positioned around a 14-platen oval carousel base that can produce up to 250 garments per hour. The under base white print engine uses 14 Fujifilm Dimatix StarFire printheads, while the color print engine uses 16 Ricoh Gen6 MH5320 printheads.
|KINWAH GROUP Poseidon 1416|
FIREBIRD Digital Inks showcased the FIREBIRD Industrial Processing system, an automatic pretreatment solution that features a washer-extractor and two dryers to pretreat up to 288 shirts in one hour (including 100% cotton, 50/50 blends, tri-blends, and polyester). Compatible brands include Gildan, Next Level Apparel, BELLA + CANVAS, and A4. The machines feature customized programs that are optimized for DTG printing, variable extraction speeds, and pretreatment recycling to ensure minimal waste. The system contains one pretreat machine and two dryers, all manufactured by Miele and modified for the FIREBIRD Industrial Processing system.
Keypoint Intelligence Opinion
The 2023 Impressions Expo-Long Beach show was the best show by far since the pandemic, which is a great sign that the decorated apparel industry is returning to normal at a fast pace. The show brought massive attendance and energy out into the open. I was amazed by the volume of traffic on the show floor—not to mention the energy level of the attendees. The exhibitors I spoke with were very pleased with the turnout, in-booth traffic, and indicated that sales were the best they’ve ever seen at this event.
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