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Eric Zimmerman, Johnny Shell

The Top Trends and Innovations from the FESPA Global Print Expo 2024

Innovative opportunities were revealed in Amsterdam

Mar 27, 2024 8:00:00 PM


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As the printing world converged for the 2024 FESPA Global Print Expo (March 19-22, 2024 in Amsterdam), the buzz and excitement focused on innovations and opportunities in the sign and graphic, digital textile, and decorated apparel markets. Amidst the bustling aisles that housed over 500 exhibit booths, thousands of industry professionals explored the latest advancements in printing that are shaping the industry’s future.


Among the many new printing devices, media, and consumables, Keypoint Intelligence uncovered the key trends and innovative products that were shown. Resonating with the increasing emphasis on sustainability throughout the industry, there was a significant, overarching presence of environmentally friendly materials and printing technologies on display. Additionally, there was an abundance of information about the products and their CO2 reduction, water and energy-efficiency, total cost of ownership, as well as overall savings that could be realized. While product brochures were available from several exhibitors, the use of QR codes for product literature and company websites was much greater than in the past. Even the exhibit booths themselves were more sustainable in their construction and the materials that were used.


The crowded entrance to the FESPA Global Print Expo 2024
on opening day.


Apparel Decorating Trends and Innovations

There was plenty to see for apparel decorators including robotics, automation, new media and substrates, as well as some innovative printers.


As has been the case for some time, direct-to-film (DTF) was everywhere with over 40 models on display across the show floor. Ricoh launched its first internally produced Pro D1600 DTF device. The printer prints up to 1.6m wide with a throughput of 20 m2/hr. Ricoh also showed a smaller 60 cm device that was printing on transfer paper.


Brother showed a prototype powderless DTF printer, and Kornit showed its new Atlas MAX PLUS printer that can print directly to blank apparel or sheets of DTF film without the need for powder adhesive. Powderless DTF is an emerging trend to reduce health issues associated with powders. Thus far, the adhesives being jetted have not been very friendly to the printheads, but it’s amazing what chemists can do. We expect powderless DTF to emerge as a viable solution within 2-3 years.


Italian manufacturer Hurricane showed its Handmade DTF printer, a unique device with climate-controlled chambers for the inks and film. The printer also converts the excess heat generated from the powder and curing units into power that is stored in a bank of batteries.


MHM showed the DuraFlex printhead, a new high-speed digital printer that was combined with a screen printing oval machine. The DuraFlex incorporates Memjet technology for fast print speeds. The maximum resolution is 1,600 x 1,600 dpi and the printheads jet a droplet size of 2.1pL. Also on display was the Shirt-Lifter, a robotic take-off system manufactured by Wiekon GmbH that features a lifting mechanism that glides beneath the printed shirt to gently lift it away from the platen. The design of the lifter avoids stretching the printed garment. Once the shirt has been lifted, a robotic arm removes the garment and transports it to a conveyor dryer for curing.


The Wiekon


There were new and innovative substrates and transfer films on display; one of the most interesting was a paper based DTF transfer media from Felix Schoeller. According to the company, the new transfer paper is only 33% plastic with the majority used to help the ink release during the transfer process. Print results on display had a soft hand feel and excellent image quality. The company also showed its new S-RACE TERRA sublimation paper with a base made of 65% recycled fibers.


Companies including Ecofreen, Hurricane, The Magic Touch, and several others were showing new DTF films that included gold, silver, glitter, and reflective that are pushing the DTF envelope even further. While foils and other transfer films have been valuable tools for screen printers, the process is often a two-step process: printing and then foiling. The advantage of these new DTF films is that they cut the second step of foiling the print since the added effect transfers with the inks.


Wide Format Trends and Innovations

The very first launch event of the show was at the AGFA booth, featuring a rebranding of their entire printer line, including the launch of three new devices: the Jeti Condor RTR5200 5.2m UV roll to roll, the Jeti Bronco H3300 3.3m UV LED hybrid, and the Anapurna Ciervo H3200 3.2m hybrid. AGFA’s “Powerful by Nature” line also includes the Onset Grizzly X HS and the Jeti Tauro H3300.


New AGFA Devices


Also making a big appearance at FESPA was EFI, featuring two new devices: the VUTEk Q3h XP 3.3m hybrid and the Pro33r 3.2m LED UV roll to roll. With a strategic partnership between AGFA and EFI to fill out their respective line ups, they are proving to lead the way in high volume offerings in the age of convergence and consolidation.


New EFI Devices


Over the last few years, the wide format segment has seen a huge amount of growth in the smaller <30” (762 mm) space. This was very evident at FESPA with many manufacturers showcasing smaller devices.

  • Epson, showcased their highly compact and affordable SureColor V1000 A4 flatbed UV printer, catering to businesses in the promotional and customization markets.
  • Mimaki introduced their upgraded cylindrical printing system, the Kebab HS, which is designed to be used with their UJF line of flatbed UV printers that produces prints three-times as fast as it predecessor and can print directly to tapered objects without image distortion.
  • A large portion of the Roland DG stand was dedicated to their VersaSTUDIO line, featuring the BN2-20 20” roll to roll print/cut solvent device and their new direct to object, benchtop UV devices (the VersaSTUDIO BD-8 and the larger VersaOBJECT MO-240) for promotional item printing on a vast range of objects and substrates.


As mentioned above, sustainability was a top theme throughout FESPA 2024. The endless hours spent by manufacturers to create a smaller footprint was very evident. To lead by example, FESPA itself did a fantastic job of overtly showing what steps it has taken to make the show more environmentally friendly than ever before. The FESPA Sustainability Spotlight area was a great example of the real-world uses of eco-friendly materials, inks, and practical applications available to all in the print world.


Keypoint Intelligence Opinion

From a textile and apparel perspective, this year’s FESPA’s event highlighted progressive products that are not only less harmful to the environment, but also have vision and creative thought processes behind them. DTF is battling for added market share and new models are being rolled out constantly; however, it still has to contend with PET transfer film and waste it generates. Perhaps we will start to see more R&D on the DTF transfer paper media to further the sustainability efforts of the industry.


From a wide format perspective, FESPA 2024 showcased the strengths from the smallest devices all the way up to the most powerful single-pass machines and everything in between. With a focus on adaptability, creativity, and versatility, wide format print manufacturers were showing the most advanced technology that will allow PSPs to advance their business offerings and do so in a sustainable manner.


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