According to the latest market study by Smithers, The Future of Digital Textile Printing to 2026, demand for digitally printed textiles is rebounding strongly through 2021 and is set for accelerated growth over the next five years.
In 2021 the market was worth Rs 330.8 billion (print service value), up from Rs 273.56 billion in 2020. “By 2022 the market will have recovered all of the sales it lost in 2020 due to the various disruptions of Covid-19,” the study found.
Smithers forecasts that a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 12.7% will push global value to Rs 601.67 billion in 2026. Across the same period the volume of inkjet-printed fabrics – apparel, household furnishings, technical textiles, display media – increases from 2.89 billion square metres (2021) to 5.53 billion square metres (2026).
“This will see inkjet’s share of the total printed textile market – 52.7 billion square metres (2019) – rise from 6% to 10% over the Smithers forecast period. For print OEMs, this presents a major area for diversification and growth as many other print segments continue to trend downwards post-Covid,” the study stated.
According to the report, the majority of inkjet textile presses in operation are smaller models, with about 5% dedicated direct-to-garment machines. While large single-pass roll-to-roll presses account for the majority of output there are still fewer than 50 in operation worldwide.
Smithers’ data show that as more PSPs invest in dedicated inkjet textile presses, equipment sales will pass the Rs 86.55 billion per year mark in 2026. This is also said to generate sales for media and consumables, with annual OEM ink revenue reaching Rs 190.41 billion in 2026.
“The potential for design freedom, customised fabrics, short print runs, quicker reorders, and print with a lower environmental impact means the market is enthusiastic for a new generation of inkjet machines. In some segments this has accelerated further by the experience of Covid-19 with the increase in eCommerce, direct-to-consumer sales; and moves to restore supply chains,” the study found.
A sharp shock saw EUR 910 million in sales lost across 2019-2020, but this decline was not spread evenly. As consumers stayed at home, sales of fashion, haute couture garments, ties, and scarves declined most significantly, along with signage fabrics and most technical textile segments. In contrast, sales of domestic furnishings rose steeply as locked down shoppers invested in refreshing their living spaces, the report stated.
With regular retail closed many fashion brands have invested in online businesses based on the flexibility available with inkjet printing. These include Nike, Ralph Lauren, Shutterfly/Spoonflower, and Vera Bradley; while Amazon has committed to spend USD 400 million on digital textile equipment as it looks to diversify its online business further.
“Inkjet printing is already familiar in several sectors, but penetration into others – such as technical textiles – is much more limited, presenting extra opportunities as technologies mature,” the study found.
According to the report, as the market evolves there will be multiple advances that can support further sales. These include greater automation of presses and finishing equipment, boosting machine throughput, and the wider use of pigment-based inks in soft signage and home furnishings.
There is also emerging interest in direct-to-film (DTF) technology, which allows custom T-shirt designs to be printed onto special films, combining the benefits of inkjet and transfer printing, eliminating pre-treatment steps, and enabling darker garments to be customised without dye discoloration.