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With 35 years of experience in the printing industry, Johnny Shell is recognized as an industry leader. During his career, Johnny’s expertise has earned him the honor of an Inductee of the Academy of Screen and Digital Printing Technologies. It is an international body of experts that honors qualified individuals through election to membership for their distinguished, long-term contributions to (as well as application and promotion of) screen and digital printing and associated imaging technologies for graphic, textile, industrial, and electronic printing applications. For the past year, he has been using his vast knowledge to lead our Functional & Industrial Printing Advisory Service as a Principal Analyst.
Sam Keller: For those who may not be aware, what exactly is functional and industrial printing?
Johnny Shell: The world of functional and industrial printing is all around us. It includes textiles and other products where the primary purpose of the print is to give functionality to a product or provide guidance in the use of a product. There are many examples of functional and industrial printing that we use or encounter every day. Fashion and apparel is obviously something everyone can relate to, but beyond that, computer keyboards are printed with alphanumeric characters and OEM branding, as are computer monitors, which usually have a printed logo and icons for the “on/off” switches; the ceramic screen on cell phones; the dials on ovens to know what temperature is set; the keypad on microwave ovens and gas pumps. In vehicles, it’s the rear-window defroster, analog speedometer gauges, and dashboard controls so we know which button does what. The dosage gradients on a medical syringe, solar cells, biosensors, and even the flexible circuits inside my computer are all printed.
SK: As you learn more about FIPS, what are some exciting trends and news that people reading this should know?
JS: Much of my focus has been on the direct-to-garment (DTG) and direct-to-fabric (DTF) digital printing segments. DTF printing is seeing significant shifts as the fashion industry seems to finally be moving toward digital printing. With sustainability efforts on the rise, fashion brands are moving away from the traditional volume-based manufacturing model where large numbers of items are manufactured but 30% to 40% never sell at full retail price. Instead, smart brands are adopting a value-based manufacturing model where the item isn’t manufactured (or printed) until after it has sold.
Another trend in digital textiles is the home décor market that is showing signs of being the next growth arena. For the low-end market, direct-to-film transfer technology has seen tremendous growth since 2020 and offers users the ability to decorate a wide range of fabrics (cotton, polyester, cotton/poly blends, leather) in addition to shoes, glass, and even metal. And one significant trend in the DTG space is the introduction of industrial high-speed printers that can produce over 300 garments per hour!
SK: I hear you are doing a couple surveys with some major players in the functional and industrial print space right now. Can you talk about what major questions you are trying to answer through these surveys?
JS: The FIPS surveys currently running are designed to gather information and data that will provide a profile of the apparel decorating industry (technologies used, average volume/order size, and planned investments). I’m anxious to see the data and analyze what technologies are being adopted, how businesses are adjusting their sales channels, the average costs per print and average sales price of items produced, the level of industry optimism as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, and why a particular technology (e.g., digital) isn’t being adopted for those who only use analog platforms. The surveys are designed to provide an in-depth look at the current landscape of apparel decorating, and what that landscape might look like in the future.
SK: In addition to surveys, you’re writing your first forecasts for digital textile and DTG devices. What has that process been like? What are some lessons you have learned writing this forecast? Is there anything you can share about the upcoming report?
JS: The market forecasting process has been extremely valuable to me. The methodology, validation, and attention to detail are truly unlike anything I’ve ever seen, which speaks to the expertise of Keypoint Intelligence staff and the importance placed on making sure our forecasts are accurate. Cultivating the data has been very exciting for me; to see how the various pieces of each forecast comes together to generate valuable market data and insights has been electrifying! I’m still creating the final pieces but, suffice to say, there will be some exciting developments in these forecasts that include the number of placements and installed base per segment, ink volumes used, volume and value of print, and lots more!
Check out Johnny’s blogs here. If you would like to access his in-depth research in the office document industry,please fill out this formor, if you are a subscriber, log in to the InfoCenterto view research on DTG, DTF, and more through our Functional & Industrial Printing Advisory Service.