Digitally printed signage on fabrics emerged in the mid-1990s when print service providers began using various dye sublimation printing technologies to offer an alternative to paper and vinyl signage and to differentiate themselves in the competitive marketplace.
Today, soft signage accounts for approximately 70 percent of the market for all digitally printed textiles, which also includes furnishings, apparel and specialty fabrics, such as tents and sails.
Typical soft signage applications can be roughly divided into two groups: indoor and outdoor. The indoor group of applications has in common an emphasis on high image quality and low odor, as most of these applications are close to the viewer and can often be found in a food or retail environment. This group includes POP/POS displays, interior decoration and exhibit graphics.
For retail work, textiles provide an interesting, upscale and delicate visual effect that better draws the attention of customers. But because the application is promotion-driven and short-lived, durability is less important.
Outdoor textile applications, such as banners and specialty applications (sails and boating products, tents, awnings and hot air balloons are just some of the possibilities), usually require high outdoor durability, full flexibility to flutter in a breeze and good long-distance viewing quality.
In this case, the ink and printer technology used have to excel in these specific areas, while attributes such as resolution or odor may take a back seat.
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