Looking to the Future of Textile and Beyond with Ester Sala Alborná, HP

Deborah spoke to Ester Sala Alborna, global business director of textile printing at HP, in the HP booth at ISA Sign Expo.

HP’s new Stitch series of dye-sublimation printers were revealed to great interest earlier this year, the Stitch S300 and S500 being revealed at ISA Sign Expo where this podcast was recorded, and the S1000 unveiled at FESPA in Munich in May, the culmination of what Ester describes as an ‘amazing journey’. But why are they betting big on textile, and why dye-sublimation as they stake their claim in the market?

In the podcast, Ester explains that the digital textile market is worth a huge $3.6bn, and is seeing double digit growth year-on-year. The reason behind the dye-sublimation is thanks to the domination of polyester fabrics.

From an environmental standpoint, the print process for dye-sublimation is much greener than the processes for printing onto cotton or other natural materials; a digital alternative can save up to 70 percent of the water required.

When it comes to ensuring products are developed with the customers in mind, what better way than to include them in ever step of the process. Ester explains that HP includes customers in the very early stages of product development, continuing to gather feedback, find out their pain points, and create an advisory customer council of sorts.

HP is opening a dialogue with customers in different industries, such as soft signage, apparel, sportswear, and interior décor. Despite the difference in products, they share a number of common challenges, particularly colour management. “Dye-sublimation is sensitive to environmental conditions; humidity, changes in weather,” Ester explains.

“The printheads are replaceable, so customers can replace them themselves in less than 20 minutes, so they get ‘first day’ quality consistently. Being able to manage this yourself is a huge advantage for colour management.”

Deborah points out that HP are styling the Stitch series as the ‘world’s fastest colour match’ – as she mentions in the podcast, she wouldn’t be Deborah Corn without questioning why this is the case!

Ester explains the claim with three points:

  • Colour profiling. With the Stitch, the process is automatic and six times faster than any competitors of the Stitch S300 and S500.
  • Built-in spectrophotometer that allows for consistent colour time after time.
  • Cloud-based system, provides colour consistency across a fleet of printers, much faster than carrying out manually.

Ester herself has held a number of high-level positions within HP before becoming global business director of textile printing, and credits her passion as the secret to her success. “I am passionate about my job, I am passionate about having young people in the team and helping them grow, and working with our customers. A good marketer has to believe in what they do.”

Finishing off, Deborah asks what’s next – will HP be moving into printed electronics?

Ester says: “All future technologies, we have an eye on.”

karis-copp-print-media-centrKaris Copp is a UK-based writer, journalist and communications expert. With a background as an editor and public relations specialist in the print industry, she now works on a freelance basis covering events, writing on industry news and trends, and working with businesses to help them tell their stories and connect with their customers. Follow her on Twitter @KarisCoppMedia