by Cassandra Balentine
Wallpaper is making a comeback, 21st century style. This means on demand production, customization, and fast turnarounds. To achieve this, digital printing technology is tapped across the board, from continuous-fed, toner-based solutions to wide format inkjet.
A study by Reports and Data published in September of 2019 discusses the demand for digitally printed wallpaper. The research firm forecasted the global digitally printed wallpaper market to reach $14.44 billion USD by 2026. “The market is rising rapidly in the global market due to the high demand for digitally printed wallpapers in the household and hotels and resorts end-use verticals. Digitally printed wallpapers have been a trendy, adoptable decorative element in luxurious amenities as well as residential premises all over the world. The demand from the customers has been propelling the market, and technological advancement of digital printing systems have been capable of serving the high requirement,” notes the report.
Above: EFI’s roll-to-roll UV LED inkjet printers are well suited for wallpaper production, offering clear coat ink to enable special visual effects.
Supporting New Trends
Digital print technologies offer flexibility and opportunity in décor. Wallpaper and other wall decorations are a pivotal application in this space.
The print on demand strategy for manufacturers combined with the ability to offer unique customized prints to consumers is driving the demand for digitally printed wallpaper. “The digital printing industry changed how manufacturers view their sales strategies. It allows for low to no stock, avoiding additional inventory, and the risk of consumer trends changing quickly,” says David Lopez, product manager, professional imaging, Epson.
“Wallcoverings and wall décor are growing with many new options given the flexibility available in digital printing,” suggests Tomer Ohavi, marketing manager, roll-to-roll display graphics, EFI Israel. Entry-level production printers create new opportunities, especially with the ability to print high-quality short runs with full-color consistency on a range of media types.
Donna Covannon, director, marketing, Xeikon North America, points to an assessment from the Wallcoverings Association report, which notes that digitally printed wallcoverings are one of the easiest paths toward generating design impact in an interior space. “Few interior products upgrade aesthetics as quickly and cost effectively. Whether you are looking for textural warmth and sophistication or high-impact color and drama, digital wallcoverings offer a vast array of affordable, sustainable, and fashionable selections,” she comments.
Michael Maxwell, senior manager, corporate strategic development, Mimaki USA, Inc., adds that many material manufacturers have developed films with a no-guilt approach by incorporating higher quality base stock with removable and reusable adhesives. “This drives demand for pop-up events and the personalization of spaces in offices and homes.”
Additionally, the DIY trend not only expanded the need for this application, but also made it easier for print providers to offer wallcoverings as a new revenue stream. Angel Georgiou, senior marketing specialist, imaging supplies, Canon Solutions America, says the growth of available materials to print on as well as new equipment provides options.
As noted, there are many aspects of digital print that appeal to the décor market, extending to wallpaper. The ability to customize wallpaper with different designs and images is appealing to consumers and corporate companies alike.
Mark A. Rugen, director of education, Mutoh America, Inc., calls for two key words to remember in digitally printed wallpaper, “customize and control.” Smaller, wide format machines allow the production of customized designs and the printer is in control of delivery times as well as stock that is needed. Smaller runs limit dead stock that would be recycled or even thrown away, he explains.
Versatility is another benefit. Ohavi notes that today, analog rotogravure technology offers finite design capabilities and restricted media support. “With analog, manufacturers can print only repeatable designs, which limit versatility and personalization,” explains Ohavi.
The ease of printing on self-adhesive products allows DIY clients to install wallcoverings themselves for residential applications. “It also provides easy installation for clients who feel comfortable tackling the job,” comments Georgiou.
Digital technologies open new possibilities for design impact and customization. Covannon points out that designers embrace digital print to create visually stunning graphics. “Industrial themes capture attention with concrete, brick, and stone looks. Nature themes abound, depicting a wide gamut from earthy and botanical landscapes to wood grains.”
Despite the obvious advantages of digital printing, such as reduced or eliminated setup time and related costs, the most important challenges for digital production as a replacement for conventional production are primarily found in productivity, running costs, and special effects.
“Therefore digital shines with customization, limited collections, micro runs, and unique pieces—such as personalized murals,” shares Covannon.
Several digital print engines target digital wallpaper production either specifically or as part of a broader application range.
Canon Solutions America offers an end-to-end solution for wallpaper printing with the Canon UVgel Wallpaper Factory, which launched in late 2020 with Colex Finishing, Inc.—the U.S. distributor for Fotoba. This incorporates the Canon Colorado 1650 printer, the Fotoba Jumbo Loader JRL170, the Fotoba XLD170WP Cutter, and Fotoba Coreless Inline Multi-Panel Rewinder REW162 into a wallpaper system.
EFI’s roll-to-roll UV LED inkjet printers are well suited for wallpaper production. “Output quality is excellent on virtually any media type, including the most challenging wallpaper substrates and textiles. Thanks to LED technology there is absolute color consistency from start to finish. Inline finishing options enable trimming and cutting of the media while printing. Advanced media rewinding devices ensure precise and tidy collection, and our clear coat ink enables beautiful special visual effects,” adds Ohavi.
The EFI Pro 32r+ is a roll-to-roll printer that is well suited for businesses printing over 50,000 square feet per month at an economical cost. Also, the EFI VUTEk D series include 138- and 198-inch printers offering 1,200 dpi imaging with white and clear ink. Finally, the VUTEk 3r+ and 5r+ printers offer printing widths of 138 and 198 inches and address the high-volume application needs for dedicated wallcovering providers.
Epson recently launched the its SureColor R5070 and SureColor R5070L resin inkjet printers. “Our new resin ink technology allows manufacturers to print on a variety of media, including wallpapers, whether they have a coating for digital printing or not. Epson’s latest PrecisionCore printhead technology allows for fantastic print quality with the added benefit of having reliable color consistency. Color consistency is critical when printing wallpaper, making it extremely important that the colors match panel to panel so that the print looks seamless,” says Lopez.
Mimaki’s options for wallpaper printing include UV LED curable products such as its UJV55-320, UCJV300 Series, and the new UJV100-160. Each of these products can be used in a production environment and offer instant dry capabilities as a result of the UV LED inks.
Mutoh offers several solutions for digitally printing wallpaper. “The differences are in the ink types. We have several eco-solvent ink printers that can use an ink that is GREENGUARD certified, safe for human contact. We also have a couple of hybrid printers, one that uses UV inks and the other a bio ink, both safe for use in the wallpaper printing,” explains Rugen.
Xeikon’s Wall Decoration Suite offers a solution for producing wallcoverings and borders. “Our solutions are offered either in a duplex print configuration or a simplex print configuration, each enabling high quality, short runs of wallcoverings in standard lengths or highly individualized customer-made murals,” shares Covannon.
Xeikon’s digital printing solutions are not limited to a repeated pattern and every print can be different. This also means that designs can be made to exactly fit a specific space. All Xeikon presses come with the X-800 digital front end, which combines prepress, data processing, color management, and press operation, offering seamless integration and connectivity with PDF, design, and production workflows. The Wall Decoration Suite is outfitted with an inline CMS WallPaper Rewinder delivering cut, core-less rolls at the end of the print run.
Looking Out for Health
Environmental and human health concerns are considerations for wallpaper and wall décor. Ink sets play a role in safety, along with other production elements.
“The most important requirement for any indoor print application is health and safety. Not only for the end user that enjoys the final product, but also for the operator during production, and consumer installing/removing the product,” stresses Covannon.
Xeikon’s dry toner electrophotography technology provides a dry process and utilizes FDA-certified toner resulting in an odorless, safe, and de-inkable wallpaper product with no additional waste stream burdening the environment, especially when paired with media from Ahlstrom-Munksjö or Felix Schoeller Group.
“Inks play an essential role when printing on wallpaper. Our engineers develop inks not only to produce vibrant colors but to meet worldwide environmental standards,” says Lopez. “Our inks go through rigorous testing in many countries and have been awarded certificates from GREENGAURD, French VOC, and AgBB, to name some of the worldwide environmental standards.”
New environmental policies put in place by governments have evolved the considerations for wallpaper production. “They protect the consumer from potential harm. Ink manufacturers need to get all of the worldwide certifications to ensure that the inks are safe for consumer use,” adds Lopez.
Mutoh develops, continuously tests, and enhances certified inks, seeking greater safety for both human contact as well as for the environment. Rugen points out that combining these inks with wallpapers that are recyclable or “greener” addresses major concerns for safety, disposability, and sustainability.
EFI roll-to-roll printers are available with GREENGUARD Gold Certified inks. Ohavi explains that this certification ensures that interior products and materials possess low chemical emissions improving the quality of the air in which the products are used, making them acceptable for use in indoor environments like schools and healthcare facilities. Further, LED is instant cure and done within the printing process, therefore there is no environmental exposure to uncured or drying inks among users after printing.
According to Georgiou, the Canon Colorado 1650 printer and its 460-ink technology has achieved the highest level of GREENGUARD Gold Certification. UL Environment’s GREENGUARD Certification Program requires that products meet rigorous standards for low emissions of volatile organic compounds for indoor environments. The full GREENGUARD GOLD Certification indicates that the Canon UVgel 460 ink lives up to UL Environment’s most stringent criteria and safety considerations for chemical emissions.
“Choose an ink that is verified for safety in enclosed environments, and for sensitive groups such as children. Mimaki invested time here and has GREENGUARD and GREENGUARD Gold Certifications for most inks,” adds Maxwell.
Digital print technologies make it easier than ever to update wallpapers and wallcoverings. Customization, removability, health and safety, and recyclability are all considerations for digitally printed wallpaper. IPM
Feb2021, Industrial Print Magazine