A few weeks ago in the glorious Cologne sunshine, I met with Schattdecor’s Dominik Haller, Team Leader for Corporate Communications. He and his designer colleague Tanja Aicher gave me a tour of their 700 sq metre booth at Interzum, much of which was dedicated to new possibilities for digital printing within interior décor. And as I found out, much of this drive is coming from new technical possibilities that coalesce directly with changing consumer trends.
Who are Schattdecor?
Schattdecor, describe themselves as a surface specialist. Founded in 1985, they now have 2,200 employees and on top of their HQ in Germany, they have a presence in 27 countries with production facilities in 14 locations. This is a significant achievement to grow into this position and size whilst retaining an innovative and passionate business culture.
Recently, they have embarked on considerable investment in equipment to help them to continue to meet the demands of the modern market and new consumer trends. To accompany this, they also have a book ‘Design Trends 2018’, which outlines the trends in design which aims to give designers valuable information on design, materials, and colours.
Of particular relevance for our new show, Pure Digital, they have recently invested in creating new production possibilities by using Palis 2250. The digital printing products reach out to new customer groups such as contractors, architects, and interior designers, as well as traditional customers in the wood based panel industry. “This technique enables us to implement specific topics and projects in large quantities,” emphasizes Claudia Kuechen, Head of Marketing/Design & Corporate Communications.
The single pass press is able to print 162 meters per minute with a printing width of 2.25 meters. Because in digital printing a design isn’t bound to the circumference of a cylinder, the repeat length is no longer a concern. Therefore, Schattdecor has the possibility to develop completely new décors for the wood and stone industry. In addition, varied colorations are no longer a problem, nor is mixing different patterns. “Now we have the chance and the challenge to develop digital printing designs that are easy to use,” explains Claudia Kuechen.
Palis 2250 has over 80 water-cooled print heads that shoot 25.5 billion color droplets per second on the paper. At a 1200 dpi resolution, up to 6GB of data per second is processed. The machine works with four main colors: red, yellow, blue and black. If needed a fifth color could be added. The pigments are identical to those that are used in rotogravure printing. This has crucial advantages.
“Both procedures create identical optical décor images. The differences are only recognized with technical devices and are not visible to the naked eye,” emphasizes Roland Heeger, Chief Technical Officer. Therefore, many décors can be used in rotogravure as well as in digital printing and cannot be distinguished from one another.
“In both printing styles the same colors and base paper will be used. Therefore, customers in the wood based panel industry can process digital printing products using their standard methods,” explains Roland Heeger. Pre-impregnated products are able to be printed digitally as well and can be followed up with common lacquering procedures.
However, digital printing has one restriction: special effect colors such as white, gold or pearl are unable to be printed due to their pigment sizes. At this point rotogravure printing is the only choice. “The goal of digital printing at Schattdecor is not to replace rotogravure printing. It is supposed to and will sensibly complement it,” clarifies the CTO.
Whilst on the booth and having the tour it was clear just how exciting digital print is for designers. I asked Tanja whether the freedom digital printing technology provides design and she agreed with a beaming smile. It seems the liberation that digital Print gives designers allows them to express their ideas and explore their imagination by being able to try things out without the limitations of analogue and the burden of stock inventory that may not sell. This is a powerful opportunity as it links directly to some of the megatrends that are changing our consumer world.
Consumers clearly want to be able to express their individuality. And they can do this with super large walls printed 2m wide and creating effects that would have been cost prohibitive with analogue, or simply not technically possible. The texture effects are also impressive with wood effect catching the light and providing visual and haptic effects that enhance the experience for the consumer.
The booth itself was a really well thought out, welcoming and inspiring. The story telling clear and focused whilst on a practical level really effectively integrated into the booth design. This company clearly enjoys what it does and this came through on every level. Firstly, with a very passionate, informed and enthusiastic team (the true secret to successful exhibiting it is surprising just how unengaged some exhibitors are with what they are doing), I also learned some new things about the changing consumer landscape. ‘Ageless living’ is one of the key trends and this to me makes sense. No longer, as people age, will they fall into a rather bland ‘older person’ category and lose their desire to express themselves through fashion and décor. Now, whatever the age a person may be, fashion, self-expression and design remain a really important aspect of life. This fact means that design and digital décor has an even a larger market potential. Additionally, the growth of urban living compounds this trend as an older population needs to be nearer to amenities - space, therefore has a premium. So, clever design and production ideas become sought after in order to optimise space and allow for customised design and production both which digital print can give the consumer.
Digital décor is here to stay, and with leaders in the field such as Schattdecor, we imagine the possibilities of digital décor to become mainstream before very much longer.