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Looking Back: 2023’s Biggest Apparel Decorating Products & Trends

By Dustin Shrader, Managing Editor


Photo by Adobe Stock/Parradee

January 2, 2024

2023 was quite the year for the decorated apparel industry! Decorators and manufacturers alike put their best foot forward, debuting technological garments, advanced software upgrades, futuristic machinery and more. Before 2024 gets fully underway, we decided to take a look back at some of the most innovative products that were released throughout 2023.

Apparel

BELLA+CANVAS EcoMax Tee is a new garment made entirely from recycled materials. By combining pre-consumer scraps of 100-percent Airlume combed ring-spun cotton, from BELLA’s Los Angeles cutting facility, with dope-dyed polyester from recycled post-consumer PET bottles, the company was able to knit a 35-percent Airlume combed ring-spun cotton and 65-percent polyester fabric that offers comfort and sustainable quality. Scrap Airlume cotton from a single 3001 provides enough recycled cotton for roughly two EcoMax Tees. Further, roughly seven PET bottles are kept out of the landfill with every EcoMax Tee produced. The EcoMax Tee is available in black, navy and white.

Lane Seven’s Future Fleece Hoodie is a 100-percent regenerated yarn hoodie. The hoodie is made from yarn that is composed of post-consumer waste, as well as scraps left over from the cutting stage of the garment manufacturing process. Due to the yarn being repurposed, the material forgoes the dying stage, reducing energy consumption by approximately 80 percent, water consumption by approximately 75 percent, and chemical consumption by approximately 90 percent.

 

 

Threadfast Apparel’s Tap Tee is a T-shirt that allows customers to connect with a personalized digital experience by tapping their smartphone on an NFC (near-field communication) chip that in turn directs them to a website, app, video or social media post. The NFC antenna is located inside a washable, decoration-friendly patch on the left sleeve of the TAP Tee. The patch can be easily programmed with the TFA NFC Connect app, which is available for free at the app store. Tap the NFC tag with your phone’s NFC reader for access.

Next Level Apparel Vintage T-Shirt Collection is a new product line that promises a perfect, sustainable fit for consumers and the environment. Part of NLA’s new Vintage Collection, the Soft Wash 3600SW Unisex T-shirt is made using a proprietary wash and dye process that is markedly more eco-friendly when compared to a garment pigment-dye process. The initial launch of the 3600SW consists of 12 vintage-inspired colors, with additional styles and colors already in the works.

Digital Decorating

Hanes Printwear PrintNOW Technology is a game-changing advancement in direct-to-garment (DTG) printing that makes the new Hanes Perfect Pre-treat Tee ready to print right out of the box. PrintNOW technology cuts DTG production time by approximately 40 percent, eliminating the need for printers to apply pre-treat, according to the company. PrintNOW technology has several benefits for printers, including eliminating human error—treatment is already evenly applied across the entire surface of the garment; the tee comes ready to print anywhere on the garment; reduces overhead costs associated with pre-treating; trims three minutes per shirt from the traditional DTG process; the savings and efficiencies allow printers to scale their output volume and grow their business. The Hanes Perfect Pre-treat Tee ticks all the boxes for an “ideal” tee made with U.S. grown, ring-spun cotton; lightweight fabric with a soft drape; a modern, semi-fitted silhouette; and unisex sizing.

Inkcups Brite 2.0 Label Printing Machine prints on full synthetic applications. The new Brite machine is a tagless printer that has expanded printing capabilities to offer customers a variety of new materials they can print on. The Brite 2.0 can now print on the following dark synthetic materials and more: acetate; acrylic; lyocell; microfibre; nylon; polyester; polypropylene; polyvinyl chloride; rayon/viscose; spandex/lycra. Developed in-house, the patented Brite process is a combination of machine, its specialized SB Brite Opaque ink, and proprietary printing pads that offer superior, unparalleled prints on a variety of materials, according to the company. The process easily achieves brighter whites on dark substrates without fading. An easy-to-use tabletop printer, the Brite machine is ideal for printing on sportswear and athletic shirts.

Epson DTG and DTFilm Hybrid SureColor F2270 is a garment print solution for both direct-to-garment (DTG) and Epson hybrid SureColor® F2270direct-to-film (DTFilm) printing. The hybrid SureColor F2270 DTG printer incorporates DTFilm printing capabilities and goes beyond traditional garment printing and transfer to a wider variety of materials, including uniquely shaped items, according to the company. The SureColor F2270 hybrid printer features a new PrecisionCore MicroTFP printhead with Nozzle Verification Technology, and next-generation UltraChrome DG2 ink to help deliver vibrant colors in vivid detail at when printing on dark garments. The printer’s cartridge-free bulk ink pack system helps reduce ink replacement frequency. Featuring automatic garment thickness adjustment, it measures thickness using multiple sensors during the loading process to create a garment height profile and will automatically adjust the printhead and optimize print quality without user intervention.

Kornit Digital Apollo Platform and Enhanced Atlas MAX PLUS now incorporates smart curing, flexible pallet sizing and autonomous calibration. Enabling digital production to go mainstream, Apollo allows customers to become more agile, drive revenue opportunities, shift to localized production, and ease complex workflow processes by offering large-capacity and high-quality-driven players the opportunity to adopt digital versatility and a quick time to market. The Apollo platform is built on the Kornit MAX technology and is a streamlined single-step solution for nearshore short- and medium-run apparel decoration. It is designed from the ground up to decorate 400 unique garments per hour. The new Atlas MAX PLUS system takes Kornit’s Atlas MAX platform to the next level, by increasing productivity of 150 garments per hour with integrated Smart Curing, Rapid Size Shifter pallets and autonomous calibration.

Embroidery

ColDesi DesignDeck is a digitizing software for embroidery, chenille, rhinestones and spangles. DesignDeck is user-friendly and easy to learn, ideal for any enthusiastic hobbyist or home business wanting an unlimited ability to create. The software features the highest quality AI design creation tools available, allowing the user to save time by creating designs quickly and efficiently. It also provides a wide range of customizable stitch patterns and options, but its advanced design features allow for the precise placement and editing capabilities specifically needed for chenille embroidery. DesignDeck’s intuitive interface makes it compatible for creating stunning designs for spangles and other hot fix transfers, as well.

Tajima Software has incorporated the Coloreel Coloring System into its leading Tajima DG16 by Pulse embroidery design software. This integration now makes it easy to assign any Coloreel color and effect directly in the design creation workflow. With the new integrating of Coloreel’s features into DG16, users no longer need to use a separate program to colorize their embroidery designs for Coloreel, meaning that everything can be done within one software program, which allows for faster design creation and easier modification of existing designs. Additionally, there is a reduced risk of mixing up stitching and coloring files. With all stitch and color data now contained in one file, it is also more convenient to create multi-thread embroideries by combining Coloreel thread and traditional pre-colored embroidery threads.

Screen Printing

M&R Gauntlet 4 Screen Printing Press is the company’s newest, high-production carousel automatic screen-printing press. The Gauntlett 4 features printheads driven by variable frequency-controlled electric motors. The printheads contain calibrated, tool-free, click-stop off-contact settings for fast and accurate screen leveling. The press includes versatile tool-free front and rear print-stroke adjustment. Pneumatic screen clamps facilitate rapid screen loading and deliver excellent stability on a wide variety of screens. M&R’s Laser Locator System speeds pallet positioning and changeover, and it assists operators in the precise positioning of garments and cut-piece goods. Gauntlet 4 also includes M&R’s Tri-Sync pallet arm and Tri-Sync pallet, which greatly simplifies the addition of M&R’s revolutionary Digital Squeegee hybrid printing system. Gauntlet 4’s new, larger, higher-resolution control panel features revised, intuitive, icon-based labeling for operator convenience.

ROQ Fully Self-Contained E Press is described ROQ US as the market’s first self-contained automatic press, the system incorporates its own dedicated ultra-quiet compressor, eliminating the need for an external third-party air supply and making setup a snap. Available in both eight- and 10-station configurations for printing up to six or eight colors, the ROQ E can decorate up to 900 garments per hour and includes many of the cutting-edge features for which ROQ is renowned. Specific features include a set of low-profile platen arms for easy sleeve printing; a robust, fully electric central lifting system; and an easy-to-use HMI (human-machine interface). New with the system, is a latching system that allows an operator to lift away the print head, to remove the screen, clean the print head or insert a flash unit. Maintenance of the system has been kept as simple as possible as well.

Vastex Infrared Flash Cure Models are now equipped with a receptacle that allows the user to plug a three-foot power cord for an optional AutoFlash head rotation unit into the rear of the flash head. This new upgrade eliminates the need for separate wiring to a wall outlet. Both flash cure models also come as standard with removable cord sets that can be fitted with USA or international plug types A through H, compatible with 220/230/240V systems worldwide. Also standard on the AirFlash and RedFlash units are digital controls that offer adjustment of repeatable heater temperature from zero to 100 percent, diagnostic indicator lights for simplified monitoring, and high-capacity relays for longevity. Both Vastex flash cure models feature 360-degree head rotation, an adjustable-height heavy-duty stand with casters, head leveling adjustment, heat shield and side handles for operator safety.