Czech firm Pikto Digital pioneers environmentally-friendly printing of fabric

A Czech-made textile printing machine reduces the amount of chemicals and energy used in production of fabric

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston
Published on 24.08.2020 09:26 (updated on 22.10.2020)

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The fashion industry has a big impact on the environment. A Czech company is trying to change that. Pikto Digital, based in Břeclav, South Moravia, makes a machine to print on fabric in an environmentally friendly way using new technology for digital pigmentation.

The natural dyes aren’t bound to the fabric chemically, but mechanically. The process greatly reduces the amount of pollutants used in printing, does not consume water, and can be used on any type of fabric.

The textile industry is the second-biggest polluter after the oil industry. Some 20% of the world’s water is polluted due to clothing production. The industry annually consumes enough energy to power a quarter of the United States, and the amount of greenhouse gases produced is comparable to the emissions of 94 million automobiles.

Pikto Digital’s patented Maverick machine greatly reduced that impact. On a volume of 1 million square meters of produced fabric, enough for 700,000 T-shirts, the machine will save seven tons of chemicals and 65,000 litters of water, and reduce electricity consumption by roughly 70% compared to standard machines.

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In 2019, Pikto Digital took part in a CzechInvest startup roadshow and visited Brno / via CzechInvest

With this volume of production, the customer’s investment in the machine will be returned within approximately one year.

Pikto Digital has no competition yet for its type of technology. Five years ago, Slovak entrepreneur František Balázsy predicted that ecological textile production would increase in importance. Balázsy became interested in digital pigmentation and developed smart software that controls the entire Maverick machine.

His long-time friend Daniel Šulík, a mechatronics engineer, designed and built the machine. They already got additional funding from a group of investors who liked the idea.

“If you decide to produce printed textiles, it’s not enough to just have a printer. Depending on the chosen printing technology, you need several other devices,” Lucie Kadlecová, business development manager at Pikto Digital, said.

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Pikto Digital exhibited in India in connection with a trade delegation of the Ministry of Industry and Trade / via CzechInvest

“Our company is the only one on the market to offer a patented machine that will provide the complete production process in a set with a pigment printer. Our machine is able to impregnate the fabric, dry it, fix the color and, if necessary, it can also carry out post-treatment of the fabric,” she added.

Pikto Digital made a prototype in May 2019 and decided to try to penetrate foreign markets. It was interested in feedback from potential distributors, clients and strategic partners. In June 2019, the company participated in CzechInvest’s CzechMatch week-long acceleration program in Singapore.

During the program the company received mentoring, including suggestions for its development and business strategy.

“An enriching aspect for us was the meetings with people from various sectors, primarily from the textile industry, which would not have happened so easily without CzechInvest. We received feedback from them, and they confirmed to us that this is a dynamic field with strong pressure to innovate and respect the environment,” Vladimír Hičák, sales director at Pikto Digital, said.

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Pitko Digital traveled to New York with the CzechMatch program / via CzechInvest

Business meetings were arranged for them by the Singaporean accelerator Expara, with which CzechInvest cooperates abroad. “Every meeting was attended by one of Expara’s employees, who helped us with the preparation of our presentation and negotiations. That was very beneficial,” Hičák adds.

The company participated in another CzechMatch program, traveling to New York in September 2019 to evaluate their options in America.

“We met with a full range of mentors and investors and gained an overview of the local startup ecosystem. However, we didn’t manage to establish contacts in the textile industry. In short, the American market works differently and still remains difficult for us to reach,” Kadlecová said.

With support from CzechInvest, Pikto Digital in November 2019 was part of a Czech Ministry of Industry and Trade delegation. The company presented its product in India, a textile superpower that now places great emphasis on ecology. There was strong interest in its technology there, and the company has been in contact with potential customers.

“CzechInvest’s team showed us a professional and friendly approach, thanks to which we were able to thoroughly prepare for the Asian and American markets. This experience changed our opinion of the state administration.” Hičák said.

To show that the fabric can be of comparable quality, even if it is produced by means of a more environmentally friendly process, the company offered its technology to the newly established Fabrissimo brand.

“We also want to offer the final product, a printed fabric, and thus show customers that our technology works. It will help us increase brand awareness and subsequently form long-term partnerships,” Kadlecová concludes.