Wide format printing industry report

According to a recent I.T. Strategies report, the display graphics market worldwide has a retail value of about $100 billion (US), which includes both digital and analog technologies. <!–break–>Digital technologies—primarily inkjet, but also electrophotography and thermal transfer—represent about 30%, or $30 billion (US).

The variety of aqueous, solvent, and UV curable inkjet printers that are available today from different manufacturers is incredible, and they have in turn given the end user a large range of media to print on, such as metals, papers, canvas, vinyl, fabric, glass, and wood. We expect that media choices will continue to expand, especially as additional types of UV-curable inkjet inks enter the market.

In this month’s column, various industry leaders speak out on the state of the wide format printing market and their role in this rapidly developing market.

Agfa Graphics Steve Cutler, Inkjet Competency Manager, Agfa Graphics

Agfa entered the inkjet market believing that its versatility brings great potential for growth in the digital printing marketplace.

When investing in a UV printer, one has to consider that this investment involves more than just the purchase of the printer. Agfa has taken the opportunity to assess what is truly needed in order for digital printers to maximize their potential, and the result is a strategy we have named C¬≥—Complete Integration, Complete Service, and Complete Benefits.

After all, it is not just about manufacturing a printer. It’s about the integration of the complete system: the print engines, inks, print heads, and software, plus servicing and supporting your customers before, during, and after their purchase. By focusing on these three key elements, we have produced a model for what is necessary for digital printers to be successful.

To succeed, vendors and suppliers must help ease their customers’ transition into digital technology, as well as assist their clients in maximizing their own customers’ potential. Those vendors offering a complete package of Integration, Service and Benefits will find themselves in the strongest position in the competitive and ever–changing inkjet market.

Canon U.S.A., Inc. Rich Reamer, senior manager, product marketing, large format group

Large format printing is becoming a more commonly used technology. Large format printing software mimics the familiar office software applications people use every day to easily create and print larger pieces in general office environments. Businesses are investing in large format printers and creating posters and presentation materials in-house at considerable savings.

There is also an increase in large format photography for consumers. The creation of posters and large photo prints by retail outlets, super-stores, and print-for-pay companies is growing as retailers are exploring new ways to capitalize on the digital photo age. With consumers having the ability to print at home, by offering the ability to create posters or large format photographs, retail outlets are able to bring customers back into their stores with memory cards in hand.

Due to the ease of use of large format printing and layout software, more and more businesses are incorporating large format printers into their offices. Presentation materials, in-house informational posters, and office signage are all able to be produced in-house at a fraction of the cost of outsourcing such materials.

Canon is differentiating itself in the marketplace by acknowledging the difference in large format print applications and providing two specialized lines to the market—a graphics line of pigment-based imagePROGRAF inkjet printers and a corporate/CAD line of dye-based imagePROGRAF inkjet printers.

Dupont Craig Reid, Director New Business Development

Large format inkjet continues to show significant growth, especially in the industrial areas of UV curable and direct to textile fabrics digital print applications. The biggest driver continues to be simple ability of UV cure inkjet and new special function textile inks to print directly to such a wide range of substrates without the need for expensive pre-coating.

Other trends include environmental concerns, operational safety, and colour fidelity. With new rules and restrictions coming from some countries that are cracking down on VOCs and requiring proper disposal of PVC media, more and more people are looking to soft signage applications printed via UV cure or direct-to-textile aqueous based ink sets.

UV ink sets, such as the DuPont‚–¢ Cromaprint¬Æ UV, provide very affordable alternatives to solvent on vinyl, by being direct printable to a growing number of synthetic, high strength, light weight, indoor/outdoor durable banner, flag, and signage media.

More customers are taking a closer look at safety and environmental considerations as they invest in LFP inkjet. Fortunately, a number of manufacturers are also now paying attention and are making systems safer to operate, with proper ventilation and protection for the UV lamps. Some early UV-curable inkjet systems lacked a number of safety considerations, such as direct ventilation, UV lamp light protection, and other operational safeguards. Naturally, all DuPont systems are already built with the highest safety standards.

“Good-enough” colour is quickly being replaced with expectations for highly predictable colour and the need for better and better colour on more and more substrates. DuPont continues to improve our gamut enhanced ink sets, Cromaprint¬Æ UV and Artistri‚–¢ to help customers print colour any way they want it.

Leggett & Platt Richard Codos, Executive Director, North American Development

Digital printing has shown considerable growth over the past couple years, with more digital printers targeted to the industry’s specific requirements for expanded capacities, just-in-time printing, and mass customization. However, we don’t believe conventional printers have totally embraced digital printing even with its lower cost factors, faster speeds, and improved quality. Digital clearly has further room to penetrate within these and other segments including commercial printers, large screen printers, textile manufacturers, and industrial/product markets.

Until recently digital textile printing has not been cost effective, but DirectUV Dye direct-to-textile systems print superior quality images—bolder, vibrant colours with greater colour saturation and detail—at a substantially lower cost per square foot. New 130” wide superwide/grande format printers print at super fast speeds, and the elimination of transfer paper, ability to print on uncoated textiles, and substantially reduced ink/dye costs make digital now more cost effective than analog‚Ķjust pennies a square foot.

We see substantial improvements in quality on the digital printing horizon for both rigid and roll to roll applications, as well as the cost per square foot dropping due to lower ink costs and higher production speeds. Leggett & Platt will continue to lead the industry in revolutionary technology, providing a full range of industrial quality super wide and grande format printers for a variety of conventional and unconventional applications including those targeted for high production in specific industries.

Peter Dulis
Wide Format Printing Specialist
T: 647.895.3315
E: pdulis@iprimus.ca