What’s next for large-format opportunities?

Applications and volumes continue to grow, but which is right for you?

No matter where we go today, wide-format printing surrounds us. It drives growth in all sectors of the business landscape. The beauty of inkjet large-format printing is that it provides mass-customization and just-in-time printing with the option of doing long or short print runs. But the key to higher profit margins is to have an efficient workflow where one operator can run many devices, and where colour management, nesting/tiling, and managing job output can be automated.

According to U.S. research firm Keypoint Intelligence, the global value of digital print shipments and services will grow from just under $50 billion in 1989 to an expected $270 billion in 2020. So which large-format printing technology is right for you? Well it depends on your application.

AQUEOUS PRINTING

Aqueous-based large-format printers still have the largest share of the volume by units sold in North America. The image quality is excellent and the initial investment needed is very low. The cons are  higher running costs and media that are limited mainly to indoor usage. Manufacturers include Canon, Epson and HP.

SINGLE-PASS AQUEOUS

Single-pass aqueous printing, from suppliers like Memjet, has been gaining popularity with higher-volume accounts. Speed is the main advantage, but the cons are image durability, media selection and image quality. Manufacturers include Canon-Oce, HP, and Xerox. According to Keypoint Intelligence, banners, posters, POP, and sign graphics represent 80% of the volume. There seems to be a shift out of technical usage to graphics production by many of the repro houses still around. Single-pass large-format printers are being repurposed to suit newer needs, such as photo, canvas, floor graphics (with laminate), etc.

LATEX PRINTING

Latex has grown in popularity over the years. There is a low initial investment and a good variety of media to print on. The con is the power consumption. HP printers use thermal print heads that generally have larger dot size and faster print speed. The piezo print heads that Ricoh and Mimaki use are slower but offer higher resolution. Latex printers can be used with a wide range of media such as paper and vinyl, as well as textile media.

ECO-SOLVENT and SOLVENT

This technology has been around for a while and offers a low initial investment and a good variety of media to print on with good image quality. The cons are speed, and more importantly, environmental concerns. Manufacturers include Agfa, Roland, Mimaki, Mutoh, and Epson.

UV-CURABLE

The UV-curable market has been growing due to direct-to-substrate printing. You can image foam core and sintra, wood or acrylic, glass, cell phone covers or print on corrugated packaging – the applications are endless. UV is the most versatile wide-format inkjet category out there. The cons are a higher initial investment and the space that’s needed. Manufacturers include Canon-Oce, HP, EFI, Durst, Mimaki and Roland. Canon-Oce has the highest concentration of UV printers of all the vendors.

Source: What Are Sintra Boards Used For?

DYE-SUB

A dye-sublimation printer uses heat to transfer dye onto materials such as a plastic, card, paper, or fabric. Durability and quality are good but cons are that specialized equipment is required and outdoor durability is not good. Manufacturers include Mimaki, Epson, Mutoh, VARS.

UV-GEL

Canon-Oce has introduced a new printing technology called the Colorado 1640 – creating a unique printing category. Gel inks offer the lowest UV ink deposition and running costs, with about 40% savings. A unique form factor mimics single-pass aqueous PageWide but with higher-quality images. Print speeds are increased by 60% by using opposing gantries for printing and curing. A very novel concept and one to keep an eye on.

Emerging Wide-Format Applications

Soft signage is still set for continued growth as consumers like the look and feel of graphics on fabrics. Backlit fabric applications have become very popular but finishing and sewing need to be considered as finishing solutions. Emerging wide-format decorative applications will also grow to include glass, tile, laminates, décor and customized apparel. Value added services can include design services, CNC routing, interactive displays, installation and augmented reality. Wide-format placements are poised to grow by 6% CAGR from 2016 to 2021.

If you are not already enjoying the extra revenue from wide-format printing, perhaps it’s time to take a look.

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