Older grand-format printers at 360 dpi and below do not offer the image quality required for these types of applications, and tend to stay confined to large outdoor graphics. Paper, backlit films, canvas, tyvek, and other plastics such as polypropylene are making small inroads into the traditional vinyl market, but PVC is still the dominant substrate technology used today. From a broader perspective, low-solvent digital printing continues to expand into product areas that were once exclusively screenprinting or lithography.
Due to the benefits of digital such as personalization and customization, I would expect this trend to continue for the foreseeable future. New technologies will continue to introduced, but we see no credible replacement for the large population of solvent printers in our industry today. Low-solvent printing technology remains the most effective and cost-effective technology for outdoor graphics today. So the outlook for low-solvent printing looks very robust for the next few years.
Urmano: Still banner and sign primarily and quite a bit of vehicle graphics. The vehicle graphics market has spread somewhat to the restyling markets.
Wozny: Solvent technology is well understood technology that is great for banners, billboards and vehicle graphics. The application range today is very similar to the application range 12 months ago although some are leveraging eco solvent as a ‘green’ solution.
3. In what direction to you see this segment of the market moving in the next 12-18 months?
Amerine: We anticipate a continued movement to UV technology. The quality and speeds are compelling as is the greener footprint that it provides.
Burton: With the incremental changes in the economy in general, the sales of low solvent ink have improved, as have inkjet machine sales in general, when compared to a year ago. Most believe this is in response to an increase in advertising dollars, as consumers increase their spending. In the third party ink arena, suppliers have undercut the aggressive solvent ink sales for OEMs. This is mainly due to aggressive solvent inks that are in plentiful supply from numerous vendors, both in the states and overseas.
According to SGIA’s 2010 Financial Outlook and Business Growth Plans, 2009 saw a slight uptick in solvent inkjet machine purchasing. With 13.5 percent of graphic imager respondents planning to buy a solvent printer of any width and an actual purchase by those same respondents of 21.8 percent. In the same survey, there was also an increase in the UV inkjet machines acquired. With 23.4 percent of graphic imager respondents planning to buy a UV curable ink printer of any type and an actual purchase by those same respondents of 27.5 percent. For UV printers the greatest 2009 growth was for the UV flatbed printers where 23.4 percent of respondents planning to purchase and 27.5 percent actually acquiring a UV flatbed.
Hecht: Despite advances and new technologies such as latex, UV, etc., solvent is the ultimate workhorse of the signage industry. Beyond its efficiency, the media applications have been proven (everything from airplanes to basketball court graphics), the ink longevity exceeds the needs of the market, and printer mechanisms continue to advance each year. Solvent is a staple of the industry and, I believe we’ll continue to see more and more new applications that are leveraging it to produce output.
Hutcheson: Ultimately, the market place will continue to rebound. Digital printing is fast becoming the go-to method for short runs and variable data applications. Plus, everyday we are learning about new digital printing technologies, so positive growth is expected. However, industry reports and commentary from users suggests that solvent technology will continue to slowly decline over the next 12-18 months.
Oransky: The range of applications that solvent inks address will continue to broaden, and I predict that many of the applications that print buyers have traditionally thought could only be done with aqueous will begin to transition to eco-solvent technology.