For ink manufacturers, there has been some good news on the economic front, as the global economic recovery has led to improving sales. But with increasing sale volumes, there has also been a shift in the market.
“Traditionally, we would expect to see a jump in sales after a prolonged economic downturn. However, we are also seeing a paradigm shift in the way that small business credit is issued, and that looks to be a permanent change for our market,” said Patrick Ryan, general manager, Seiko Instruments USA. “Consequently, an improved mindset by business owners to invest in new equipment will likely be tempered by a more difficult process to obtain business credit and leases.”
“We expect to see increasing demand for products that will help businesses reduce costs and maximize efficiencies,” said Reed Hecht, product manager, Epson Professional Imaging. “Anything that helps them bring more work in-house that would typically be outsourced is one of those areas.”
“Commercial printers looking to branch into new markets have already led the charge. I think that as more people learn more about digital large-format capability, we will see growth,” said Ken Kisner, president of INX Digital International.
“I think we will continue to see growth in wide-format inkjet as the demand for shorter print runs or multiple versions of jobs continues to rise. The landscape has changed with the internet and other forms of multi-channel marketing that makes the exchange of information faster and the lifespan of messaging and printed materials shorter. Printers who are incorporating new digital technologies into their portfolio of print devices will be looking for ways to meet this market demand so there is a lot of potential here. This is good news for the digital inkjet ink business,” said Nelson.
“Wide-format digital printing is being implemented in more and more applications that were traditionally attributed to screen printing. These applications are expanding to nonconventional materials such as glass, metal sheets, plastic sheets, wood and ceramics with the improvement of the digital printers,” said Zach. “The recent introduction of digital printing on textile also opens new opportunity for this market. Generally, the more applications which open to digital printing as a whole, will also define the growth in the ink market.”
Sliding from Solvent to UV
As the economy slowly recovers, we’ve seen some areas improving faster than others—depending on the specific niche market. But one of the key areas for growth has been fueled by the movement from solvent ink-based technology to UV ink technology.
According to InfoTrends’ Greene, they expect the solvent ink market to decline from “almost $900 million to less than $600 million (-9 percent CAGR) based on the move from solvent to UV and the continued penetration of 3rd-party ink suppliers in the solvent segment. We also have UV ink growing about seven percent in revenue terms—again offset by increasing 3rd-party activity—from about $360 million in 2010 to over $800 million in 2014,” said Greene.
Many industry experts agree with these forecasts and focus on the opportunities this shift from solvent to UV is providing in the way of growth opportunities for ink manufacturers and PSPs.
Stephen Emery, director sales and marketing, EFI Ink Business points to UV as one of the most promising areas of growth in the wide-format inkjet ink market. Most of the industry experts agree.
“UV ink curing technology continues to advance and LED-UV is the future of this technology. There are many advantages of LED-UV inkjet technology including long bulb life, low power consumption, and the ability to work with a range of materials beyond those supported by traditional UV curing,” said Andrew Oransky, director of product management, Roland DGA Corp.
“The new developments with UV curable inks that are specifically designed to react to the radiation of UV LEDs are remarkable. This means even more new opportunities with UV inkjet,” said Deborah Hutcheson, director of marketing, Agfa Graphics, North America. “We believe that this will lead to reduction costs associated with UV inkjet and may lead to more companies entering the market. Flexible UV inks are also very important and will provide the means to get into additional applications and offering greater latitude in finishing or post production processes.”
“While a lot attention is focused on new technologies, the greatest growth remains in solvent and UV printers. They are the workhorses of the industry, and remain the most capable and best value for graphic production,” said Ryan. “Manufacturers will continue to invest in and develop greener technologies that will be injected into the market. But instead of big, the most likely scenario is numerous, smaller improvements in inks, media, and printers.”
“We also see growth in the market for green materials including ink and substrates. Consumers and businesses are increasingly aware of the growing need to preserve the environment and this is driving product development and market demand for green products,” said Oransky. “In addition to the chemistry of materials, we see businesses looking at the environmental impact of an entire printing system through its life cycle from the research phase through implementation and operation.”
“One of the greatest growth opportunities that I see is in true BIO Inks. These would replace some of the low volatile inks that are currently on the market. They would have to be made with true non volatile solvents and the vehicle and colorants would have to be as close to 100 percent biodegradable as possible,” said Michael A. Andreottola, president & CEO, American Ink Jet Corporation.