Eco-inks—as Andreottola mentioned above—and other green technology has been a growing trend in the wide- and grand-format market. Industry experts believe that this will continue to shape new technology innovations in the future.
"We believe that green technology for consumables—media and ink—will shape the future of the industry," said Phil LaFata, director of marketing and international sales, Arlon. "As UV/Latex ink experience mass adoption and solvent inks become undesirable and obsolete, the media manufacturers will face increasing pressure to launch truly 'green," non-PVC, recyclable, non-toxic products to the print market."
"The need to be 'green' will have a large impact on this industry and already has in the type of inks that are available," said Melissa Thompson, flexible magnetic products sales manager, Master Magnetics.
Jaime Giannantonio, marketing manager for Ultraflex Systems Inc., also points to the increasing pressures from state and federal governmental regulations as incentive for manufacturers to develop new sustainable options. "Better and greener products, technologies, and services," according to Giannantonio is one of the market's greatest driving forces. Why? "Governmental regulations, leaders in the industry and our clients will put more pressure than ever on sustainability," she said.
"The future of the wide-format graphics market will be print technology with less impact on the environment and on the workers who use the technology, while providing greater value to the customer. In the past, many eco-friendly solutions in this market were extremely expensive, with tradeoffs in image quality, media support, or product value," said Mark Radogna, group product manager, Professional Imaging, Epson America. "Today’s printing technology can produce amazing print quality, while still being friendly to the environment. Advancements in ink technology from both Epson and HP have resulted in a fundamental shift in the way we look at this market. This is an exciting time."
Automation / Workflow
One of the largest areas experts anticipate innovation to come from is concerning automation and workflow technologies in the wide-format market. Automation has been a mainstay in the commercial print and screen print markets, but until recently has not seen much progress in the wide-format market. Things, though, are changing—according to industry experts.
Workflow solutions—from MIS to JDF—and automation systems are beginning to come to this market.
"There has also been an increasing interest in workflow software among wide-format printers. While take-up of these solutions is relatively high in commercial (offset/digital) print businesses, workflow is an area of technology which, so far, has only scraped the surface of the wide-format market," said Frazer Chesterman, managing director, FESPA. "As businesses emerge from recession streamlining workflow is a clear way to improve profit margins by maximizing productivity, and integrate different output formats and processes in a unified process."
"The companies that can afford to employ the latest technologies are gaining market share," said Michael E. Robertson, president & CEO, Specialty Graphic Imaging Association (SGIA). "Using the latest equipment, they reach more markets and provide customers with a wider range of product options. These companies are taking advantage of the latest automation advancements to speed production and reduce overhead."
"We are seeing many innovations supporting the end-to-end workflow of customers in the signage market and, as a result, our customers are looking to improve the efficiencies of their business from start to finish," said Yariv Avisar, vice president and general manager, Scitex Large-format Printing, H. "We were also recently selected to chair a Wide Format Workgroup within CIP4 with the goal of defining open JDF standards for wide-format printing workflows."