"We see the industry moving to more production workflow automation. For example, we are part of a new initiative to develop a wide-format JDF specification for automation of PDF workflow," said Dean Derhak, director of marketing, ONYX Graphics.
"The big three continues to be solutions that make digital printing better, faster and more cost effective. The difference will be that those solutions won't just be wrapped up in the printer and ink. Web to print and workflow solutions have been a recurring topic for the past 18 to 24 months and will continue to be a requirement as more analog print moves to digital and as digital print providers continue to grow margin and extend profitability," said Scott Schinlever, vice president and general manager, EFI Rastek & EFI Ink Business.
Other Market Drivers
While the above three make up the major drivers of industry change, according to industry experts, there are other more subtle changes happening within the market.
QR Codes / VDP: "On the front end I am becoming convinced that there is a real play for wide-format signage and graphics providers to incorporate QR codes and other variable data that could help drive digital printing," said Greene. "I think the opportunity to provide measureable value with these types of tools is a solid near-term opportunity for many wide-format print providers because you don’t have to be big or invest tons of money to be able to do these things."
Long-term Upgrade Paths: "I think that the top three to four output technology providers will begin shifting much more deliberately towards providing platforms engineered with long term (seven to 10) year upgrade paths," said Kevin Huseman, president, Point Imaging. "I do not believe it is healthy long term for any industry to have capital equipment manufactures focusing on increasing the 'Installed Base' verses helping their existing clients become more profitable. Typically, financially healthy companies pay their bills much more reliably than chronic under-performers."
Textile Printing: According to Heidi Luck, marketing communications manager, Gerber Scientific Products, a long term innovation driver will be in the textile and fabric markets. The more important, though, is in the "lucrative textile market where the final product meets retail demand. We are seeing results in the work being done today with dye sublimation to meet some of the soft signage, but a complete textile printing solution is a little further out," said Luck.
BIM/IPD: "The advancement of BIM (Building information Modeling) and IPD (integrated project delivery) have brought a higher level of color into the planning process. Color in construction documents increases user retention, and helps eliminate costly errors," said Rich Gigl, vice president of marketing, KIP. "Monochrome LED and inkjet products will continue to integrate offering tremendous color functionality at the user interface level with the ability to scan to file in color, color copy and print to color via Color LED or inkjet technology."
New Applications: "Our customers are continuously evolving what we think of as signage printing with new applications," said HP's Avisar. "More and more, we are seeing signage printing devices used to produce applications that are not traditionally considered signage, from custom interior design pieces to printed shoes. Customer innovation and application development are changing the market and opening the door to new growth opportunities."
Future Growth Opportunities
But where are these "new growth opportunities"? Industry experts list several areas they think will have the "biggest bang", so to speak. The top four most mentioned include: fabric and textile printing, POP and retail signage, interior décor, and vehicle graphics.
"With regards to textiles," said Chesterman, "printers are becoming more inclined to print on fabrics due to their added benefits. For example in comparison to a non textile material such as PVC, textile can be recycled and is therefore ecologically friendly; it is also lighter and saves the printer, and therefore their customer, noticeable shipping costs."