Wide-Format multi-function printers continue to make both revolutionary and evolutionary strides in functionality and productivity. Yet, not too many years ago, these devices were only aimed at large firms with large staffs, which were the only organizations able to justify the hefty price tag. But with many of today’s models now having $25,000 or less, smaller shops can now add them to their equipment arsenal. Wide-format engineering printers service a number of high-volume technical document printing industries such as architecture, construction and engineering. These turnkey products can be easily connected to networks, and offer a wide range of functions ranging from printing, copying and scanning.
Rolling With the Changes
Over the past few years, this market has seen its share of changes. The need for faster cycle times and reduced errors is driving change in the market by facilitating improved workflow processes, while leading to distributed printing, electronic information access, and sharing, greener printing solutions as well as increased demand for color output.
The economic climate of 2009 has also presented reprographers with a host of difficult challenges that they have never faced in the past. Both the housing and construction markets are way down and have caused them to retool and look at offering other services. Tim Greene, director of the wide-format research group at InfoTrends, reported, “The economy has hurt a lot of this segment of the business. We have seen shipments down, at over 37,300 units in 2008, which reflected a drop-off of more than 11 percent from the prior year. In addition, we have seen the aggressive terms and sales mix change that have driven hardware revenues down by 25 percent.”
Greene sees no immediate up tick. “We are not expecting a huge ‘bounce-back’ in the activity in this market in the near future. In fact, we think that shipments may grow 1.9 percent over the 2008-2013 period, but not return to 2007 levels within that time frame. We still think the action is in the low-end digital market and will be on the color side as those products emerge, with placements of those units growing at a combined 7.6 percent annually. What we had suggested was a “slow-erosion” turned into a very significant downturn in terms of system revenue—we think it declined from $2.0 billion in ’07 to $1.7 billion on a worldwide basis in 2008,” Greene concluded.
To get a handle on current product and business trends, Wide-Format Imaging asked a number of suppliers to this market about what major trends are currently affecting the multifunction printer (MFP) market as well as how they are tailoring their products to meet these changing trends.
Océ North America
Penny Holland, director of business development, Wide-Format Printing Systems Division, Océ North America, pointed to a number of trends occurring including decentralized printing, increased use of color as well as more sustainable alternatives being utilized. “Decentralized printing, as the technology for digitizing information and distributing information in digital form has evolved. The shift from a print-and-distribute to a distribute-and-print model has rapidly progressed. People are increasingly printing files at the point of need; whether that be a construction trailer or a reprographer closest to the end user,” said Holland.
In addition, there has been an increase int he use of color. “Color clarifies complex information. With the transition from 2D to 3D CAD, the incorporation of GIS data or when implementing a BIM system, drawings become more complex. Color in technical documents makes the data easier to understand, facilitates communication among all team members, and can ultimately reduce project errors and rework.”