There hasn’t been much in the way of good news over the past several months and unfortunately, the inkjet ink market has not been immune to the global economic climate. Like many other industries, the market has seen a slowdown over the last year.
Ink manufacturers have seen an impact on their business, but some have already started to see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel.
According to Terry Amerine, market manager, wide-format graphics, Fujifilm Sericol USA, Inc., while the overall economic conditions have slowed growth, there is still a growing market overall. “The substitution of traditional analog printing in favor of inkjet continues and the economic environment may be increasing this due to lower overall run lengths and even tighter turn times,” said Amerine.
Scott Schinlever, vice president/general manager, EFI Ink Business, concurs. “EFI’s ink business fell off in Q4 of 2008, and started to recover in early 2009, and has been steadily increasing. While the economic challenges are resulting in reduced print volumes for all technologies, the underlying digital transition is offsetting much of this in the wide-/grand-format space.”
But according to Hewlett Packard’s senior technical specialist, Printing Technology Platforms, Dr. Ross Allen, shop owners are looking products that will help them maintain their bottom line. “In the last 12 months, the wide-format inkjet ink market has seen a growing demand for ink technologies that provide high levels of image quality, productivity and durability while allowing customers to reduce the impact of their printing on the environment.”
Cost, of course, is also a huge factor, especially now. “Digital inkjet inks are our core business and we have experienced a good amount of business for the first five months of 2009. In tough economic times, people are forced to look hard at their costs and evaluate ways to reduce their expenditures to keep them performing well. Since INX Digital has a number of aftermarket brands, people are more open to considering a quality replacement product that will save them 30 to 50 percent compared to their current consumables. This kind of savings is proving to be very crucial to many businesses,” said Brad Kisner, president, INX Digital International.
Richard Bowles, vice president and general manager, Nazdar concurs. “Digital printers are increasingly concerned about reducing production costs.”
While the global economy has probably had the most direct-and all encompassing-impact on the market as a whole, there are other trends that have also made their mark.
One of the biggest drivers has been the push for more environmentally-friendly options, when it comes to ink choices. “We believe the interest level and new regulations coming into effect for environmentally conscious solutions as being a key driver,” said Mark Sawchak, textile product manager, Converd.
“As the world strives to become more ‘green’, the assumption is that businesses will face increasingly demanding environmental regulations, which PSPs should consider as they construct their operations,” said Allen.
“The increase in resolution quality and speed are two of the biggest factors with the introduction of new technologies in the wide format market. UV curable has become a standard option available for good quality wide format printers. With the many advantages UV curable inks have to offer, smaller shops are able to compete when job requirements call for a ‘green’ solution. UV doesn’t require a laminate or coating to maintain outdoor durability compared to a water-based process,” said Kisner.
Additionally, the adoption of UV technology has helped to grow the UV side of the business.
“UV ink continues to grow. Faster curing, more flexible and durable inks are being asked for,” said Jennifer Greenquist, business development manager for inks, 3M.