“The continued adoption of mid-range to high-end UV digital inkjet flatbed printers, as well as the growth of UV roll-to-roll printers have made an impact on the market. Both trends are driving appreciably more volume, and have significant potential for continued growth into the future,” said Schinlever.
Technological Developments Help to Fuel Growth
But what technological developments will help continue the growth experts have alluded to? There are varied answers covering everything from the advances in inkjet equipment to printhead developments and ink delivery systems. But unfortunately, right now much of the growth will be curtailed due to the current economic conditions and the credit crunch.
“Higher speed UV printers (both flatbed and roll-to-roll) are driving higher print volumes, especially as digital is used for more mid-to-long run lengths vs. just short-run as in the past,”said Schinlever. “In addition, higher print quality in the grand-format space allows print providers to address more high-quality application spaces—many of which were reserved for low-speed wide-format printing or photo technology in the past. Both of these developments drive higher ink usage.”
INX Digital’s Kisner agrees. “The higher speed devices are grabbing people’s attention. That’s normal and was bound to happen. The same is true for products that are environmentally friendly. There was an initial push and I expect more companies will make it a greater priority in the next year. Our consumables sales have done very well and I see continued market share growth in this area for INX Digital.”
Sawchak continues, addressing the environmental-aspect. “The development of ink systems such as our Nano inks from Yuhan-Kimberly and eco-friendly paper-based substrates are helping to address the need in the market for solutions that enable printers to provide customers with advertising medium that address their requirements for having a low impact on the environment.”
Steve Urmano, marketing director, Mimaki USA, also credits LEDs as the potential source of growth. “Certainly low energy curing using LEDs have shown a lot of promise while unit sales are just ramping up.”
Opinions are mixed about the future growth. A lot depends upon the predicted economic turnaround and when that does begin to occur.
“Given the world economic situation and the crisis that hit the financial world, the wide-format market remains vulnerable to the availability of good finance options, especially to smaller print operations. Many of these printers have had a difficult time getting loans to purchase equipment that is typically in the $30,000 to $120,000 range. Printers must keep costs low in times like this but run the risk of sacrificing quality,” said Kisner.
“We see single digit growth in 2009 and early 2010. We expect to see a return to double-digit growth in the latter part of 2010 and 2011—if the experts are right about the recovery of the economy,” said Amerine.
EFI’s Schinlever’s foresees strong growth, “especially starting in the 2nd half as key new technology introductions start shipping in volume.”
“We see the greatest growth opportunity for wide-format inks in products that have the ability to increase productivity while reducing the impact of printing on the environment. UV-curable inks are an example of a technology that will continue to see growth, since they produce dry, ready-to-use prints, print on a wide variety of substrates, and emit low levels of VOCs. UV-curable inks accelerate overall efficiency and productivity and allow PSPs to deliver high-quality applications with the quick turnaround time their customers demand,” said Allen.
Randy Anderson, program manager for software, media and color, Mutoh points to specific applications, such as vehicle wraps and textile printing, as growth areas moving forward.
Hiro Futsukaichi, director of marketing, Mutoh, continues along the same thought. “Sign graphics will still grow once the economy comes back. Eco-solvent ink will replace water base inks as people began to recognize the advantage of outdoor durability and low running cost. Meanwhile, ink for textile market would have greatest growth opportunity in terms of growth rate,” said Futsukaichi.