Trends and Totals
In Hunt’s latest Color Copier Survey, one obvious trend is the falling selling prices for color copies. In 1997, the average price of one copy of one original was $1.52. In 2009, it was 84 cents. The trend holds true across the board, with 10 copies of one original ($1.21/75 cents), 100 copies of one original (90 cents/52 cents), and 500 copies of one original (78 cents/41 cents). The average selling price of all copies has dipped from 99 cents in 1997 to 71 cents in 2004, 65 cents in 2006, 57 cents in 2007, 47 cents in 2008, and 43 cents in 2009.
So, does that mean that folks are not making as much money on digital color output? Not necessarily. Back when machines were running at less than 20 ppm, digital color copies commanded a higher price because they were slow to produce. With today’s higher speeds and better capabilities at lower cost, printers can still make money, even if the per copy price is lower than it was 10 or 15 years ago.
So, which vendor has grabbed the biggest market share in digital color copying? In Hunt’s survey, Xerox accounted for 43% of placements, followed by Konica Minolta/IKON at 37%, and Canon at 20%.
That compares to the results of a Quick Printing survey taken a while back that found Xerox with 40% of placements followed by Canon with 34%, and Konica Minolta with 24%. In the time since that survey was taken, Konica Minolta has found significant traction in this market with its C6500 Pro.
Inkjet printing is well established in the wide-format, transactional, packaging, and label segments of the printing industry, but has been slow to make inroads into the cut-sheet, full-color digital production printing arena. That could soon change as manufacturers eye this segment and the technology becomes more sophisticated, durable, and affordable.
Most recently RISO rolled out its new ComColor Series of full-color inkjet printers/multifunction devices with speeds from 90-150 ppm. Built around RISO’s ForceJet inkjet printing technology, the ComColor units print full-color for a claimed two to three cents a page. With a monthly duty cycle of 500,000 impressions and the ability to print 60,000 letter-sized pages on a single set of ink cartridges, the printers fit well in the medium production space. They also use an oil-based ink formula that is fast drying and fade- and moisture-resistant. RISO also offers the HC5500 digital production inkjet printer.
Print 09 is likely to produce more cut-sheet inkjet competitors, whether in beta or ready for market. That said, it is probably safe to say that toner-based digital production printing will continue to dominate this segment in the short term. Long term it’s anybody’s guess, but it is unlikely that digital toner will fade completely away any more than offset inks will disappear. Each output technology offers particular advantages and drawbacks, but they all are tied together by today’s digital workflow.
Crystal balls are notoriously fickle, but it is probably safe to predict that digital color production copiers, whether toner or inkjet, will continue to take market share away from offset presses—especially in the shorter-run, fast turnaround world we live in. That trend is likely to accelerate if and when variable data/personalized printing ever takes off as predicted.
It is also a pretty safe bet that digital toner-based color and offset color will continue to co-exist, with each playing to its own strengths. The common denominator will continue to be the digital workflow, which allows each job to be routed to the output/production device it is best suited for.