Editor’s Note: For this year’s Wide-Format Digital Inkjet Ink Report, WFI turned to the National Association of Printing Ink Manufacturers (NAPIM), the only national trade association for the printing ink industry since its founding in 1916. NAPIM promotes the general development and improvement of member companies by fostering greater understanding and knowledge of the printing ink industry as well as representing the industry as a whole on a national basis. In addition, NAPIM provides seminars, conferences, publications, bulletins, and consultation services to its member companies on an ongoing basis. NAPIM members include ink manufacturers, companies that supply raw materials, and manufacturers of instrumentation and equipment utilized by the printing ink industry.
For this report, George Fuchs, manager –Environmental Affairs & Information Systems, NAPIM, interviewed Ken Kisner, president of INX Digital International, a NAPIM member and an expert in the area of wide-format digital inkjet inks.
Q. How healthy is the wide- and grand-format inkjet ink industry?
A: “Overall, I’d say the market is reasonably healthy but, like life, it has its challenges and requires monitoring. The inkjet industry experienced some very interesting developments in late 2010 that have carried over into 2011. Inkjet made strong progress in the screen printing industry in the last decade and that explains the dramatic market share in the graphic arts markets. This was especially so in both outdoor and indoor graphics for wide-format and superwide-format printing.
“In the past 12 months, printers have reached the market at reasonable costs for tag and label, and in other markets where a fixed array is necessary to compete with existing markets. It appears that jettable fluid technologies have matured, adapting to high speed, variable drop technology as well as new formulations for corrugated, textile, glass, tile, paper label, and plastic packaging.
“Last year we saw new optimism in the market with the beginning of new investment by print houses. In most areas inkjet provides a market advantage of shorter print runs, no over runs, and a remarkable decrease in waste.
“Companies evolving to inkjet technologies are proactively advancing in technology and seeing very short ROIs. While the outdoor graphic arts market is becoming more mature with higher volumes and very competitive prices, we also are seeing a new emergence of companies focused on evolving into digital in new industrial markets.”
Q. How is it changing and evolving?
A: The economic downturn may have ended but it is still having repercussions in our industry. During the economic slowdown, some huge chemical companies were forced to shut down facilities and halt production. When the economy rebounded, raw material suppliers were at full capacity and the resulting shortages have caused prices to rise on many key raw materials.
“Looking ahead, there are several key areas of growth for inkjet. Inkjet is starting to penetrate into other traditional markets such as offset, litho, and gravure. We believe companies that invest in digital in these markets will also see growth in traditional technologies. They’ll likely be in a position to offer competitive short-run and medium-run print jobs using their digital technologies while continuing to offer competitive long runs on their existing machinery. We have seen over and over again companies that offer digital technology see their traditional business pick up as well. Other areas that are seeing quick adoption of inkjet technologies are from companies holding larger inventories such as the tile and textiles industries.”
“LED (light emitting diode) technology is developing interest in two areas of our industry. One is the new LED billboards that you currently see alongside interstate highways. They don’t require ink and have a quick upload of new campaigns. We view this as a threat to ink consumption for the outdoor inkjet market, and it will be this way for some time because there are some communities considering these billboards for major highways in their towns.