Many trends, from higher speeds to lower costs, and from greater environmental friendliness to more demand for short print runs and versioning, all point to increasing use of wide-format digital inkjet printing by PSPs.
To begin with, wide-format inkjet output speeds are surging, consistency and quality are increasing, and costs of ink and media are dropping, says Eric Gutwillig, Vice President of Marketing for PriscoDigital (Booth 201).
Almost as crucial is an ongoing trend toward environmentally friendly and sustainable printing technologies. “Wide-format inkjet has seen the increasing popularity of devices utilizing UV-curing inks, and systems that use alternatives to inks with high VOC content,” he says, noting cost-efficient media recycling is attracting greater utilization of some media and print technologies. UV-curing inks are also popular due to fast speeds, he adds, noting they are the choice for most current flatbed and hybrid wide-format inkjet systems.
Still another trend is its adoption by commercial printers who see it as a natural extension of current offerings, says Dennis Killion, Marketing Director for Graphics, xpedx (Booth 3601). “Beyond proofing applications, we are seeing commercial printers embracing wide-format technology to leverage existing relationships and expand wallet share with existing customers,” he says.
Killion notes he and his colleagues are witnessing ballooning interest in latex versus aqueous inks and in UV-curable inks. “Whether it’s Epson ecosolvent (Booth 635), HP latex (Booth 2610), or EFI UV-curable (Booth 2000), the technology available for today’s PSPs opens the door to a growing number of wide-format print applications,” he says.
Aside from technology gains, other factors weigh in favor of wide-format digital inkjet, says Terry Mitchell, Director of Marketing, Wide-Format Inkjet and Specialty Inks for Fujifilm Graphic Systems Division (Booth 627).
“An improving economy, and the expectation that investments in POP advertising and promotion will increase sales, has led to higher demand for wide-format printing services,” Mitchell says. “We are also seeing retail store expansion, which should lead to higher demand for store signage and displays.”
Opportunities for PSPs
Declining run lengths, versioning, and the need for faster turnarounds all furnish opportunities, Mitchell adds. In POP and retail marketing, inkjet allows the test marketing of campaigns before committing to longer runs. Printers serving these markets can create sample campaigns and audience-specific messages and graphics on signs and displays. Reduced inventory, waste, and overall cost are among the benefits of this approach.
Print applications on unique substrates such as window-perforated films and wall graphics also unleash opportunities to use inkjet technologies to create marketing messages or change décor, Mitchell says. Folding carton printing is a natural for inkjet because the approach allows for shorter runs, such as one-offs and prototype packages customized to specific audiences. Inkjet also allows providers to print directly onto a variety of substrates and materials, he adds. In addition to using inkjet to gain more work from current clients, providers can attract new customers by making the cost-effective technology investment in wide-format, Killion says. Being able to produce more complete multimedia marketing campaigns helps them differentiate themselves from rivals.
According to Ken Hanulec, Vice President of VUTEk Marketing, EFI, opportunities for PSPs include leveraging the economics of UV digital inkjet printing to eliminate makeready costs, lower labor and inventory stocking costs, and minimize waste by migrating short-run jobs to a digital UV press. “It’s also a case for businesses looking to eliminate the outsourcing of short-run and wide-format jobs that currently are losing them money,” Hanulec says.
For newcomers, getting a toehold in the business requires having a network in place. “With people who are knowledgeable in color management, you can leverage your infrastructure to integrate a system fairly easily into your current workflow,” Gutwillig says. “Before trying to jam new equipment in, make sure you have adequate space, and keep in mind that space is required for the cutting devices. A relatively inexperienced person can be trained to run the output engine, the printer, but you need experience to set up jobs, do color management, and plan for finishing the product. You have the chance to move people up within the company as an opportunity. There’s a lot of win-win-win.”
Hanulec believes PSPs must have a desire to not only survive but thrive in challenging economic times, as well as “an understanding of the shifts in the print market and their own businesses.”
They also must have the right technology, he adds. They must have technology that delivers the productivity, versatility, and image quality to help them be more competitive and profitable, and technology that is scalable and integrates into workflow and print MIS solutions, for increased production efficiencies and greater business knowledge to drive even more profitability.