It is not only the presence of aqueous inks and upgrade equipment that will determine a shop’s profitability, however. As Lamb points out, businesses have to be savvy in all areas from their business models to pricing and reputation if they area going to thrive in an industry that is increasingly competitive.
“The companies that are prepared for the economic turns are the ones that are accelerating in those turns where others have to stop and they scramble and it creates more of this division where there are the haves and the have nots. I continue to see that and liken it to the middle class.”
Conrad says that being informed about the products on the market is the key and it is vital that print providers become well informed before making any purchases. Conrad says, “Know what you’re going to be dealing with with the printer, know what market you’re going to be playing in and what’s important to your customer and then be sure that the printer and the ink technology satisfies those requirements. There’s a lot more going into wide-format printing than how fast it is.”
Looking Toward the Future
Reamer states that all-in-one solutions are definitely something that people are looking for when purchasing new equipment or investing time in exploring the use of aqueous inks.
Reamer says, “I think you’ll see that continue to develop and continue to be kind of a hot commodity—being able to get everything all in one solution for under $10,000. I think it’s amazing what Canon, Epson, and HP have been able to offer, but I think you will see color spaces continue to expand.”
As aqueous inks continue to improve and create more opportunities for the market, more profitable solutions will arise.
In regards to the improvements and innovations in the types of ink and technology being introduced and used, Lamb believes that one of the toughest competitors in the industry is the newly introduced AquEpoxy, a resin based ink from Global Imaging.
“AquEpoxy is a water-based resin ink, much like the CPX ink, but it has a fifth channel, so we have CMYK plus we have a reactant in a channel that is jetted onto paper, vinyl, rigid materials—it creates a chemical bond so it doesn’t require heat. It can print on rigid materials, which has always been a drawback for the latex and why you don’t see flatbeds running latex ink.”
“I certainly think this AquEpoxy is certainly going to change some things just because it has so many uses. The industrial applications and what may happen seem pretty amazing.”
Conrad gives his input on future trends: “The trends are going to be based more on what you can do with the inks and how the inks are applied to the materials. You can try different substrates and print better with better adhesion. You can print faster because it will dry quicker. I think the technology on the ink side is going to have to keep up with the technology on the equipment and hardware side.” Conrad adds, “There will have to be other advantages other than just faster. The message is that you need to look at what you’re getting for your dollar and the advantages and disadvantages beyond ‘is latex good for the environment? Is it cheaper?’”