Textiles and fabric, according to experts, were next in line when it came to picking growth markets in 2013. According to Ray Palmer, president, Signs By Tomorrow, this market “is still showing signs of growth due to the newness and sophistication of the products.”
Mutoh’s Phipps concurs. “I would keep an eye on the textile market and dye-sublimation applications as the market with the largest potential for growth in the coming years. The ability to print on demand soft signage and apparel is huge, and with new printers being introduced into this market at an affordable price point, growth will be rapid. Especially as more and more users adopt this technology and incorporate it into their business.”
Textile and fabric printing is also closely tied into the interior decoration market. From wallpaper to upholstery, customization is the key and digital technologies are up to the task. The interior decor market, according to Neil Felton, managing director, FESPA, was one of the top areas printers were looking to move into in 2012 when FESPA surveyed them for the Economy Survey.
According to HP’s Garcia, the retail and point of purchase segments are the fastest growing areas already in 2012 and are growing at a trajectory that is very likely to continue in 2013. “These segments represent more than 60 percent of the total sign and display print volume, but only 15 percent of is currently printed digitally,” says Garcia. “This means that the potential for these high-value pages to convert from analog to digital is high and growing due to increased demand for shorter runs, faster turnaround times, personalization, and reduced environmental impact.”
Packaging also has a huge opportunity to convert high-value pages from analog to digital. “As brand owners look at packaging more closely as a critical communication channel with end users, they are searching for creative ways to personalize, customize, and version by customer segment. The ability to produce short-run promotional campaigns, private label brands, and quick and changing messages to the market is appealing in today’s competitive and fast paced retail environment,” says Garcia.
“I think we’ll see opportunities for success in virtually all the markets,” says SGIA’s Robertson. “The real question is which companies will be successful in those markets. In other words, the competition within the various markets is increasing. The better managed companies will stand out. I think it will take a bit more effort to be successful, at least for awhile.”
Challenges Moving Forward
While the outlook may look positive, however, we may not want to kick back and relax. While growth is forecast, there are still several bumps along the road that could impede smooth sailing through the end of 2012 and into 2013.
One of the bigger issues in regards to technology is continuing to manage change and keep up with the ever-changing breadth of products and technology. Deciding when to upgrade and choosing the right equipment can be a challenge, especially when new printers are continuously added to the equipment roster with more and better inks, faster speeds, wider and—in some cases—narrower widths, coating options…the list goes on and on.
How do we manage this kind of change? “I think the best way that all of us in the industry can address these concerns is to continue to educate ourselves by reading industry news and attending industry trade shows regularly. These resources can help us to stay current,” says Jerry Hill, vice president of sales and marketing, Drytac Corporation.
Standards are also becoming a larger and larger issue in the market. “Good enough” color is no longer good enough. Customers are demanding that colors match across multiple platforms, technologies, and brands.
“Standards are a big issue, especially when it comes to blending with the rest of the graphic arts industry,” says Joseph Mergui, CEO, Caldera. “One way to address that point about how to approach color between the analog and digital printing industry would possibly be through G7 and ISO. Both are very good and articulated answers to that matter.”