Holiday parties are well under way and, like most people, I look forward to the warmth and good cheer that this time of year can bring. It always is fun trying to explain to family and friends about the printing industry and what it is I actually do for a living as a business writer/editor and trade...
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Holiday parties are well under way and, like most people, I look forward to the warmth and good cheer that this time of year can bring. It always is fun trying to explain to family and friends about the printing industry and what it is I actually do for a living as a business writer/editor and trade journalist. Even more humorous is describing production inkjet equipment to people, most of whom have maybe seen a towering newspaper web-offset press once or twice in their lives. “They’re like your desktop printers at home on steroids,” I tell them in an attempt to explain the larger scale of these industrial-sized inkjet devices.
While practically meaningless to laypeople, their whizzing fast output speeds can impress print experts in the know. The wider, web-fed inkjet presses now can run up to 1,000 feet per minute (fpm), or 5,000 8.3x11.7-inch A4 pages per minute, at 133 lines per inch (lpi) resolution. Imprint head modules image nearly a mile of paper every 60 seconds (5,000 fpm).
Further penetration of inkjet into truly commercial printing has been expedited this year, as 2012 saw more coated, treated papers come on line suitable for inkjet printing. Commercial printers use more than eight different substrates on a regular basis, pointed out industry consultant David Zwang. Jim Hamilton, group director at InfoTrends, added that “It’s an interesting time [for inkjet]. Fast and cheap inkjet output for low [ink] coverage documents is nothing new.” In fact, Kodak’s Versamark narrow-width, drop-on-demand inkjet technology has been on the market for some four decades. (In the mid-1970s, 400 fpm was considered fast.) But “2008 is when inkjet really took off,” Hamilton noted, “when HP, InfoPrint, Kodak, Océ, and Screen got into the game. After 15 years [of promise], white paper in and full color out has become a reality.”
Especially in the past four years, tremendous inroads have been made, particularly in the transactional print, direct mail, and book publishing segments. Aurelio Maruggi, VP and general manager of HP’s Inkjet High-speed Production Solutions (IHPS) division, added his historical perspective: “Between drupa 2008 and drupa 2012, high-speed production inkjet has shifted from being a promising technology to a market reality, as evidenced by the many players in the market and the exponential growth of the installed base. HP went from a having a production inkjet technology demonstration to a full portfolio of six products, ranging from the HP T200 to HP T410, with an installed base of more than 80 units and more than 20 billion pages printed to date. Every month, this number is growing in excess of 1.3 billion pages.”
Customers used Kodak’s latest Stream inkjet technology to print some 10 billion pages this past year alone, an uptick of nearly 50 percent over 2011, reported marketing director Will Mansfield, who is based in the firm’s Dayton, OH, location—the former home of Scitex Digital, which Kodak sold in mid-1993 and reacquired in 2004. “Four years ago, uncoated media and ‘pleasing color’ were the norm” in the production inkjet space, Mansfield echoed.
Notably, HP shook up the sheetfed/cut-sheet world this spring, when it revealed its plans for the Indigo 10000 Press, the world’s first B2 format (20.5x20.9-inch) digital press. Consolidated Graphics is beta-testing and has signed on for 10 of the new inkjet models, which will become commercially available early next year.
So just how big is inkjet and how big is the technology’s growth potential? The inkjet printing global market was valued at $33.4 billion last year and is forecasted to grow to $67.3 billion by 2017, according to Smithers Pira, an authority on packaging, print, and paper supply chains. Inkjet represents only a sliver-sized portion of print and printed packaging worldwide. In 2011, it accounted for some 4.2 percent of print value and just under 0.5 percent of the volume. Over the next four years, it still will account for less than one percent of print volume, but should be nearly seven percent of market value. To date, there are some 1,000 total inkjet print lines installed with price points ranging from $350,000 to $1.5 million.