Scitex FB10000 Industrial Press from Hewlett-Packard Co.
Technology-driven change is rapidly impacting wide-format printing, and the results are new growth and profit opportunities for print service providers.
The move from analog to digital is accelerating, bringing about image quality and productivity gains. New markets are emerging in decoration, packaging, and indoor odorless printed output. PSPs, emboldened by the capabilities technology is making available, are taking on more consultative roles with their customers. And new horizons are being explored in cost reduction, with technology advances again leading the way.
Analog to digital conversion
Most volume screen printing has already moved to digital, and as technology continues to advance, offset XXL and litho lamination are expected to convert to digital within the next two years. That’s the observation of Oriol Gasch, Americas Sign and Display Category Manager for HP.
“Many PSPs are realizing the technology transformation occurring in wide-format and are investing heavily to position themselves for the future,” Gasch observes. “In many cases, the more versatile digital technology, is enabling customers to expand their offerings and become a one-stop shop. As print solutions become more versatile, many PSPs are also starting to consolidate into using only one or two technologies. The intent behind this consolidation is to reduce the complexity of operating environments and allow for more inter-operability among the print shop floor operators and managers.”
Companies seeking growth are embracing distinctive applications made possible by today’s evolving wide-format technologies.
So says Ken Hanulec, Vice President of Marketing, Inkjet Solutions with EFI. “We tend to partner with companies that are of a more entrepreneurial mindset,” he says. “They’re leveraging LED solutions to print on different substrates at lower costs. They’re also using thermoforming, which results in a high-margin product made possible through unique ink sets and unique printers.”
Gasch also believes emerging application markets represent a key trend. Digital wide-format technology is quickly expanding into new markets, such as decoration and packaging, as PSPs look for ways to differentiate their businesses using their existing printing equipment.
Moving forward, Hanulec believes key differentiators will be around color, quality, and the ability to deliver specialized capabilities, like true variable-drop grayscale, variable gloss modes, white, and multi-layer printing. Those PSPs who win are the ones who say “yes” to their customers, he says.
“They will be enabled by all the advancements in technology, and they will provide a consultative role to their customers. It won’t be just about print, but about helping their customers be more profitable and grow their brands.”
Evolving dynamic signage
Interactive dynamic signage continues to evolve, says Lori Anderson, President and CEO of the International Sign Association. Dynamic digital signage is the fastest-growing segment of the visual communications industry, its growth driven by regulations that require fast food restaurants to reveal more on their menu boards, she says.
But also look to see more dynamic signage in places like bus kiosks, where printed pieces will be replaced by dynamic digital or LED signage.
“It will continue to be a growth area, and an opportunity for the printing industry, and the industry needs to embrace it,” Anderson says. “That’s the way of the future, but needing to be explored is how to exploit it to your advantage.”
Cost reduction will increasingly be among key priorities for PSPs, EFI’s Hanulec says. “Companies are looking to cut costs, and cut pennies in half,” he says. “Every single customer I talk to is trying to reduce their costs.
“They need to cut their total costs, and any way they can save money is paramount. They’re investing in faster machines, removing labor, and more effectively leveraging technologies like LED and grayscale.”
Look for more of the same in the future, he adds. Bigger, better, and faster machines will bring about lower running costs. Output quality and output speed is increasing every day, enabling a lower total cost. “Because of that our customers win,” he says. “I don’t see that changing.”