It’s no secret that quick and small commercial printers are looking for new ways to expand their offerings from just ink and toner on paper. Some of the most common areas of expansion have been mailing and fulfillment, wide-format, and marketing services. However, another new opportunity for expansion has been quietly making inroads—small-format inkjet.
Until recently, with the exception of envelopes, inkjet technology was pretty much confined to wide-format and transactional applications. Today, increased reliability and quality, higher speeds, and lower prices are making small-format inkjet an attractive option for other applications.
One of the newer drivers of this increased interest was the introduction of Memjet’s inkjet technology, which claims much higher speeds than traditional inkjet technologies, and has attracted more than 14 OEM companies for both wide- and narrow-format applications. One of these companies is Xanté, which now offers the wide-format Excelagraphix 4200 and the narrow-format Excelagraphix L850. Xanté bills the L850 as a “narrow web/label solution that allows you to go digital and meet the demand for fast full color labels, tags, decals, tickets, and much more.” These are all products that most quick and small commercial printers traditionally have outsourced.
“There are many good reasons for quick printers to add a small-format inkjet printer to their production environment, especially an eco-solvent printer, which can greatly expand their product portfolio and market reach,” according to Roland DGA product manager Daniel Valade. “First, these devices allow the shop to leverage their expertise in digital design and printing. Also, many customers ordering business cards, brochures, flyers, and comps also have a need for the kind of output a small-format eco-solvent printer delivers, from signs, banners, and labels to posters and heat transfers for apparel. Becoming a one-stop shop for these customers increases your value proposition and gives you an important competitive advantage.”
Mimaki marketing and promotions manager Paul McGovern sees some interest in small-format inkjet, but not an overwhelming flood. “We actually have seen some interest from companies like FastSigns and other sign and graphics organizations for these tabletop UV-cure LED printers,” he says. “The commercial print folks have not really adapted this type of digital inkjet printing to their particular applications because of the dependence on a lot of previous paper and cardboard printing clients. Most are not currently associated with non-porous media products such as promotional products, metal substrate printing, and other plastic items used in the decorative color marketplace.”
That said, McGovern does note that there are opportunities for those who want to explore small-format inkjet. “There are many applications for package prototyping, sampling, and creating mock-ups of smaller items for marketing approvals before going to the presses,” he explains. “Clients sometimes need to see their products in a finished format before printing thousands of a particular product using offset, gravure, or flexo printing techniques. We also offer small-format ‘print & cut’ units for producing many labels, stickers, and vinyl prints of signage in high-resolution colors using eco-solvent pigmented inks—including metallic colors—for durability and light fastness in industrial environments.”
According to Rich Egert, general manager of the Strategic Technology Provider Business Group for OKI Data Americas, there is increasing interest in both full color inkjet envelope and label printing among small commercial printers. “As a result, we are continuing to expand our line of envelope printers,” he says. “This line now includes three different options, including the new pro910MP color envelope press for dedicated envelope or postcard printing.”