FESPA Digital 2014 (Messe Munich, 20 to 23 May 2014) could mark a tipping point for the wide format graphics sector, with a survey of the FESPA printing community forecasting the prevalence of digital by 2015.
Over half of the 250 printers surveyed by Infotrends on behalf of FESPA in Summer 2013 reported that wide format digital now represents more than a third of their revenue. In two years' time, 72% of respondents expect this to be the case, with 54% forecasting half their business to come from digital, and almost a third anticipating that digital will make up one third of their income. The respondents to the survey spanned 53 countries.
Solvent and aqueous inkjet continue to dominate the installed base among those surveyed, with 48% and 43% of printers respectively reporting ownership of these technologies. However, eco solvent, UV curable and latex printing are gaining ground. The proportion of work produced using UV curable inkjet is forecast by the community to grow from 13.6% now to 21% by 2015, contrasted with a drop from 18% to 13% for solvent UV.
This focus on digital is creating a positive mood towards technology investment. Buying intentions are stronger than at any time since 2007, with 51% of respondents planning to purchase a new digital wide format printer in the next year, up from 37% in 2010. Evolving technologies are stimulating demand, with almost a third planning to invest in UV inkjet, 16% in eco-solvent and 13% in latex.
Buyer demands drive investment plans
More than half of those planning to invest are doing so to achieve faster output, proving that productivity is still a key factor for printers. This reflects the fact that faster turnaround and just-in-time delivery remain the two dominant trends among customer demands. More than two-thirds of printers say these trends prevail among their customers.
Other notable buyer trends are that 57% of printers now say their customers are demanding delivery to the point of need, while 48% report more complex logistics requirements. These responses potentially point to an opportunity for printers to extend their service proposition and offer a more complete print-to-installation service.
Integration of print with other communication channels is clearly taking hold, with 49% saying that customers are looking for more integration with other media, and 42% citing demand for cross media devices to connect print with online media.
New applications fuel growth
Banners (71%), posters (55%) and signs (53%) remain the top three applications being produced. However, textiles, POP, wallpaper/interiors, building wraps and 'industrial' applications are the fastest growing. 81% of printers report handling more textile work, followed by 71% for POP, 69% for wallpaper, 68% for building wraps, and 67% for industrial print.
81% of output is currently on flexible media, but 27% of planned hardware investments are being made with a view to printing onto rigid substrates, suggesting that this media mix will change in the foreseeable future, as POP, interior and industrial applications gain ground.
FESPA CEO Neil Felton comments: "Feedback from our community affirms that the transition to digital continues to shape the wide format signage and graphics sector, while digital technology also motivates printers to diversify into creative applications for customers from many different verticals.
"What's exciting for us is that the responses indicate a level of optimism unprecedented since 2007, a year before the global economic crisis. It's clear that innovation and the pursuit of new application opportunities are giving entrepreneurs increased confidence in the performance of their own businesses - which promises to give FESPA Digital 2014 in Munich a positive and forward-thinking vibe."