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Wide-Format Roadmap 2018, Predictions for the Wide-Format Market
By Steve Urmano, Director, InfoTrends, a division of Keypoint Intelligence
A range of new opportunities became available for equipment manufacturers, as well as ink and media suppliers. This has been evident on both the sell and buy side and is illustrated by the wide-format industry trade shows.
Wide-format is pushing past its original sign and graphic boundaries and is now embracing décor surfaces such as textiles, panels, glass, packaging and a range of emerging industrial applications. Many of these developments are driven by new material developments in ink, media and printer technologies
Print service providers (PSPs) offering wide-format printing services are now engaged in offering new additional services such as garment printing, ad specialty and other decorative products. The commercial printing industry and franchise printing companies are also embracing and offering these services, creating dynamic tension with the early wide-format digital printers.
These PSPs are successfully integrating state-of-the art printing technology with workflow enablement tools such as electronic job submission. Websites are being optimized for shopping using tablet computers and smartphones.
2017 Year in Review
Multi-Client Wide-Format Study: Looking for BIG Opportunity in Graphic Communications and Specialty Printing
Demand and Profitability
Top industries that purchase wide-format include retail, advertising, education, real estate and construction.
Newer applications include wallpaper, soft signage, industrial products, floor graphics and apparel.
Many respondents are outsourcing to meet expanding customer demands; the most commonly outsourced applications include flags, billboards and ad specialty items.
Wide-Format Volumes Are Increasing
Over 75% of Wide-Format Output Is Produced on Flexible Media.
There were several industry advancements in 2017 - let us review some of the trends that advanced the industry:
Continued Expansion of UV-Curable Printing
AEC Technical Production and Reprographic, once considered a discreet segment, is now merging towards graphic production.
Growth in Latex Printing
Latex continues its lead position in hardware sales, displacing a large aqueous and solvent market segment, although we started to see a slowdown due to market saturation in the below 1.6-meter (64-inch) durable printer segment. Even though sales numbers were impressive in this segment, overall market segment is basically flat when you factor in the market erosion of aqueous and solvent wide-format printers. The slowdown in sales is mostly due to the maturity of aqueous and solvent technologies, where various surveys have shown roughly three printers owned by most shops with this category, making this a replacement market.
Dye Sublimation and Pigments
Developments in Soft Signage
Promotion in the Wide-Format Market
This new PRINT United format will totally change the US wide-format market trade show landscape, which saw a division in markets between commercial and wide-format printing by Graph Expo/Print in Chicago. PRINT United is tasked with bringing these two segments together under one roof.
The 2017 Road Map had 10 predictions. Some of these predictions proved to be on target, while others did not. Below, we will focus on some of the top predictions.
While mergers and acquisitions may have slowed, the wide-format printing market continues to show signs of maturity with the general slowdown in wide-format printer placements.
Single-Pass Wide-Format Printing
Memjet-based wide-format printer sales were still slow in selling. Keypoint Intelligence believes it is largely ink-related, as more durable inks have been slow in coming. Potential remains for this and other page-wide inkjet printers as well as for wide-format printing. This is due to the technology proliferating in the fabric graphics and high-end UV products entering the marketplace. Memjet had announced its new platform based on the DuraLink printhead in 2017 as well as new pigmented ink to meet the market demands. We expect to see this technology integrated into a range of printing solutions during 2018.
Predictions/Trends for 2018
Wide-format printer technologies compete for share.
Wide-format printer sales factoring all printer technologies is essentially flat. While there are pockets of growth in latex and UV, the wide-format unit placements have slowed considerably due to market saturation. Many developed regions are in a replacement market condition, which requires heavy discounting and rebates to retire older units. We do not see this improving even though newer, more capable durable printer technologies such as single-pass, LED UV and latex continue to grow.
Copier segment players expand reseller network into volume production units.
Ricoh takes a page out of Canon's playbook by expanding its wide-format product offerings into higher volume segments. The recent reseller arrangement with EFI offers both companies a winning strategy. Complexity of the full system sales approach and the value-added process has put pressure on the low-end graphic sign dealers. Dealers that sell the lower end are finding the market moving upward, whereas the more sophisticated value-added dealer has the edge in cultivating larger system sales. Support requirements for PSPs entering into wide-format volume production increase along with their hardware investments.
The size and throughput of wide-format printer products have been increasing unit volumes and further putting pressure on the commodity, lower-volume machines. Many grand-format solvent roll printers have now switched to LED UV technology. UV and LED UV printers in flatbed and hybrid forms have both a higher price tag and discount dealer participation is limited due to factors based on end user higher demands for service response times.
System training and the growth of finishing in the "Total Product Solution" sale and support model favor the direct model. The demand of the spread of the channel footprint continues to be felt where the once separate copier dealers are eyeing the wide-format high ticket offerings and consumable sales to augment and consolidate. The copier channel is expanding to fill in the gap.
Small-format UV tabletop printers broaden ad specialty/personalization applications.
Last year we reported on the diverse, smaller platform LED UV narrow-format printers - how they are creating a new classification and augmenting existing wide-format shops. Personalized product portfolios that are run on relatively inexpensive small UV tabletop and some larger flatbeds fit with jigs are interfaced to print on a wide range of items from golf balls to tablet/smartphone cases, and various other items. Larger flatbed UV printers can run even larger materials like sheets of plywood, cardboard, and any other material that will fit on the print bed.
The ad specialty area blends nicely with the local silkscreen trophy shops. This runs somewhat parallel to the experience of finding engravers to personalize a myriad of items, but this time adding photo-realistic personalized decoration. Vendors like Mimaki and Roland DG are also augmenting their printing offerings with additive 3D printers, contour cutters, engraving and milling machines that are adding to the capabilities of this category.
Ultra-large-scale 3D printing vendor includes super-sizing to capture customers' attention.
Massivit is beginning to make strides in its "Larger than Life" 3D imagery. Different surface preparations can create stunning results reminiscent of early roadside imagery for "tourist traps." The Massivit 1800 3D printer can print larger-than-life objects with accurate scale and visual appeal for increased customer engagement. During the 2017 SGIA Expo, the company displayed two large-scale 1.3-meter (4.27-feet) busts that welcomed visitors to its booth. During live, in-booth demonstrations, the large 3D printer produced speeds of up to 35 centimeters (13.7 inches) per hour. Using dual printheads, this device can produce two individual models simultaneously, boosting workflow efficiency and providing greater productivity.
For owners of wide-format print and sign businesses, this enables extended application capabilities, competitive differentiation and the ability to expand into new markets. Enterprising sign graphics companies offering this 3D printed deliverable note that additional services as well as finishing and painting are required to make the final deliverable.
Material science advances as media and ink trend continues.
Specialty media growth - from window clings to floor graphics, metallic foils and adhesive labels - all are part of the arsenal of the digital print shop. We expect these multiple media trends to expand to ever wider printing surfaces.
Specialty labelling materials like Tyvek and oil-resistant media are finding their way into industrial and digital print shops. Packaging materials such as cardboard and corrugated also have found a place, where POP can segue into browsers and short run cartons.
Finishing has become a prerequisite for a final product.
Whether it is lamination, grometting or sewing pockets for poles, today's needs are becoming more complex. Finishing can become a bottleneck, unless the chosen equipment and staff can keep up with the work. Today's cutting/router tables have several types of tools from contour cutting, routing wood and metal, and even creasing used to create cardboard package designs. Robotics solutions are beginning to be shown where handling of large and heavy media is required. These can be used for both the printer and cutting material handling. In textile printing, a calendar roll-to-roll heat press and clam shell for garment printing are required. Sewing and heat welding banners, as well as soft signage, are also growing in popularity. The demand for sewing is a real issue as many of those jobs left with the apparel industry. This is often solved by hiring part-time seamstresses or training someone in-house to sew.
Industry 4.0 and Print OS emergence and effect on wide-format shops.
All facets of workflow should be under review in every print shop.
Steve Urmano is the Director of InfoTrends' Wide Format Printing Consulting Service. As Director, Urmano develops InfoTrends' annual global market forecasts for hardware and supplies used in the wide format printing markets. He is responsible for conducting multiple primary research studies annually in the wide format market both on a custom basis and as part of InfoTrends' syndicated research.
This article appeared in the SGIA Journal, March / April 2018 Issue and is reprinted with permission. Copyright 2018 Specialty Graphic Imaging Association (www.sgia.org). All Rights Reserved.
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