As new technologies and new types of output continue to hit the printing technology industry non-stop, the wide-format printing industry continues to thrive. This prosperity drives further innovation, and customers spur the trend by increasingly demanding novelty and customization of print services without sacrificing print quality.
Intensive Inkjet Industry
Inkjet printing remains one of the fastest-growing printing methods, and according to InfoTrends, inkjet printing will account for almost 60% of the total production volume of all digital color printing by 2018. We see yearly improvements in inkjet printhead technology as nozzle density increases, resulting in higher print resolutions, better grey-scale capabilities and also, faster production. Inkjet printheads now support various unusual inks like solvent-based, UV-curable, dye sublimation and latex inks.
‘Platform’ printers are becoming popular. A print shop can buy a wide-format press with a single set of printheads at a relatively low price just to enter a particular market, then add a second array of printheads and later a third to double and triple production speed as the business grows. This exciting new trend allows entrants into the wide-format printing industry to offer their customers high-quality results in a cost-effective manner, rather than purchasing very expensive large-scale equipment before their business can bear the cost.
Integrated Marketing Services
PSP’s can have a hard time delivering better value than their competitors. Customers increasingly demand shorter runs and personalized designs in vibrant colors. Because of improvements in digital technology, the industry is shifting from mass production to increased customization, and PSP’s can now offer integrated services like marketing, branding, graphic design, project management and finishing to their existing services.
In-house finishing is far more cost-effective than outsourcing. Finishing equipment ranges from cutters, heat presses, fabric steamers, industrial sewing systems and more. Apart from being cheaper, in-house finishing is a valuable added service for a print shop as customers may prefer the convenience of getting everything from a one-stop-shop. Cutting automation is a significant innovation, as one flatbed digital cutter can easily outpace, with higher accuracy, four employees cutting graphics by hand.
Soft Touch Fabric Printing
InfoTrends predicts a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of almost 40% in textile printing over the next few years. The new elegant and sophisticated dye sublimation technique allows the fabric to remain soft. Striking Point-Of-Purchase (POP) signs have been popularized by European retailers and is currently a significant influence on the North American and Canadian markets. The spectacular displays are particularly attractive in the trade show exhibitor market.
In dye sub, pigmented inks are not only deposited onto a fabric’s surface, but also infuses into the fibers where it achieves a deeper level of saturation and much richer colors. The final product remains soft, and there is no need for any additional surface protection as it cannot be washed out or rubbed off like textile graphics printed with solvent-based, latex or UV-curable inks.
As customers come to appreciate the superiority of dye sublimation output, more PSPs adopt the production equipment to compete with printed soft signage and garments. In Europe, it is not unusual for sign shops to have both UV and dye-sub printers, and this trend will increase in the US as the printed textile market grows.
Wide-Format or Grand-Format?
Is it better to operate one grand-format printer or to run two wide-format printers? Although a grand-format printer takes up less space than two wide-format printers, an industrial grand-format printer produces print 30 to 50% faster – with more consistent ink placement – than two standard wide-format printers working side by side. It is also designed to run 24-7, whereas most wide-format printers should only run six to eight hours per day. With a dual-roll printing feature, you can also run entirely different jobs on different substrates at the same time, and do so faster than two wide-format machines.
Keeping Up with Changes
Every business has unique requirements, with differing customer demands, market segments, production workflow space and strategic and budgeting goals. By keeping ahead of new trends and technologies, every business can rise to new challenges and remain successful.