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Ask the Experts: Expanding Sectors of Print

What is the potential of industrial, textile, and package printing?

We asked six digital print specialists to respond to the current state of the industry and reveal what we should expect in 2017.

Big Picture: Do you see the industrial printing, packaging, and textiles markets continuing to grow in the next 5 to 10 years?

Steve Urmano, Director of Wide Format, InfoTrends: As commercial printers are embracing wide-format, I expect this trend to continue as all sorts of paper-printed media from magazines to catalogs continue to drop. However, the new wide-format digital printing company is a multiple-media printer that serves many markets from apparel, signage, and short-run label and packaging to ad specialty.

Mark Hanley, President, I.T. Strategies: There’s a healthy amount of startup-type innovation using inkjet in many new areas. It’s harder all the time for digital industrial systems to make an economic appeal based on lower cost and short runs as analog print technology is constantly closing the economic gap. But digital’s focus is increasingly on new market creation – things analog cannot do – and most essentially focused on the leveraging of varied print content to communicate much more efficiently. This is a huge argument for packaging and textile apparel markets. But there are technology barriers of a very serious kind that have yet to be overcome, and we will not see aqueous inkjet systems able to print graphic-artsy-type, 60 percent-plus coverages at full speed on coated paper and film overnight. This is an issue of technology development which will surely find an answer, but it may yet take some years.

Marco Boer, VP, I.T. Strategies: The other factor to consider in textile and package printing is that print is only a small part of the process. Unlike document printing, there are more stakeholders involved who have to sign off on moving to digital print, from the procurement office, which is used to negotiate for the lowest cost per piece, to the marketing department whose job it is to defend the status quo, to the distribution chain that might not be able to handle faster, more frequent inventory turns.

Amy Machado, Research Manager of Production and Large Format Print Markets, IDC: Of course, the packaging market is taking greater advantage of digital print as digital print offerings expand. But the main driver in this evolution is the consumer. The third platform [the emerging platform for growth and innovation built on the technology pillars of mobile computing, cloud services, big data and analytics, and social networking, according to IDC] is having an impact on how manufacturers reach the consumer – and vice versa. As customers become more enabled through the omnichannel, they also become more demanding of the supply chain. Consumers have come to expect a greater level of customization, greater selection of product, high availability, purchasing channel options, and rapid delivery. Consumers are demanding more SKUs tailored to their wants and needs, and the brands are responding. This means SKU explosion, limited runs, and geographic targeting. Digital print means the brands and manufacturers can embrace these trends without compromising on time to market or blowing their budgets.

Sean Smyth, Print Consultant, Smithers Pira: Inkjet will have made significant inroads into packaging – corrugated, cartons, flexibles, rigid plastics, and metal – and will grow strongly in direct-to-garment and roll-to-roll textiles, as well as soft signage. The latest generation of single-pass technology provides very high-quality reliability, and at high speeds. This makes inkjet more cost-competitive against the established analog processes, and more end users are taking the plunge to offer improved service and innovations to their customers. Then, other print companies see what the pioneers do, copy, and adapt, and before long it’s the new normal.

Tim Greene, Research Director of Hardcopy Solutions, IDC: Some of the same trends that we’re seeing in large-format graphics – shorter runs, versioning, speed to market – are impacting the packaging markets, so we think digital printing will take on a much greater role in packaging over the next 5 to 10 years. And the way the economics are changing, we think this is true across all of the major segments of the packaging market: bottles and cans, direct-to-shape, labels, and corrugated. There’s a lot of work going into package printing technologies to improve key functionality, such as performance at high speeds and image durability, which are creating a lot of additional opportunity for digital to capture more package printing volume.

Get more expert insight on the state of wide format today, eliminating the bottleneck, the reality of single-pass printing, digital marketing for PSPs, profiting from print, and standing out in a crowded market.
 

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