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Industry Roundtable Day 5: Will the Market for Latex Printing Continue to Expand?

14 days of critical information to prepare your shop for the year ahead.

Big Picture

Which technologies are on the upswing – and which are on the downswing? What markets and applications look to be hot next year? How much of a role will sustainability play in your company? Which profit centers should you invest in?

Get answers to these questions and many more, from six of the wide-format marketplace’s most informed analysts and consultants. Over the next couple of weeks, The Big Picture will post critical questions with invaluable answers from our panel – all designed to help you ensure that your company charts its best course for a prosperous year ahead.

Each day leading up to the SGIA Expo in Orlando, we’ll feature a round of questions and answers from our panel participants. For this year’s edition of our annual Industry Roundtable, our participants include:

• Lori Anderson, president and CEO, International Sign Association (ISA, www.signs.org);

• Marco Boer, vice president, I.T. Strategies (www.it-strategies.com);

• Tim Greene, director, wide format consulting service, InfoTrends (www.infotrends.com);

• Dan Marx, vice president, markets & technologies, Specialty Graphic Imaging Association (SGIA, www.sgia.org);

• Peter Mayhew, director, LightWords Ltd. (www.lightwords.co.uk); and

• John Zarwan, managing partner, J Zarwan Partners (www.johnzarwan.com).

Q. Latex continues to make inroads. The HP printers, of course, and Mimaki have their own latex machine. Sepiax and Bordeaux are marketing their own branded latex inks. Will the market for latex printing continue to expand?

Greene: I believe that there is still a ways to go with latex. Just as HP is now in its third or fourth generation of latex-ink formulation, each generation of latex performance gets better. So far, Mimaki’s iteration of latex has not really impacted the market, but we’ll be looking for that in 2014 and beyond.

Boer: I would argue that latex is still a single-vendor market. Despite third-party ink offerings and Mimaki’s entrance with a latex printer, HP has a five-year plus head start in understanding the ink/substrate combinations. And, HP is the only one with sufficiently large marketing budgets to create true global awareness to this technology. In our opinion, this is actually a problem for HP, because the burden for creating market awareness is exclusively on its shoulders.

Marx: I think latex has done very well, particularly as an “upstart” ink system that was introduced just a few years ago into an industry already crowded with viable ink systems. The fact latex has expanded outside of HP is a sign of promising growth, and I expect it to grow.

Mayhew: The introduction of latex inks has successfully “muddied” the water for anyone considering buying new hardware. We now successfully have established another ink technology choice into the market. And there is the problem because, in our view, latex has yet to fully displace interest in eco-solvent and UV technologies. Yes, latex is a serious contender, and we’d encourage anyone considering a new hardware purchase to sample print across all the technology choices. But, we fear that it will be some considerable time before we see the market simplify from its current, technologically fragmented state.

Miss Day 4 of our Industry Roundtable? Click here for our experts' take on: The most intriguing technologies and products.

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