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Industry Roundtable Day 7: What Role Will Wide-Format Play in Packaging?

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: Let’s talk applications: Packaging seems to be on everyone’s mind these days. Can wide-format play a significant role here?

John Zarwan: When most in the wide-format industry say “packaging,” they mean printing on corrugated. Corrugated is used in packaging, but not all corrugated is packaging. Service providers already have been printing on micro-flute and other corrugated substrates; applications include P-O-P, standees, and so on. There may be some true packaging applications, and there’s no reason that wide format can’t play a role. It might be significant for the service provider, but corrugated packaging and folding cartons typically require much longer runs than is economic for a wide-format printer. This would hold true for flexible packaging as well.

Marco Boer: High-end UV-curable flatbed printers ($750,000 and up) are now commonly used to print on corrugated for the creation of point-of-sale retail display stands. Arguably this falls under “packaging” since packaging converters are mostly printing them. At the low-end, those <$200,000 UV-curable flatbed models are printing on folding carton stock to create mockups and small batches for test-marketing of new products. Realistically, though, neither is a production printing application – meaning that for digital printing to make a significant impact on the market for packaging, many other things need to occur. We typically don’t realize how complicated the packaging market is in terms of participants in the eco-system. Unlike wide-format graphics, print is not the final output. In fact, in packaging, print is subordinate to the container, the product in the container, the marketing/advertising campaigns set around the product, and even subordinate to the wishes of large-scale retailers. The development of digital printing of packaging is going to be a long journey.

Peter Mayhew: Wide format has been growing into the packaging market for some time. The only recent change is that the cost and viability of entry continues to reduce, as the range of packaging markets open to owners of wide-format hardware continues to expand. We’ve not changed our view that PSPs need to proactively sell this service to local industry based on the benefits of a localized, customized packaging product with low inventory cost and just-in-time delivery.

Tim Greene: We definitely see it happening over time, especially as the performance of UV and latex inks gets better. In our “Wide Format in Packaging” forecast, we note that the volume of print from wide-format digital printers of all types from proofing and prototyping to short-run up to production is expected to grow at a five-year CAGR of 23 percent through 2017.

Dan Marx: Packaging is a unique opportunity that’s talked about a great deal, but I don’t see a lot of it being done. In truth, packaging is not just a whole different market, but a whole different world. I completely agree that wide-format technology can be used to make amazing short-run/customized packaging, and companies completely invested in packaging production may be able to make novel use of wide-format technology. But I don’t see it as a direct, easily reachable opportunity for most wide-format producers.

Miss Day 6 of our Industry Roundtable? Click here for our experts' discussion on the future of UV LED.

 

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