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Insider Insight: Analyzing Industry Trends

Experts discuss what's next for latex, packaging, and more.

We asked seven of Big Picture's Editorial Advisory Board members to respond to the current state of the wide-format industry and reveal what we should expect in 2018.

Big Picture: What is the future of latex?

Kirk Green, President/CEO, Ferrari Color: Some applications are fine; we departed from this product as we found the equipment unstable and the imagery inconsistent.

Robert Kissel President KDM P.O.P Solutions: We definitely see a future in latex printing due to its eco-friendly aspects and have already invested in this technology.

Carmen Rad, Founderpreneur, CR&A Custom: I see a bright future for latex due to its quality and ability to adhere to a wide variety of substrates topped with the minimal environmental impact compared to solvent and UV inks.

Jared Smith, CEO, bluemedia: I think latex will continue to dominate until it becomes the only option.

Mark Taylor, COO/Senior VP, GFX International: We do not lean on latex technology for a large amount of our print production. We have one smaller machine that prints small banner runs and wallcoverings. As far as its future, it appears there is a market and/or fit for this technology, but only while UV inks continue to advance in flexibility and elongation. I’m not sure what benefits latex technology will have over UV.

Big Picture: What is the future of interior décor and textiles?

Robert Kissel: As you walk the tradeshow floors the past few years, there is a definite trend in soft signage – printed fabric stretched on a frame. It hasn’t caught on so much for our retail customers for in-store signage and P-O-P, however. In this realm, the savings in shipping weight and costs could be substantial. We are definitely watching this growing trend.

Carmen Rad: With OEMs’ push of small latex and UV printers and the additional support and training they are providing, along with the advent of websites like Etsy, I think [the future of] digital printing for home décor is a bright one.

Jared Smith: As fabric options increase, so do customer demands and the potential uses. The sky is the limit.

Mark Taylor: Digital technology has opened the door for more customization of interiors, especially in wallcoverings and permanent décor items such as canvas prints and framed graphics. In the temporary P-O-P market, textiles will remain a challenge due to cost and finishing requirements. Interior décor programs can provide consistent revenue over project-by-project clients.

Big Picture: What is the future of packaging?

Carmen Rad: Given that most manufacturing is done overseas, I see a reduction in large flexo runs. But I see a future for digital large-format in the packaging industry as print runs become smaller and the ability for manufacturers to print shorter runs using a digital press increases.

Jared Smith: We don’t do much in packaging at all, but the industry conferences show a huge upside coming.

Big Picture: What is the future of 3D printing?

Kirk Green: Exciting technology; not sure how to monetize it.

Robert Kissel: We’re glad to see the larger 3D printers like Massivit come to market that have the capability of producing much larger products that can be used for displays more than 5 feet high. This application lends itself to our niche in the P-O-P and display market.

Craig Miller, President/CEO, Pictographics: For the umpteenth time in our company’s almost 24-year history, we have made a major course correction after attending ISA Expo earlier this year. We have gone “all in,” with the future being 3D printing. We have added our second and third 3D printers. … Who says tradeshows don’t work?

We hope the builds from these revolutionary 3D printers will be the most profitable application in today’s market. We all face commoditization and are looking for the “holy grail.” Ask me in six months if we found it. This is sure to be one of those “kids, don’t try this at home” moments.

Carmen Rad: I don’t see a viable future in the print industry. Perhaps for mold makers and parts manufacturers.

Mark Taylor: I believe 3D printing will continue to provide value in niche markets mainly related to prototypes or one-off production applications. We do not anticipate adopting the technology as a direct sale to our clientele.

Big Picture: What is the future of single-pass printing?

Kirk Green: Speed will always be a defining advantage in our industry. Single-pass needs to become cost competitive.

Robert Kissel: The single-pass presses on the market now are very exciting. All of these presses have been developed to print on corrugated. It seems reasonable for them to make just one ink that sticks to just one material. Typically, corrugated doesn’t require super critical print quality. These presses are screaming fast, at 2000 to 3000 sheets per hour, so, if you need this quantity of only corrugated, you could print that all day.

The unit price of these presses is extremely expensive and the size of the press takes up a lot of real estate. We think they may be missing the boat in many respects by alienating the market we’re in: P-O-P printing. It’s not a good fit for the trends we experience where there is more versioning (variable data), local marketing, and print-on-demand needs. We wouldn’t use a press meant to run thousands of sheets for our short- to medium-run needs. We also need a press that would print on a large variety of substrates.

Mark Taylor: It’s bound to continue to improve and become viable in applications where volume and speed are critical. The barrier for many may be the cost, especially in large-format applications. The future for this technology is bright and will continue to be so as technology and chemistry in the inkjet world advance.

Get more insider insight on wide-format surprises in 2017streamlining print production, market entrysocial media for PSPswhat's next for large format, and goals for 2018.

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