14 days of critical information to prepare your business for 2012.
BPIC: What have been some of the most intriguing technologies and products introduced to the marketplace in the past 12 months?
Dan Marx, SGIA: I’ve been fascinated by the wide range of new materials for vehicle wraps and other applied graphics projects: conformable vinyl materials that look like brushed metals, colored vinyls that simulate automotive paint – really amazing stuff! I’m also a big fan of developments in finishing technologies, and have been following the switch to LED-UV curing very closely. While digital printing continues to offer better quality and faster production, I believe it’s now the materials and finishing technologies used in our industry that offer companies the greatest opportunity to differentiate themselves in the marketplace.
Art Wynne, BERTL: Most of the innovation that we’re seeing is coming from improvements in printheads, inks, and substrates. With printheads, we’re seeing a large number of improvements with regards to piezo drop-on-demand technology. This technology brings to the table new drop speeds, drop volume, drop size, and drop shapes. A company that stands out at the moment is Fuji with its Samba printhead technology – it brings some very interesting innovations that enable printheads to be lined up with virtually limitless printer-width possibilities and allows for single-pass printing. With inks, we’re seeing improvements in viscosity and diversified application with different substrates.
Peter Mayhew, Lyra:Over the past year, we have seen two competing technologies come of age. HP’s latex ink technology is benefiting from environmental concerns and looks set to be a competitor to UV curing. We’re also seeing UV printers using LEDs to take the technology to the next level. Both of these technologies still have some challenges to overcome, but they offer alternative options to the market.
Tim Greene, InfoTrends: I think one that is particularly interesting is the no-HAP (hazardous air pollutants) ink and printers from Seiko I Infotech. These products seem to advance the solvent-printing platform, which offers high-quality durable graphics printing at advantageous running costs. Another one that I think is really interesting is the EFI high-speed wide-format printer enabled by LED curing lamps. If this delivers on its promise, it could both increase the range of media these printers can print on and lower operational costs compared to traditional curing methods. Another product that I saw for the first time this year is from a company called Asphalt Art. Theirs is a foil-based product that can be used for outdoor floor signage and graphics that, when applied, looks like a painted surface but is easily removable and slip resistant.
Marco Boer, I.T. Strategies: There has been great refinement among UV-flatbed printer offerings, eco-solvent printers, and even aqueous-ink printers. The most interesting developments perhaps have occurred among printers that sell above $250,000. Those products are more productive than ever. Keep an eye in particular on printers capable of printing soft signage and textiles.
Wynne: Cloud solutions also stand out this year, thanks to several solutions brought to market by American Reprographics and HP's ePrint and Share. Both have introduced solutions designed for the AEC/GIS and CAD markets that encompass document management, collaboration, and Web-distributed printing and scanning.
The Big Picture has assembled five of the marketplace’s most informed analysts and consultants and asked them to help you evaluate the wide-format industry. Each day over the next two weeks, we’ll post a new, critical question from The Big Picture with invaluable answers from our panel – all designed to help you ensure that your company charts its best course for a prosperous year ahead.
Our 2011 panel participants include: Marco Boer, consulting partner, I.T. Strategies (www.it-strategies.com); Tim Greene, director, visual communication technologies consulting service, InfoTrends (www.infotrends.com); Dan Marx, vice president, markets & technologies, SGIA (www.sgia.org); Peter Mayhew, director, Lyra Research Europe (www.lyra.com); and Art Wynne, president, Business Equipment Research and Test Laboratories (BERTL, www.bertl.com).
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