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

(November 2013) posted on Wed Oct 16, 2013

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

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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.