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Industry Roundtable: The Wide-Format Forecast

(October 2010) posted on Thu Oct 14, 2010

Taking stock of 2010, and preparing your business for 2011 and beyond.

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Mayhew: Probably the most impres¬sive recent technological introduction is HP’s fourth ink type, which utilizes latex technology. Yes, there are still challenges for the technology to overcome, but it’s an ink that is here to stay. Also, at FESPA, we saw more companies introduce products with LED UV-based curing – another technology with more hurdles to overcome, but with clear long-term potential.

Boer: Most of the innovations will stem from improvements in ink/sub¬strate interaction. Companies making their own inks, including EFI/Vutek and Agfa, are making strong advances on UV-curable ink jet inks, and HP has introduced its latex inks, which have been well received in the market. We expect others will follow with similar innovations. Improvements in print quality, while real, will have diminishing returns from an investment standpoint because the quality is already very good.

Other innovations will relate mainly to application use, enabled by better ink/substrate innovations and higher-end technology features that trickle down. Stretchable inks will be¬come more common and allow for the printing of products that are formed into three-dimensional shapes after they’re printed. Some of the higher-end product features such as automatic loading/unloading of substrates will wind their way down to less-expensive products, speeding productivity but also allowing more difficult substrates such as textiles to be fed more reliably through the printer.

Marx: In the last two years, the wide-format digital imaging markets have reached a bit of a technological plateau. During the early and mid 2000s, it seemed as though new and breathtaking technological innovations were happening monthly (if not sooner). Today, though improvements in speed and quality are constantly underway, huge developments in printing technology are incremental. Much of the innovation today, and much of what is allowing imagers to access so many new markets, is the ongoing development in both media and finishing technologies. That’s where today’s action is.

Question: On the OEM M&A side of things, we’ve seen deals finalized between Canon and Océ, and Agfa and Gandinnovations (as well as Pitman). How will these M&A deals – and any others I might be forgetting to mention – affect the market?