Demand drives new products and refinements, as ink producers court expanded opportunities.
As the market for wide-format digital graphics expands, print service providers look to ink producers for products that are more versatile and environmentally friendly without compromising color or durability. OEM suppliers, their partners and aftermarket ink makers are responding in kind, evident in refinements in eco-solvent inks and newer technologies like latex inks and LED-cured UV inks.
“It’s all about expanding applications for print service providers,” says Marco Boer, vice president of digital printing industry consultants I.T. Strategies (it-strategies.com). “Which ink will win? It really comes down to user preferences, and what you’re selling.”
Earlier this year, I.T. Strategies released its projections for the global inkjet market through 2016, reflecting trends in print production over the next five years. The research estimates consumption of aqueous ink in wide-format printing will rise just one percent through 2016. The real growth will be in the newer ink technologies: consumption of latex and eco-solvent inks for wide-format printing, for example, is expected to climb 16 percent in that same time frame, while growth of UV-cured inks for wide-format graphics is expected to increase six percent, I.T. Strategies predicts.
Total revenue from eco-solvent and latex inks is projected to climb sharply, from $1.15 billion to $1.90 billion, while revenue from UV-curable inks will grow more moderately, from an estimated $324 million today to $362 million, reports I.T. Strategies. And while those numbers might not mean much to the average print service provider, these should: Barring any disruptive economic development on world markets, I.T. Strategies projects the price of aqueous, eco solvent, and latex inks should fall one percent over the next five years, while the price of UV-curable inks will drop two percent.
That’s the broad picture. For company perspectives, we touched base with several industry suppliers of inks used in the wide-format arena, asking them to address topics including pricing, quality challenges, new trends and developments, and more.
Pricing and demand
“The sign-and-display market is growing at a double-digit rate, driven by new applications, such as decorations and textiles, the analog-to-digital conversion, and advancements in printing technologies,” says Tomas Martin, HP’s worldwide product marketing manager, large-format solutions. And although ink poses an ongoing expense for providers of wide-format graphics, he says, pricing is not a major concern. “Overall efficiency, setup times, versioning/personalization, and environmental impact are much more at the forefront of discussion with our partners and customers.”