But unique selling points still exist for both technologies.
The gap between digital inkjet and screen printing is certainly narrowing, but it is not likely to close any time soon, according InfoTrends/CAP Ventures. The demand for the screen-printing process remains, says the Massachusetts-based consulting group, adding that "the differentiator now becomes which technology is best suited for the print job at hand."
In the group's new white paper, "Digital Production and Screen Printing," the consultancy reports that screen printing still offers benefits unattainable with other printing techniques, despite predictions that screen printing would be superseded by inkjet. "There are opportunities for established screen printers to promote the services they provide by explaining how screen printing can still provide flexibility of output that is unattainable with an alternative process," says Sophie Matthews-Paul, a consulting associate for InfoTrends/CAP Ventures. "It is the printer's responsibility to make the end-users and print buyers aware of the unique selling points that are offered by both types of processes."
One of the uncontested advantages of the screen process, says Matthews-Paul, is its versatility. It can be used on virtually all materials, including paper, board, plastics, fabrics, glass, wood, and metals--without any real restrictions in terms of size, thickness, or shape. In terms of color depth and flexibility, she says, inkjet printers cannot yet match the output produced from a screen printing press.
Inkjet, however, has proven strengths of its own--particularly where short-run lengths, one-offs, and jobs containing variable data are required. Additionally, with the capability to print applications up to 5 meters wide, inkjet is ideal for grand-format jobs.
"We see the UV-curable inkjet market growing by more than 40% per year over the next five years," says Tim Greene, director of InfoTrends/CAP Ventures' Visual Communications Technologies Consulting Service. "We believe that the strengths of UV-curable print technology, and the wider adoption of the next generation of low-end and mid-range equipment based on UV-curable inkjet, will drive UV-curable inkjet revenues, including hardware, ink, and services, over $580 million by 2008." (InfoTrends/CAP Ventures: www.capv.com)