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Navigating the Wide-Format Sea

(October 2009) posted on Wed Oct 28, 2009

Five industry experts scope out the year ahead.

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Florek: It has been a calm year in terms of new wide-format technologies, at least compared to other years. It’s probably natural to have no earth-shattering releases this year. Last year, we had Drupa, with many new prototypes and products unveiled there to make a splash with the industry. So it’s natural for the pace of new technology to cool off. And, like everything else, the economy is the story this year. Customers, and some vendors, are risk-averse in a recession and don’t want to make a risky (and perhaps expensive) investment on a new technology platform. Still, there are signs that new technology will soon bolt onto the wide-format scene. For example, new ink technologies unveiled at last year’s Drupa—like Océ’s Crystal Point and Xerox’s cured gel technology—may be leveraged in marketable products relatively shortly.

Marx: The surface of our industry waters may be calm, but there’s much going on under the surface. Sadly, the recent economic conditions have put a damper of what, in better times, would be seen as a revolution in our industry, as high-production inkjet devices have come to the fore. These machines offer both high speed and excellent print quality. For the first time, inkjet for graphics applications is truly demonstrating its potential to compete and, dare I say, potentially replace, analog processes. Some companies are investing in these technologies today, and many others are waiting for the economic go-ahead. I believe that when the economy is truly back, there will be a proliferation of high-production devices entering print shops, transforming the digital graphics industry.

Greene: I think we’re in a phase where we’re seeing a continuous stream of incremental improvements but few breakthroughs. There are a couple of technologies that represent potential breakthroughs—including HP’s Latex, although that was publicly introduced more than 12 months ago. Of those that I know of, I believe Latex has the best potential.

UV continues to be the hottest printing technology, agreed? And solvents appear to be losing quite a bit of ground right now, yes?

Williams: Agreed, the only technology segment that is growing is UV, where revenues are expected to grow from $1.6 billion in 2008 to $3.2 billion by 2013, a CAGR of 15 percent.