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Top Trends for Digital Wide Format in 2017

Posted Wednesday, October 25, 2017 by Jules VanSant.

Source: Keypoint Intelligence

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Read the full article Here.

Changing Wide-Format Printer Channels Favor a Direct Model

The complexity of the full system sales approach and the value-added process is squeezing low-end graphic sign dealers. The market is moving upward toward more sophisticated dealers, and this is cultivating larger system sales. Unit volumes for wide format printer products have been increasing, further impacting lower volume machines. System training and the growth of finishing in the “total product solution” sale/support model favors a direct selling model. The once-separate copier dealers are filling the gap, eyeing big-ticket wide format offerings and consumables to augment their sales.

PSPs Will Continue to Cross Boundaries

Print service providers (PSPs) continue to expand into the wide format market, and some have become very sophisticated in their offerings. For example, FedEx and FASTSIGNS are providing full-service wide-format printing on the spot with an increasing variety of substrates. Amazon is also getting into the game—in January 2017, Kornit Digital was selected to deliver a large number of on-demand textile production systems for the Merch by Amazon program.

POP as a Segue into Packaging Printing

Point-of-purchase (POP) and retail-ready packaging is enabling print providers with UV wide format devices to enter the short-run display/packaging market. There has been a lot of discussion about how wide format applications are crossing over into the packaging market. For example, the 2017 ISA Expo was co-located with the Collaboration in Packaging Production (CPP) converter show in April. This trend is expected to continue on a global scale.

UV Tabletop Printers Expand into Ad Specialty/Personalization

Last year, a number of smaller LED UV narrow format printers began to create a new wide format classification. Small, relatively inexpensive UV tabletop and some larger flatbeds can be fit with jigs to print on sundries like golf balls and tablet/smartphone cases. Larger flatbed UV printers can even accommodate sheets of plywood, cardboard, or any other material that fits on the print bed. The ad specialty area blends nicely with local silkscreen trophy shops. In addition to engraving a myriad of items, this includes adding photo-realistic personalized decorations. Vendors like Roland DG are offering 3D printers and engraving/milling machines, further expanding the possibilities.

Media Choices Reflect Durable Ink Sales

Textile media can be used to produce everything from wind feather flags to front and backlit media. Since these products now mimic the performance of translucent films, they are experiencing healthy growth. Textile vendors continue to expand their offerings, and many types of media (e.g., canvas, back/front-lit polyester, linen, felt floor mats, carpeting) are available for digital printing. Some digital print shops offer a variety of specialty media products, including window clings, floor graphics, metallic foils, and adhesive labels. As time goes on, specialty media printing will likely expand even further. For example, companies like Panel Processing now offer inkjet-treated wood products for inkjet printing.

“Industry 4.0” and Its Effect on Wide Format

Savvy equipment manufacturers are working to improve operational efficiency with tight integration between clients and print providers, linking all production elements into a dashboard and providing detailed information on quality assurance, production capabilities, and back office integration. The combination of big data and product automation will enable print providers to maximize profitability and improve client satisfaction. Cloud-based services support many wide format printing components, including media, design, and raster image processing (RIP). Functions such as finishing, tracking, archiving, and proofing can also be supported through virtual tools.

Finishing has become a Requirement

All shops are currently involved in some level of finishing, whether they handle it in-house or contract it out. Finishing has become more complex, and it can be a bottleneck if the shop’s printing equipment or staff members cannot keep up with the work. Many of today’s cutting/router tables handle contour cutting, wood/metal routing, and even creasing to create cardboard package designs. For textile/garment printing, calendar roll-to-roll heat presses and clam shells are required. The demand for sewing is increasing, but this can be addressed by hiring a seamstress or training someone in-house. Robotics are also beginning to support wide format media loading and unloading, and these technologies will likely have an increasing presence at major tradeshows.

The Durable Ink Battle

Innovations in latex, pigment, sublimation, and UV inks will likely reshape the wide-format market in the coming years. Developments in all of these categories will enable print providers to consolidate their production equipment while offering a broader range of applications. For example, the improved durability of latex ink will create more possibilities for high-permanency outdoor applications. New pigment treatments will enable material coatings like water repellency. New direct sublimation technologies will offer improved color saturation and reduced waste. Thanks to high elongation and reduced VOCs, UV inks combined with LED curing are becoming more widely accepted, offering an alternative to solvent inks. Meanwhile, the latest gel inks promise more vivid colors, lower ink deposition requirements, and lower costs.