Developments, debates and discussions on industrial print at InPrint

Pen-Y-Fan in Brecon Beacons After a largely refreshing week off with the family, walking, skiing, catching up with friends and generally recharging, we are now back in the saddle and roaring across the European countryside, braving the cold, for another tour promoting InPrint. More news will follow soon on the specific progress for InPrint, but things are going very well indeed. In fact, compared with the launch of EcoPrint, we are miles ahead, which is inspiring to report.

The fact is that there seems to be a genuine commercial hunger for this event. Most exhibitors are resigned to the fact that the marketplace for graphic production simply is not offering the opportunity for growth that previously existed. It’s levelled off, innovation has slowed and the opportunities are not exciting as they once were. The standard trade shows, whatever the organisers might claim, are not truly growing because the market for graphic print is not growing.

It is another fact that the industrial marketplace is vast, and offers plenty of opportunity for those committed to trying something new whether they are established in screen, pad, tampon, gravure, flexo, small format digital, offset, label or inkjet.

Integral to the InPrint Show is innovation. We do not believe, and our research backs this up, that the opportunity with print technology is fully understood by the manufacturing community. Part of our purpose with InPrint is to promote print technology to the manufacturing sector. The co-location with the Hannover Messe show offers us both a unique and powerful opportunity to connect technology with manufacturing never previously possible. InPrint is most certainly not a graphic production show!! Exhibitors will see manufacturing decision makers, industrial print production companies, product designers, developers and some traditional print businesses that may have a desire to develop an industrial process to their business in order to diversify.

The European manufacturing community is committed to innovation and incremental gains in production performance. Print technology is a vital component of the manufacturing process. Without print, products would be unfinished and would not work properly. This is another fact.

IT Strategies estimate the total value of industrial print market to be in excess of 80 Billion euros or 100 Billion dollars. And this, according to Mark Hanley, President of IT Strategies is a conservative estimate.

The CAGR for industrial inkjet is 11% per year and according to Proximus, industrial inkjet is regarded to be the 3rd largest investment area for venture capitalists.  Number 1 is social media and number 2 is green tech. This is another exciting fact. We have also had some interesting discussions on-line within our ‘Who’s Who in Industrial Print’ Group on Linkedin and in discussions with experts and professionals within the field about whether inkjet should be seen by the established technologies as a threat.

So will digital inkjet do within the industrial sector as it has done in the graphic? Will it replace traditional technologies completely?

This is an interesting discussion. There seems to be some agreement that whilst inkjet offers some tremendous opportunities for manufacturing, it will add value by being an additive technology but will not necessarily replace traditional technologies. Inkjet can do things that screen cannot, and vice versa. Time will tell, but we do believe that inkjet will continue to disrupt, but instead of replacing, it will add value, creating new possibilities that were previously not achievable. A reason that we believe complete replacement of the traditional to be somewhat challenging for inkjet,  is because a crucial factor prevailing within the industrial market is quality. Graphic production, in contrast to industrial, does not require the kind of level of quality and durability. So in summary, where inkjet can produce on quality, speed and customisation value, it will most certainly add value to the traditional processes, but it’s unlikely to replace it completely.

An example is with interior decor. For example IKEA, and other large retailers need to respond as quickly as possible to commercial trends and opportunities. Therefore having a technology that can turn around, and to some extent customise a product line of tables, floors and curtains (for example) quickly is really important. If a product line is not selling, the retailer will want to change it quickly. And digital production offers that capability to respond to consumer demand, whilst ensuring that you do not have to invest in a lot of stock that may or may not be sold. Here, digital inkjet is following a similar trend path to offering the kind of quick response to demand that it did in graphic production.

Digital has had plenty of time, within the graphic sector to develop and mature. The industrial sector is benefiting from this. The  transferable potential of this technology is being deployed to perform new and exciting things within the manufacturing sector, which follows the trend in demand for mass customisation of products within the manufacturing process.

So, we believe that both screen and state of the art speciality print technologies should not necessarily be worried about industrial inkjet. But industrial inkjet will most certainly be disrupting the industrial space as it is able to do things that the traditional processes cannot. It will be interesting to see how this develops, along with other technologies such as 3D printing in the industrial market, so watch this space!

We look forward to updating you soon on debate, discussion and developments with the InPrint Show. Thanks for reading our blog so far.