I.T Strategies Review of InPrint 2017 Part 1

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InPrint 2017 was the InPrint show’s fourth year in Europe. The show had 153 exhibitors attracting 3,000 visitors over three days at the Munich fairgrounds. About half the visitors were from outside Germany. The main focus of the show is around specialist applications of digital print for manufactured goods allowing mass customization and the scaling down of economic run lengths for small, specialist and new markets. Thus for example systems targeting Direct-To-Shape, digital print of decorative surfaces, digital print for automotive parts, promotional goods, beverage containers, ceramics. This is also a meeting place of integrators, manufacturers and technology developers including from the supply side printheads, inks, and specialist system manufacturers, and from the demand side, many visitors came from the manufacturing divisions of major brand names like Nestle, Audi, Mercedes Benz, Adidas, Swatch, P&G and others. Read on for a full analysis of the event.

InPrint also ran two separate educational programs on the show floor featuring sector- and technology specific speakers of great value and interest in their own right.
The markets InPrint addresses around print of manufactured and semi-manufactured products are new markets at an early stage of development, which allows the show a lot of room for growth. That growth may be at first tentative as was acknowledged by the organizers in comparing the greater sense of realism at this year’s show compared with the greater euphoria of years past, but it is a good and large future which benefits from InPrint’s initiative.

We are going to highlight below some subjects and products which caught our interest at InPrint and in the interests of space we have made our own selection of topics not intended to be comprehensive, so apologies to all the fascinating companies with worthy innovations we do not have space here to cover. After that we provide a simple summary of our view of the status of what we define as
‘industrial’ digital print markets.

Decorative Markets

InPrint focuses a lot on decorative markets, so perhaps it is a good moment to ask what are these markets? It is a worthwhile question as there are some overlaps between markets which like to identify themselves as having an existence in their own right outside of a generic identification as decorative.

Many vendors talk about decorative markets these days at wide format trade shows and elsewhere, and they seem to be justifiably understood often as derivatives from WFG markets and systems. But when you ask people to define decorative markets it is not often you get similar answers or comprehensive definitions. That is at least partly because the markets we tend to call decorative do not really belong well together as a
group. So we are going to give our version of this story to at least encourage discussion. 

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The true decorative market as we are defining it (not including textiles and Direct To Shape) is around $1B in vendor revenues and has a digital penetration rate of 1.8% of analog output and 13% of what we think is the real Total Available Market for digital. Those rates of penetration exclude Textiles (not decorative in our definitions) and Direct To Shape (mostly packaging-oriented today and therefore not includable in Decorative) and Ceramic Tiles (CT IS decorative, but is so large and highly penetrated by digital that it skews the numbers for the other markets, so we exclude it for clarity around more accessible markets). When we say a market is ‘penetrated’, in fact this is an arithmetically calculated comparison, and does not imply substitution directly of analog print by digital. In many cases (with the exception of ceramic tiles) the digital markets are separate, new and parallel to analog.

The big picture on decorative markets as we define them above is that all the sub-sectors excluding ceramic tiles and textiles are early specialist markets. The decorative laminates market comes closest to a production initiative and is engaged in a strategic effort to develop purpose-built wide R2R production inkjet systems, but that is at an early stage with some production quantities, but not much yet, and only in Europe. The Direct-To-Shape market has begun to insert production systems into markets, but the penetration is minimal so far, and also nearly all in Europe. But you could equally say that there are early initiatives in most sub-sectors and that it is simply early within a complex context of markets and specifications. If digital, by our definition, has got to 13% penetration of its currently probably available market, that is impressive, and remember too that that available market expands as the capability of digital print is enhanced on an accelerated schedule.

  Onset M (here as Fujifilm Acuity B1) showing diverse substrates printed in B1 format

Onset M (here as Fujifilm Acuity B1) showing diverse substrates printed in B1 format

INCA Digital showed again, their in-house developed OnsetM product. Fujifilm sell essentially the same press as well under their name as the Acuity B1. It is worth briefly re-visiting this system again as it has become clearer (at least to us) what the significance of the press is.

The Onset M is a B1 is a single-side flatbed UVIJ serial printing system with a significantly high print quality in the context of normal UVIJ systems such that it is close to offset print quality. So why B1 from INCA which is a wide format market vendor in a market where most people want ever largerflatbeds but where they can get smaller format flatbeds in UVIJ quite easily? Indeed why use the term
B1, which is a graphic arts term of reference, not one you hear in the legacy wide format market? The answer is that this is a kind of hybrid crossover printer well-suited to the increasingly important commercial sheet offset printer channel increasing their share of the graphics markets.

The idea is that the Onset M is a familiar format to the newer Commercial Print channel, that it comes very close indeed to their offset quality expectations, but that it is a great entry product for them into high quality large format digital. It is priced reasonably and even favorably compared to smaller format B2 digital presses and it utilizes UV ink allowing of a modest footprint and crucially allowing of print on
multiple substrates. Thus with the Onset M a commercial printer can now print near-offset quality on paper for specialist needs – say a book wrapper, or a poster, or a very short run of variable content catalogs, but he can also print on plastic or metal sheets for the display, packaging or decorative needs of his customers. Think here of a commercial printer constantly attempting to diversify and specialize his business within his existing relationship circle of SMBs and retailers. It is a multi-market
device with a minimally acceptable format for the CP world and at a price and a capacity that is digestible for him. The ~Onset M by the way prints at about 200 B1/hour versus for comparison say the Fujjifilm J Press which prints at about 2,700 B2/hour (1,350 B1 equivalent rate).

This is an intelligent and creative move into a new market area for INCA, and of course INCA has stated clearly that while they are OEMing the Onset M to Fujifilm as the Acuity B1, nevertheless they are selling the Onset M itself under their own brand, almost a first for INCA and in itself a strategic initiative in driving their own brand with their own sales resources.

The Onset M at InPrint was an interesting exercise by INCA in showing how InPrint is also a seeding ground for new initiatives in hybrid industrial digital print in graphic arts channels. This is also occurring in the context of INCA presenting themselves as engine suppliers to new markets.

  INCA/BHS Jetliner 1600 Single Pass Print Engine (4 colors, 2 sets of heads)

INCA/BHS Jetliner 1600 Single Pass Print Engine (4 colors, 2 sets of heads)

The next most interesting production system we saw at InPrint (actually on a video demo) was also from INCA and was their single pass corrugated print initiative in partnership with major corrugator supplier BHS, Germany, which is called the Jetliner 1600. This single pass systems uses Fujifilm Dimatix SAMBA printheads at 1200x1200 at a maximum speed of 28,800 M2/h or 300M/m linear with a width up to 3 meters using aqueous inks. It is a continuous feed printer.

Corrugated is a hot sector for digital production systems right now of course with multiple major vendors vying for a place in the sun. INCA is one of these, but with a partner like BHS that is the leading supplier of corrugating machinery globally this gives them a position of theoretical competitive strength.

Part two will follow soon - if you would like a full copy of the report sent for clearer viewing of tables, please email marcus.timson@mackbrooks.com