GRAPH EXPO & CONVERTING EXPO 02 — Large-format Opportuniti

According to the Graphic Arts Show Co. (GASC), the exhibition’s manager, producers of large-format ink-jet systems scheduled at this writing to exhibit include Digital Output, ENCAD, Epson America, MacDermid Printing Solutions, Océ Printing Systems, One Vision, Scitex Digital Printing and Xeikon America.

In addition, three sessions of the Graph Expo & Converting Expo seminar program will focus on the specialty. Two sessions, Wide-format Printing I and Wide-format Printing II, will explore the types of products being produced by large-format ink-jets, the hottest market segments, prospective size of the market, how to break in and diverse technological challenges associated with the process.

A third session, a vendors’ panel on wide-format printing, will bring together company experts to discuss applications and product trends in what the Graphic Arts Technical Foundation calls the fastest growing area of print output. “Large-format (36˝ and larger) digital ink-jet printers are improving steadily in both speed and image quality,” notes Bruce Butler, director of marketing at MacDermid ColorSpan.

“Quality isn’t the issue,” he adds. “Most of the machines on the market today will deliver press quality or better. And production speeds are now equivalent to 24 to 48 press sheets per hour.

“Costs for ink and media are relatively small compared to the selling price for the printed output,” Butler says, “and the output is a premium product. Commercial printers are possibly too focused on what they’ve done in the past, and they’re letting this opportunity slip away.”

Printers seizing the opportunity can either lock in current customers or expand into a lucrative new niche, experts advise. “Such a strategy will be increasingly vital in the near future,” contends Brian Crall, CEO of Progress Printing in Owensboro, KY.

Crall sees traditional commercial printers attacked at both ends of their long-standing market: by web printers taking on shorter-run jobs at the upper end, and by quick printers rolling out digital printing and other options to eat away at the low end. “You don’t want to let someone just eat off your plate,” Crall adds. “You need to find new ways to be competitive, either in your core business or in a new niche.”

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