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Wide-format Trends: A Wide-open Opportunity

October 2013 By Tim Greene
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Wide-format digital printing is one of the important growth areas within the overall printing industry. InfoTrends is projecting a 7.9 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) in this business from 2012-2017. The growth of wide-format is drawing interest from a number of printing establishments that have not traditionally offered the service as part of their core offering. We see that wide-format digital printing is growing from two major areas: from the conversion of analog to digital printing, and from the organic growth of certain applications enabled by new ink and media products.

Recently, InfoTrends and NAPCO (publisher of Printing Impressions) surveyed 167 print service providers (PSPs)—72 of which were print-for-pay—and we were able to ask about their attitudes and expectations around wide-format digital printing. InfoTrends found that while initial investment price was not a major consideration, return on investment (ROI) is a critical part of the wide-format digital printing business for these shops. Close to 65 percent of the shops that reported they are interested in buying a new wide-format printer within the next 12 months indicated that they expected to break even within a year.

What does this mean? For shops that are only planning on spending a few thousand dollars on a low-end, wide-format printing system, they probably do not have to make any major changes or implement any big marketing pushes to break even. Many low-end systems are able to produce high-margin applications in small quantities to easily cover a minimal investment. Although, if we are being honest, we are only talking about a few thousand dollars that will not put anyone out of business if it does take a bit longer.

What's the most interesting is the print service providers that expect to break even within 12 months and are planning on a major expenditure. Consider that there was a high level of interest in wide-format, UV-curable inkjet printers and the fact that robust, UV-curable printers have a starting selling price of around $150K and up to more than $1 million.

In addition, it is very likely that a company which buys that type of solution will need additional finishing equipment, such as a cutting table and/or liquid laminator, and would need to have personnel trained to run it, as well as the space to put the equipment and materials for it in their facility. To deliver a six- to 12-month ROI when the capital expenditure is that high, a company must execute a well thought-out plan for wide-format digital printing services.



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