Continuous-feed Inkjet: The Web Paper Challenge

Inkjet Printing Productivity chart

Pages Printed Via Inkjet chart

Inkjet Printing Applications chart


While the market for print has been in decline since 2000, digital printing has continued to grow at double-digit rates, and the new generation of continuous-feed inkjet presses promises to accelerate this growth. At drupa 2012, we saw a host of new entrants, as well as upgrades from the earlier entrants: one drupa visitor reported seeing 18 different inkjet engines. As Figure 1 shows, the speed and productivity of inkjet presses has grown, and inkjet printing has grown apace.

Printers face a number of tradeoffs in selecting presses, ink and paper for production inkjet. This article will explore the challenges and solutions relating to paper in key applications, including transactional and transpromo, book, direct mail and general commercial printing.


IT Strategies estimates that in 2012, 108 billion pages will be printed by production inkjet systems. IT Strategies also projects that this will quadruple by 2015 (see Figure 2 ). Market-Intell estimates that for coated papers this represents something less than 50,000 tons in 2012, and less than 1 percent of the market. For uncoated paper, however, which represents the vast majority of the volume, mainly in transactional print, the volume is in excess of 500,000 tons. This is 6 percent of the uncoated freesheet market, and a much higher share of the transactional print market.


InfoTrends estimates that 57 percent of all inkjet printing is either transactional or transpromo (see Figure 3). Variable data is fundamental to this market and, while quality graphics are important, the print is less demanding than high-quality, four-color offset printing. Ink coverage may be well below 30 percent. The vast majority of all transactional printing is done on uncoated paper, often ordinary offset grades. According to an estimate from one OEM, more than 90 percent of all inkjet is on uncoated paper.

Inkjet inks can be dye-based or pigment-based. In general, pigment inks are more expensive and higher quality, while dye-based inks still produce good color, but colors may be slightly less brilliant and less permanent. Dye-based inks are good for transactional and some direct mail applications, while pigment inks are better for some book applications and general commercial printing where ink coverage is high with four colors.

Jack Miller is founder and Principal Consultant at Market-Intell LLC, offering Need to Know™ market intelligence in paper, print and packaging. Previously, he was senior consultant, North America, with Pira International.

Known as the Paper Guru, Jack is the former director of Market Intelligence with Domtar, where he also held positions as regional sales manager, territory sales manager and product manager. He has presented at On Demand, RISI’s Global Outlook, PRIMIR, SustainCom World and at various IntertechPira conferences. Jack has written for Printing Impressions, Canadian Printer, Paper 360, PaperTree Letter and Package Printing, along with publishing a monthly e-newsletter, MarketIntellibits.

He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics from The College of the Holy Cross and has done graduate studies in Statistics and Finance.

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