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The Survey Says — State of Wide-Format

September 2008 By Tim Greene and Alexis Golini
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Printing Impressions and InfoTrends have recently conducted a survey of Printing Impressions' readers that focused on their use of wide-format digital printing equipment. The respondents to the survey fell into two main groups: in-plant operations and print-for-pay establishments. Participants were asked various questions regarding their current wide-format equipment and services, as well as future plans for their wide-format business.

(See Chart 1.)

The results show that while aqueous ink-jet is still the dominant technology, there is a growing presence in the production and commercial printing market of newer printing technologies. More than 67 percent of respondents indicated that they currently own an aqueous ink-jet wide-format printer.

Solvent ink-jet is the next most common technology, with 24.3 percent of respondents reporting that they operate a wide-format solvent ink-jet printer. Another 12.1 percent indicate that they have a wide-format eco-solvent ink-jet device. Almost 15 percent of respondents reported that they own a wide-
format UV-curable ink-jet printer.

This data shows that some of the efforts made by key suppliers to the commercial printing market are paying off. In the past several years, we have seen the suppliers and distributors that serve the commercial printing business focus much more time and energy on wide-format digital graphics printing. Examples of this include distributors like Pitman and The Oldham Group partnering with wide-format systems manufacturers.

Similarly, companies like Agfa, Fujifilm and Screen have all developed wide-format UV-curable ink-jet printers. Agfa has placed approximately 1,500 wide-format printers in the United States alone, according to the company, many of those water-based wide-format proofing systems.

Add to this the major efforts made by companies like HP and EFI at the high side, and HP, Canon and Epson at the low end, and there is a tremendous amount of energy going into wide-format in the production printing market from the supply side.

A lot of the products and systems that those low-end aqueous ink-jet suppliers are developing are for using wide-format printing systems as proofing devices. The data here shows that proofing is one of the key applications for wide-format printing systems for many of the respondents. Users are producing all types of proofs on their wide-format printers, including contract proofs.

(See Chart 2.)

However, as the chart illustrates, proofing is not the most common application they produce with their wide-format printers--posters are, so in most cases, among these respondents, wide-format printers are a profit center.

The range of applications these companies produce also speaks to both the flexibility of aqueous ink-jet wide-format printers, and to the variety of technologies present in these establishments. Aqueous ink-jet printers can produce the widest range of applications, from low-quality, low-coverage, wide-format technical documents through high-quality photographic or proofing quality images.


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