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Industry Pundits

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Industry Pundits

Trending Now is a forum for presenting a series of blogs related to a current topic of interest that are submitted by industry authorities on the subject.

‘Megatrends in Digital Printing Applications’ Study Findings

The transition of pages from analog to digital production printing is happening at a rate slower than most digital printing manufacturers might have anticipated. Awareness of digital production printing is ubiquitous, but page volumes will not tip (a tipping point is the level at which momentum for change becomes unstoppable) from analog to digital production print technology in the foreseeable future. This is simply because the analog volumes remain so large that mathematically digital production print cannot grow fast enough to displace analog print.

Perhaps more significantly, analog print volumes are shrinking organically and mostly independent of digital production printing page growth; the real threat to analog page printing volumes is shifts to electronic output/display and general office/self-printing. Ultimately the high cost of digital production printer consumables is the largest barrier to digital production capturing a greater share of production page volumes. Therefore digital production printing is most efficiently utilized for those application requirements where it can help minimize print inventory, create micro-versions/personalization and enable rapid response.
Numbers tell stories, and stories can be told and interpreted from different perspectives. Often the perspectives conflict and there is room for discussion. This makes a comparison between the applications valuable because while one might disagree on the exact quantification or direction, putting one application in context of other applications allows one to compare and contrast where the relative opportunities are for growth.

Those applications that lend themselves best to micro-versions, rapid response and multi-channel marketing are projected to be among the most likely to tip from analog to digital printing. Respondents say that long-run, fairly static content applications are among the least likely to tip. What is interesting to note is that the expectations from respondents on page volumes tipping from analog to digital production printing deviates from, and has little bearing on, actual volumes printed.
Despite the high expectations among print specifiers for page volumes to tip from analog to digital, based upon 2009 volumes and expected growth rates, only 115 billion digitally printed pages are projected to be added between 2009 and 2014 in North America. This compares to a loss of nearly 1.9 trillion analog pages during the same period. Those applications where digital printing helps to minimize inventories and waste will stand to gain the most pages, followed by those that add value in a way that analog print cannot do.

For most of the packaging applications, digital printing technology is still in its infancy in terms of technical development and therefore remains in the very early stages of development.
Accelerating Digital Printing
It is worth remembering that there is a general industry perception that digital production printing is already omnipresent, and it is in terms of access and hardware placements. However, with the exception of transaction/financial and book printing applications, the share of digital print out of all production pages for all other applications is in the single or sub-single digits.
A second factor expected to drive growth is gains in market share. It is probably human nature to believe one will gain share in digital production print from other competitive print service providers or, more likely, in-plants whose parent companies are starting to outsource printing. 
Barriers to Digital Production Printing
Cost, cost, cost. This is the single largest barrier cited by respondents that is preventing them from moving more volume from analog to digital production printing. The response that digital consumable cost is too expensive received nearly twice the responses of any other barrier. Cost is clearly an issue—an issue that is almost impossible to completely understand as there are many factors that need to be included when calculating the total cost of ownership, or total cost of print. 
Despite the ubiquitous presence of digital production printing equipment and awareness of digital printing, we found that only one application—transaction/financial printing—will have tipped from analog to digital production printing by 2014, the end of the forecast period of this study.
Despite the finding that it is not foreseeable when digital production printed pages will surpass analog printed page volumes, the awareness of digital production printing could not be greater. “Every PSP has one” is a common refrain from the nearly 900 respondents interviewed.
To learn more, check out this session at the Vision 3 conference:

Megatrends in Digital Printing Applications
Seeking future directions in digital production printing applications? Planning to be ahead of the curve in digital production print applications for your customers? Before making a serious first time—or next—investment in digital production print technology, hear what major trends are driving twelve primary applications, including catalogs, magazines, books, direct mail, and packaging in order to migrate from analog to digital production printing.

Marco Boer, vice president, I.T. Strategies, focuses on product planning for graphics, transaction, publishing printers and emerging industrial digital printing applications. His concentration is on researching applications and sizing markets for inkjet and laser printing technology. Marco has more than 20 years of experience in the industry, he has conducted numerous research studies for PRIMIR, and is the principal author of the newest study, Megatrends in Digital Printing Application.

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