‘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.

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