Trends We Can Expect in the Digital Inkjet Printing Industry
At the beginning of the year, Printing Impressions interviewed Memjet CEO Len Lauer about what he saw as the biggest trends facing the industry in 2018. Now that we have passed the mid-point of 2018, we checked back in with him to get his newest take on the current state of the digital printing market, including high-speed production inkjet printing adoption, and what we can expect going forward.
Printing Impressions: We just moved past the halfway point in 2018. So far, what has this year meant for the printing industry?
Len Lauer: In the United States, real gross domestic product (GDP) for Q1 2018 was up by 2.3%. Seasonally adjusted GDP also rose in Europe during the first quarter of 2018. These order patterns indicate improving optimism among consumers and small businesses.
The question is: Will the increased optimism at a macro level translate to growth in the printing industry? We say yes, it already is.
We’ve seen increased optimism from both printers and suppliers. Look at "The 5th drupa Global Trends Report". This survey of more than 700 printers and 200 suppliers indicates that the printing industry finds itself in a positive state these days; it’s more optimistic than it has been before. Forty percent of printers and 56% of suppliers feel “good” to “positive” compared with only 9% and 5% of printers and suppliers, respectively, who are somewhat worried and/or claimed their business to be “poor.”
That’s very different from where we were two to three years ago.
This optimism translates into increased capital expenditures of printers and supplies. It’s safe to say there is good reason to be excited about the trends so far in 2018.
PI: The good news is that printers are investing. But what kinds of equipment are they buying?
Lauer: We are seeing a big shift to investment in digital. That is because of the developments in inkjet technology over the past few years. Inkjet now has the fast speed, high print quality and great vibrancy needed to produce high-quality images on a range of different substrates.
Combine this with lower capital and running costs, and you can see why inkjet is presenting opportunity for both OEMs and their end-user customers, the printers in a variety of market segments, including packaging or subset of packaging, labeling, commercial and mailing - even 3D printing.
What was striking about the drupa report - and what we often experience here at Memjet - is that printers are using inkjet to see opportunities in new markets; for example, a label printer going into folding cartons or an envelope printer expanding into direct mail.
Participants in the drupa survey reported strong growth in all sectors, but the more specialized the market, the higher the revenue growth.
PI: Are there other factors contributing to the growth of production inkjet?
Lauer: Personalization is a big trend that is here to stay. Printers are starting to understand that the development of digital media is no longer a threat; rather, it is an opportunity to converge digital and print to maximize the experience for the end-user customer.
Connecting printed communications and the digital world requires a level of customization that inkjet enables.
For example, there’s a brand that invites consumers into a collaborative, co-creative design experience. Customers upload a personal image or design and the brand configures the individual image and messaging onto a pair of custom Converse Chuck Taylor or Timberland shoes.
The brand decided to extend the collaborative experience all the way to the shipping box. Each box is printed using the customer’s personal design that was produced on the shoe. The brand experience starts with an online collaboration and ends with the product delivered in a customized, digitally printed box.
The company NotLikeYou is progressive because it uses digital inkjet printing to create a collaborative experience with customers, inviting them to make each piece their own rather than a factory of hyper-personalization.
PI: What can we expect for the rest of 2018?
Lauer: The use of digital printing will continue to increase in 2018 and beyond.
OEMs want capabilities that can get them to longer print runs at more competitive costs. Of course, low capital acquisition costs are still important.
This year we also see demand for new inks, new speeds, and new capabilities that will enable OEMs and printers to reach the new, specialized markets the "Global Trends Report" states are, “essential to achieve higher revenue growth.”
(Editor's Note: NAPCO Research, in conjunction with the SGIA, recently released a “Production Inkjet Printing: Consideration, Deployment and End Results” study, which surveyed more than 700 U.S. printers to better understand the state of the production inkjet printing market. Click here to download the free special research report.)