PROBABLY THE fastest area of growth in the entire printing spectrum is the sector for wide-format ink-jet production. A decade ago, this type of digital process was still in its infancy but, since that time, it has passed through many formats to become an accepted technology and not, simply, a novelty whose ultimate value was questionable. Today’s machines cover all budgets and a vast range of end applications and ink technologies.
Wide-format production has become a relevant part of any printing exhibition that looks at current and future trends across all disciplines. With Drupa 2008 representing a major worldwide platform for new developments, manufacturers in the ink-jet sector will also be using the event to introduce machines and technologies that serve to confirm its importance within the offset and packaging sectors, as well as those in which it is known traditionally.
ADDITIONAL DURABILITY: The development of solvent-based products and UV-curable inks were instrumental in providing the wide-format digital printing market with added durability and a greater range of end materials that can be used. Pundits who believed that the era of the aqueous-based printer was long gone have been proven wrong, however, and this ink type still outsells all others, particularly if one considers its use within the office and home markets.
Moving onto larger sizes, manufacturers such as Epson, HP and Canon have all remained strong believers in aqueous-based printers. With faster and wider models being added to their portfolios in recent times, market trends still show a strong demand across the photography, fine art, proofing and display sectors, which is likely to continue.
GROWTH OF UV-CURABLE TECHNOLOGY: The different ink types have driven the wide-format digital market to the position it is in today, assisted by the continued development of print heads across all sectors. While Epson’s piezo print heads were incorporated into printers from Roland, Mutoh and Mimaki, HP and Canon both chose to continue with their own proprietary technologies, with Kodak Encad also opting for thermal heads.