Paths to Inkjet Printing Profitability Explored During Return of the Inkjet Summit as Live Event
The annual Inkjet Summit entered its second day on Tuesday, July 27, offering its trademark mix of thought-provoking general sessions, first-hand experiences of some of the industry’s leading inkjet printing professionals, and one-on-one discussions with vendors and thought leaders. The event’s format offers a valuable channel for meaningful engagement between printers and vendors. “I enjoy the Inkjet Summit because you have the opportunity to meet with so many vendors in one setting,” says Christina Esparza, VP of operations, of InfoIMAGE Inc. in Coppell, Texas.
Her company is seeking a technology to augment previous inkjet purchases in 2017 and 2020, and she came to the event motivated to speak with vendors. “I have questions prepared, and I’m seeking answers,” she adds, “and this is the best format for that. We can make the connections here, then follow up remotely.”
Trends in Inkjet
Conference Chair Marco Boer, VP of IT Strategies, outlined trends in production inkjet technology development. He began with the basics, stating that inkjet printing is not simply about printheads, but is instead a system that also includes ink, printer and design integration, software, and sales and service. Exploring what has changed in the past five years, Boer mentioned inkjet now has two times higher nozzle density and three times higher firing frequency, resulting in higher speeds and resolution. Further, he said that the life of inkjet presses can often be extended by upgrading head technologies. Additional gains include ink development ushering in an expanded choice of substrates, deeper integration into workflow software, and a significant shift toward shared or self-service maintenance.
What remains to be addressed? Boer indicated that inkjet head costs remain high, a reality that may be addressed by extending their usable lives, thus reducing system costs. He also mentioned the need for increased adhesion of inks, shrinking the footprint of presses, and making existing and new software work together. From the service standpoint, Boer spoke of the increasing possibilities of predictive analytics – allowing the press to specify maintenance needs and anticipate parts replacements.
Workflow is about maximizing value from equipment, according to David Zwang, president of Zwang & Co. In his Inkjet Summit general session presentation, he stressed that workflow is not solely software, but is instead the movement of work in, through, and out of a facility; and the streamlining and automation of production and business systems. Zwang noted that e-business is driving a great deal of change in workflow, coordinating production resources, creating standard structures for business, and facilitating new connections between buyers and sellers.
Zwang describes the workflow challenges facing printers as a thoughtful series of “either/or” choices, including printed products versus printing services, hybrid versus bespoke approaches, process integration versus modularity, and full process automation versus what he calls “islands of automation.” There is indeed much to consider, given the myriad opportunities a new, capability-rich inkjet system can provide. All of this, Zwang said, helps to prepare printing operations for “Industry 4.0,” which will feature computers and automation to create smart systems utilizing data and AI.
Considerations in Finishing
Highlighting finishing as an integral part of the broader printing process, Pat McGrew, managing director of McGrewGroup, provided strategies for maximizing the benefits of print finishing and using it as a point of differentiation. McGrew described common finishing challenges, including the underestimation of time needed for finishing, use of the wrong substrate, and quality lost as a result of finishing activities. McGrew stressed that effective finishing, and the avoidance of many of the challenges she highlighted, requires up-front planning.
To help printers manage their finishing challenges, she described a systematic method for assessing current finishing approaches to determine if they’re effective, analyzing costs related to re-work and lost opportunity, and planning for future finishing needs or approaches.
The annual Inkjet Summit, now in its ninth year, is an invitation-only, hosted-buyer event designed to bring carefully-vetted printing professionals and industry vendors together for meaningful connections, purposeful discussions, and top-notch networking. To be considered as a hosted attendee at the 2022 Inkjet Summit , visit ijsummit.com/attend.