Day 7: Charting Wide-Format Printing’s Course – Printer Specs

14 days of critical information to prepare your business for 2012.

Big Picture

BPIC: In our July 2011 issue, The Big Picture garnered specs on 130 rollfed printers sold here in the US, and there were some interesting numbers. Any thoughts on any of the following stats from those charts:
* More than a third of all printers listed were introduced in 2010 or 2011 – relatively new introductions to the market. That was also true with the flatbeds we charted the following month, by the way;
* Just over 20 (or 15 percent) utilize UV technologies – that’s double the number since 2008;
* More than a fourth of them are available in widths of 100 inches or more;
* Close to half offer something beyond standard CMYK or CMYKcm inksets; and
* About 20 percent offer white ink.

Dan Marx, SGIA: I think we’ll continue to see new machines hitting the market as companies make incremental changes to the offerings. To me, it’s not surprising that UV-curable ink technologies are increasing in use – UV can be used for a really broad number of applications, and I expect this will only grow. It’s also an environmentally favorable ink system when compared with solvent. Companies are looking to wide solutions, particularly those machines that can run multiple jobs at the same time, offering a great way to increase throughput with only one machine. With the continued rise of grayscale printheads, we’re seeing fewer expanded color sets because excellent color and tonality can be achieved with basic CMYK. White ink, metallic ink, and clear are great add-ons if and when companies can find a way to make the investment in that technology profitable. 

Marco Boer, I.T. Strategies: The life cycle among mobile phones averages about three months. By comparison, the wide-format industry remains sluggish, with average life cycles running about 18 months. In our relatively mature industry, you’ll see more and more differentiation through feature sets rather than breakthrough software of technology as you might see in other electronic industries. One should expect to see even more product line fragmentation and expansion in the future. Ironically this expansion becomes a great cost burden on the supply and support chains of the manufacturers – but yet they can’t stop the momentum due to competitive pressures.

Tim Greene,InfoTrends: These facts don’t surprise me. Starting with the first one, there is a steady stream of new products hitting the wide-format digital graphics market. Print providers tell us this is a challenging part of the market – keeping up with the latest technology and understanding how these developments can improve their operations. The emergence of UV-curable is driven by multiple factors: Many companies want a greater level of application flexibility (the ability to print a wide range of applications on one device), for many others there are environmental reasons, for many others it is primarily a speed issue. The width issue, to me, is frequently also a speed issue – a lot of printers use wider devices to do two-up printing. Given the consistently increasing demand for faster turnaround times, getting a wider printer is one strategy to cope with the need for greater speed. The increasing number of colors and the addition of white enable a wider range of applications.

Peter Mayhew, Lyra: As our industry continues to convert more work from analog to digital production, we need the capacity and versatility offered by this hardware. We’re only going to see this trend grow and increase in range and scope over the next few years.

Art Wynne, BERTL: The large number of devices introduced into the market place indicates an increasing demand for wide-format devices. We’re seeing a demand by AEC firms to bring their printing needs in-house and, as a result, there is an increased demand for new equipment as these companies generate efficiencies and real cost savings. UV and white ink bring new application opportunities that enable print providers to offer a wider variety of printing substrates and opens up new revenue streams.

The Big Picture has assembled five of the marketplace’s most informed analysts and consultants and asked them to help you evaluate the wide-format industry. Each day over the next two weeks, we’ll post a new, critical question from The Big Picture with invaluable answers from our panel – all designed to help you ensure that your company charts its best course for a prosperous year ahead.

Our 2011 panel participants include: Marco Boer, consulting partner, I.T. Strategies (; Tim Greene, director, visual communication technologies consulting service, InfoTrends (; Dan Marx, vice president, markets & technologies, SGIA (; Peter Mayhew, director, Lyra Research Europe (; and Art Wynne, president, Business Equipment Research and Test Laboratories (BERTL,

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Click here for Day Six Q & A. Stay tuned for day six of Charting Wide Format's Course!


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