The Future of Wide Format

Print experts look to the future of textiles, interior décor, packaging, and AR.

We asked 10 of Big Picture's Editorial Advisory Board members to address the current state of the wide-format industry and reveal what we should expect in 2019.

What is the future of:

Digital print for textiles?

Elaine Scrima, VP of operations, GSP Companies: It’s a much bigger segment than people think. We had no exposure to this until we bought our Madison, Wisconsin, facility and the possibilities are endless. 

Brian Adam, president/owner, Olympus Group: Speed, increased competition, and the need to differentiate. The newest generation of printers on the market keep getting faster and faster (and more expensive). This is creating additional capacity, but also creating barriers to entry. Finishing is becoming easier as more automated finishing solutions are available. Ten years ago, you needed an experienced, talented sewing staff to print textiles. Today, automation has allowed printers with no sewing experience to compete in the textile space. We envision increased competition in textiles as traditional printers continue to look for markets that are growing. This will push pricing down. If we can’t differentiate ourselves and create some value-adds, we’ll be stuck in the dreaded “low price wins” game. 

Digital print for interior décor?

Ryan Clark, president, Direct Edge Media: This has become a huge part of our business with the multilayer technique we have developed to print art that’s dimensional on a conventional flatbed press. We’re doing all of the production for Portia de Rossi’s fine-art company, General Public. 

Chris Laniak, VP of sales, Excelsus Solutions: The future of this topic is virtually endless. This is the future of digital printing. 

Nicole Piach, co-owner/VP, Digital Print Specialties: I think the ease with which customers can customize and the sense that customization is almost expected in some cases – to the point where it’s becoming the norm – it’s good and not so good. With abundant availability, it ultimately drives down the price point because even unique will lose its uniqueness. However, I think it will remain viable well into the future, just at a different price point. 

Stan Lucas, business development manager, wide format,
DCG One:
 Retail is figuring out how to dovetail brick and mortar with online presence, so the opportunities are new and plentiful. 

Ryan Clark, president, Direct Edge Media: It’s getting there. With my equipment set, it’s still too expensive to do a large run of packaging, but we do a lot of custom things that might be less than 100 pieces. It’s a hard sell when a custom box might cost $10 but there’s only a $10 shirt inside of it. However, our number-one substrate we print on is cardboard. We use it more for the retail side but you could lump it in because it’s not a traditional substrate.

Augmented reality and connected print?

Jon Sherman, founder/creative director, Flavor Paper: This is an area where we have yet to venture, but are really looking forward to pushing into in 2019!

Chris Laniak, VP of sales, Excelsus Solutions: I think AR and connected print would be very engaging for customers in retail situations for promotions of sales because it’s an interactive print that could help increase foot traffic. Not sure if it will become the next thing in printing or just a novelty. Kind of like getting spot varnish. It’s very cool but unless you’re pushing it and coming up with the creative ideas yourself, no one’s thinking of it or has a “must have it” attitude. The ones who want these kinds of unique techniques are the business owners that are not seasoned print buyers or owners buying on a smaller scale.

Ryan Clark, president, Direct Edge Media: We’ve been told this is the future, but I’ve never seen it in the real world or ever had a client bring it up. Personally, I think people will only look at their phones and never care for a phone/print combo. I’ve never used or seen a QR code in use either.

Stan Lucas, business development manager, wide format,
DCG One:
  Questionable, although we have done a little. Will this just be another technology that emerges with no obvious benefit to the client or marketing departments? Not yet sure… 

Elaine Scrima, VP of operations, GSP Companies: It will play a more dominant role going forward. Baby boomers and Gen Xers may find it difficult to grasp but Gen Y and Z will embrace it. It turns print into a sales channel. 

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