More From the Shop Floor

Exploring the future of the digital printing industry with Big Picture's Editorial Advisory Board.

This is part two of  Big Picture's annual industry discussion with experts from our Editorial Advisory Board. Check out part one here.

Brian Adam, President/Owner, Olympus Group
Scott Crosby, VP Sales & Marketing, Holland & Crosby 
Brian Hite, President, Image Options  
Kerry King, VP, Spoonflower 
Stan Lucas, Business Development Manager, Wide Format, DCG One 
Nicole Piach, Co-Owner/VP, Digital Print Specialties 
Gary Schellerer, VP/Partner, ER2 Image Group 
Jon Sherman, Founder/Creative Director, Flavor Paper 

What is the Future of:

Digital Print for Textiles:

KK Digital textile printing is the core of what we do at Spoonflower. We believe there will be continued focus on the development and adoption of pigment technology with sustainability being one of the drivers. We also see that digital is an enabling strategy for independent designers and entrepreneurs and that digital printing methods will begin to have greater importance within the brand and retail environment for soft goods.

GS We are seeing textile printing and dye sublimation grow every year. We are currently manufacturing our own extrusion displays that complement our dye sublimation products. This made us invest in a metal shop and paint booth, which both have their own learning curves. Textile printing is being asked of us by our exhibitory, event, and A&D clients.

BA I believe this market has matured and we will begin to see the growth in this segment diminish. I think digital printing on textiles still has a long runway, but the double-digit growth it has been experiencing is likely to taper off.

BH I see continued growth in the soft signage/fabric graphic markets as well as customized interior textiles. Growth is beginning to flatten with the amount of shops entering the market.

JS Huge – in all aspects.

Digital Print for Interior Décor:

SL Very good. I expect this will continue for years, especially as the retail sector adapts to a very new landscape within their physical locations. Retail is very focused on a new “retail experience” these days, including such things as buying online while picking up at the physical store, inclusion of music, expert retail assistance, and so on. The interiors of those physical locations are becoming a part of that critical “retail experience.”

BA Opportunities to capitalize on mass personalization – people and companies want their own unique design, look, and feel, and I think this market will continue to grow and evolve, thus presenting opportunities for the print community.

KK We are seeing particular growth in the wallpaper area, and customers are benefitting from the wealth of design possibilities. Interiors offer so many surfaces for decoration. It’s a very exciting time for our industry!

JS Major, but primarily for custom work in the US. The UK has already begun the move to digital as they do not rely on vinyl. 

GS This is currently our fastest moving segment. Understanding the needs of these clients and becoming an expert in corporate décor has been a goal of ours over the past few years. 

BH This market vertical is set for strong growth in our organization. We have seen 50 percent growth or better year over year since 2017.

Wide-Format 3D Printing:

BH The market continues to develop, but production costs for much of what could be printed 3D in the graphics display industry still exceeds traditional method pricing for most items due to cost of supplies. The challenge is also scalability for time to market. It’s still good for one-off production, but producing many large-scale pieces for retail applications requires other methods of production. There are some applications where 3D printing large format is the easiest and best way to produce, and as demand for products increases, adoption will increase.

GS I love to see the progress in this technology year after year. I feel wide format 3D is still in a stage of infancy, but I cannot seem to keep my eyes off it. There are so many things that can be done with grand format 3D. This technology will eventually change a lot of industries. I look forward to watching the players that adopt this technology early on and see how they use it.

SL Very interesting developments the last couple of years. Faster and larger machines are making this a more likely purchase with event and retail clients … maybe some corporate campus/lobby-type projects. It’s gaining some attention, but the challenge for wide-format shops is that they are primarily printers and service 2D graphics. The aptitude and nomenclature around 3D graphics, finishing, and coatings is a very different arena for most wide-format shops. Some smarter ones will likely adopt some of this, but I think the majority of wide-format printers will leave it to event and sign making shops.

JS If developed properly and it becomes affordable and durable, the market will be enormous.

Other Opportunities:

GS Exhibits and fleets are two other industries that are part of ER2’s core business. Although both industries have been kind of static, they’re still steady.

BH Entertainment, events, activations, and tradeshows.

SL Not a market, but the conversation around “environmentally responsible” materials and processes must be elevated. I’m going to call it the “Greta Thunberg paradigm.” I think the next generation is going to place increased emphasis on environmentally responsible manufacturing. It should be the number-one topic in our conversations. Legislation is likely coming that will govern some of our more toxic processes. The industry (including universities and colleges) should begin their research now toward more responsible and yet effective materials and processes. The science is in, and the next generation has a lot of smart and energetic members. They’re beginning to loudly – and rightly – bang that drum. We’d do well to pay attention and maybe even hand them a bigger drumstick.
 

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