Most industrial applications today remain the realm of analog printing processes, particularly screen printing, but inkjet is rapidly gaining momentum.
By Ron Gilboa
Many screen printers working in commercial markets such as display graphics have long since confronted the reality that digital printing is changing their businesses. The question was how quickly they needed to embrace the technology to ensure success in their businesses for years to come.
In the broad field of industrial printing, where analog processes such as screen printing are still predominate, printers are now facing the same question. Because digital technology is in an earlier stage of adoption in many of these specialized applications, many printers remain on the sidelines taking stock of technology developments. Yet, prompted by many of the same market drivers that spurred the growth of wide-format inkjet printing, manufacturers are investing heavily in industrial printing technology and they are steadily making important inroads. For many industrial printers, the time to embrace digital technology in at least a measured way to ensure future proficiency may be at hand.
This article provides an overview of industrial printing, the market dynamics that are driving interest in digital solutions, and some of the sectors where inkjet is gaining market share. I’ll mention vendors who are developing solutions specifically for industrial purposes, though because we’ll be covering so many applications, these should be considered examples and not a comprehensive list.
A complex, fragmented market
At InfoTrends, we like to define industrial printing through three unique differentiators that are common in almost all of these applications:
• Printing is part of a manufacturing process for another type of product.
• It enables a product’s functionality or adds a decorative element, or both.
• It uses specialized inks, toners, or other technical materials or fluids (e.g., resins and conductive compounds).
To those unfamiliar with industrial printing, the vast range of products comprised by this field and the functional characteristics that are achievable can be staggering. Some of the more common industries where industrial printing takes place include automotive, construction materials, energy (including solar cells and printed batteries), printed electronics, original equipment manufacturing, consumer products, biomedical, and flat digital displays, but there are many others.
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