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Inkjet’s New Frontier

(March 2014) posted on Tue Mar 18, 2014

Most industrial applications today remain the realm of analog printing processes, particularly screen printing, but inkjet is rapidly gaining momentum.

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By Ron Gilboa

Today, most industrial printing is performed using mass-production analog technologies, particularly screen printing. For a variety of reasons including limitations in the printhead technology and the complexity of these applications compared to mainstream print markets, inkjet’s role in industrial printing has been limited until recently. We at InfoTrends, however, believe the path to inkjet adoption is clear and will follow a progression similar to what we experienced in wide-format inkjet: market development, rapid growth (where some industrial applications including ceramics and 3-D printing are today), and competitive turbulence (where wide-format signage and display printing are now) followed by market saturation and decline.

While industrial printing is evolving in a similar fashion as wide-format printing as a market,  it’s important to note that the similarities end here. True, some wide-format printers can be used in certain industrial applications, but for the most part, the printing systems are of a different ilk. They are typically purpose-built for specific applications and designed as integrated parts of a high-volume manufacturing process incorporating pre- and post- printing processes that ensure the permanency and durability of the final print. The decorative part of this market typically uses inks that are similar to those in graphics printing; but on the functional side, jettable fluids such as resins and conductive compounds are being developed specifically for the needs and industry standards of each product category.

The digital advantage
Digital printing offers many of the same advantages to the industrial sector that it brought to other market segments where it has taken root.

Customer: Demands for shorter turnaround, smaller batch productions, and faster times to market aren’t unique to commercial sectors such as P-O-P. In-plant shops and contract printers serving industrial markets can reduce or even eliminate make-ready times, delivering jobs faster and without the minimum quantity requirements of their analog methods. Additionally, the limited patterns and designs that characterized markets such as construction and home-décor materials will be a thing of the past.


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