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The Attraction to Large-Format Digital Imaging

(January 2008) posted on Thu Jan 03, 2008

Learn why large-format digital printing is attracting attention from commercial offset printers and others outside the specialty graphics industry and what the affect will be on the market.

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By Rick Mandel

We have all heard the mantra: Our clients are becoming our competitors. For example, many screen printers have clients from the other side of the printing world, who specialize in offset, flexo, and other graphics-printing processes. They contract work to the screen shops. Manufacturers of large-format inkjet printers are now focusing on these other prospects as very real markets for their products. In a nutshell, they are selling to our clients. And these are clients whose companies are usually many times larger than their suppliers of digital imaging.

The equipment purchased by the others in the printing industry—including photo, reprographics, small-format digital, and diecutters/finishers—tends to be priced into the millions of dollars; therefore, the $400,000 flatbed inkjet printer seems to be a tolerable investment—and one that offers promises of vast returns. That’s one of the biggest lures for other kinds of printing specialists to buy into wide-format digital.


Trade-show talk

My experiences at SGIA ’07 further solidified the notion that clients are becoming competitors. Each of the eight manufacturers of large-format inkjet printers I quizzed at the trade show reiterated the existence of untapped markets in offset, flexo, and so on. Seven out of the eight believe the others will be a larger market for them in the near future. Three main factors assist in the prediction: resources from these larger printers/finishers, vast experience in the printing and color industries, and the most important factor, which is a client list that reflects a who’s who of consumer products. The inkjet salesperson comes to these facilities armed with the ultimate pitch, “Look what you can sell to your existing client base.”

The 2007 GraphExpo trade show in Chicago was another prime example of the cross selling into the large-format market. GraphExpo has, for the past few years, presented a very extensive print pavilion dedicated to digital imaging. Though printers/dealers typically attend GraphExpo to see advances in offset, flexo, and small-format digital, printers and vendors from the conventional graphics industry were wowed and introduced into our arena of wide-format digital.




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