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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

The notion that our clients become our competitors is a product of digital imaging’s comparatively low cost of entry, particularly in the prepress sector. Prepress workstations that once were made by Hell and Scitex had a price tag of more than a million dollars, but then the Mac/PC platforms invaded the workspace. Consequently, workstations became affordable to the design firms, ad agencies, and corporate marketing departments, all but eliminating the classic prepress firm. I am not predicting the fall of the classic digital printer, though the door is opening to our other friends who are looking for additional revenue sources.

Which of the other sectors will be next to add large-format digital printing? I would say the companies that were early adopters of the smaller format digital printers (Kodak Nexpress, Xerox iGen, and HP Indigo). Firms that utilize these color printers tend to serve the consumer-product accounts that want color and also buy point-of-sale graphics. Direct-mail printers have evolved into direct-marketing firms, in which point of sale is the ultimate direct sale. One-to-one marketing is their formula, which dovetails into large-format digital print. The cross sell is perfect, and the internal staff is ramped up on critical color expertise and digital-file repurposing for digital printing. The challenge the small-format sector faces is material handling and finishing.

The classic 40-in. offset printers have taken hits to their livelihoods at multiple fronts by digital printing, customization requirements, Internet-based or electronic marketing, and other offset printers (small-format offset to miniweb offset) squeezing their ideal print volume. Therefore, they are looking at our digital market to recapture sales. Just in Milwaukee, we have eight printers and one finishing/diecutting company that have adopted wide-format digital printing to address their woes. Management from one trade house that produces direct-to-plate for the offset trade (which is very depressed, as most offset printers have their own DTP systems) actually asked my advice on a flatbed printer that they saw at GraphExpo.


The color crowd


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