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The Next Big Thing

(November 2008) posted on Mon Nov 03, 2008

What does the future hold for wide-format digital imaging? Greene offers predictions about where technology, consumables, service, and more are headed.


By Tim Greene

What’s the next big thing in the wide-format digital-graphics market? The question is so big that I was recently asked to prepare a presentation that would discuss the subject. After thinking about it for just a few minutes I had to ask, “Next big thing for who?”

So much is going on that I think the next big thing will be different for many of the stakeholders in the wide-format market. When I think of a typical wide-format digital printing system, I think of the printer, the RIP, the ink, the media, and usually a finishing system. So let’s look at it from that perspective.

 

Printers and ink

To me, the next big thing will be to watch the development of durable, water-based, wide-format inkjet printers. This is the segmentation I use to describe HP’s Latex inkjet printer and technology. By now many of the readers know that HP introduced its latex inkjet technology formally at Drupa. The promise of latex is that it will provide the ability to print durable graphics onto uncoated materials, much like in solvent inkjet printing, and support the very high image quality and eco-friendliness of aqueous inkjet printers. Also, while HP certainly headlines the durable, water-based initiative because they are such a big company and garner so much attention, there are at least two other companies, Sepiax and Eastech, that have demonstrated durable, water-based inkjet inks and the same desired properties as HP’s Latex inkjet technology—only these are for use in piezoelectric inkjet printheads.

Just as solvent and UV inkjets have emerged and now represent tens of thousands of printers installed annually, I think we’ll see companies that will integrate piezo printheads and durable, water-based inkjet inks to assemble durable, aqueous imaging solutions that span the market. I’ve written before that I am also very bullish on wide-format, UV-curable inkjet, and that was somewhat more of a sure bet because there were very important market suppliers like Sericol (now Fujifilm Sericol) that have a stake in that segment of the market.


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