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The Year in Review

(March 2009) posted on Tue Apr 21, 2009

Greene offers a summary of trends in the digital market during 2008 and makes some predictions about what the industry can expect in 2009.

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By Tim Greene

I’ve been thinking lately about what kind of year 2008 was and what kind of year 2009 will be. Few would deny that 2008 was a rough one. Many real estate markets, the stock market, and the overall economy were all terrible. Now unemployment is way up. On the other hand, exports are strong, fuel prices are half of what they were just a few months ago, and we have a new president.

Despite the tough economy, last year did see some big, new developments in the market for wide-format digital printing. There is no doubt in my mind that we’re seeing the dawn of automation in wide-format digital. New, high-speed printer models from EFI-VUTEk (the DS-series), HP (the HP TJ7550), and Inca Digital (Onset S20) all have automated feeding mechanisms that dramatically increase productivity. These are all very high-end wide-format digital printing devices, but I believe we’re going to see some of this type of functionality make it into lower levels of equipment soon. I also think we’re going to see a lot more attempts to automate on the finishing side soon.

Another area in which there’s a lot of interest and development is the enhancement and improvement in printer service. Mutoh recently announced that it would start including a webcam with every printer. This would allow dealers who service the equipment to remotely diagnose problems with the printer or software. Durst is another company that has created innovative printer-service capabilities. Durst’s system lets users log in and view video clips of maintenance and repair procedures so they can perform these procedures themselves and increase up time.

In 2008, I had quite a few printing establishments tell me that they were getting out of solvent ink printing—specifically, they were going to retire their grand-format solvent inkjets, but not for green purposes. They were going to do it because between the new UV ink formulations that work better with flexible substrates, and new grayscale printheads that use the ink more efficiently, they were getting into UV-curable inkjet for running cost advantages.

Last year will go down in my mind as the year that substrate suppliers really made the rubber hit the road with green products. From textiles, which were red hot all year, to rigid substrates—and even some finishing materials—we saw tons of new green print-media options hit the market in 2008.


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