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When Visual Worlds Collide

(September 2015) posted on Thu Sep 10, 2015

Trends reveal themselves in wide-format printing, digital display, and 3D printing industries.


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By Tim Greene

In my role with IDC, I cover three important markets: wide-format printing, digital displays, and 3D printing. Not long ago, I was at a 3D printing trade show in New York City. As I approached a stand where a printer was being demonstrated, I noticed that the booth was slathered in wide-format digitally printed graphics and also featured a digital display advertising the company and its products. For a moment, my three worlds collided.

IDC has just finished a study of the North American wide-format digital printing market wherein we forecast the retail value of print as well as the revenue opportunity for equipment, ink, and media manufacturers. To complete this forecast, we surveyed and interviewed manufacturers, dealers, wide-format graphics printers, and print buyers on a number of topics. What we found provides some views into how these markets and technologies come together– and how my worlds will be colliding much more often.



The retail value of wide-format digitally printed graphics in North America is expected to grow from more than $19 billion in 2013 to almost $22 billion in 2018, a five-year compound annual growth rate of 6.8 percent. That isn't the most scintillating growth rate, but it is very nice compared to the overall printing industry – and is certainly more aggressive than we had postulated before conducting the study. Two important findings from the research reinforce the idea that the display graphics market will continue to prosper over the forecast period:

1. Digital wide-format printing will continue to capture volume from analog processes (including screen printing) based on the increasing use of versioning, micro marketing, and cross-media marketing. Run lengths will be shorter and variable data will be involved more often. These trends aren’t new, but they will escalate because the pressure is on marketers to prove the ROI of their investments and drive higher levels of interaction with their targeted audience.

2. Digital wide-format printers will continue to facilitate new market development. There is intense interest in using inkjet technology to conquer opportunities in packaging, decorative products, and garment printing. Again, this is hardly new, but the increasing commoditization of some mainstream display graphics applications such as posters and banners is fueling the desire and, really, the need for many printing organizations to find new markets and areas of profit.


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