By Andreas Weber, Head of Value Communication AG
Hardly a day goes by without manufacturers promising printers that inkjet printing is the measure of all things and will open up new markets and profits. Are they right? Well, yes and no.
Yes, because the inkjet process is no longer just about printing on paper or cardboard, and thus extends beyond the scope of conventional printing; it is even possible to print on three-dimensional objects, as Heidelberger Druckmaschinen and Xerox are proving with their new systems.
No, because it is simply not true to say that inkjet printing could replace offset printing or open up entirely new areas of application for the printing industry off the cuff.
It is absolutely necessary to look closely and weigh up carefully to avoid finding yourself worshiping a golden calf. Here is a selection of my current observations:
- Inkjet printing for professional, highly productive printing is relatively new. To date, the number of successful users in the printing industry can be counted on one hand. In all of their cases, the key to success was not to focus on printing technology, but on pre-media processes and finishing/processing with the inclusion of logistics/distribution. The best example: Peter Sommer and Elanders Germany in Waiblingen.
- Large inkjet printing volumes, which manufacturers like to invoke, have long been found in transactional printing. Here, processing and distribution can be seamlessly designed with IT expertise and automation. (Incidentally, this is the reason why a big player like Pitney Bowes got into the marketing of digital printing technology).
- Manufacturers are using inkjet printing to attract new customer groups outside the printing industry and transactional printing. Following drupa 2016, Canon Europe launched a new business unit as part of its reorganization, making it a pioneer in this regard. The Canon Graphic & Communications Group is introducing the creative industries as well as countless other industries, such as architects, craftsmen, etc., to inkjet printing with new systems.
- Since drupa 2016, it has become apparent for manufacturers that the inkjet revolution is devouring its own children. HP is making an appearance and Landa is getting nowhere fast, Bobst has made an about-turn and, with the founding of Mouvent AG, rethought inkjet printing with a clever cluster technology and much more. Heidelberg has teamed up with Fujifilm to develop Primefire: a breakthrough platform for high-quality inkjet printing that has caused a stir in the demanding packaging market.
- Traditional companies such as the Durst Group have repositioned themselves: everything is aligned and optimized with the P5 philosophy, which maximizes the performance and availability of the printing systems and allows unprecedented flexibility in media and order processing. Incidentally, Durst’s innovations were a highlight at the Online Print Symposium 2018 in Munich.
- Entirely new providers have quietly got themselves into position, making individually configurable, modular inkjet printing production facilities possible with new system architectures, as the company Cadis Engineering from Hamburg demonstrates. Cadis can print HTML data and dispenses with ripping, for example.
- The real winner in inkjet printing is currently a hidden champion: Book printing. Xerox Europe impressively demonstrated this in an impressive manner at the end of March in cooperation with Book on Demand GmbH at the #Books2018 event in Hamburg. A huge, automated print factory generates up to 25,000 book-for-one products per day in real time. The growth drivers are the Xerox Impika inkjet printing systems with sophisticated Hunkeler and Müller-Martini processing technology. The key feature is a new Impika ink that can easily print on uncoated papers to the best possible degree.
- Last but not least: If one can speak of massive substitution, then inkjet printing systems (sheet as well as roll) will most likely replace existing toner digital printing systems.
There is still a lot that has to be done when it comes to inkjet printing. We’re only just beginning, and will have to learn how to think again in order not to fall into the innovation trap, where we wrongly assume that the primary purpose of inkjet printing is to improve on what we can do in print anyway.
When it comes to mastering the complex communication challenges of the digital age, it’s less about ‘faster, better, cheaper’ and more about ‘new, up-to-date and different’. — Think different!
About the author
Andreas Weber is founder and CEO of Value Communication AG. An analyst and consultant for success with print in the digital age, he is also a global networker and publicist. His blog www.valuetrendradar.com inspires users/readers from over 130 countries.