Part three of three
As we wind down on 2015, it is important to take a moment to reflect on important happenings from the past year to help set the stage for a successful 2016.
Last week, we ran the second installment of our series, where Caslon & Company and PODi offered insight into major movements within the graphic arts space. This week, we tackle wide format.
The following excerpt was provided by Mark Hanley, president, I.T. Strategies (ITS )regarding developments in the wide format space throughout 2015. The company is based in Boston, MA as well as Tokyo, Japan, and operates on a private partnership basis. ITS is a confidential practice with no publishing function and is expert in technology and market analysis based on a factual knowledge base. Hanley founded the firm in 1992 as a strategic consultancy specialized in industrial digital printing, inkjet technology, and early market development practices.
Wide Format Review
2015 marks 25 years of digital wide format since conception. At ITS we admit we are somewhat technology-oriented in our outlook, and this year brought into focus for us the consolidation of the UV sector into the main engine of production printing of display graphics. Major vendors are now mostly established as suppliers of a range of products ensuring loyalty from the customer base as they grow into larger systems.
On the subject of UV, 2015 saw continued growth as almost a separate sector of what we call a relatively young market $1M+ super-high-end, near-fixed-array UV flatbed systems. It is not because providers want to print 6,000 square feet plus of output eight hours a day—day in, day out. In fact, it is about how fast you can output a job in the high season. Providers build their prosperity on that kind of competitive preference, and they do not have to be big to do so.
But it’s a lot of UV products now. The same can be said for the eternally young eco-solvent/latex sector with its 60-inch-plus products. Growth and price effectiveness under the competitive conditions both surprise and fulfill expectations. The same cannot be said for the aqueous sector, however, which is finally in mild decline, though it retains the core loyalty of proofers, designers, and photographers. As projectors and statisticians, we still get into trouble for faithfully recording real growth rates by sector because the year-over-year rates fluctuate wildly. It is only when you look at statistics over three to four years that you realize that buying cycles are just not annual and do not even out in single years.
What is overlooked is system productivity, which results in healthy growth rates in the five to ten percent-plus range as users print more with what they have. The measure of this is the square feet printed and vendor revenues. Let us not forget that display graphics drive the sale of goods in a consumer-driven modern economy. It is still extraordinary that those who count advertising expenditures after all these years almost entirely miss the $40B+ expenditure on digital display graphics by users.
The last year also illustrated a strong evolution of the commercial printer as a channel for display graphics. This is not a simple matter of the channel getting wise late to the wide format opportunity. Rather it reflects the emergence of the local commercial printer as a more diverse supplier of printed and communications products. Kudos to them. The more traditional wide format specialist has also begun to diversify into things like labels and printing of 3D substrates.
Wide format digital graphics feels pretty healthy as an economic function in 2015, and that is the product of a very competitive market, which can hurt if you are a supplier and you do not stay lean.
As we wrap up 2015 we look forward to continued development in the digital document and production printing. With both high and low notes, 2015 moves behind us as we look to an exciting 2016, which promises new technologies as drupa happens in early Spring. dps