Inkjet, The Engine behind Digital Printing Growth

Digital Printing
Growth of Digital Printing

Digital printing has advanced continually since its introduction in the 1970’s. Electrophotography and inkjet having been the beneficiaries of the majority of development money spent on printing technology. Great improvements have followed in speed, quality, reliability, and scalability leading to new applications.

In the October 2002 TechTalk Newsletter, titled “Inkjet Coatings” the following was stated. “One estimate places the present global inkjet ink market at $15 billion and growing, with most of this volume in the small office/home office market. arrow up Digital inkjet technology is forecast to grow into all areas of printing. Some forecasts predict that digital inkjet technology can penetrate 10% of the current total print volume within 10 years.”

Where Are We 15 Years Later?

Forecasts predict that the global inkjet printing market will grow to $67.3 billion in 2017, up from $33.4 billion in 2011. The inkjet segment is small, at less than 1% of total print volume, but will capture nearly 7% of market value. In 2017 digital printing accounts for 16.2% of the global printing market value, and 2.9% of the volume.

Where Are We Going?

The global digital print market is forecast to grow to $187.7 billion in 2018 an increase from $131.5 billion in 2013. Digital printing trends show that its share of the global $980 billion 2018 market will grow from 9.8% in 2008 to 20.6% in 2018. Electrophotography represents the largest segment of the digital print market, but inkjet is the segment that is the fastest growing. Inkjet Ink Pigments Forecasts predict that inkjet will surpass electrophotography after 2019, and will achieve 56% of the market value, and 53% of the digital print volume by 2024. The UV Inkjet printing market sector is forecast to grow 18.3% to reach $15.9 billion by 2018.

Market data & forecasts courtesy Smithers Pira

The packaging & label market sector is where it is forecast that dramatic change will occur. Digital printing will reach $15.3 billion by 2018 and is forecast to grow to $23.2 billion in 2022. Packaging is seeing notable penetration with early adoption in labels, and now in folding carton, flexible films, corrugated (inkjet liner & post print), and metal.

Digital printing has advanced continually since its introduction in the 1970’s due to electrophotography and inkjet having been the beneficiaries of the majority of development money spent on printing technology. Great improvements have followed in speed, quality, reliability, and scalability leading to new applications.

Printheads are the critical factor driving these systems’ developments. Advanced printheads are providing higher drop frequency to increase speed, multiple drops per spot to enhance image quality, smaller drop sizes, higher dpi, higher resolution, a smaller footprint, lower cost and improved life. Another development is that of long linear printhead, page wide arrays. Both drop-on-demand (DOD) and continuous (CIJ) inkjet technologies continue to evolve.

Drop on demand technology is divided into thermal inkjet and piezoelectric. Silicon MEMS (Micro-electro-mechanical Systems) printhead technology is also being explored. Printheads are generally capable of dispensing a wide range of fluids including aqueous, solvent, UV, phase-change, nano-metal and bioscience fluids. Printhead, manufacturers, as well as ink & coating providers are dedicated to developing improved products. These will enable the spread of digital inkjet technology across the opportunity presented by the large existing analog printing market.

HP Indigo Press   HP Indigo Press  

The Digital Printing Market Grows More Competitive 

Digital printing is becoming more competitive with toner and inkjet volumes growth resulting in falling prices. Combined with the development of new, more advanced equipment, this is making digital printing more cost effective vs. analog printing at higher and higher run lengths. The quest to keep content up to date, minimize inventory and work in progress is also pressuring the move to digital printing. Printing equipment manufacturers are advantageously producing a range of printing systems, including multi-color single pass sheet-fed and web-fed digital presses for a variety of markets and applications. Of these packaging and labeling are the fastest growing.

The digital printing market is very expansive and is not confined to graphics and packaging. Inkjet is well established in signage and point-of-sale. Growing are applications involving decorating textiles, flooring & laminates, ceramic tile, glass, automotive, electronic, bio-medical, and photo-voltaic products. New targeted applications include publishing & commercial print, books, catalogs, magazines, advertising & newspapers.

Deep market penetration is foreseen for digital printing in the offset printing market, with web offset being the most affected. This is seen in terms of value globally as all digital printing represented about 18.5% of the offset market in 2008, but by 2018 this value is forecast to reach near 50%. Market forecasts have the volume of all offset printing declining by 10.2% globally between the years 2008 and 2018 as digital printing volume increases by 68.1%.

Epic changes are in store for the printing market in the next decade according to research by Smithers Pira. Trends identified are:

  • The supply of more high-quality, high performance, reliable, industrial inkjet printers with the flexibility to use a diverse range of substrates.
  • The evolution of highly autonomous high throughput, low labor cost litho systems.
  • Emphasized packaging market digital toner & inkjet systems development.
  • Continued evolution of improved print embellishment products to add luxury appearance and tactile effects.
  • The evolution of better workflow software to manage shorter run business minimizing labor input.
  • Further commercialization of functional print engines for 3D printing and printing electronics.

In conclusion, preferences of end consumers of printing are changing and this is being reflected in the ongoing move to digital printing systems. Traditional printing systems, particularly publication rotogravure and web offset commercial, book, and continuous stationary production are losing market share.

Consult Cork’s Coating Experts to Explore Aqueous & UV Curable Coatings designed to embellish and protect digital inkjet printing.  HP Indigo® approved coatings are available.



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Elmer W. Griese Jr.

Technical Writer & Educator

Elmer W. Griese Jr, having accumulated 35+ years of knowledge working in the coatings and printing ink industries has now authored the Cork Tech Talk News, newsletter since 1992 producing 112 issues. He remains dedicated to educating and illuminating technological progress that offers the potential to advance coating technology and its applications.

Elmer W. Griese Jr.

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