Inkjet currently has only a small role so far in commercial printing. Looked at very broadly, inkjet really has just four main applications:
Of these four, only wide format printing is significant in terms of high-quality color graphics printing. Nevertheless, wide format inkjet prints at relatively low speeds when compared to the analog presses that do most of the world’s graphics printing. The quality that wide format inkjet achieves can be very high, and so is the print quality achieved by SOHO inkjet printers (e.g., photo printing). These features of the current inkjet “map,” specifically the success of wide format inkjet among print service providers and the high inkjet print quality, are positive signs for inkjet technology that entered the market at a much later time than toner copying and printing.
Based on these advances InfoTrends believes that the high speed, production-level inkjet systems will someday displace a good share of analog presses in commercial printing. While production level color inkjet today is mainly found in forms, books, direct mail, and TransPromo applications, with the most emphasis on variable printing, we believe this will serve as a stepping stone for inkjet to play an even greater role in commercial print ultimately leading toward offset replacement.
Inkjet vs. Electrophotographic Printing
It is true that electrophotographic systems dominate the high-end, high-quality digital color market, and they will continue to do so in the next few years. Most users, however, do not really care which technology is used, as long as it achieves the results a customer desires. This covers the appearance of the product as well as pricing and the avoidance of defects. We believe that inkjet has the potential to achieve these goals.
In fairness, inkjet today has the disadvantage of various preconceptions about it—that is it not high enough in resolution and that it cannot print on non-porous media. This can be critical for commercial printers planning a substantial investment in a new production tool. Companies that want to succeed in providing inkjet solutions for commercial printing need to address such preconceptions directly and build trust in inkjet by building a dependable, well-supported first generation of products. The first installations, in fact, will have an influence on the whole market, since such placements will be closely observed and commented on. All aspects of high-speed color inkjet installations will be judged by the market, but with care and attention to detail, vendors of high-speed inkjet will win friends in its contest with electrophotographic systems.
The preceding is an excerpt from a report entitled Inkjet in Commercial Print: A Map for the Coming Decade. For more information, please visit our online store or contact Robyn Wuori at +1 ext. 103.