Looking Back on Production Print in 2011

Ralf Schlozer
Dec 16, 2011

The close of the year end is always a good time to look up from day-to-day business and review the important news that happened during the year.

Overall 2011 proved to be a pretty decent year for digital production printing. Installations of digital production printing equipment were on the rise again, after recovering from a drop in 2009 in the aftermath of the financial crisis. 2010 installations were already on the rise driven by gains in high end colour placements (see blog). 2011 was set to improve on that, however this time it was not financial markets that were the problem. Instead, nature struck in the early months of the year. The earthquake and tsunami in Japan raised some doubts about whether Japanese suppliers would be able to meet demand. In fact, we did see a decline in installations in device segments with large shares of Japanese manufacturers in the second quarter. However installations in the third quarter were almost up to normal again and we expect that by the fourth quarter almost all of the supply chain disruptions will have been ironed out. Overall the impact on the POD market in 2011 was limited, some product introductions could have been delayed and total sales in 2011 will be somewhat lower. Undoubtedly the ultra-high volume continuous feed colour inkjet segment was the star of the year. Despite the unwieldy name products gained rapid acceptance in recent years and 2011 will have the highest placement growth, in absolute numbers, the market has ever seen. We already know that the 28% growth in placements we forecasted for 2011 will be surpassed. This was augmented by more inkjet product launches from Fuji Xerox , HP , Kodak , Océ and Xerox .

We just finished a survey by interviewing over 50 users of continuous feed colour inkjet equipment, which was about every fourth company owning that kind of equipment. This study gave us excellent detailed insight into usage and future requirements of high speed colour inkjet printing. While the devices are knocking at the door of commercial print, features are still a better match for transaction and direct mail printers.

Deinking of inkjet print remained a topic in 2011, although discussions stayed a bit less antagonistic after INGEDE (the association of paper manufacturers on deinking) and DPDA (the alliance of the inkjet vendors on deinking) signed a letter of cooperation deal early in 2011. It was followed by the first technical conference on deinking in at the “Centre Technique du Papier” in Grenoble where there were some promising approaches to solving the problem of deinking of inkjet prints for recycling.

It was not all smooth sailing this year. 2011 brought a lot of turmoil to the offset printing market. My first blog of the year on the bankruptcy of the Japan based sheet-fed offset press manufacturer Shinohara was titled “The first sizeable offset press manufacturer files for bankruptcy”. It triggered our report on the status of the offset press manufacturing market and their alliances with digital press vendors. The digital ventures provided a bright spark in a somewhat bleak outlook for offset press manufacturing. Little did we know that by the end of the year, a truly sizeable, one could also say market leading, offset manufacturer would go into into receivership (see the blog entitled “manroland enters insolvency”). The outlook for the other offset press vendors is still uncertain and whether manroland’s troubles will be of any benefit to the remaining manufacturers is yet to be seen.

Of course all eyes are now set at drupa 2012, which will be the place to be in the printing industry. Despite catering to an industry being crunched between cut corporate and public spending and strong competition from e-media, drupa still seems to be going strong — exhibit space is almost sold out despite the addition of another hall. However a frequency of every four years does not match the rapid pace of developments in digital printing systems and software solutions. The drupa organiser Messe Düsseldorf launched in 2011 an event called Digimedia in an attempt to fill the gap, although it has had mixed success. We will see how many graphic arts oriented trade shows can survive in this tough market climate. In general, we see a trend towards more focussed events and open houses, but drupa will surely remain the place to be and to see new announcements. In that respect, let’s look forward to an exciting 2012.

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