Pulling Out of the Crisis: High-End Production Placements Drive Future Digital Printing Volumes

Ralf Schlozer
Apr 8, 2011

Each year at the end of March, InfoTrends publishes its production digital printing hardware placement and market share numbers for the previous year. It always takes a while to gather data from all the vendors involved; structure, verify, and input the data into our database; and create pivot tables so that the data can be easily viewed and segmented. Even for us analysts who are involved in the market pretty much every day of the year, it is exciting to see the final results. We also collect data on a quarterly basis, but in the same way that the show isn’t over until the fat lady sings, the year isn’t over until quarter four placements arrive. Even after the placement numbers come in, it’s a lot of work to ensure that every placement is correctly accounted for in the end.

After a dismal year for digital production printing system sales in 2009, 2010 proved to be better than expected. Particularly after a weak start in 2010, many expected the crisis to linger a bit longer. Negative news about the economy, like troubles with the Euro and a rising U.S, deficit, seemed to confirm that view. The demand for print usually trails the economic cycle to some extent, and print service providers tend to invest only after the outlook has brightened. In 2010, however, at least some print service providers were more proactive and invested in new opportunities.At first glance, InfoTrends’ overall 2010 placement numbers showed a slight drop as demand for entry level products continued to decline as expected. We calculated just over 120,000 production installations in the U.S. and Western Europe during 2010, which marks a year-over-year decline of almost 2%.

At the same time, the market is seeing a trend toward consolidating devices and shifting toward faster, more productive printers. This reflects a tendency that an increasing number of print service providers are starting to make better use of their equipment and are effectively adding capacity. For example, mid-volume color placements in the U.S. and Western Europe increased by nearly 15% between 2009 and 2010, while high-volume color production jumped by 39% during the same timeframe. With this background, it is unsurprising that continuous feed ultra-high-volume production color printers showed an increase of nearly 50% between 2009 and 2010. This is a segment that saw constant growth even during the financial crisis. The rapid growth in continuous feed ultra-high-volume production played a big role in shaking up vendor market shares during 2010, with incumbents falling behind to newcomers in the market.

Black & white device sales provided additional surprises. For several years, we have been seeing a shift away from black & white digital printing applications, while consolidation is driving sales numbers down even more. In 2010, however, black & white installations experienced a year-over-year rebound of 3.5%. In Europe, this growth was driven by the re-emergence of single-function printers. Meanwhile, multifunctional devices proved to be more popular in the United States.

It will be interesting to see how this extra capacity influences print volumes in our forecast. The high-volume inkjet devices in particular will drive significant color and black & white page volumes. While total installations might be down slightly, digital printing likely received a big boost in 2010.

InfoTrends’ 2007-2010 production printing placement reports for the U.S. and Western Europe are currently available. For more information please e-mail Scott Phinney at:


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