Wide format printers market trends
Wide format printers (large format printers) are generally accepted to be any computer-controlled printing machines (printers) that support a maximum print roll width of between 18″ and 100″. Printers with capacities over 100″ wide are considered super wide or grand format. Wide format printers are used to print banners, posters, trade show graphics, wallpaper, murals, backlit film, vehicle image wraps, electronic circuit schematics, architectural drawings, construction plans, backdrops for theatrical and media sets, and any other large format artwork or signage.
Wide format printers usually employ some variant of inkjet technology to produce the printed image; and are more economical than other print methods such as screen printing for most short-run (low quantity) print projects, depending on print size, run length (quantity of prints per single original), and the type of substrate or print medium. Wide format printers are usually designed for printing onto a roll of print media that feeds incrementally during the print process, rather than onto individual sheets.
The wide-format printing market continues to surprise us with innovations that drive productivity and continued growth. The Keypoint Intelligence team sees a range of new products and solutions that revitalize the sign and display segment, as well as taking these technologies into new markets such as textiles and functional printing.
As volumes increase and new ink types are adopted, the digital wide format is seeing a worldwide rise of new substrates and applications, each with their own unique challenges. More printers are also investing in print and related production software. They’re looking to enter new markets and are relying on a strong software backend for successful management of the increasingly complex workflows in their shops. Quick-to-market capabilities and on-demand mass customization are now realities which enable printers to produce rich applications with very little downtime.
The emergence of electronic displays based on flexible electronics is, potentially, one of the most significant threats to the wide-format printing industry. It is true to say that electronic signage has been considered a potential threat for some time, without taking significant market share. There have been some recent experiments which haven’t progressed, such as the Tesco in-store TV, however, flexible electronics will be better suited to meet the needs of signage applications, enabling them to take a greater market share. After years of converting to digital, it is somewhat ironic that digital print may ultimately see itself being replaced by yet another form of digital technology, in the form of electronic displays. Roll-to-roll manufacturing will be essential in order to create flexible, low-weight displays that can compete with printed displays from a cost point of view.
Digital wide-format printing is an evolving and intricate sector, with continued developments in supported media, workflow, and productivity. From the low end to the high, there are wide-format printers out there to suit every PSP’s need. Key segments are seeing growth, while other, more aged technologies are in decline. On a whole, digital wide-format printing will continue to be a key sector in the printing industry for the foreseeable future, as it remains a stable market into 2021.