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Are you missing accessible markets over 3x bigger than Sign & Display? – Andy McCourt

“It might be time to think ‘indoors’ over ‘outdoors’ for wide format-capable production. The outdoor printed sign market is giving way to LED digital billboards. You can’t use LED screens as cushion covers or curtains.”

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 Xavier Jouvert’s illustration of the size and segments of the decorative panel market.

It’s a big week for inkjet. In Düsseldorf, the Inkjet Conference gets underway – see report in this issue. Across the Atlantic in Las Vegas, the SGIA Expo opens on Friday 18thOctober, with the desert city’s Convention Centre sold out to over 600 exhibitors over 25,000 net square metres of stands. Over 25,000 industry people have already registered. SGIA is North America’s FESPA and there are close ties between the two – FESPA originated in Europe.

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Andy McCourt

If there is any lingering doubt that inkjet represents the graphic imaging process of the future, look at the SGIA floorplan All the largest exhibitors are inkjet-printer-centric: Canon/Océ, Ricoh, EFI, Mimaki, HP, Epson, Fujifilm, RolandDG, Konica Minolta, Agfa Graphics, OKI Data – these and more host the biggest displays of new inkjet technologies.

To highlight the ‘heft’ of inkjet, born from the Sign & Display sector, SGIA recently announced that it had acquired the Graphics of the Americas trade show held regularly in Florida and targeting Central and South America, the Caribbean and most Hispanic-speaking countries. GOA is a general commercial trade show – take note.

With the IJ Conference supplying the ‘Brains Trust’ of researchers, developers, trend spotters and bleeding-edge risk takers, SGIA supplies the commercial realities of go-to-market solutions. One of these sectors has some mind-numbing prospects.

I refer to interior decorative products, both soft and rigid. There are 7.7 billion people on Earth – they all need, or should have, housing. Such housing is increasingly urban and adorned with printed materials, wall coverings, furnishing textiles and floor coverings. It’s the biggest market there is.

According to Xavier Jouvet, director at Antalis, one of the world’s largest paper-packaging-materials companies, the Sign and Display market uses approximately 6.6 billion square metres of printed media of which 40% is printed digitally. It is estimated that the interior decoration market, paper-covered panels only, uses 23 billion square metres, which only 17% is currently produced with digital imaging technologies per annum. This does not even include textiles for home décor, which estimate will be a US$665 billion global market by 2020.

Think about this – a market potential 3.5 times larger than sign & display, but issuing less than half of its output as digitally-printed decorative products. This market has attracted the attention of the SGIA and FESPA organisers, with FESPA having a dedicated ‘Printeriors’ area at its last two shows. It might be time to think ‘indoors’ over ‘outdoors’ for wide format-capable production. The outdoor printed sign market, even shopping centre interior advertising, is giving way to LED digital billboards. You can’t use LED screens as cushion covers, floor panels or curtains.

The key is that all currently available wide format inkjet technologies can address these markets – both roll-to-roll and rigid, i.e. flatbed. There is some variation on inks and curing methods but our industry is used to this, already using dye-sublimation inks, DTG inks, UV and IR cured and aqueous formulations. Inks for ceramic inkjet printing have been developed and acidic inks for printing onto natural fibres such as silk are a reality. Inks and printheads are therefore not a barrier to accessing these huge markets. Attitude and acumen, well that’s another story.

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 The Heimtextil trade fair will take place from January 8-11 2019 in Frankfurt – and digital inkjet printing will be a strong feature.

 One of the hallmarks of print business that goes digital, short-run and personalised; is that it tends to be conducted online. This breaks down the cost barriers of accessing markets that, though your production facility can produce them, feels challenged because ‘it’s not sign & display.’ The solution is all around you. You can start a new e-commerce website in an hour or two or have a more professional one developed within a week. Such as this one:

Sign & Display production is going great but change is not just happening in our industry – the pace of that change is accelerating at an almost chaotic level. Be in control of that chaos and you can create wonderful new revenue streams in areas you never thought possible.


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