In fact, IT Strategies figures state that, since 2008, inkjet production, which is largely dominated by these markets, has captured about 20% of the offset printed sector.
This success did see a brief stall in worldwide continuous feed production inkjet unit sales in 2016. IT Strategies said this was partly due to older technology upgrades increasing performance and capacity, postponing the need for additional units, and industry consolidation delaying investment. I believe we also saw a natural plateauing following the swift early adoption by principal industry players and a subsequent pause due to the inherent limitations of the technology at that stage.
Unit sales began to grow again, by 7% from 2016 to 2017, and page volumes increased 12% year on year. This highlights how opportunities remain in the continuous feed sector, particularly as high speed inkjet print continues to take more of analogue’s market share.
We believe there is another big growth opportunity for the sector – general commercial printers – and here’s why.
As part of our constant commitment to drive technological innovation we have developed the patent pending dryer for our latest continuous feed system - the Ricoh Pro VC70000.
The dryer assures fast, consistent and high quality print using our new Ricoh-developed inks. Its innovative technology supports greater ink coverage and eliminates cockling - the distortion of paper with wrinkles in high areas of ink coverage.
This capability opens inkjet up to a wider range of sectors including high quality commercial print. It is a unique differentiator. One that will support a more responsive commercial print mix both in terms of run lengths and job capabilities.
High ink coverage work, once reserved for the analogue production process, can now be printed digitally with confidence. End users can enjoy the combined benefits of variable data and cost effective production with colour rich results. And as our new inks are designed to print directly onto traditional offset coated substrates, without priming, a greater range of applications are supported. These include any low to medium quantity high coverage commercial jobs.
The flexible and economical production technology also enables increased printing speed on coated substrates for higher production volumes and decreased time to market for applications and promotions.
Migration to inkjet
We are already speaking to a number of operations keen to migrate their direct mail and high quality commercial print away from analogue or hybrid production.
They want to enjoy the best possible combination of time, quality and cost (TQC) benefits that are unique to production inkjet. They include the ability to deliver fast, responsive, personalised print in different run lengths, running standard offset stocks to support broader print production requirements and enjoying greater cost efficiencies.
Previously, the possibility of cockling when using a high ink coverage on lower grammage grades would have been a key concern. Now, with the new dryer assuring problem free running, even for high ink coverage, they are investigating how they can use the technology to support growth and profitability.
One such company is a European direct mail specialist that already uses a hybrid production approach. Over the last twelve months it has seen an increase in demand for full page personalisation as well as the general production flexibility that comes from high speed inkjet.
Also taking notice of the latest innovation is Zalsman which has ordered Europe’s first Pro VC70000. The leading Dutch graphics media solutions company was the first in the world to install a Pro VC60000 three years ago.
The latest investment was chosen to help it confidently address an uplift in demand while also being able to capitalise on increased opportunities for growth and profitability.
The Pro VC70000’s unique combination of features delivers a system that can responsively adapt to today’s market demands. We will demonstrate this and more at Hunkeler Innovationdays 2019. To see how our technology rich hardware, integrated with automated workflow suites, could profitably transform your production visit us at the Messe Lucerne, Switzerland, February 25-28.
For more information, visit www.ricoh-europe.com.
Eef de Ridder is Vice President of Commercial Printing, Commercial and Industrial Printing Group, Ricoh Europe