3 February 2014
5 wide-format takeaways from the DIA
MISSISSAUGA, ON—Commercial printers are the biggest producers of wide-format applications, said experts at a Digital Imaging Association (DIA) meeting in late January.

The market is still growing and companies entering the space will have to address a number of considerations as they look to adopt new machines and create new workflows.

Fujifilm's Joe Furman speaks at a Digital Imaging Association meeting on Jan. 22, 2014

Commercial printers lead the pack

Steve Fournier, wide-format business development manager at Unisource, pointed to a 2013 InfoTrends poll that asked buyers what kind of companies they were sourcing for wide-format print jobs. General commercial printers topped the list at 39.7%, followed by retail stores that specialize in signs and graphics (38.2%), and copy businesses (36.7%).

The top categories of wide-format printing being purchased are banners (85%), posters (67%), signs (62%) and POP display (50%). These are all categories that can be produced at the entry level, said Fournier.

Wide format is ubiquitous

Tom Walsh, product manager at Agfa, said digital wide-format printing is everywhere and the trend is powered by out-of-home (OOH) advertising including banners, flags and billboards. "This is pure advertising," he said, explaining that OOH has no editorial content, a 24/7 presence, and can be precisely located to target an audience without interrupting their daily lives.

Walsh cited 2011 stats from the Out of Home Marketing Association of Canada that show OOH ads as second only to newspaper ads when it comes to trustworthiness, with 69% of consumers saying OOH ads are somewhat or very truthful, followed by radio, magazines, TV and online in last place.

Commercial printers are a fit

According to Walsh, an estimated 66% of print buyers are purchasing wide-format graphics, and the technology and skills needed to produce the work, like in-house colour management and digital expertise, are already understood by commercial printers.

There are some challenges, however. Wide-format runs are typically shorter and more urgent, and Walsh suggests commercial printers might need two shifts to meet the daunting turnaround times. As well, complementary service offerings are a must, including cutting and other basic finishing, fulfillment and kitting. Doing everything in-house is rare, and printers will likely need to develop partnerships with other service providers.

Tom Walsh from Agfa talks wide format at the DIA meeting held at Unisource Canada's Mississauga location

Remember the early days of toner?

The emergence of wide format in the world of screen and commercial printing is comparable to the introduction of digital toner, said Joe Furman, Fujifilm business development manager. Like with toner, adoption will increase. The global UV inkjet wide-format market is estimated for 78% growth in 2015. "Where's that going to be? All in the commercial print sector," he said.

The spread of digital inkjet tech will impact not just commercial printing, but packaging, screen printing, flexo and the photographic market. Anything that is analogue today will be digital in the future, he said.

What to focus on

Marc Raad, Esko account manager, provided a final checklist for commercial printers looking to adopt wide-format capabilities. According to Raad, these are the most important areas to focus on:
  • temporary in-store displays and promo packaging
  • retail and manufacturers/brand owners
  • eco-friendly inks and media
  • corrugated and foam board applications with 2D contour and 3D designs
  • runs of 550 copies or less
  • two-day turnarounds
Fujifilm's Furman noted that a holistic business approach is necessary. Learning about the different types of equipments and tools is important, but so are other concerns like how to organize your sales team. "Will you  use the same sales people or create a different department? You have to look at the whole picture," he said.
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