The Print Wire
Other news from the industry
Jul 24, 2009
New study says sheetfed litho under threat from digital print
Leatherhead, UK—The global market for sheetfed litho printing will fall from US$155.7 billion in 2006 to US$142.7 billion in 2014, a drop of some 8.5%, according to a new study by Pira International.
The Future of Sheetfed Printing in a Digital Age quantifies current and future global demand for sheetfed offset printing from 2006 to 2014, together with market figures for new equipment and inks. It also identifies the current and key emerging technologies and market drivers that will define its future.
According to the study, sheetfed print sales amounted to almost $146 billion in 2009. It peaked around 2006 in value terms at some $155.7 billion. While there will be a drop in printed area from 2008–11, there will be growth to 2013 when volumes will peak. There will be a gradual decline in value over the next five years with a sharp drop seen from 2007–09, particularly in more developed markets.
Figure 1:
Sheetfed litho printing has enjoyed major technological developments, becoming significantly more efficient since the introduction of viable digital competition. Digital workflows allow significant automation to improve make-ready with a modern press capable of being set up in 8–15 minutes with low waste. Closed-loop colour control means quality can be assured against a standard specification, such as ISO12647-2 and GRACoL, making it easier for buyers to broaden their potential source of supply.
Press suppliers are looking to make the press format more efficient with multi-unit perfectors greatly boosting press productivity. Major suppliers are looking toward larger format machines, increasing the maximum sheet size for books, posters, signage and packaging with quick set up and low waste. Another development is environmental performance improvements for the manufacture and operation of equipment.
Integrated control systems for new presses are being developed that can link into the complete workflow system of a modern print factory, simplifying the process and providing the opportunity for further automation. Current press developments include automation of side-lay control, new ink supply incorporating anilox technology such as Heidelberg’s Anicolor, automatic plate loading, cylinder and ink train washing, and fount solution control.
As well as high-tech approaches there are new suppliers emerging from low-cost regions, in particular China and India. They offer low-cost, low-spec presses with few electronic controls that are easier to maintain and have readily available spare parts.
Sheetfed is not alone, it is competing with web offset and digital methods, both electrophotographic and inkjet, which are developing rapidly. While the market for onpress plate imaging has largely stalled there may be an opportunity for another round of significant performance improvement through the adoption of a reimageable plate or cylinder.
Technology demonstrations using switchable polymers and magnetographic surfaces show the potential, with start-ups such as NovaWrite looking at new methods. An alternative could involve inkjet imaging; if successful, make-ready time and waste could fall significantly, improving the competitive position of offset.
Environmental pressures on the sheetfed litho print supply chain will continue to increase. Print companies will have to provide independently audited quantitative measurements to determine their impact, probably based on a carbon footprint measure that will allow customers to make more informed choices.
The Future of Sheetfed Printing in a Digital Age is available for £3,500 (special price of £3000 until 31 July). For more information, please contact Stephen Hill on 01372 802025, Stephen Hill

Press contact: Rebecca Leigh +44(0)1372 802207 Rebecca Leigh
Pira International is the worldwide authority on the packaging, printing and paper industry supply-chains. Pira has provided authoritative business support to companies worldwide since 1930 through a portfolio of technical books, market reports, strategic and technical consulting, testing and conferences to help clients understand market trends, identify opportunities, meet compliance requirements, network and develop strategies to grow their business.
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