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SEPTEMBER 2013



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UV Production Product Enhancements Fuel Rigid Substrates Market
by Tim Greene, InfoTrends

The installed base of wide format flatbed inkjet printers in North America continues to grow, supplementing, and in some cases replacing other wide format printers. UV-curable inkjet printers have advantages over other types of wide format printers such as that the output from UV-curable inkjet printers is dry instantly and UV-curable inkjet printers provide the opportunity to print directly onto rigid substrates. The advantages of printing onto rigid substrates are clear for print service providers.

What percentage of the media you use in your wide format printing business is rigid and what percentage is flexible?

There is a wide variety of materials that fall into that "rigid media" definition including acrylic, polycarbonate, rigid PVC, Coroplast, Foamcore, wood, metal, corrugated cardboard, paperboard, and more. The use of these materials is all going to increase as the wide format digital print market grows, but there are two ways these products seem to be getting a lot better which will further improve the market; sustainability and whiteness.

In one of our recent surveys, 48% of wide format print service providers reported they are seeing a growth in demand for green printing services among their customers. So there is a growing trend among print service providers towards offering "sustainable" or "green" printing and many of the suppliers of these types of rigid products are answering that demand by developing rigid media with better environmental properties. Examples include the many products from industry leaders such as 3A Composites, Laminators Inc., Gilman Brothers, and Inteplast have introduced products that are either highly recycleable, biodegradeable or manufactured using highly sustainable practices. This is great because the cost of disposal or the idea that these products were just going into a landfill have been barriers for some PSPs and print buyers

The other trend that we see in the rigid media market is in developing products that perform more reliably when digitally printed. Historically this has been a challenge because these rigid products are often not starting out at a standard white point, so the applied images would look different on rigid media than it would on other types of print media. Now, some of those same manufacturers are establishing better whiteness to improve the performance when directly printed using digital wide format systems.

So, between the trend towards rigid media, which helps PSPs become more competitive, and the enhancements to the rigid media products, which should help overcome some of the historical drawbacks, InfoTrends would recommend any dealer in the wide format business that is looking for new markets to consider looking into some of the latest and greatest products in the rigid print media market. DC

Author Tim Greene, Director of Wide Format Printing Consulting Services, InfoTrends, will field your questions, comments or arguments by email: tim_greene@infotrends.com

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