A Changing Print Market: Top Trends for 2020

By: Len Lauer, Chairman & CEO, Memjet

2020 is here and the new decade promises opportunity, growth, and excitement for the printing industry. In this article, Memjet Chief Executive Officer Len Lauer shares his views on what will make the print industry thrive in 2020.

Innovation Makes Print Thrive

As we begin the new year, the industry’s largest companies are engaged in a takeover battle: Xerox vs. HP. There are different perspectives on how this potential takeover will play out. Still, one thing is sure—when the two biggest digital equipment manufacturers in the printing industry focus internally on control of ownership, it’s the end-user who is likely to suffer the most.

Because in an industry that is looking for new ways to be profitable, innovation is the most critical factor to success. Memjet is well positioned to be the industry’s innovator for color digital printing.

Industry profits in 2019 tell an interesting story. Large printers are struggling to remain profitable. Small printers, on the other hand, are growing their profits. In the third quarter of 2019, profits before taxes for large printers dropped to negative -5.33% of revenues. For small printers, though, profits before taxes rose from 6.74% of revenues in the second quarter to 9.70% in the third quarter.

For these smaller printers to sustain this growth, their suppliers must innovate and create printing solutions that can diversify their product offerings, grow their volume and share of the market, and expand into new markets.

Last year, Memjet introduced a new printing technology called DuraFlex. This technology is affordable yet produces industry-leading speed and quality as a result of our innovation. Like other Memjet technologies, DuraFlex is modular so that OEMs can develop printing solutions and get them to market faster and more affordably.

We introduced DuraFlex in September. The next month, our new OEM partner Kirk Rudy was taking orders for its new, low-cost DuraFlex-powered printer—the FireJet 4C—at industry tradeshows. It is that type of speed and innovation that the market needs today.

The Tipping Point for Inkjet

The potential of inkjet has been a discussion point for years. How many drupa conferences have been billed as “the inkjet drupa?” But as we begin 2020, the full potential of inkjet is finally being realized, creating exciting opportunities for the printing industry as a whole.

Today, Memjet is delivering higher resolution, higher speeds, and lower costs than have ever been possible with inkjet printing. These printhead developments, combined with technical innovations that support our OEM partners in the development process, result in a new breed of affordable printing solutions that produce high-quality, beautiful output.

These print solutions have a lower barrier to entry than more expensive and complicated printers. As a result, more and more printers are now able to leverage the value of production inkjet and expand their businesses into areas they never thought possible, including labeling, packaging, and industrial printing.

So, will 2020 truly be a drupa where inkjet comes into its own? We believe it will. We anticipate a record number of OEM partners showcasing powered by Memjet solutions at drupa and highlighting what is possible with today’s inkjet technology.

These inkjet-powered solutions are being developed across a wide variety of segments and applications. We are most excited about low cost, single-pass packaging solutions for corrugated, folding carton and flexible materials as well as for labels and mail and addressing applications.

Industry expert Régis Thienard also sees the potential for inkjet. In a recent article published in the drupa “Essentials of Print,” he wrote, “The growth here is significant, and I am convinced that we are at a clear tipping point for inkjet to become the dominant technology at drupa 2020. We will witness some revolutionary machines and see that there is almost no limit for inkjet.”

Expanded Substrates

2020 will also see significant expansion in industrial printing. While this term means different things to different people, we see industrial printing as printing on different substrates and different shapes. The possibilities are endless: glass, metal, packaging, labels, textiles, and more. Today, the list of substrates is growing and is limited only by imagination.

While the list of substrates may vary, inkjet technology enables users to realize the same benefits across substrates: customization, high speeds, high-quality output.

Memjet, for example, is talking to a wide range of OEM partners that seek to print on materials other than paper. From flexible packaging to corrugated – even plastic tubes and metal sheets. Memjet OEMs are pushing the innovation envelope and opening up new possibilities every month.

As inkjet enters the expansive packaging space, food contact compliance becomes an important area to address. Safety and compliance are areas on which Memjet is very focused, ensuring our water-based inks are compliant with ever-changing regulations, and to working with coating and substrate suppliers to test ink migration.

Ink and Sustainability

Just as consumers are paying attention to the impact they—and their choices—have on the environment, businesses are starting to put much more emphasis on the environmental impact they have.

The expanded role of digital printing translates to a more positive message for sustainability. Printers and end-user customers experience reduced waste from minimizing plate preparation and makeready processes. Further reduction of waste comes from print overages or out-of-date materials, not to mention the time, cost, energy, and distribution savings that come from digitally printing the right materials, at the right time, in the right locations.

Memjet technology has replaced analog solutions among printers, brand owners, and companies involved in consumer package goods or eCommerce. These businesses embrace the digitization of print partly because of these improved environmental—and economic—outcomes.

By contrast, inks have not traditionally been part of the sustainability conversation. But that is starting to change.

Memjet works with OEMs that are developing solutions for a variety of markets, with a focus on labels and packaging. These OEMs—and their end-user customers—increasingly want inks that are safer for the products, the people handling them, and the planet,

Memjet offers the safest inks possible: water-based inks. These inks contain chemicals that are less harmful, are safer to use, and are more environmentally friendly than liquid toner, UV-curable, or solvent-based inks.

The Future is Now

No matter what role your organization plays in the printing industry, you will be touched by these trends. Stay ahead of your competition by adopting digital inkjet technology in your business in 2020.