A great quote that I read recently was “Anything that can go digital will go digital” which I think is a good way of looking at how technology will continue to change the way we all live and work in the future. The latest digital print machines being launched will continue to erode the market share of the traditional ‘analogue’ technology of web, litho and screen printing and open up new markets and applications at the same time.
Reflecting on all of the different print machines that I’ve invested in over the years and how archaic most of them seem now reminds me that you can’t stop embracing that next big thing. Back in 1998, I paid £65,000 for an early solvent inkjet that printed at about 5m/hr and broke down at least once a week. An expensive service contract was a must have back then. I earned more money from that one machine than any other since and couldn’t wait to get to work early each morning to fire it up.
I’ve had dye and pigmented inkjets, superwide solvent and electrostatic printers to list just a few. Some were great and became the backbone of the business. Others not so great - our first ever UV printer, which cost a small fortune, was an utter disaster! I took a phone call from a customer who we’d printed a large banner for on that new machine. It had been outside for just a few weeks but for some reason it was now just a plain white banner. I was a bit confused with what he was describing so took a drive out to look for myself. I quickly realised that as the banner blew around in the wind each day the UV ink was cracking and falling off! Thankfully UV inks are a bit more flexible nowadays.
I’m sure there will be great machines coming but I am sometimes concerned that with ever faster print machines and more automated processes, all that’s going to happen is that the volume of work available will be swallowed up faster than ever. If that meant we could all play golf on Fridays that would be a great thing, but somehow I don’t think that will happen.
Fortunately, at the moment the market and applications for what we print continues to expand too. Wherever you look, printed graphics are becoming larger than ever and appearing in ever more locations. End users are pushing the industry forward now as they realise that print can be stuck or installed onto anything and anywhere. Like the digital revolution that we are all experiencing, large-format printing also seems to have no boundaries.
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