Digital Printing

Digital print and wide-format: an insight into what can we expect in 2024

by Rob Fletcher | 18/12/2023
Digital print and wide-format: an insight into what can we expect in 2024

Rob Fletcher looks back at the past 12 months and considers which major digital print and wide-formatcan be expected in the New Year.

While many treat this time of the year as a chance for reflection and to look back on the past year, the reality is that print service providers (PSPs) around the world will already have a plan in place for 2024 and have a good idea of what they are hoping to achieve.

Some longer-term trends will likely carry over as 2023 ticks into 2024, just a few weeks from now, while others may emerge over the year. Getting ahead of the curve and ensuring you are in a strong position to address these trends and deliver quality work to customers will be key to success over the coming 12 months.

With this, FESPA.com speaks to three leading manufacturers in the digital and wide-format print space to gain an insight into what the wider market can expect in 2024.

Caption: Phil McMullin, head of sales for commercial and industrial at Epson UK, said ease of use is crucial for both operational efficiency and the ability to move into new markets

Economic and environmental factors shaping trends

First up here is Epson and Phil McMullin, who serves as head of sales for commercial and industrial for Epson UK. McMullin said in 2023, economic and environmental factors have caused most businesses, across many sectors, to focus on tightening budgets, conserving electricity consumption, reducing waste, and optimising productivity.

This, McMullin said, has subsequently increased pressure on original equipment manufacturers to align hardware and software standards. This, he added, is having a very positive impact on the industry and will support PSPs moving forward into 2024.

“Epson is seeing increased applications from on-demand print operations from start-ups, particularly within the ‘cottage industry’, where there’s a particular interest in compact, high-quality, yet affordable systems that are easy to setup and use,” McMullin said.

“This ‘micro production’ offers scalability for entrepreneurs seeking an optimal work-life balance and it means they can grow at their own pace without overstocking consumables and raw materials.”

McMullin references Epson’s Japanese heritage when talking about how the manufacturer is helping customer to address trends. First, he points to a “Kaizen” approach to continuous improvements, which focuses on ways to exceed customer expectations through products, services, production, and sales from the product design stage to after-sales service.

McMullin also said Epson products and services are based on the Sho Sho Sei philosophy of efficient, compact and precise innovation, which he explained over the years has translated into smaller, more energy efficient and increasingly high-quality solutions.

“The fact we develop all our own software, printheads and hardware enables us to deliver a highly customer focused portfolio that responds to increased demand for energy savings and waste reduction,” McMullin said. “We can also help operations explore the most effective options as well as offer support, advice, and guidance when it is needed.

“Ease of use is crucial for both operational efficiency and the ability to move into new markets. Simple and fast set up via user-friendly touchscreen ensures operator confidence and quick throughput to maintain agile and responsive production.

“These are key convincers for businesses considering their next steps towards successful growth. It empowers operations to expand their offerings. This is important to help them capitalise on the growth opportunities of markets such a personalisation where production needs to be right first time and every time.”

Caption: Rob Goleniowski, head of sales for Roland DG in the UK and Ireland, said software will continue to guide hardware investment in 2024

Success software

Next up is Roland DG, whose printers are used by companies across a wide range of markets, from textile and garment print to poster and billboard work. Rob Goleniowski, who is head of sales for Roland DG in the UK and Ireland, said software will likely play a major role in which hardware PSPs will purchase in 2024.

“When purchasing a printer, many customers tend to focus on hardware,” Goleniowski said. “However, software integration will continue to play an integral role in the large-format print sector in 2024. With consumer needs diversifying and cost-efficiency becoming of paramount importance, printshops are looking for software solutions that allow them to micro-manage their print cycles across machines, locations, and media output profiles.”   
 
Realising this trend, the team at Roland DG this year unveiled Roland DG Connect, a cloud-based connected service that Goleniowski said offers increased oversight for printers.

“The subscription service aids users in monitoring print cycles, managing multiple machines across different locations, receiving maintenance alerts to ensure their print cycle stays active 24/7 and keeping a check on the overall health of their machines,” Goleniowski said.

Goleniowski also noted how the Roland DG Care team uses feedback from the Roland DG Connect service to provide AI repairs and remote maintenance.

“In a time when businesses are increasingly looking to scale back costs, these regular maintenance interventions help the machines to last longer, and as we know uninterrupted production means higher potential revenue - which is pivotal to printshops at the moment,” he said.  

“Printshops need to think long and hard about what printers they are using and the software solutions they can pair with them, as this can provide significant cost-benefits in the long run.”

Caption: Mimaki launched its first direct-to-film (DTF) printer in the TxF150-75 early in 2023

Stay ahead of market trends

Finally, Mimaki Europe picked out a number of key trends in 2023. Danna Drion general manager for marketing and PM in EMEA at Mimaki Europe, said the manufacturer began the year by launching its first direct-to-film (DTF) printer in the TxF150-75, which has already draw more than 300 orders.

“This led to us releasing another DTF printer not long afterwards, the TxF300-75,” Drion said. “Once again, we have had many orders already, showing the growing popularity of DTF printing.

“Interest in UV printing space has also increased. With the launch of our latest UV technology, the UCJV330-160 printer and cutter, in October, we’ve already seen that this has received a lot of interest.”

Drion said while these trends and demands are likely to continue into 2024, the industry should also pay attention to wider developments, especially in terms of sustainability.

“The topic of sustainability and the efforts to minimise the environmental impact of large-format inkjet will undoubtedly remain a focal point in 2024 and beyond,” Drion said. “The escalating energy crisis has intensified the need for energy-efficient printers, placing sustainability at the forefront of everyone's priorities.”

Then there is the subject of artificial intelligence (AI), with Drion anticipating noteworthy advancements spurred by rapid technological progress and industry requirements.

“Automation and AI will assume crucial roles, marked by the increased integration of autonomous robotic systems for streamlined material handling and efficient job scheduling,” Drion said. “AI is set to elevate quality control and predictive maintenance, ensuring a consistent and error-free output.

“At Mimaki, our commitment to innovation, sustainability and collaboration will continue to ensure we are ahead of market trends.”

These closing comments could serve as valuable advice to the wider industry; ensure you are keeping up to date with major developments so that you can address changing demands and take advantage of stand-out trends.

Discover the latest innovations in digital and wide format printing at FESPA Global Print Expo 2024 Europe’s leading print and signage exhibition. Taking place from 19th – 22nd March 2024 at RAI Amsterdam, Netherlands. Register here to visit and use promo code FESJ402 for a 55 euros discount.

by Rob Fletcher Back to News

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