The Possibilities of Production Inkjet
Though direct mail, books and transactional work seem to be the holy trinity of the production inkjet digital printing church, there are murmurs of a fertile ground beyond the big three that will open the door for commercial printing, package printing and beyond.
Unlike the onset of the digital printing revolution of the mid-1990s, when the market for such machines was undeveloped, this current trend toward continuous-feed and cutsheet inkjet press adoption is unmistakable. And, depending on your vantage point, production inkjet has yet to peak; were it a winter nor'easter, many would say the eye of the storm has not yet arrived.
InfoTrends Founder Charlie Pesko has heard from printers who have found applications outside of the book/direct mail/transactional range of items, while other areas such as newspapers and packaging have also reported some success.
The beauty of production inkjet in comparison to its toner-based cousin is that it operates at much higher speeds, notes Pesko. Maintaining those speeds on the back end, though, is the challenge. Setting up in-line or near-line tools—cutters, folders, stitchers, etc.—in a configuration that keeps operator intervention to a minimum can enhance productivity, shorten turnaround time and yield lower operating costs than traditional offset printing.
"The feeding and finishing aspects cannot be overlooked," Pesko stresses.
The greatest change has come with the expansion of inkjet paper weights and sizes, says Pesko. This has enhanced the number of products and applications available.
"With the sheetfed products, they can start to handle the heavy weights and some of the packaging elements," Pesko notes. "We can start to seriously look at packaging applications that exist now."
As to how inkjet digital printing will impact the commercial printing marketplace, Jim Hamilton—who, as group director for InfoTrends, is responsible for production consulting—feels that inkjet technology really stepped out into the spotlight during 2013. All the major worldwide shows—PRINT 13, FESPA, PrintPack India, China Print, Labelexpo, Pack Expo and SGIA—boasted a prominent inkjet flavor.
Related story: From the Editor: Is Inkjet in Your Future?