“We always hear print is dead, but the truth is print is very viable. It’s not just about ‘how many pieces of paper can I get off the end of the press’ anymore. It’s about looking what’s out there, being creative and using print to add value in so many different areas”, print industry experts Cary Sherburne and David Zwang concluded during the Enfocus’ Virtual Safari 3.0 after having attended drupa 2016. This article provides an overview of the most innovative print technologies and trends they spotted.
1. Print industry 4.0
The 4th industrial revolution is well underway in print, as even Heidelberg, a traditionally hardware intensive company, admits “the equipment is not enough”. Print industry 4.0 is marked by an increased focus on automation and cross-vendor collaboration to improve productivity.
2. Digital direct-to-corrugated printing
At drupa 2012, BOBST was the only supplier talking about digital direct-to-corrugated printing. This year, however, putting print in line with the corrugator is definitely trending. And it’s an exciting trend, to say the least, because besides reducing material and freight costs it allows for more colourful and interesting graphic designs.
3. Inkjet and ink: coming of age
The last four years saw significant developments in the inkjet market, making a compelling case for printers to start moving away from electrophotographic and even from offset printing. Improved printheads and innovative inks that stick to gloss coated paper without pretreatment have made inkjet more suitable for printing high-quality images for commercial purposes such as catalogues and magazines. Additionally, quite a few companies at drupa 2016 showcased machines in sheetfed inkjet, signalling another important print industry trend. Experts predict that by 2019, more than half of the installs in inkjet will be sheetfed.
4. Extended gamut printing: still a hot topic
Many high-end sheetfed ink presses are being modified to support extended gamut printing, minimising the need for spot colours, between-job wash-ups and extensive ink inventories. Although extended gamut printing, or fixed colour palette printing, is still primarily used in flexo, David Zwang believes this development will drive inkjet into packaging as well.
5. The future of print lies in mass customisation
No matter what you want to print (on) in the future, there will be a purpose-built press just around the corner. Innovative companies such as Memjet and Xaar are offering entry level to complex solutions, allowing you to build your own customised press using some of their many components – or have it built for you.
6. Embellishing the future
Digital embellishment, both in line and near line, continues to increase in speed and functionality. Drupa 2016 witnessed impressive advancements in digital cutting and creasing, embossing (including Braille), spot and flood varnish, foil and glitter machines, … With some of them already tackling up to 5,000 sheets per hour, digital embellishing machines are really getting into production speed.