By Digital Output Staff
Digital Output considers grand format over 95 inches or roughly 2.4 meters in width. These devices are no longer just for mid- to large-sized print service providers (PSPs), businesses deriving from multiple backgrounds—starting with smaller mom-and-pop shops—are purchasing grand format printers. Market potential is vast.
“Over the past four to six years, since the output quality of grand format devices has dramatically improved, we are seeing a clear trend of small businesses migrating from smaller devices to grand format, since they are recognizing the benefits of owning an industrial, highly productive versatile printer,” shares Erez Zimerman, VP marketing, Matan Digital Printers.
Grand format installations remain prevalent as technology advances. A good indication of whether usage is increasing is wider width media roll consumption. Higher volumes of media, whether banner, mesh, or textile, are used to create graphics for environments that require expansive output.
PSPs of all sizes implement grand format printers. “There is interest from everyone ranging from in plants to industrial users. Some sign shops purchase grand format devices to expand their current capacity. It is also people adding grand format for the first time. It covers the spectrum,” explains Larry D’Amico, VP digital imaging, North America, Agfa Graphics.
Jim Cain, director of sales – digital, Polytype America Corp., lists a number of businesses who are contenders for superwide devices—commercial printers, single and multiple location users; screenprinters; exhibit houses; in-house corporate clients; display companies; and mom-and-pop printers.
“They are buying for many reasons including competitive pressure, a client requires short-run digital output, it is the next step from traditional smaller roll-to-roll printing, unit price reduction in the market, more capacity, expanded capabilities, and expanded client possibilities,” he continues.
NAC Digital USA sees a range of customers, from smaller shops to large factories, buying grand format devices in both signage and textile sectors. The company finds that its customers prefer grand format in order to meet growing demand, replace outdated devices, manage niche job requirements, address the growth of digital in the textile sector, and maintain a good status in the print community.
“Some smaller companies invest in grand format printers in order to get more jobs by improving their prestige among customers. High-volume customers place orders with companies that can handle a high amount of orders with a grand format printer. This applies to both signage and textile sectors,” says Haluk Ozek, international sales associate, NAC Digital.
CET Color has also experienced an increase in interest from smaller PSPs looking to purchase grand format. “With the cost of equipment making it so obtainable, it opens doors to many different types of shops, not just the largest,” explains Jim Peterson, director of national accounts, CET.
At EFI, the majority of the company’s customers are small to mid-size, family-owned businesses, according to Mike Wozny, senior product manager, ink business, EFI. As these businesses expand, so too does the width of their machines. “Sometimes the very small businesses we serve start with a smaller, wide format device, but as their opportunities grow, they often move into the superwide format space with one of our 3.2-meter devices,” he continues.
Find Grand Format Here
Factors such as company size, square footage, yearly revenue, and common applications dictate the type of shops superwide printers are found in. For example, PrinterEvolution grand format devices, which are sold through Global Imaging, Inc., are generally purchased by companies with an average of 52 employees, although some are much larger or quite a bit smaller. The average sales of these organizations are between $5 and $10 million annually, according to Global Imaging.
“We specialize in digital textile printing and unique flatbeds, so our customers are typically buying to stay on the leading edge while continuing to increase efficiency, competitiveness, and profitability,” explains Tara Lamb, president, Global Imaging.
Mimaki USA, Inc.’s customers are those that realize the potential a larger unit can deliver. “A grand format printer gives shops the ability to run full-size banners or vehicle graphics in one piece without seaming. For textile use, the larger width enables production of full-sized flags and banners,” shares Ken VanHorn, director, marketing and business development, Mimaki.
Existing sign shops and in-house printers looking to expand their shop offerings turn to Paradigm Imaging Group, who distributes SID grand format printers. “With the improved variety of media and the creativity of graphic designers, the larger building wraps or window coverings are exceeding the capability of the standard 1.6-meter printer,” says Tod Robinson, channel sales manager, Paradigm.
Screen USA defines its grand format customers in the up- and mid-market space. These customers include, according to Mark Schlimme, product manager – wide format, Screen, emerging point of purchase (POP) printers moving from entry-level wide format into the grand format market because they require high production and lower running costs; high-volume production POP printers needing the ability to handle short-run, on demand, job-shop type work while not disrupting longer runs and program work; and industrial print and product manufacturers using inkjet print as a component of manufacturing.
“At a minimum, in the mid-market space, print providers evaluating and considering grand format have revenues of at least $6 to $8 million with profit margins somewhere in the 15 to 20 percent range,” continues Schlimme.
Seiko Instruments, with plans to launch a new 104-inch device in January 2015, designs its grand format products for mid-range production shops. “The key reasons these shops look for this kind of device are productivity, width, and low running costs,” explains Kelly Gornick, marketing communications specialist, Seiko.
Keith Faulkner, president, Splash of Color, Inc., reports an increase in sales activity with its grand format printers ranging in width from 104 to 126 inches. He cites exhibit and display producers as those that prefer superwide because of the ability to produce backdrops without seaming and still have enough fabric for finishing. Flag and banner producers are another customer attracted to the wider width because of the higher production speeds.
Media usage is a good indicator of how frequently devices are run. When narrowing in on grand format, rolls of media over 95 inches in width provide a look at how superwide devices are being used. Larry Salomon, VP, wide format, North America, Agfa, estimates that the number of square feet of media run per year off of grand format devices must be in the millions. “As far as most popular, banner is probably 75 percent of the market, with mesh and textiles making up the rest in the 95-inch and larger segment.”
“Our records indicate that for a device similar to our new 104-inch printer, 75 percent of jobs are banner, mesh, or flexface; 20 percent wallpaper; and five present fleet graphics,” says Seiko’s Gornick.
Ink consumption is a telling statistic. In regards to latex, specifically Hewlett-Packard (HP) Latex, HP expects an overall 50 percent growth in 2014 versus last year in latex inks and media printed across both of its wide and grand format products.
“Grand format is one of the fastest growing categories. Part of the growth in HP Latex results from solvent and UV printers install base replacement, but there is also significant growth of new installations and opportunities with a device that opens the door to new markets,” shares Joan Perez Pericot, worldwide marketing director, large format division, HP.
In 2013, EFI recorded its fourth consecutive year where growth in ink volumes exceeded 20 percent. While the company doesn’t disclose specific breakdowns by product grouping, Wozny admits that superwide format inkjet is the largest of EFI’s inkjet product lines and is a significant source of its growth.
NAC Digital’s Ozek shares that in the local market in Turkey, where the parent company is located—although it now has a U.S. office as well, approximately 40 percent of its inks were used in grand format printers.
Superwide for All
The big guys aren’t the only ones playing with the big printers. Vendors report that although it is common for larger shops with the square footage and monetary funds to run superwide devices, that isn’t stopping the mid-range market and even smaller shops from realizing the benefits and potential of grand format printing. If the space is available and the application requests warrant it, printers over 95 inches in width are finding a place with the little guy.
Dec2014, Digital Output