The Digital Discussion
How digital print continues to adapt and expandMay 2013 By Sean Norris
Digital print has been around for two decades, but it's still a newcomer relative to other printing methods. As such, digital print providers keep on innovating, pushing the limits of their technology to fulfill changing customer needs. Last year, personalization was digital print's big buzzword, with personalized URLS, QR codes, VDP microsites and landing pages seeing increased demand. This year, it's all about new inks, expanding markets, better equipment and more. Read on for the rundown on what's new in digital print, and how it will affect the industry moving forward.
New Applications, New Markets
As inkjet technology continues to evolve, more and more industries are finding applications for digital print, increasing the number of viable markets for sales. "Digital printing has hit an entirely new trajectory of growth," said Ken Kisner, vice president of business development and CTO for digital division ink technologies, INX Digital, San Leandro, Calif. "3-D printing for manufacturing prototyping uses jettable fluids through industrial inkjet print heads to make amazing 3-D objects that are significantly reducing the time to market for industries such as automotive."
3-D printing, at least on a commercial level, is still in its infancy and may not yet be a realistic option for most digital print providers, but Kisner listed other ways advances in inkjet technology are opening up new markets. "The ceramic tile industry is experiencing its own revolution from rotary screen-printing technology to industrial inkjet where 'frit'-based inkjet inks are being used to decorate the product and fire it at temperatures up to 1200 degrees Celsius," he explained.
Kisner also mentioned the textile industry, particularly in regard to signage. "The advantage of inkjet with short run capability, just-in-time inventory and no setup costs has found a strong foothold," he noted. "Flexible outdoor signage using specialized textiles is taking over much of the industry that has typically used vinyl."
Old Products, New Ways to Print
It's not all about new products, though—many industry staples that have long relied on standard print methods are now going digital. "Printers are finding more traditional print items that can be moved toward digital, allowing customers to order smaller quantities and keep costs low," said Bill Tignanelli, general manager for Macomb, Michigan-based Admore, an Ennis Company. "The traditional flyers, postcards, business cards and envelopes have always been there for digital. Specialty products—for example, plastic cards, static clings, signage, shrink sleeves for bottles, custom labels, custom bags—have found or are finding their way to being able to be produced on digital equipment."