Resellers looking to increase customer stickiness, could look to wide-format printers as a new revenue opportunity. PrintIT Reseller spoke to some of the leading brands to find out more
PITR: Could you provide a brief overview of the market for entry-level wide-format printers?
Phil McMullin, Sales Manager, Epson UK: “Epson’s entry-level wide-format range is the SureColor T Series and we see this as a solution for in-house production, Point of Sale and Print Service Providers (PSPs) looking for a high quality machine with a low cost entry into this sector.
“The RRP for a basic model SureColor SC-T3200 is £1,727 plus VAT. Epson is a great partner for those entering wide-format and anticipating growth, because we can support them with a technology migration path moving forward.
“Over the last 12 months the demand for entry-level machines has been steady, possibly due to the less certain economic climate. For Epson, a lot of business is replacement work, testament to the fact that users like the equipment!”
Anne Sharp, UK&I Large Format Marketing Manager, HP Inc: “Digital wide-format printing continues to be one of the most significant growth areas in the entire print industry. InfoTrends projects that print volumes will experience a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of over 9 per cent until 2019. This continued growth is the collective result of increased adoption, new technologies and an expanding range of applications such as soft signage, rigid panel printing, textiles and decoration.”
Ken Hanulec, Vice President of Marketing, EFI Inkjet: “It is easier today for businesses to get into the market with profitable, high value wide-format inkjet than it has been in the past. EFI has developed a wide-format line of printers, including the 1.6m EFI Pro 16h hybrid roll/flatbed printer that offers the tremendous benefits available with grayscale imaging, standard white ink and energy-efficient LED imaging.
“The market growth opportunity is large from the standpoint that commercial print businesses who are not offering these services now can affordably bring wide-format production in house and gain a greater share of their clients’ marketing spend. There is also a large opportunity among corporate in-plant printing departments – universities and businesses that currently perform digital printing but end up spending a lot of money outsourcing wide-format printing, can operate more efficiently and cost-effectively with a printer like the Pro 16h.”
PITR: What are some of the key developments on new devices and how are these expanding the market?
Phil McMullin: “Epson is unique in supplying its machines with home developed and manufactured piezo thermal inkjet heads and inks. Epson developments focus on enhancing quality and the printheads do get better and better and are unmatched by our rivals.
“The inks are also evolving with greater water- and light-resistance and water-repellence. It is possible for users to increase the ink capacity on their printers and this can make inks even more economic.”
Anne Sharp: “Multifunction printers have been growing steadily at 21 per cent CAGR between 2011 and 2016. In fact, that growth has been kick started by HP, after introducing the industry-first integrated multifunction printer in 2010, giving customers the ability to scan, copy and print large format with one integrated device.”
Ken Hanulec: “One of the key developments has been building the type of distribution channel and service operation that can be most effective for entry-level users who are moving into production-volume wide-format printing for the first time.
“Many of the customers moving into this market are digital commercial print shops and in-plants. In recognising our customer base’s needs, EFI has worked to develop stronger partnerships with key suppliers in that market like Konica Minolta and Ricoh. Those two companies have tremendous reach and day-to-day interaction with the print operations that are moving into this space and we are now re-selling our entry-level wide-format printers through those companies.
“It is an important expansion of the portfolio for Konica Minolta and Ricoh where they can be more direct problems solvers to their existing customers, and it brings EFI’s presence as a wide-format technology provider to a customer base that is probably mostly familiar with us as a developer of Fiery digital front ends.”
PITR: What segments are you seeing most traction in?
Phil McMullin: “For us the focus is on POS and Print Service Providers (PSPs) and we have seen some expansion in the corporate market where businesses are looking to bring print in-house to increase flexibility and reduce costs.”
Anne Sharp: “We are seeing significant traction in two key areas; the move from single-function to multifunction in the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) market and the growth in the signage/ decoration market for HP Latex Technology with the versatility of these printers to print on a wide breadth of substrates from vinyl, canvas through to wallpaper and textiles.”
Ken Hanulec: “From a customer base standpoint, there is growth among university and corporate in-plant centres and small to midsize commercial print shops, including franchise networks. In terms of market applications, we are seeing growth focused in the growing need for high quality point-of-purchase graphics, outdoor graphics and some speciality/unique applications such as printing direct to unusual substrates like wood or metal.
“While many customers want and need the flexibility to print roll-to-roll and flatbed on a hybrid device, the ability to print direct to rigid substrates continues to drive more value in terms of profit opportunity for our customers. Rigid work tends to sell for a greater price per square metre, and EFI is making continued investments in our wide-format product line to help increase the productivity and value of rigid-substrate printing.”
PITR: Are entry-level printers a strong growth area and what is driving demand?
Phil McMullin: “There is a demand for stand out quality at an affordable price and the ability to handle larger sizes than would be standard in a normal office environment.”
Anne Sharp: “In particular within the AEC market, the growing need for collaboration between companies and geographies, having large format devices that enable this through the ability to scan and share as well as copying and printing as an all-in-one device, brings true business benefits to a small company without the need for a huge initial investment.”
Ken Hanulec: “Demand for wide-format graphics overall is driving growth in wide-format. While there are some segments of the wide-format space that are somewhat commoditised, much of that market maintains a higher margin for our customers compared with other types of print. As a company, EFI is seeing growth across the board in wide- and super-wide-format production printing, especially with LED inkjet. Knowing what LED can do for our customers, it was a big step for us to bring production-class LED as an entry-level product a few years ago. We had identified that as a gap in what was available and the feedback from our customers is that we have given them a path to growth with a wider range of print applications.
“Customers want the energy savings and media versatility they can get with LED and the fact that it uses long-life, instant on/off curing lamps reduces the amount of wasted prints due to decaying lamps. Our newest entry-level hybrid printer, the EFI Pro 16h, will create even more growth opportunities for customers because it can operate significantly faster – up to 30 per cent faster in some production modes – with the included benefit of a built-in Fiery proServer for very fast, streamlined prep, RIPing and production.”
PITR: What are the benefits for resellers in offering this type of machine?
Phil McMullin: “For most resellers wide-format is a small percentage of their turnover but if they don’t have something to offer they are going to be open to another company with a comprehensive portfolio taking business away from them. There are good opportunities out there for this technology.”
Anne Sharp: “HP is the market leader across many large format markets and is renowned as an innovative technology brand reinventing printing and enabling our customers to expand their possibilities through our products and solutions. Any reseller partnering with HP will be able to access the widest portfolio of large format products and solutions from the market leader.”