Digital printing gaining ground, says expert
Dubai, April 8, 2009
As more and more companies move across to digital printing, there has been a decline in the amount of offset print volumes, a market research company leader in the industry sector has said.
Barb Pellow, group leader of InfoTrends, said establishments categorising themselves as digital printers have increased by 250 per cent since 1998.
“This has also increased employment in the sector by 300 per cent in the past decade,” she added.
Pellow was speaking at the first conference session of the 2009 edition of the four day Gulf Print and Gulf Pack, which is running from April 6 to 9 at the Dubai Airport Expo.
Opening the session, Saeed Al Falasi, executive director of the International Media Production Zone (IMPZ) in Dubai told delegates that despite the economic downturn, the Middle East continued to witness steady growth, fuelled by interest from overseas, given that prices in the region’s print and packaging industries were some 20 to 30 per cent lower than those found in the West, and on a par with China.
With its world class infrastructure and geographical position, and its encouragement of free enterprise and low government interference, the future looked very bright for the industry in the Gulf.
Already 175 publishing companies and 184 graphic arts companies had set up in Dubai’s IMPZ, whilst some 2,000 similar companies and freelancers were operational in the area overall.
Pellow went on to explain that digital print equipment and software solutions are driving efficiency both in print operations and in business communications for customers.
“With the abundance of new technology, especially in the areas of high speed colour engines and the interface using the web, this is a very bright spot in the industry and is responsible for a huge increase in productivity and cost savings,” she said.
“As more and more companies move across to digital printing, there has been a decline in the amount of offset print volumes, whilst there is a compound annual growth rate in retail value of print of over nine percent in digital printing depending on region,” she added.
One of the most significant drivers of this growth is the demand for shorter print runs with line lengths of less than 500 growing much more than larger print runs, which digital is ideally placed to handle.
“The economics are interesting to see,” Pellow said. “Early digital devices were expensive in terms of production costs. When Xerox and Cannon brought out their early machines, you could reckon on a sheet of print costing in the order of 25 cents.
“That rapidly declined to around 10 cents per sheet,” she added.
“As additional new products such HP’s Indigo came on stream, this cost reduced further to around 5 cents. And now with high speed ink jet technology, this price is forecast to fall to around 2 cents by 2011.
“At the same time, inkjet machines are now capable of running at more than 500ft per minute with widths of up to 30 inches, allowing multiple book printing, cutting lead times and forcing down prices. Longer run applications are now becoming more the norm with newspapers and catalogues more and more able to use digital technology.
“But this technology is only of value if combined with the right software and support,” she cautioned.
“Two thirds of print buyers purchase over the web compared with 11 per cent in 2000; and printers are projecting that fully 45 per cent of print volumes will be ordered over the web by the end of 2010.”
Meanwhile, corporate print buyers are looking to improve their supply chain management using the new technologies to substantially lower costs, shorten turnaround times, offer better tracking and better brand consistency.
It is estimated that savings of over 14 per cent can be made as a result of the move to print via web.
“In addition, because this by its very nature moves mu