The future of inkjet printing is being stalled by fear of failure according to research by FM Future conducted with Ricoh.
For inkjet to make the breakthrough “we believe we have to take this fear of failure and turn this into fear of missing out. For those customers in the mainstream, fear of being left behind is the key to accelerating adoption. But the people that make the economic decisions may not possess the information they need to make a confident decision to make a strategic investment in inkjet,” joint authors Graham Kennedy and Marcus Timson.
They continue that those in the know about inkjet are technical professionals whose focus is on productivity who spurn anything likely to be disruptive of risky, overriding any commercial arguments. The solution is to focus on marketing the economic advantages of inkjet to s wider general commercial print market. “The greater the awareness of the economic value of inkjet the better. The objective must be building interest and proving value,” they write.
These are conclusions from a survey of 129 respondents with a significant vested interest in the success of inkjet across the US and Europe in the main. These included experts from the inkjet community, the manufacturing sector and some printers.
The report focuses on the applications within what is known as industrial printing rather than commercial print or in display print where inkjet has perhaps reached saturation point. It has also reached maturity in ceramics, but there are plenty of sectors where the opportunity exists and where there is rapid growth. albeit from a small base.
In the front line are packaging, specifically corrugated and folding carton, and textile print for garments which are sectors of interest for 50% of responses. This is followed by flexible packaging, soft signage textiles and short run wall coverings like one off murals, of interest to more than one in three participants.
Even printed electronics, functional print for automotive and aviation and biomedical applications are interesting for more than 10% as having growth rates above 10%. Packaging is growing at 56% and thus the next major market where inkjet can make a breakthrough to become a mainstream technology.
However, as well as the reticence of some that could invest to take the plunge, the report says that the lack of suitable integrators is hampering growth. One in four agree that this is a problem, one in two that is a problem to a greater or lesser extent with fewer than one in four disagreeing with the assessment.
The other barriers include the cost of ink (32%); risk averse buyers (36%); and immature technology (35%). For industrial applications where failure cannot be contemplated, the hesitation is understandable. Customers want to be confident that the technology will work as the cost of failure is too great. This is the polar opposite to the roll out of inkjet in large format display print markets where the cost of the technology was low enough, the competition between multiple suppliers could drive innovation meant the uptick great enough to convert the sector to the joys of inkjet.
Inkjet has many potential benefits in industrial print applications, but to date the risk of failure seems to outweigh the reward from being a pioneer to the market. What is needed is a first application to adopt the technology for other related applications to fall, the so called blowing alley principle.