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What's so special about specialty imaging?

Sep 1, 2005 12:00 AM

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Thee printers’ market today:

  • Electronic communication has reduced the volume of document printing drastically.
  • Customers want printers to provide one-stop purchasing and a wider variety of printing needs.
  • Personalized marketing and “do it yesterday” are top priorities for print buyers.
Adding specialty imaging capability is cost-effective and profitable—it also is one of the fastest growing segments of the printing industry. From point-of-purchase (POP) displays to posters and placards, from environmental graphics to sublimation transfers, from decals to backlit displays, specialty imaging capabilities open doors to a series of profitable markets that complement traditional printing. Many of these markets are virtually untapped and ready for development. That’s great news for commercial printers.

Profit from diversity
Today’s specialty imaging technologies increase a printer’s ability to coordinate production of the brochures, booklets, direct mail, posters, display units and promotional graphics customers create. Digital technologies in particular have revolutionized specialty printing.

When you add new digital technologies, you build on your ability to distribute artwork and production files to a variety of output devices, and you widen the range of services you can offer clients. That’s why many printers directly attribute increased sales to existing customers to the addition of specialty imaging technology.

Specialty imaging has opened the door to the POP market. With retailers aware that 70 percent of purchase decisions are made in the store, POP print expenditures are expected to reach $56 billion by 2007, an $11 billion increase over 2002, according to IT Strategies (Hanover, MA). It’s just one specialty imaging area that offers relief to the struggling general printing industry—particularly commercial printers.

From docs to POP and beyond
The electrophotographic devices commercial printers have turned to for short-run documents and variable-data printing have evolved into specialty imaging solutions. Improved production speeds and diverse media capability have brought these technologies to the POP market.

At the other end of the size spectrum, wide-format digital printing is the next logical step for many commercial printers. Roll-fed inkjet technology offers a low-cost entry point into wide-format imaging and large-scale production systems, and currently, it’s the technology that produces most wide-format images (prior to any necessary finishing work). However, flatbed inkjet technology, which allows direct printing onto rigid substrates with minimal finishing requirements, is experiencing very rapid growth in several industry segments.

Excerpted from “Commercial Printers—Increase Revenue, Gain Market Share with Specialty Imaging,” by Michael Robertson, SGIA. Read the full story online at

It’s a wide, wide, world
“Electrophotography has the opportunity to grow with the market and also to take share from other narrow-format technologies, especially offset. Electro-photography is no longer a coherent document printing market. It now comprises a range of specialty applications such as POP printing.” —IT Strategies

“The worldwide retail value of wide-format graphic prints reached $19 billion in 2002 and is forecast to grow to almost $30 billion by 2007. … Not surprisingly, the largest applications are POP signage and trade show graphics.” —IT Strategies

“In the overall market for wide-format graphics, inkjet already has become the No. 4 technology by volume of prints, following screen printing, offset lithography, and computer-aided sign-making. Inkjet is the No. 2 generator of profits for graphics industry manufacturers and distributors. At Web Consulting, we predict that inkjet will eventually rank first by value and second by volume.” —Web Consulting, Ltd.

Specialty imaging resources
Visit and enter the keyword “comprt” for links to the following resources:

  • Small Format Resource—Specs and useful information on small format digital printing equipment.
  • Large Format Output Devices—A frequently updated listing of digital output devices 36 inches and wider.
  • Flatbed Output Devices—Information and product listings on a wide range of flatbed devices.
  • Digital UV Output Devices—Information on, and listings of, digital devices utilizing UV-cured inks.
  • ASSIST—An online bulletin board, toll-free phone call or e-mail. ASSIST answers most queries on the first contact.

See also "Go far with flatbed" and "The wide world of specialty imaging."