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Surge in inkjet but litho is far from dead

The rumours of the death of litho have been greatly exaggerated, to borrow a phrase from Mark Twain.

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Sheet fed litho still dominates the printing industry despite the increase in digital

Despite the hyperbole, digital inkjet printing is growing but is far from rivalling sheet fed litho and indeed web offset printing. The British Printing Industries Federation (BPIF) reported in 2014 that digital would have taken a quarter of the market in the UK by now, with litho falling below 50 percent in terms of turnover. That is based on their asking of printing firms for their predictions and their own turnover figures at the time. Clearly not everyone is a member of the BPIF so there is plenty of room for a plus or minus variation in the figures.

Smithers Pira has released a report this month on the global market for inkjet printing, suggesting a growth rate of 9.4 percent year on year with a growth overall for the whole industry of 0.8 percent globally. The Leatherhead-based industry research groups says: “In 2018 the total value of inkjet printing in graphics and packaging applications will reach $69.6 billion, with a total print volume equivalent to 749 billion A4 prints. This volume will consume some 103,700 tonnes of ink, with the end-users spending $8.7 billion, while the market for new inkjet equipment will be $3.6 billion.”

With magazines and newspapers still enjoying print runs of hundreds of thousands it is hard to see how digital presses will ever compete in that market

The figures are eye-wateringly large but although the growth may have slowed in the UK and some major economies, print is booming in the emerging economies around the world. Brazil, India, Iran, Pakistan, Indonesia, Vietnam to name but a few, while China’s population are also demanding books, magazines and newspapers as literacy becomes universal in the People’s Republic. Plus, wide-format is seen as another growth market in the UK and across Europe and the West, and that growth is being mirrored in the rest of the planet as economies catch-up. Presses and machinery –digital, litho, wide format and finishing equipment – are being exported to the commercial centres in Africa, SE Asia, South America and the island nations of the Pacific Ocean.

In the meantime, with many printers having paid for and installed litho presses years ago, see no reason why they should scrap their heavy metal and switch exclusively to digital. A litho press is just as capable as digital in printing 500 letterheads or 200 A5 flyers even if makeready time is slower. And with digital heads being added to some litho presses printers can have the best of both worlds. With magazines and newspapers still enjoying print runs of hundreds of thousands it is hard to see how digital presses will ever compete in that market.

Will digital eventually take over or will litho always dominate print runs of 5,000 plus? Email your views to Harry - Harry@linkpublishing.co.uk or call me on 0117 9805 040. Or react to the story on Twitter and have your say.

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