Costly initial investment highlighted

Print industry AI challenges identified in report

High expectations of AI may lead to disappointment before real results are seen, the report said
High expectations of AI may lead to disappointment before real results are seen, the report said

The personalised printing industry faces numerous challenges before it can profit from the artificial intelligence (AI) goldrush, according to a new report from AI print software firm Printbox.

Despite a massive rush to invest in AI – especially generative AI, which nearly octupled from 2022 to reach £20bn of investment worldwide in 2023 – the report warned that many users would find themselves disillusioned with the technology after overinflated expectations fell short.

Citing consultancy firm Gartner’s model of an ‘innovation trigger’ leading to high expectations, followed by a ‘trough of disillusionment,’ the report pointed to the fact that the major part of productivity gains will be found in the years following the first flush of technological progress.

Implementing the technology into the print industry will itself be a challenging process, the report said: implementation costs, staff training, and data security would all create a financial barrier, especially for smaller firms.

The report said: “Implementing AI systems can be costly, and smaller printing companies often face huge costs. AI systems become more complex when designed for user-facing applications, where they must navigate issues such as copyright infringement.”

Another issue highlighted by the report was that of AI-generated images used by clients – an issue already faced by printers.

Generative AI tends to produce low-resolution images, rarely exceeding 1,024x1,024 pixels.

Upscaling technology – which analyses the image, adding new pixels to effectively fill in the blanks and create a larger version of the same image, theoretically without losing quality – will become necessary.

The report said: “The hype surrounding AI has led to widespread adoption. Still, it has also set the stage for disappointment if AI cannot deliver on some of the more inflated promises. Continuous experiments and fine-tuning of AI models are needed to navigate this phase effectively. 

“This approach is essential to refine these tools to address complex user problems. Navigating this critical moment requires a strategic approach to AI development. Companies must invest in research and development to enhance the adaptability and accuracy of AI models, tailoring them to fit the specific needs of their users.”

While these challenges are real, said Sylwia Kopeć, Printbox’s head of marketing, AI promises enough to the print industry to make the investment worthwhile.

She told Printweek: “AI is revolutionizing the printing industry by making personalisation and efficiency easier than ever before. Now, we can create unique products tailored to individual needs, which is especially appealing to the younger generation. AI is helping us innovate and stay competitive.

“Of course, it's not without its challenges. High costs, especially for smaller companies, and concerns about data security are significant limitations. The learning curve for using AI tools effectively can be steep, requiring considerable training. 

“However, the benefits are substantial. AI opens up unique opportunities for printers, enhancing customer experiences with personalised products, automating tedious tasks, and improving efficiency. This means lower costs and new business models, like on-demand printing, become possible.”

Printbox is headquartered in Poland and employs more than 100 people. The growing business claims to have users of its software in more than 50 countries.