In the organisation’s latest report, The Future of Digital Print: Long-Term Strategic Forecasts to 2029, Smithers said inkjet and electrophotography digital systems will become "increasingly important" across the global print marketplace through the 2020s. The report predicted an average CAGR of 5.3% in value over 2014–29.
It said the print industry “will continue to evolve in response to multiple economic, technological, demographic, ecological, and behavioural factors” and that the shift from physical to online print in publication, advertising and transactional print sectors will continue to cut overall print volumes.
With this manifesting in demand for shorter-run work, faster turnarounds and better print quality, the Smithers report looks at how the current and future generations of inkjet and electrophotography presses will capitalise on this demand.
Smithers information division director of research and reports Adam Page told Printweek: “Inkjet and electrophotography methods will evolve rather than fundamentally change, with incremental improvements in performance of equipment while the ink technology delivers better results on a wider range of standard print and packaging substrates.
“The most significant change for digital printing over the next 10 years will be through developments integrating digital print, particularly inkjet, into broader production systems including workflow and finishing to simplify and speed up time to market for many print products.
“This has already happened in some cases, for example books where high-speed single-pass inkjet presses are linked to servo-controlled finishing lines that slit, fold and collate book blocks, delivered for loading into a binder.
“This allowed printers to add real value to their publisher customers by helping reduce the publishing risk through delivering lower run lengths cost-effectively, down to single copies.”
The report also identified several outstanding challenges faced by digital print and said that how successfully these are overcome will impact adoption in different end-uses across the 10 years to 2029.
The potential hurdles listed for digital print included high equipment and consumables costs compared to those for analogue processes, and the increasing capability of analogue presses, where cost-effectiveness is improving in parts of the low-run print market.
The report also highlighted the significant changes in business processes required when adopting digital print, and the fact that while inkjet presses have improved, many need primer and are still restricted in the range of suitable substrates.