What is driving digital? by Noel D'cunha

According to a study from PRIMIR, while analogue page volume is expected to drop by 0.3%, the volume of digital printing is expected to grow by 15.0% between 2009 and 2014. This is to an extent confirmed by the digital print manufacturers.

The fact that both the technology (offset and flexo; and digital) will co-exist is a sentiment echoed by these manufacturers.

So, what’s driving digital growth?

Print depends on other businesses and requirements. And most businesses rely on print to deliver high quality, targeted products like POD books and photo albums, which are produced by Canvera in Bengaluru and Kadam in Pune. Also, what comes out strongly in favour of digital is reduced inventory, and greater value-added as in the case of Avantika Printers in New Delhi.

During a recent visit to Vyoma Graphics in Pune, I was surprised to see a digital press installed at the plant. I asked Niten Shah of Vyoma, why a digital press, and he replied "why not?". He continued: "For a print provider, the questions are: will the equipment do anything more than the current equipment does? Will it help me grow my business?" Well the answer is "yes". Vyoma is able to produce short-run, highly targeted printed products, for which digital presses are better suited.

But Shah also says that if these jobs can be cost-effectively produced on an offset press, "I will print on offset."

So where does the offset versus digital versus flexo press debate go?

If one goes by the partnerships that were unveiled in February’s final days, one can only "yawn" at the debate. The Heidelberg-Ricoh deal; the KBA partnership with RR Donnelley to develop niche high-end digital press and the Kodak tie-up with Konica Minolta for a global distribution agreement; not to forget the Manroland and Oce partnership to sell Oce’s Jetstream range of continuous-feed inkjet digital presses.

All these deals are part of strategies, which offer digital products that complement rather than compete with their core offering (in case of Heidelberg, KBA and Manroland), which in the end will give them a commercial print credibility they crave for.

Recently, we spent time with Dr Prof Rajendrakumar Anayath – and he dwelled on not what printers do, but what they ought to at least think about, if not do. His mantra – repurpose.
According to Anayath, it’s been 400 years of offset and nearly 25 years of digital printing, and it’s mostly putting ink or toner on paper. This has to be repurposed.

The industrial revolution made possible the mass production of goods nobody could have imagined at the time, now a new manufacturing technology does just the opposite. It’s three-dimensional (3D) printing, which is making it possible to produce as cheap a single item as it is to produce thousands. At present, it is possible only with certain materials like plastics, resins and metals, using a 3D printer. The amazing part is that it need not have to happen in a factory. Small items can be made by a machine like a desktop printer while big items will require larger machines.

The future looks wonderful – and repurposable.

Noel D’cunha, News Editor, PrintWeek India


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