Even the industry-wide shift to digital doesn't appear to be slowing the interest in used commercial printing equipment, with anecdotal evidence suggesting that even fairly new digital machines are now entering the resale market.
"There are some printing companies that went out of business during the recession that had bought new equipment and part of the reason they went out of business is that they couldn't make the payments on these new printers when demand for printed products dropped," explained Kip Smythe, Director of Global Programs for the NPES - The Association for Suppliers of Printing, Publishing and Converting Technologies.
"Not only is there a lot of used equipment out there, there's a lot of new used equipment. So the stuff that's out there is half the price of brand new piece of equipment but in many cases it's as fast and as quick makeready as a new one."
However, actual numbers regarding the used commercial printing equipment market have been a bit hard to come by, in part because many of the resellers are entrepreneurs who find presses at auction, put them on web pages and try to sell them.
"We're about to do a study on the used equipment market, but what I hear from our members is that a lot of the used equipment on the market is the traditional offset rather than newer digital," said Smythe. "But I get emails from all over the world from people looking to sell used equipment and there are some for digital equipment as well - and there are some used equipment suppliers starting to specialize in digital as well."
In many ways it makes sense for resellers to begin targeting digital printers because that's where the overall market is going. "I just saw data that noted digital press unit sales just started turning around again in 2010 after two down years, so printers are looking at buying digital presses more than they're looking at buying offset presses right now, because they're seeing shorter run lengths and the need for variable data printing," Smythe noted. "They're also easier to man."
Smythe said that while some of the big manufacturers may occasionally get a printer back, refurbish it and resell it if they can, he added, "They prefer to sell new equipment. But there's all sorts of brokers and agents out there - I get at least 10 a day from all over the world, Eastern Europe, Asia you name it. They're getting it at a fire sale price at a bankruptcy auction, so they can turn around and sell it for half the price of a new machine and still make a huge profit. And right now there's a heck of a lot of it out there."