FESPA 2015’s doors opened today, an exhibition that – in the language of FESPA marketing campaign – promises to help printers and print buyers discover their ‘universe(s) of print’. Looking at the sheer diversity of brands, technologies and applications on show in Cologne, I challenge anyone not to be excited, stimulated or motivated by them.
It’s a line-up that truly reflects the explosion in wide format print over the last decade, during which time digital wide format in particular has been on a rapid upward trajectory. Every year brings new machines, new inks, substrates and new applications – and by virtue of this, incredible new opportunities. But why has this growth been so rapid and consistent year after year? In my view, it’s in large part because in wide format we have a technology with an inherent ethos of innovation, which aligns it with the ingenuity of the printers and signmakers who use it. That ingenuity has increased in recent years as the industry has fought to maintain its relevance (and revenue) as a crucial part of the communications mix.
Everyone’s at it
Across all sectors – sign, textile, industrial and so on – wide format is the technology of the future that everyone wants to be a part of. More and more companies continue to invest in wide format, believing (rightly in most instances) that they can create something beautiful, unique and – crucially –profitable with this versatile technology.
Sign and display graphics remain the bedrock of the sector, continuing to play an integral part of the overall communication mix for brands. However, the flexibility of this technology means forward-thinking signmakers and print companies also continue to spot new opportunities that enable them to embrace their creative abilities, diversify and develop new revenue streams.
In this sense, wide format is now a guiding light for the transformation of the print industry, giving hope and self-belief back to a sector that has been battered by the digital media revolution. It has shown how it can thrive by doing what it does best – matching creative abilities with a high performance, highly flexible means of production.
Last year, FESPA launched the FESPA Print Census, a worldwide research initiative conducted with independent industry research organisation InfoTrends to gather comprehensive data about the wide-format printing community. The survey collected feedback from small, medium and large companies from across the world, including digital printers, manufacturers, screen printers and sign shops.
Your flexible friend
According to the results, while wide format graphics remain the primary application offered by print service providers, there are other applications that are gaining ground. This includes textiles, interior décor, soft signage and other on-demand, one-off products. In addition, printers and signmakers are increasingly responding to customer demands by using value-added techniques such as embossing, printing with white and metallic inks as well as spot varnishes and glosses.
Industrial printing, which includes segments such as electronics, automotive, glass, décor and ceramics, is another talking point for print service providers when it comes to opportunities for diversification and business development. Around 40% of respondents to the FESPA Print Census already produce industrial applications at some level and most expect this sector to grow over the next few years.
A passion for print
I for one am at FESPA full of enthusiasm, my mind open to the endless opportunities for print. An industry grows when passion drives imagination and innovation and this year I hope to discover multiple new universes for print, including some I never thought possible and some I could have only imagined.