In 2017 digital printing accounts for 16.2% of the global print market value and 2.9% of the volume. This is up from 2.1% of the volume in 2012, and the transition is accelerating to 3.9% of volume by 2022, according to the latest research from Smithers Pira.
In 2017, litho still dominates the world print landscape in terms of the number of pages printed. By 2022 it will still account for over 70% of the world print output, but much litho print is relatively low-value publication printing – such as newspapers, magazines and directories; which are falling – while the most lucrative opportunities lie in value-adding work using digital print.
"The relative cost position of analogue and digital printing is continually changing as new equipment comes on to the market, and the volumes of toner and inkjet grow while prices fall. This is generally making digital print more cost-effective against traditional analogue printing at ever higher run lengths. There is a continuing trend of falling run lengths as print buyers act to make sure their content is up to date and there is pressure to reduce the amount of inventory and work-in-progress. The result is a continuation of the analogue-to-digital print transformation," said Dr Sean Smyth, report author.
Workflow developments are lowering the transaction costs associated with print, opening new market opportunities to individuals and micro-businesses.
Sheetfed litho has benefited as printers group jobs together on large sheets to share the set-up costs. Using high levels of automation is reducing the set-up times and waste, making litho more cost-effective against cut-sheet colour toner presses.
These incremental developments are mirrored across all printing processes, and many companies are adopting advanced manufacturing techniques to further improve their efficiencies.
The biggest changes are in inkjet, where the achievable quality has greatly improved, along with the reliability and consistency of the printing. The development money in inkjet dwarfs all other technology developments in printing and packaging and this will continue. Single-pass sheetfed and webfed presses are now available and are firmly aimed at most printing applications.