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Latest Wide Format Printers Give Dealers Better Choices

26 Nov, 2007 By: Infotrends Infotrends imageSource

Latest Wide Format Printers Give Dealers Better Choices

If you are considering adding wide-format printers to your portfolio there
are quite a few things you might like to know or be reminded of that might help
you along the way. The wide-format market is large and (we believe) very
profitable, but there are some challenges to selling wide-format that other
office products may not present.

The first thing you might want to do when a client asks you about wide-format
printers is ask what they intend to do with them. The reason for this is simple:
different applications require different equipment. The first thing to try to
establish is what type of company will be doing the printing. If it is a company
that is technically oriented, they may only want to print black-and-white
technical documents. A corporate user may want only to produce marketing
materials like presentation graphics and posters. A print-for-pay establishment
may want to do all different types of printing, including outdoor durable
graphics or textiles. There is such a wide variety of wide-format printing
equipment on the market today, that no matter what types of applications your
customers want to produce, there is a solution for everybody.


The wide-format technical document production market includes companies and
facilities that are architects, engineers, construction companies, utilities,
transportation and communications companies as well as government and
educational institutions. For technical document producing companies, there are
two primary printing technologies employed: LED and aqueous inkjet. LED printers
are fast and feature low running costs, but they are all monochrome only. There
have been two rather exciting developments in the wide-format LED printer
business recently. The first is the development of smart low-end digital LED
printing systems like the Xerox 6204, the KIP 3000 series, the Ricoh Aficio 240W
and the Océ TDS320. These systems are all intelligently designed with
functionality, modularity, and scale in mind, ready to be more easily deployed
in construction trailers and other job sites where wide-format technical
documents are used but where space is limited. The other exciting development is
the KIP Color 80, a first-of-its-kind wide-format color LED printer. The KIP
Color 80 would have the speed and low running costs of an LED printer but
provide the color capabilities that today are available only from inkjet
printers. While the KIP Color 80 is not available at press time, it was recently
seen at IRGA and Graph Expo and is reportedly going to be available in the U.S.
before the end of 2007.

Aqueous inkjet is the other primary technology used in the wide-format
technical document production market. The aqueous inkjet market is certainly
dominated by Hewlett-Packard’s popular DesignJet product line, and in fact HP
has refreshed its wide-format technical inkjet printer line with new models
called the T-series. These are low priced (starting at around $2,600) 24-inch
and 44-inch wide printers that are up to three times faster than previous
DesignJet technical printer models. In addition to HP’s new printers, there have
also been other products that should breathe life into a large but relatively
slow-growing technical inkjet market. Canon USA’s imagePROGRAF 610 and 710
printers are designed for the corporate and CAD markets. Canon has had quite a
bit of success selling these as standalone printers, but there are also
companies that have integrated a color scanner on top of the Canon inkjet
printer engine to create a wide format color copier that is selling for
approximately $18,000, which has also been pretty successful and profitable. At
the production end of the technical inkjet market are Oce’s TCS series color
inkjet printers. Oce’s printers are not typically configured for head-to-head
speeds and feeds comparisons because Océ likes to sell solutions, including
scanners and software. Whereas HP and Canon start off in the low thousands,
Oce’s solutions, which are designed for higher volume environments, are
typically priced between $30,000 and $40,000.

InfoTrends believes that shipments of wide format technical inkjet and
low-end LED printers in the U.S. will grow at a modest 4% over the forecast


The wide-format digital graphics business is one of the most dynamic parts
of the overall printing industry. InfoTrends tracks three inkjet technologies
that make up the vast majority of digital graphics printing systems sold
annually, aqueous inkjet, solvent inkjet, and UV-curable inkjet.

Aqueous inkjet is probably the easiest entry point for those just thinking of
entering the wide-format market because it is the most flexible printing
technology. By flexible, I mean having the ability to print technical documents
as well as graphics and even high-end photographic and fine art prints.  Aqueous
inkjet also represents the lowest entry point from an initial investment
standpoint, with prices starting at just a few thousand dollars for low-end
systems ranging up to $15-$18K for a wider, more robust system. Additionally,
companies just starting out might be attracted to aqueous inkjet printers
because the output typically has relatively higher average selling prices
compared to other graphics printing technologies. There have recently been a
number of major product introductions in the wide-format digital graphics market
that will have an important, and we think positive impact on the wide-format
market as a whole. Just in the past six months, the leaders in the aqueous
inkjet printer market have all refreshed their product lines with new systems
that are more versatile, easier to use, and provide much greater overall value
than previous models. At Graph Expo, Epson introduced a series of new products
it calls the 880 series, which are 17-inches, 24-inches, and 44-inches wide and
represent replacements for the company’s existing 800 series. The new 880 series
also included Epson’s first 64-inch wide model which is based on a new Epson
print head platform and new Epson ink set. Epson indicated that the color gamut
of the new printers is considerably better than its former UltraChrome K3 ink
set and that these printers are up to twice as fast as the 800 series they
replace. Canon also used the Graph Expo show to introduce new wide-format inkjet
printers called the S-series that are faster, but still provide the company’s
noted print quality. The new imagePROGRAF 8000s and imagePROGRAF 9000s sell for
the same price as their forerunners (which are still available for users who
want 12-color printing) but the new S-series use an 8-color ink system and 2
1-inch wide print heads to provide up to 40% greater print speed than the
12-color versions. Late last year Hewlett-Packard introduced new wide-format
graphics printers called the Z-series that come in 24 and 44-inch wide versions.
The HP Z-2100 and Z3100 are designed for the photographic and prepress market.
These new printers feature an integrated spectrophotometer and an available
12-color ink set. Earlier this year, HP added to the Z-series by launching the
DesignJet Z6100, a replacement for the DesignJet 5500 which was arguably the
most successful product in the wide-format market. The new Z6100 produces
excellent quality wide-format graphics prints and has a rated speed up to almost
1,000 square feet per hour. So, basically, all three of the major wide-format
aqueous inkjet system vendors have increased the speed and overall value of
their printers dramatically in the last 12 months.

Solvent – Eco-solvent – Light Solvent – Mild Solvent

From a dealer standpoint there are four major wide-format solvent inkjet
brands to be aware of: Roland, Mimaki, Mutoh, and HP. I say “from a dealer
standpoint” because these are all low-end and mid-range solvent inkjet system
providers; whereas, high-end systems suppliers typically sell direct to end
users. Solvent inkjet printers provide excellent value because they can reduce
printing costs in several ways. First, solvent ink is less expensive than
aqueous ink. Second, solvent inks work well even with uncoated print media, so
less expensive materials can be used. Third, outdoor graphics printed with
solvent-based inks do not typically need to be laminated to be resistant to the
elements, which further reduces materials cost plus time and labor costs.
Similar to the aqueous inkjet market, the leading solutions providers have all
improved their system offerings or modified their products to appeal to a wide
audience. Roland DGA is a good example, this year Roland launched new low-end
versions of its VersaCAMM integrated printing and cutting system that are likely
to be very successful with small sign shops. More recently, Roland announced new
74-inch wide version of its AdvancedJet, which originally came in a 104-inch
wide configuration. With this product, Roland took a robust system and made it
smaller, but still very productive, to broaden its appeal to smaller printing
establishments. Mimaki, Mutoh, and HP have all added to their solvent inkjet
product lines this year as well with different products that are wide, have
improved image quality, are lower priced, or feature new ink chemistries that
may make solvent inkjet more of a mainstream wide-format technology. Solvent
inkjet printers have selling prices starting at around $15,000 and range up to
about $125,000 in this class of equipment.


UV-curable inkjet is coming on strong as a wide-format inkjet graphics
production technology. Originally, almost all of the wide-format UV-curable
inkjet printers sold were configured as flatbed inkjet printers that were
designed for printing directly onto rigid substrates. Now though, UV-curable
inkjet printers are increasingly being configured for both rigid substrate and
flatbed printing. UV-curable inkjet printers have selling prices starting at
around $40,000 for the absolute lowest-priced models and range up to $150,000
for printers still sold through dealers. MacDermid ColorSpan, which came under
agreement to be acquired by Hewlett-Packard just as I was writing this article,
is the leading brand of  UV-curable inkjet printer in the U.S. market.
Earlier this year MacDermid ColorSpan launched narrower versions of its
UV-curable inkjet printer line which brought the initial investment price from
about $75,000 to under $55,000, again making UV-curable more interesting to a
broader set of users.

U.S. Wide-Format Graphics Printer Shipments

InfoTrends expects healthy, almost 7% annual growth, of wide-format digital
graphics printer shipments over the forecast period as market like outdoor
advertising, point-of-purchase graphics, vehicle graphics, fine art, and real
estate signage all provide growing demand for wide-format digital production
capacity. For dealers who are considering wide-format as a growth option, I
would suggest contacting the manufacturers you presently represent, most of
which have some wide-format alternatives. Wide-format is a large and dynamic
market, but one that requires a more consultative sales effort because there are
many technologies and product options.

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