According to The Future of Inkjet Printing to 2023 (see market report from Smithers Pira), the global market for inkjet printing will grow at a rate of 9.4% year-on-year and will be worth $109 billion in 2023. This contrasts positively with the general outlook for the print industry where growth is occurring at a more moderate 0.8% annually.
In 2018 the total value of inkjet printing in graphics and packaging applications will reach $69.6 billion, with a total print volume equivalent to 749 billion A4 prints. This volume will consume some 103,700 tonnes of ink, with the end-users spending $8.7 billion, while the market for new inkjet equipment will be $3.6 billion.
Dr Sean Smyth, print consultant at Smithers Pira author of the report, comments: ‘The economics and reliability of inkjet are consistently improving as a result of heavy investment in printing heads, machinery, inks and drying systems, associated software and – increasingly – substrates. There is strong growth across most of these disparate activities because the non-impact process is very flexible and capable of printing at high-quality and speed, making it suitable to print many products, while the cost position is becoming more economic against most analogue printing alternatives.’
‘Inkjet is winning market share from analogue processes as well as opening up new applications, with new routes to market and workflows developing. In packaging, changing retail supply chains along with strong growth in e-commerce – now including mobile-enabled ‘m-commerce’ – are pushing further adoption of inkjet as brands and retailers look to communicate with end users in new ways. Equipment manufacturers and converters are exploring new functions enabled by versioning and personalisation on packs as packaging is used in new ways to engage with consumers.’
With the potential of inkjet – principally in short run and variable data printing – increasingly appreciated it is changing printer business models, disrupting established supply chains, and adding new value-adding options.
While advertising will continue to be the largest end-use application across 2018-2023, the most rapid growth will come from wider use of inkjet in:
- Commercial printing.
Beyond these core applications developers are exploring ways of leveraging the flexibility of inkjet to open new market applications, such as:
- 3D printing
- Automotive and transport printing
- Biomedical printing
- Ceramics printing
- Décor and laminate printing
- Direct-to-shape printing
- Glass printing
- Printed electronics
- Textile printing
Many of these opportunities will require integrating the inkjet process with robotics aligning with the wider Industry 4.0 trend. The Airbus A320 family paint shop in Hamburg, for example, has employed direct inkjet printing to decorate aircraft, with a lower weight than traditional paint or stencils on the tail of a plane.