InfoTrends’ Survey on Digital and Conventional Printing

Fig. 1: Converters top concerns about their conventional press technologies.

Fig. 2: Converters top concerns about their color digital press technologies.

Fig. 3: General type or types of printing equipment used.

Fig. 4: Most wanted technology upgrades, assuming no budget constraints.

Xeikon 3300 digital (electrophotographic) printing press.

Converters have good reasons to want digital printing capabilities.

InfoTrends recently surveyed converters of labels, folding cartons, and flexible packaging in North America, ultimately to ask a few overarching questions: What do converters want when it comes to print technology? What are their pain points? How can digital printing presses help? Our survey, of course, asked many other questions, but those are the key ones. This month we offer some of the answers from the report’s Web survey of 228 total converters (104 label converter, 67 folding carton converters, and 57 flexible packaging converters), and our personal interviews with 35 of them. First, two summary points:

  • There is high interest among all converters and
    even brand owners in color digital printing,
    especially for its ability to print short runs.
  • Color digital print technology meets some of
    converters’ most important needs, in particular
    as a cost-effective alternate to conventional
    presses for many print jobs.

To this second point, we add another general finding: in spite of the success in the market of companies such as EFI Jetrion, HP Indigo, Xeikon, and others, many converters are still not aware of how practical and profitable color digital printing can be.

What do customers want?

Regarding the specific sentiments of converters today, ones we interviewed personally say their customers want short runs of print for two main reasons: (1) to be lean in their own manufacturing; and (2) to be able to target markets precisely with particular versions. These two items are megatrends for brand owners and, in turn, for converters. Besides underlying priorities, the research uncovered and measured converters’ main pain points. Figure 1 charts the total responses of each group of converters in the survey when asked to rank up to five out of 12 possible sources of frustration or concern about their conventional press technology. (By total responses, we mean the total votes for each response option, whatever the ranking by each respondent.) We focus first on the results to this “pain-points” question because conventional presses are so dominant for all types of label and package converting, and are thus the print technology that color digital presses must compete against.

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  • Chris Lynn

    There are 3 ways to address the concern re "finishing line for a color digital press":
    1. Invest in digital finishing technology, like Highcon for folding carton converters
    2. For label printers, print digitally, rewind, and run through current finishing technology – inefficient
    3. Add inline digital printing, like the DICE (digital inkjet color engine) to an existing narrow web press – making use of existing investments in converting equipment.