Not too long ago I attended the IRgA annual conference and continued to see a growing trend I first saw at an ISA show several years ago in Las Vegas. Ink jet printers that many in the traditional graphic arts (commercial and publication printing) have viewed as proofing devices are competing increasingly for commercial print dollars. IRgA is the organization that used to, almost exclusively, represent blueprint printers. While many of these companies still produce blueprints and architectural drawings, they are also now heavily involved in the sign and point of purchase market.
As I walked the show floor at the conference, a high percentage of the booths contained large format printers that are used in traditional graphic arts. Just as many innovative small and mid-size commercial printers have discovered that these devices purchased for proofing can be used for signage printing, so has the IRgA. Why not bid on the signs for the architects grand unveiling of the new skyscraper? Why not bid on the signs for the construction site? For that matter, why not bid on the signage for the new building? It is, after all, almost always easier to acquire additional business from an existing customer than it is to land a new customer.
Several other factors are driving this growth in wide format ink jet printing.
– Faster printer speeds
– Ink technology improvements
– Expanding media choices
– Expanding post print options (vacuum forming, etc)
As the ink jet industry matures and blurs the lines between sign shops, blueprint printers, and commercial printers, print buyers are becoming increasingly more comfortable with the print quality attainable via ink jet, not to mention some of the cost and turnaround time benefits. Finally, as more consumer product companies begin to rely upon wide format ink jet printing as part of the marketing mix, color quality becomes increasingly important.
I know this to be a fact because; large format ink jet print shops are a rapidly grown market segment of ProofPass.com user base. Some of these wide format digital printers have become multi-plant national concerns. As such, they work with critical color customers who expect color to be maintained with 3-4 delta E tolerance. These multi-plant shops also want the ability to shift work between locations, which requires that they know devices in different locations produce color in the same way. This verification process is simple with a tool like ProofPass.com that centralizes color measurement results in a single web-browser accessible internet database.
Overall, the growth of effective color management and methodologies like G7 has further blurred the lines of competition in the graphic arts industry. Standardized color is now a barrier to entry. If you are not capable of consistently producing “Coke” red, trust me someone else is and will take any business you have from that customer away from you.