The report, the Future of Digital Printing for Packaging, said a major driver for the sector is the demand for customisation and shorter press runs, which has been triggered by the need to limit dormant inventory. The current economic crisis means that on-demand printing of digital labels and packages is now critical since this saves on waste as less material, energy and inks are used, said the research.
Turnaround times for jobs have also been slashed thanks to an increase in the use of standard digital artwork files. These can be sent via email and set up by the recipient quickly and easily.
“Thus, jobs that used to take a few days earlier can now be turned around in an afternoon, in keeping with the just-in-time supply chain sought by brand owners,” said the Pira study.
Digital printing refers to any technology that regenerates the image to be reproduced every time a copy is to be printed. The image carrier is either dynamic (as with toner) or virtual (as with inkjet).
One advantage of digital printing is that – despite some set up time – it eliminates the need for prepress and expensive conventional press make-ready. This greatly reduces costs, said the report. The ability of digital presses to print on a wide variety of substrates also underlines its versatility over other printing methods.
Digital printing is forecast to grow most strongly in the flexible packaging sector. The report estimates the segment will multiply four or five times by 2014, “driven by the brand owners' search for innovation and the converters' desire for faster press speeds”.
Some of this growth could come at the expense of the folding cartons sector, which has slowed in recent years as brand owners beginning to switch to purely flexible packing, said the report authors.
The food and drink sector has seen strongest growth in this area due mainly to lower historical usage of digital printing technology. This penetration is predicted to rise sharply in the next five years “due to a growth in general production packaging and labelling”, said the Pira experts. The food and drink segment will generate $616m in global sales, climbing by 28 per cent annually to $2.1bn by 2014.
The largest application for the digital print in packaging market is general production – the most traditional production function. This is especially applicable for labelling. General production in labelling and packaging is forecast to increase from $931m by the end of this year to $2.45bn by 2014.
Western Europe and North America are estimated to experience lowest growth rates over the review period, while the Asia Pacific, Eastern Europe and South America will see greatest growth. Pira predicts that this growth trend divides along developed and developing country lines – citing as examples 19 per cent in North America compared to 33 per cent in Eastern Europe.
The Future of Digital Printing for Packaging is available now from Pira for £3,500