Drupa shows digital and packaging offer routes to rejuvenating world print markets

The latest analysis from Smithers Pira has identified six key technology developments that will fuel new business models and revenue streams in world print markets 2016-2026.

With the state-of-the-art in print technology on show at drupa 2016 the new Smithers report Post-drupa Technology Forecast for Print and Printed Packaging to 2026 analyses these and contextualises them within a print market that will undergo profound changes across the next decade. The six trends identified by Smithers analysis are:

  • The arrival of more high-quality, high-performance, reliable industrialised inkjet printers, capable of handling an increasingly diverse range of substrates
  • The evolution of highly autonomous litho print systems enabling higher throughput and cutting labour costs
  • The refocussing of many manufacturers to develop print solutions for packaging, particularly value-adding toner and inkjet options. This is being met by product launches in consumables – inks, varnishes, paper and other substrates – to match this new emphasis on packaging
  • A new interest in enhanced range of print embellishment products and processes, to add luxury appearance and better tactile effects to printed products
  • The evolution of more sophisticated workflow software to allow print service providers to accept and manage the more numerous and shorter run jobs that are characterising modern print markets, with minimal operator input
  • The pending further commercialisation of functional print engines for additive manufacturing (3D print) and printing electronics.

In 2016 printing business is fairly unattractive, as a combination of forces act to drive down overall profitability in a mature sector that is approaching pure competition and commodity in some areas.

The technology on show at drupa 2016 will invigorate new segments – led by packaging and digital printing – will help foster cross-industry annual growth of 4.6% across the next five years. This will create a global market Smithers values at $812 billion in 2021.

End consumer preferences are changing and this is causing turmoil in many print sectors. Particularly hard hit are publication rotogravure and web offset – commercial, newspaper, book and continuous stationery presses. Only flexo is really growing in analogue print, and this is from its packaging. Sheetfed litho is overall fairly stable, with growth in packaging as some commercial demand is eroded. These trends were echoed in the exhibitors at drupa providing many new packaging and label solutions, both analogue and (particularly) digital.

Sean Smyth author of the report

Smithers’ analysis shows that while in 2026 many print formats will be broadly to their 2016 iterations, the routes to market will be different, with an emphasis on making production methods more efficient, and lowering overall environmental impacts.

Understanding the application and full future potential of new equipment is vital to staying competitive as the print market undergoes profound change. This will allow the enhancement of many printed materials be versioned, making them more relevant and targeted to the consumer, positioning them to compete with other emerging media channels.

The strategic analysis in Post-drupa Technology Forecast for Print and Printed Packaging to 2026 is based on comprehensive participation from drupa 2016, in-depth interviews with the leading players in the print value chain, including machinery suppliers, raw material and substrate manufacturers, inks and pigments suppliers, consumables suppliers, printers, publishers and print buyers. Secondary research was based on extensive literature analysis of published data and trade statistics.


Post-drupa Technology Forecast for Print and Printed Packaging to 2026 is available for £4,200.
For press enquiries or a more detailed article, please contact Julie Bostock:
Tel: +44 (0) 1372 802 035
 jbostock@smithers.com