Packaging is the growth engine for global print

According to Smithers Pira, digital processes will see the fastest growth across 2017-2022, leaving the previously dominant offset litho declining in terms of value.

In 2017 digital printing accounts for 16.2% of the global print market value – $785.1 billion and 2.9% of the volume. This is up from 2.1% of the volume in 2012, and the transition is accelerating to 3.9% of volume by 2022, when new high-performance equipment will be in operation in most applications. The value of litho will drop from 48.1% of all print and printed packaging in 2012 down to 39.5% in 2022. Only flexography shows a rise in share among analogue processes.

The top line

Litho still dominates in terms of the number of prints and pages, and by 2022 it will still account for over 70% of world print output. Much of this is relatively low-value newspaper, magazine and book printing, while other analogue processes are growing their shares. Digital print remains a very small proportion of the volume – growing from 2.1% in 2012 to 4.3% by 2022 – but its value is much greater, with 20% of global print value accounted for by inkjet and electrophotography by 2022.

The penetration of digital into the mix of print applications varies considerably. In advertising, direct mail was built on personalised printing using digital systems, while the short run sign and display segments were early adopters of inkjet technologies. Inkjet has also penetrated deeply into label print on narrow-web platforms and is now moving to larger formats and other substrates, like corrugated board.

Commercial printing companies have adopted digital for short runs and variable data work. Typically these have begun on toner systems which have become more reliable and delivered higher quality as the segment has evolved, this is now levelling off with much of the interest now switching  meaning there is now strong interest in larger format sheetfed inkjet presses, replacing toner SRA3 machines.

Packaging is the growth engine for global print with volumes and values forecast to grow. There is no substitution by electronic alternatives, and this growth sector has been identified by many digital press suppliers as the best future opportunity. This is reflected in the number of press launches and concepts at trade shows and under non-disclosure agreements by both from specialist digital press developers, and analogue equipment suppliers.

Analogue vs digital print

Analogue printing will fall globally across 2012-2022 in value terms in all print product sectors, except for packaging and labels. By volume (A4 sheet equivalents) magazine and security print are growing too. The prospects for analogue print are better in the emerging markets of Asia, Latin America, Africa, Eastern Europe and the Middle East.

The strongest growth area for analogue printing is in flexography, which is being driven by the growing packaging and labels applications. This print process is forecast to grow by 2.5% CAGR through to 2022 to reach a global market value of $186 billion.

Digital print is growing its share of the overall print market, taking share from existing analogue volume in some applications and opening up new possibilities and new product categories and is forecast to reach a global market value of $169 billion by 2022 growing on average by 5.9% CAGR.

Digital print for packaging will be the key market opportunity for digital print as Smithers estimates it will grow by 22% CAGR through to 2022 to reach a global market value of around $8.4 billion.

Inkjet is the fastest-growing print process. It is increasingly being adopted in more applications as the quality, reliability and economics of the process improve and the expenditure on R&D bears fruit. It is becoming mainstream in low-, medium- and high-volume production, as well as proofing and prototyping.

Many innovations have led to inkjet being used in most print segments with little in common except the use of inkjet heads and inks. All the sectors are growing across the period. Advertising print, including display and direct mail, is the biggest sector, worth some $29 million in 2012, growing to nearly $50 million in 2022. This is the lowest application growth rate as the base was so large in 2012, with big growth forecast is in packaging post-2017.

Technology developments

Print technology developments continue apace. There are incremental improvements to established analogue and digital presses.

Drupa 2016 provided a useful staging post for showcasing how print technology has developed, with useful signposts for the future. The show demonstrated:

  • Analogue printing taking lessons from Industrie 4.0 techniques, boosting productivity through communication, workflow and autonomous control
  • Flexography prepress and press control boosting achievable quality levels
  • Inkjet print quality, reliability and performance means it can now compete in many more print – and importantly – packaging applications
  • New indirect inkjet methods offer much promise – with Canon joining Landa in showing a prototype system
  • Cost and performance of digital technologies continues to improve, in niches and in mainstream commercial, publishing and packaging print applications
  • Larger format (B2 and B1) sheetfed digital presses are being launched
  • More established analogue press vendors are embracing inkjet
  • Workflow developments continue to shape production improvements and open new routes to market.

The development money in inkjet dwarfs all other technology developments in printing and packaging and this is the core reason why inkjet why it will outperform and take share from offset and other competing system in over the next five years. It is also the only segment that can expect the arrival of significant new systems and platform technologies across the forecast period, with totally new press designs from companies new to the sector – albeit with people who have gained much experience with previous employers; and equipment being developed by companies partnering to pool their skills and market knowledge.

The Future of Digital vs Offset Printing to 2022 contains further global market data and analysis. To download a brochure and view purchasing details, click here.

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