With so many players focusing on green solution like UV technology coupled with hybrid printers, the domestic industry is soon going to witness a printing overhaul.
It won’t be wrong to mention that the advent of UV printing technologies has ushered in a new era for the wide format printing industry, taking printing and finishing technology to the next level. This has further got an upsurge with the introduction of LED. Driven by changes in printing methods followed by the advancement in the digital printing technologies, a profound digital transformation is underway within the domestic printing industry. With such growth frontiers like never before, it is pretty obvious that the wide format printing is underway to get an unparallel face-over.
Factors Fuelling the Demand for UV
According to Smarth Bansal, Sr. Product Manager, Colorjet India, the buzz right now is definitely on UV Digital printing. “It’s the latest cutting-edge version of a printing technology which has found its footing and is getting strength with each passing day in the industry. Today, customers want UV print finished jobs with Gloss. Industry as varied as high-end packaging items, wedding invitation cards, toys, interiors, signage & everything in between.”
Bansal further adds that the introduction of UV technology, however, was not initially fruitful for heat-sensitive substrates as the heat-guzzler UV lamps could deteriorate the shape of the printed materials. “It’s the advent of LED that made users consider new alternatives as media, focusing on substrates like MDF, ABS, Acrylic, etc., And the credit goes to the green technology, not only in the form of inks, but also drying mechanism of the UV technology.”
He insists that since there is no heat in the LED, it is the best solution for virtually all substrates irrespective of that being heat-sensitive. “LED UV is a green technology, consumes less power and its lamp life is high.At the end of the day, however, a technology is a means to an end. It all depends on how a PSP (Print Service Provider) or the end user plans to harness its potential.”
Almost similar are the observations of the other industry stakeholders. “Keeping in view the current Indian market perspective, varied needs like printing on fabric to flex to acrylic to foam-board and PCs etc., UV technology is the best available option covering entire spectrum of signage industry needs. From the corporate angle, it provides colour and image integrity on variety of media which has been the dream of brand managers these days, and is impossible from the conventional solvent/eco-solvent based printers,” says Kirti Vijay Sharma, Director, Apsom Infotex Ltd.
According to him, the contributing factors to this growth are many. “The outdoor space is limited due to stringent regulations by Civic authorities, which has witnessed a clear shift from quantity to quality signages for the limited space available. Further, the growing mall culture has changed the focus on to the indoor signage, making the viewing distance shorter when compared with the outdoor. This imperative move from indoor to outdoor has created the need for flawless quality signage/displays,” underscores Sharma.
Adding further to the prospects, Nishant Shah, CEO, Caterpillar Signs Pvt. Ltd. opines that UV technology isn’t new anymore. “However, it has evolved beyond anyone’s expectations over the past few years.
The market is growing rapidly so are the capabilities. Needless to mention that new leads, new ideas, new technologies, value-added services, diversifications, good marketing & customisations are contributing to the growth of UV technology in India,” he explains adding that it can take printing companies to the next level of profitability & market share in future.
Shah suggests that dye sublimation fabric prints touching on most indoor P.O.P. applications that have traditionally been done on vinyl or rigid. “The popularity of the newer silicone edge graphics (SEG) customised fabric frame systems have become a preferred material for interior backlit and sidelight signage. Print on Senfa Fabric material, mainly used for Backlit Boxes, is talk of the town these days, where CP signs has worked for reputed brands like Vivo, Shobha Asar, Gitanjali Jewellers, Orra, Inoways Displays, Khushi Advertising and many more,” he asserts.
Vir Vikram Bhatia, Managing Director, Apsom Technologies (India) Pvt. Ltd. has a pretty different opinion on why UV is picking up so fast. According to him, last few years especially the era of 2008 to 2015 witnessed many traders picking up cheaper machines of substandard quality from China and supplied those to their Indian clients. “People have already experienced the bad taste and are now asking for good quality machines. Eventually, there emerged many quality machine suppliers and are making considerable business out of it. The future is, of course, very bright with UV plus fabric printing especially owing to the environmental hazards of solvent technology.”
However, Atul Gandhi, Managing Director, Macart Equipment Pvt. Ltd., feels that the impact is a bit foreign-based. “We noted a huge potential in the UV printing applications in India, plus the machineries catering for these applications have to be imported and are expensive. Taking this into consideration, we developed the cost-effective UVision press to cater to the local needs,” he says adding that the first machine has been sold to Hyderabad-based Siyaram Doors Enterprises. Ashok Patel of Siyaram Doors Enterprises, stated that he is satisfied with the built quality of the machine. “Its ability to print directly on doors aptly suited our business requirements.”
Going forward, Sam Patel, Managing Director, Arrow Digital Pvt. Ltd. claims to keep filling the vacuum in the country’s printing market in time and again. “Around five years back, we brought UV technology to India with the introduction of VUTEk. Then it was latex, ruling from the roost. We took the responsibility and now we can clearly notice that the UV technology is right on track. The market has rather got inclined towards UV because with just a small investment of Rs. 30-35 lakh, people are preferring investing in UV rather than opting any other technology which is not good for the environment.”
According to him, for now there started the green momentum. “We are working with fabric/textile manufacturers/suppliers like Arvind to let the PVC out from the market to push for green solution. Apart from that thermoforming is also picking up fast. It is cheaper and faster and brings sturdy output when compared with 3D printing. One can simply print and thermoform as the kind of ink needed for the purpose has already been developed and is proficient. It doesn’t crack now. This all could be possible because of UV technology,” Patel elaborates.
Arrow Digital distributes a range of materials equipment for the digital printing and cutting markets. The company claims to have pioneered many ground breaking technologies and has been a leader in the digital printing/cutting field since decades; providing digital printing solutions to the Indian market. Arrow has given the most effective solutions to the world of digital printing, making dedicated efforts to take digital printing to great heights in various applications and industries.
Enhancing Options for PSPs
Bansal suggests that the demand for UV print comes from customers and its requirements vary from job to job. “The demand is for something different to attract attention. Most of customers ask for UV print away from conventional printing. Today, UV printing is the best technology for value addition. We want to make things beautiful. We want to produce new textures of UV Varnish and focus more on value addition. Print buyers want new things and we always work towards delivering these,” he shares.
According to him, Colorjet’s UV PSP’s in India are from diverse segments such as Toys, Leather Garments, Interior-Glass/Tiles/ WPC, Photo, Signage, etc. “Now, the things have changed and the rise of UV Gloss can be traced back to need to have distinct product differentiation, where UV print helps as it could be easily applied to multiple substrates irrespective of their being rigid or flexi. Also, UV print & gloss proved that attractive and eye-catching product enhance the value & packaged material.Like every technology, it has its pros and cons. On the positive side, it gives attractive results, high printing cost with increase in quality,” he cautions.
Sharma points out that UV opens up many innovative signage formats since it is possible now to print on any media like wood, glass, tiles, etc., apart from acrylic and PC. “Moreover, it has enhanced the role of fabric, acrylic, PC with double strike colour or white colour followed by 2/3 layers of printing thereby pushing the demand for LED-lit digitally printed UV signages, because all this is not possible with solvent/ eco-solvent/latex. Last but not the least, rapidly increasing use of UV technology has brought down the cost within the reach of any good Sign maker/convertor,” he stresses.
Gandhi suggests that the trend is changing as besides signage industry, there is plenty of demand coming from interior as well. “People nowadays want to print on various different surfaces like grass, wood, acrylic, concrete, PVC doors, etc., which is actually driving the demand for UV technology. This is, of course, apart from serving the need of signage industry. Keeping all this in mind, we have developed this multi-purpose machine that can touch a printing speed of up to 400 sqft. an hour. Noting the popularity, the target is to produce 4-5 machines in a month as the orders for this machine have started pouring in,” he avers adding that he did have the technology, but it wasn’t UV.
Industry Statistics and Forecasts
A report in the name of Large Format Printer Market by Offering (Printers, RIP software, Services), Printing Technology (Inkjet, Laser), Ink Type (Aqueous, Solvent, UV Cured, Latex, Dye Sublimation), Print Width, Application, and Geography – Global Forecast to 2023, which has been published by MarketsandMarkets™, the market is expected to grow from US$ 8.37 Billion in 2017 to US$ 10.59 Billion by 2023, at a CAGR of 4% between the given duration.
All this growth is attributed to the increasing demand for large format printing in the textile, advertising, and packaging industries; the rising adoption of UV-curable inks in outdoor advertising, CAD, and technical printing applications; and the growing importance of digital document production in commercial printing applications.
The main advantage of UV-cured ink, which primarily consists of acrylic monomers with a photo initiator, is that it dries quickly as soon as it getscured. Also, it can be applied to a wide range of substrates. It produces a robust image regardless of the type of substrate it is applied with. Owing to the high density, UV-curable inks are capable of being printed on rigid substrates. This has increased the use of UV-curable inks for printing on PoS/PoP, wood, metal, glass, and other such substrates.
Wide format printers with a print width ranging from 44” to 60” is expected to hold the largest share of the large format printer market between 2017 and 2023. These printers are well-suited for high-quality indoor and outdoor applications including those for PoP/PoS exhibition, event graphics, exterior signage, and floor graphics, while the secondary applications encompass digital fine arts and photo printing.
The wide format printer ecosystem comprises hardware component manufacturers, prototype designers, and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs); large format printer suppliers such as HP Inc. (US), Canon Inc. (Japan), Epson (Japan), Roland DG Corporation (Japan), Mimaki (Japan), Ricoh (Japan), Agfa Gevaert (Belgium), Konika Minolta (Japan), and EFI Inc. (US) among others.
Market is Flooded with UV-Based Hybrid Products
Citing the growing market and the opportunities therein, quite a few big names from the technology suppliers’ fraternity have rolled out their respective latest with added features. Dilli is one such name that claims to be the world’s largest and the best UV Printer manufacturer, and is the OEM supplier to leading European brands. The company that has already launched its neo-titan and neo-sun series in India has recently augmented it with one more addition.
“Our Neo Sirius is the latest from the Dilli’s Neo Series bouquet after the launch of Neo Sun and Neo Titan. Neo Sirius boasts of Ricoh Gen five printheads and LED lamps which are air-cooled that make it more efficient using much less power. It facilitates easy printing even on those media which are heat sensitive. It’s a multi-purpose printer and allows printing on any type of media surfaces – be it conventional or fabric or textile or any new media so far introduced in the industry. The speed is at around 600 sqft per hour,” elaborates Sharma.
According to Sharma, this new printer probably has the best price to performance ratio. “It comes with conveyer belt, which enables continuous printing unlike flatbed on which media needs to be changed after each round of printing. At the same time, the option of printing role to role is there making it a high-quality hybrid printer of its kind,” he asserts adding that Dilli chose India to launch its new series to the world of printing. “This is nothing, but officiating the growth of wide format in the country.”
Sharma informs that since 2003, Dilliis developing, manufacturing and offering the most comprehensive range of UV printer with width ranging from 1.6m to 5m. These printers are either roll to roll, true flatbed or hybrid and are based on the best of heads in the industry Konica Minolta, Kyocera or Ricoh Gen 5, with a promising DPI upto 2400 and speed upto 235sqm per hr. The latest addition is Neo Sirius Printer range which is based on High performance Ricoh Gen 5 heads and PIcasso Digital press with a commendable speed of 60m/min.
The other big name is pretty indigenous i.e. Colorjet India, which has been pushing its range of UV printing solutions for quite some time now. Verve Hybrid – a flatbed printer as well as the roll-to-roll printer – is capable of printing 10×6 inches flatbed size and 10 inches roll form, Vulcan is a 3.2 meter UV LED roll-to-roll printer with V8 technology and automatic ink regulator, while Softjet Grand is a soft signage printer, that can print directly on fabric using aqueous based disperse inks on a 3.2 meter roll to roll.
Bansal insists that the technological gamut from Colorjet banner is the perfect printing solution for complex technical or industrial printing applications, where accurate and repeatable print geometry is critical. “The solution offers day-night effect printing by using colour-white-colour technology. With all this, we at Colorjet are eyeing a larger pie in the European and Australian markets, besides catering to the needs of our elongated list of Asian customers.
Apsom Technologies, another leading name in technology suppliers to the country’s printing world, has come up with its all new 8-pigments, hybrid – roll to roll & flatbed printer. “We have introduced our new hybrid printer from Xenon, a Chinese manufacturer of repute for which we are exclusive dealer in India. In all, they have 6-7 models, which we are pushing in to the Indian market. For this machine specifically, the Chinese technology giant has used Toshiba industrial head which is the cheapest among its counterparts from Ricoh, Kyocera, and Konica Minolta,” says Bhatia.
He feels that the future for UV technology is quite glossy as the demand is coming more for UV. “We want to push this machine that has been developed with multifunctional attributes. Aimed particularly at the ever growing signage market, we are pushing our new machine aggressively to our potential customers from across the country. Keeping in view the robust quality of this feature-rich hybrid printer, we are expecting good clientsfor this machine in near future. We already have booked two machines, informs Bhatia.
One important name in the league is Pune-based wide-format print equipment manufacturer, Macart. The company has unveiled UVision flatbed UV inkjet printer which has been indigenously developed by the firm. “Except for the Konica Minolta printhead featuring six picolitre, all the other parts including the electronics, RIP software, UV lamps and the bed has been manufactured or sourced locally. The machine can be customised to various applications like the interior, ceramics, textile, boards, etc. and is capable of printing on substrates with thickness up to 50mm at a maximum speed of 400sqmt/hr,” informs Gandhi.
Furthermore, technology giants like Fujifilm and Mimaki are only adding to the options at a rather high speed. Fujifilm unveils Uvistar Hybrid 320 super wide UV printer a 3.2-metre UV printer is equipped with a combination of flatbed and roll-to-roll printer, which is capable of producing quality output at speeds of up to 201 square meters an hour.The aim is to strengthen its graphic arts business, which is one of the most important drivers for the company’s growth in the Indian market.
Featuring Dimatix Q-Class printheads and VersaDrop jetting technology which enables the press to the image in greyscale with droplet sizes ranging from 10-30 pl, the printer is designed to produce the finest details at the fastest speed. In addition, the Uvistar Hybrid 320 has a ‘continuous board’ capability that increases productivity when feeding multiple sheets of the same stock during production which offers time savings between sheets as the print carriage continues moving.
Mimaki has recently expanded its UCJV range of LED-UV print-n-cut machines to add three new, smaller versions that the manufacturer hopes will extend the market reach of the technology.Joining the existing 1.6m-wide UCJV300-160 model, that the company had launched last year, will be the UCJV300-75, UCJV300-107, and UCJV300-130, with print widths of up to 0.8m, 1.09m and 1.36m respectively.The printers in the series are all said to feature low running costs and instantly dry ink, which allows printing to a wide range of materials, including PET film, fabric and heat-sensitive media.
The integrated cutting functionality on the machines enables users to create applications including labels, decals, window clings, floor graphics, POP displays, vehicle markings, packaging and prototypes in a single unit.All three new models will feature Greenguard Gold certified LUS-170 inks – including an opaque white ink, new ID Cut function for automatic cutting of consecutive jobs via barcode, and four-layer day/night printing, which the company believes that it enables designers to build layered graphics for backlit applications.
All these are seemingly the logical next step in this journey of wide format evolution ensuring that the PSPs in the super wide market can have access to the latest technologiesand keep maximizing the quality and productivity to help them grow their businesses. No wonder, printer manufacturers across the country are enhancing their capabilities by incorporating newer technologies, the LED UV in exclusive.
Awareness on the Go
On awareness front, all the stakeholders are of the same opinion like giving more options to the customers by adding new products to the respective portfolios. This is besides, keeping the existing customers aware about the latest trends and improvements in the printing industry, especially for UV printing. Furthermore, they all believe in demonstrating end products to potential customers and showing them how they can still make money at the same timeby being responsible citizens through contributing towards making the environment greener and cleaner.
The best way for all this is to continuously participate in the concerned trade shows and keep the visitors astounding with new technologies. The trade shows actually provide them the needed platforms where they can meet their potential customers in person and can easily make them understood the trend and technologies. Besides, they keep organizing meets of their respective associates to let them about what new has been added to the kitty and how is it going help them boos their businesses.
Expanding Share in the Pie
As we know, when it comes to wide format printing, there are many technologies in practice. “Worldwide the green technologies like UV and water-based have become de-facto standard in the developed countries; while in India, the solvent /eco-solvent/ water-based together have a huge pie (may be close to 90%). In the next three years, the scenario is expected to change to make it 50:50 and thereon it will be only one way traffic,” anticipates Sharma.
Shah’s estimation is bit elaborative. “As per the work experience, knowledge and market stipulations, we can split the different printing technologies as: UV – 15%, Eco-Solvent – 25%, Solvent – 35%, Latex – 15%, and Sublimation – 10%. This pie would get a big change in the next couple of years and would look like: UV – 35%, Eco-Solvent–20%, Solvent – 5%, Latex – 10% and Sublimation – 30%. We will see a paradigm shift towards sublimation and UV,” he foresees.
With technology accelerating and transforming at a neck breaking speed with one thing in common – inclination towards LED UV, the need of the hour is to hop onto this wagon of technological integration and future-proof printing solution wherein hybrid printers are rapidly making inroad. It is evident that the markets are in the process of rapid transition from print-first to digital-first. Hence, the future of the world of wide format printers will be determined by how the industry reinvents itself in the digital-first universe.