Wide-Format: A Bright Spot in Print

By Lynn Nannariello, assistant managing editor, and Joe Tischner, wide format test specialist, May 1, 2012

When BLI recently spoke to representatives from two major wide-format manufacturers—HP and Océ—about the state of the wide-format market, we found that, contrary to recent reports, not all news in the print industry is bad.

According to Sal Sheikh, vice president of marketing for Océ North America’s wide-format printing systems division, Océ’s wide-format devices cover two applications environments—technical documents and display graphics—both of which have seen significant growth. He attributed the company’s growth in the technical document sector to Xerox’s exit from the wide-format technical document market. After Xerox left the market in 2011, Océ expanded its distribution by establishing relationships with resellers who previously sold Xerox products and with Xerox customers. In the display graphics market, growth came from sales of the Océ Arizona product line, a portfolio that continued to expand in 2011.

“We have grown significantly within the UV-curable flatbed arena with our Arizona line,” said Sheikh, who noted that from 2010 to 2011 Océ far exceeded the 20 percent market growth projected for the industry by market research analysts. “We are acknowledged now to be the market leader in volume in the UV-curable flatbed space for products in the $100,000 to $300,000 range,” he said, adding that about 3,000 Océ Arizona products have been shipped worldwide since the platform was launched in 2007.

HP’s Designjet wide-format devices are sold in three markets—signage, technical and photographic. According to Tomas Martin, worldwide strategic product marketing manager for HP’s large-format sign and display printing business, which includes HP Designjet and Scitex devices, the signage market is growing moderately, with digital pages increasing 11 percent year over year, while sales of analog devices, as would be expected, are in decline. Most notably, HP has seen growth for its sign and display devices for print applications as diverse as wall coverings for residential and commercial decoration, and personalization in packaging and promotional materials. Said Martin, “As advertisers look to maximize return-on-marketing-investment, the quick response of print promotion is something that brand owners appreciate more and more every day. HP sees this as a significant area of growth for digital providers who can offer faster turnaround times and variable data, increasing the effectiveness of marketing collateral.” Martin also identified HP’s sustainability practices—offering water-based latex inks and a number of recyclable large-format media, as well as the company’s recycling and educational programs, as differentiating factors engendering growth by appealing to green-minded print providers.

Because world-wide construction has been in a slump since the start of the recession, HP technical printer sales are growing at a slower pace, said Carlos Magrinya, worldwide strategic product marketing manager for HP’s large-format technical printing business. He expects that as the economy rebounds, so will the need for HP Designjet technical printers. Magrinya cited several HP innovations contributing to significant interest in the company’s technical printer line. For example, Magrinya believes that HP ePrint&Share, a free utility that enables file storage on and retrieval from the “cloud” and winner of a Summer 2011 BLI “Pick” for “Outstanding Achievement in Innovation,” is “going to capture new prints by tapping into latent needs in the market for connectivity and the possibilities mobile printing bring that were not previously available for wide-format printing.” He also said that Web connectivity, available on the Designjet T2300 eMFP, T1300 and T790 devices, “is creating renewal on our installed base as customers begin to understand the advantages they can realize in terms of workflow and efficiency by upgrading to these new technologies. Furthermore, the company’s recently introduced ePrint & Share iPhone application and new capability to print from AutoCAD WS have resulted in a high number of downloads and been very well accepted by the public.”

This article was originally posted on Buyer's Laboratory.