Where is the Future of Print Headed?

How will the printing industry evolve in the foreseeable future? The printing industry is forecasted to reach a market value of $600 billion in 2020. Based on this number, there is a clear future for all areas of the printing process. Let’s take a look at where all the major printing methods are headed!

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Currently, we are in a revival of the letterpress. The wedding industry has many couples using letterpress for their wedding invitations, and this trend looks to continue as more people explore letterpress for special projects such as invitations, business cards, and coasters. An increasing number of Americans are seeking an escape from the impersonal and chaotic use of the web. They are seeking out the old methods in an effort to feel more connected to their work, and letterpress fits the bill.

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In 2013, packaging was the largest segment of Flexographic printing at 80% due to the quick drying process across many different substrates. However, interest in flexo is decreasing as digital begins to handle more substrates and increase print speeds. Flexo is experiencing reductions in run lengths. There is significant development in the pre-production stage, improving quality while reducing costs due to the lengthy artwork approval process. Still, experts predict that advancements in plates, anilox rollers, inks, plate mounting, and curing ink will continue to make this process the most widely used printing method for packaging. Most new flexo presses are driven by servo motors which results in less vibration than the shaft driven designs. Less vibration means print quality is improved.

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Lithography fulfills the need for flexibility among varying substrates, but it is decreasing for short, full color runs. It is predicted to have fully programmed routines for start-up and close, with full monitoring of all impressions. Presses will progressively have even more availability for coaters, foiling, glue application, die-cutting, and inkjet number/coding systems. Though print volume may decrease by 10%, it will still remain a viable part of the printing industry.

Gravure printing has lost 5% of market share in publishing, since it is efficient only for extremely long runs. Due to the expense and time needed to get a press running, interest in gravure printing continues to decrease. Advancements have been made in gravure printing for shorter runs that could keep interest in gravure stable, but this is unlikely.

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Screen printing offers one of the thickest ink layers, unprecedented by any other printing process, causing a growth in this form of printing. Screen printing will move from manual machines to semi-automatic and automatic machines in the future, further increasing the demand. However, screen printing is unable to increase productivity even with the addition of automation aids and digital control.

In 2015, digital print accounted for 13.9% of all print and printed packaging in value terms, but just 2.5% of total world volume. The transition from offset to digital printing is accelerating. In 2020, digital will account for 17.4% of value and 3.4% of all print and printed packaging volume. In 2013, market value of digital was at $120.9 billion - total market in 2024 is predicted to be 225% of that value, putting it at about $272 billion. Digital has won a large share of the sleeve and label business, and will continue to make significant headway in the corrugated, cartons, flexible packaging, and metal industries. There will also be more customizable options available as digital printing increases.

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With the rise of 3D printing, we should see faster product innovation because concept to design to prototype time is decreased. 3D medical implants, such as prosthetics, orthodontic devices, and possibly veins and arteries become a possibility in the realm of 3D printing. More products, such as hearing aids, will be able to be customized.

Future trends for all print processes include the use of environmentally friendly inks and sustainable inking methods. You can also expect faster printing processes as technology advances. It will be exciting to see where the world of print takes us in the future!

Check out our Package Printing course for more!