2022 – Not All We Hoped For
In 2022 the climate for the global printing industry improved noticeably after the pandemic-induced dip. Nevertheless, it was far from being a bumper year. Global supply chain issues, rising energy prices, substrate shortages and the war in Ukraine weighed down on markets. A lack of availability of parts and components seriously held back sales in the first half of 2022. The situation improved, but it is still not back to normal. This impacted as well launch activities and getting new devices to beta sites and early users.
Again, there was considerable activity in corrugated/display presses. EFI launched two new models (Nozomi 14000 LED and Nozomi 18000+ for display applications), while HP introduced the T700i, a 1.7m (67”) wide press for corrugated liner, closing the width gap between the T400S and the T1100 Series. There was more news in corrugated with Kento bringing their hybrid inkjet press to the market.
Abound were the launches of label presses and too numerous to list: close to a dozen new models were announced in 2022. Especially hybrid presses, combining analog and inkjet units, were having a strong year with the launches from Bobst and Gallus.
The official launch of the MGI AlphaJet, a B1 specialty press should not be forgotten. Already previewed at drupa 2016 the press is so extraordinary that it is exciting to hear that it officially launched now. Also, a first installation took place in 2022 at a French security card printer. The B1-format AlphaJet can combine several printing and embellishment features in one press and can be configured for a wide range of (specialty) applications. It is not strictly a packaging press, but can be configured for packaging print or overlapping applications. Especially the great latitude in substrates can make the device interesting.
Applications and Installations
Packaging is tipped to be the next big growth market for digital print. It is already the case for label printing where a constant stream of presses is entering the market and the uptake is high. Still, digital label printing is only accounting for about 3% of the total label printing volume (according to IT-Strategies, 2022), although the revenue share achieved is noticeably higher. On the upside, it means that there is still a lot of opportunity for digital. With about 25 major label press product lines (not models) currently shipping, the choice is enormous – and the choice keeps on expanding. Since the new hybrid label presses cater to higher volumes the print volume growth should even accelerate.
The volume share of digital in the other packaging segments is far smaller. Even in corrugated, with a couple of high-profile placements taking place in recent years, the volume share of digital is below 0.3%. The annual growth rate for inkjet in corrugated is forecasted to be over 46% until 2028 however.
Installations continued in 2022 and EFI made good gains in corrugated/display installations with close to 10 installs in corrugated and display markets. It includes Nozomi sales into less-served markets like Brazil, Kuwait, Turkey, or Puerto Rico. HP had several installations as well, with WestRock in the US and the Thimm Gruppe in Germany going for the T1100 wide preprint presses, while two C500 went to Bay Cities and Pratt Industries in the US. Besides the two there were few sales from other vendors in corrugated. Koenig & Bauer sold a Delta SPC 130 to The Royal group in the US. Kento installed a first press at Grupo La Plana in Spain.
Even fewer installations were publicised in flexible packaging or folding carton print. There were several printer announcements in recent years, however, vendors are still taking their time to tweak the devices to the customers’ requirements. Landa Digital Printing announced several installations of the packaging version of their B1 press in 2022. Of the five sales and installs made public, all are located in North America. Otherwise, the choice is slim in folding carton. The first JetPress 750S in a packaging configuration went to folding carton converter Ebro Color in Germany. The company already owns a 720S. However, the JetPress is mostly used in commercial print and does not support heavy-weight carton.
Inkjet flexible packaging installations are even more rare. The Kodak-Uteco joint venture has a few installations, but no installations from the recently announced Fujifilm, Landa, Comexi and Screen presses were announced. Screen even revealed another flexible packaging printer in 2022, although for fibre-based packaging. At least the Miyakoshi MJP30AXF (the Fujifilm FP790 has the same hardware) had an install in Japan in 2022.
Investments were not only hampered by the political and economic situation, but also by supply chain issues. Especially vendors of inkjet presses were restricted by a lack of components and several claimed that they could have shipped more.
2023 On the Mind
Launch activity for inkjet presses never really stopped, although many print shows had to be cancelled in recent years. 2023 is likely to see the return of the big trade show (we keep our fingers crossed), which should give an opportunity for more launches or at least to see some of the new presses live and in action. Kicking off the year is Hunkeler innovationdays, end of February. While this is a top event for showcasing inkjet presses, the focus is on document printing.
Interpack, the largest packaging trade show, is returning to Düsseldorf in May and usually has some press launches. Finally, Labelexpo is returning to Europe in September 2023, after the 2022 event was cancelled almost last minute. It will offer a great platform for label press launches. There is a wide range of other, more specialised packaging trade shows, which will be good for some inkjet press introductions.
In 2023 it will be especially interesting to see or at least hear about some of the first installations of devices announced in recent years. The concept of digital print in label and packaging production remains convincing, but the technology has to deliver as well.