Industrial inkjet is a bit of a nebulous term with various OEMs and analyst organizations throwing a mish-mash of potentially “industrial” applications and devices into the bucket. On Inkjet Insight, we put an inkjet device in the industrial category if it supports any of the following:
- Jets onto 3 dimensional objects
- Jets onto materials that are not sold as “print” such as wood, fabric and other textiles
- Creates component parts of a larger manufacturing process
Through this categorization (I won’t go so far as to call it a definition) we can include inkjet printing on rigid materials for application segments such as décor and laminates, ceramics, automotive and transport, architectural materials and glass decoration, and direct-to-object printing into our industrial bucket.
As the number of surfaces or substrates that inkjet can either jet ink onto or create through jetting materials expands – so does the size of the bucket.
Sizing the Industrial Bucket
To give a sense of how diverse the definitions may be, and how quickly they are expanding, just look at some analyst estimates. I.T. Strategies brackets industrial/digital specialty printing together and estimates the Print For Pay (PFP) market at around $16.4 billion worldwide, while Smithers Pira sizes the industrial market alone at around $75 billion but does not limit coverage to PFP.
I.T. Strategies also stresses that analyzing digital print markets based on value can be deceptive. They place the value of the total digital PFP market worldwide at up to $58B representing around 30% of the total value of commercial analog PFP worldwide. However, that total value is based on less than 10 percent of the total analog volume – so 30 percent of the value for 10 percent of the volume. While value per volume is generally higher for digital than for analog production, this is particularly true in the industrial space where short run, customized projects can be run efficiently at a high profit margin in an inkjet environment that is tailored to the needs of the application.
Ink and print heads must be specialized to be compatible with various surfaces and processes. This poses new challenges for color and ink management for these devices that are being met by advanced software in the form of inkjet Raster Image Processors or RIPs solutions. Next week, we will drill into some of the factors that make industrial inkjet RIPS different, and what to look for.