What does the future hold for wide-format digital imaging? Greene offers predictions about where technology, consumables, service, and more are headed.
By Tim Greene
I’m seeing a lot more of these kinds of market-development activities from manufacturers and distributors in the wide-format-printing market, especially in application training and certification seminars that distributors and vendors are working on together right now around vehicle graphics. I expect we will see a lot more of this kind of activity, because as some segments of the market mature they will look for new applications to help fuel the growth of their businesses.
The other thing that I think might be coming is something I’m calling the end of the line. I’ve heard over and over in recent conversations I’ve had with various vendors that companies in today’s operating environment have to prioritize resources—meaning there’s no bottomless pit of cash they can go to fund ongoing development of products that suit all markets and address everybody’s needs. It simply can’t happen. Parts of the market are too mature and too sophisticated, which makes continued new product development too expensive. Even the biggest companies in the market can’t simultaneously richly fund development for all of their various projects.
So much of the market growth in wide-format imaging is in digital, which leads me to think we’ll see a lot of vendor and product activity over the next few years that indicates the end of development in some areas. In other words, one of the next big things in wide-format digital will be to stop working on the last big thing.
One of the more interesting developments I saw at drupa was a demonstration of a remote monitoring system that was on display at the GBC booth. The system consists of a number of small cameras, a user interface, and some rapid image-compression/decompression technology that made it so the finishing-system operator could look at various parts of the high-speed laminating equipment to monitor the status of the machinery. The user could slow down and zoom in on the images to see where and how problems could arise. The system also was connected so the operator could click and log into customer service to get technical assistance. The customer-service rep could then log in and look at the same images as the user.
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