Why It Pays to Know Your Stuff

The printing industry is advancing rapidly, and new profit centers are opening up for providers of print. With so much change happening so fast, though, it can be tough to keep pace with new market developments — especially for busy print distributors. How can print distributors take advantage of the newest technology to capture new opportunities and profit?

It’s All About Keeping It Personal

According to Brian Brooks, manager of the product management group for Roland DGA, advances in digital printing are propelling the printing industry into “a more dynamic and customer-centric future,” marked by a shift toward on-demand production, shorter print runs, and greater customization. “Customers now expect tailored solutions and personalized experiences, and digital printing is facilitating these changes,” says Brooks.

He adds that the trend towards personalization is also driven by software advances, such as variable data printing. This allows each item to have unique contents, like personalized texts, images, or designs.

Michael Fries, VistaPrint’s executive vice president of global manufacturing, sees advances in inkjet printing as a driver of profitable growth opportunities for print providers.

“The biggest shift I’ve noticed is a vast improvement, not only in terms of the quality, but of the versatility of inkjet printing,” he says. “Although it had limitations, inkjet has been a well-adopted technology in large-format and book printing. As it’s become mature, we’re seeing that it can produce high-quality, high-volume work across several mediums and has vastly expanded into commercial printing.”

Fries believes that the ability to customize prints is a major game changer for providers of print. “Everything that can be personalized is being purchased,” he says. “Whether that’s a laser-engraved pen, a business card, or a retractable banner, we’re seeing our small-business customers use these products to grow the reach of their brand and create a personal touch through their marketing.”

Roland DGA customers are particularly interested in personalized printing, especially SOHO businesses (Small Offices, Home Offices). “Roland DGA devices allow brands to create vibrant and durable prints on a wide range of substrates, opening up new applications in packaging, labels, signage, textiles, on-demand and personalized clothing, and more,” Brooks says.

Make a fashion statement that pays

Fries states that one of the fastest-growing segments for print distributors is decorated apparel. “The applications are endless when you think about the evolution and improvement of printing technologies,” he says. “T-shirts are a great example. The types of text, artwork, and imagery we print is getting more complicated, but the quality of today’s printing makes it possible.”

Brooks also notes that Roland DGA’s direct-to-garment and direct-to-fabric printing technologies have been sought after for personalized apparel and promotional product orders.

Fries notes that business cards, which are a must-have for any company, are getting an upgrade. VistaPrint customers prefer to have them in premium, high-end finishes. “The digital technologies we use make it possible to offer customers a high-quality product in a very individual way, regardless of the size of the run,” he says.

Saving Money with Tech

The new formulations of advanced inks help print businesses reduce their printing costs.

“Eco-solvent printing reduces ink consumption and waste while delivering high-quality prints, resulting in long-term cost savings,” says Brooks. “UV printing eliminates the need for additional drying time, reducing production cycles and increasing efficiency.”

New, advanced printing technology offers benefits that go beyond cost-savings for many small businesses.

The Bottom Line is Greener and More Profitable

The advancements in print technology also help print distributors take advantage of the growing consumer demand for eco-friendly products. As a case in point, Brooks says, resin printing, now available through Roland DGA’s TrueVIS product line, uses inks that are both fast-drying and environmentally friendly.

“These GREENGUARD Gold certified inks have low VOC content, minimizing air pollution and reducing the environmental impact,” he says.

Fries sees demand for eco-friendly printing processes growing as well — and, accordingly, printer manufacturers are answering the call. “It has become more relevant to think about the product itself and its impact on the environment,” he says.

Media Matters

New profit centers for print distributors are also emerging around the many new, unconventional substrates that digital printing technologies support today.

“The industry is learning to print on more diverse substrates,” says Fries. “For example, printing on wood, etching on glass, and engraving on stainless steel have all become possibilities. This wasn’t possible many years ago, but the technology has evolved to a point where almost anything can be personalized.”

On the Horizon

While the industry has come a long way in terms of technological advances, we have only scratched the surface of what the next generation of printing technologies will deliver to the market — and what savvy print buyers will want, expect, and buy going forward.

“From eco-solvent, UV, and resin printing to direct-to-garment and direct-to-fabric printing, new innovations empower print providers to meet the evolving demands of customers,” says Brooks.

Fries says that new technologies will have a greater impact on the range of printed goods available to consumers. “Digital printing technology in and of itself is a tool,” he says. “It’s the end result that creates customer value.”

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