The momentum shift from analogue to digital in printing is very vertical - in every application whether packaging, marketing collateral, mailers, books, signages, one can see the winds of change everywhere, says S Joseph
From neatly etched visiting cards in plastic materials to giant-sized hoard-ings on the corners of roads in cities, digital printing is making an indelible impression in India thanks to sophisticated technologies, mostly imported into the country. From large-width printers from giants like HP to ink-providers hailing from the neighbourhoods of Taiwan and China, a new revolution in digital printing is sweeping across the country.
Wide format printers are the order of the day. A modest list of technology providers in this category boasts of printing solutions that consistently deliver high quality and productivity. The list includes Hewlett-Packard India, Apsom Infotex, Avery Dennison India, Efi India, Epson India, Fuji Film Sericol India, Macart India and Magson Technologies. Large-format digital is fast replacing screen-printing, and the vendors include big names like HP, Agfa, EFI Vutek, Roland DG, Epson, and Canon.
Today, digital solutions from HP cover the entire gamut from small postcards to huge building wraps and the highly complex jobs such as the first-ever train wrap in the country. Hewlett-Packard (HP), which has more than one billion customers in over 170 countries, is a leader when it comes to printing products and solutions in India. Through its Imaging & Printing Group (IPG), HP has emerged as a leading supplier to businesses with an offering that includes printer hardware, digital imaging devices and associated supplies and accessories.
HP is selling these high-tech products through channel partners, and Global5 Technologies is one of them. "The printers are very high-technology-based products, needing a lot of back-up in service and knowledge diffusion. HP's printers are next generation printers, and some of their industrial printers weigh tons. Therefore, with internal support from a knowledge-based organisation, HP always can sell and service the customers better", says Mr Samir Joshi, Product Sales Manager of Global5.
For instance, with HP Scitex XP5300, an innovative 5-m, dual-mode UV Printer, one can print outdoor signages at industry-leading speeds as well as high quality indoor signages. HP DESIGNJET H65500 has introduced a revolution in large format print technology. If a business demands speed and versatility, then HP DESIGNJET H 45000 Printer Series is the answer - an intelligently designed hybrid UV printer that converts easily from roll-fed to a flat bed.
Designed with the environment in mind, HP Latex Printing Technologies offer print services providers a new alternative. HP Latex Inks and HP Thermal Inkjet Technologies provide durable output, sharp, vivid image quality, versatility and high productivity.
Apsom Infotex Ltd, New Delhi, has some exciting brands and ranges to offer. The Roland VersaArt - 64" and 54" Inkjet Printer - has set a new standard in wide format digital inkjet printing. Its automated maintenance minimises ink, labour, and downtime. Roland's Hi-Fi Express is a dye sublimation inkjet printer, which is ideal for producing flags, banners, and textiles.
Apsom has also presented Matan Digital Printers, which are 3.5 m and 5 m wide UV inkjet printers. Matan's Barack family printers have a production speed of up to 316 m2/hr, providing the ultimate solution for any super-size and high-quality application.
Avery Dennison, the world's leading producer of pressure-sensitive adhesive products, has been developing new products continually, and is looking at the Indian market with a vaulting ambition. Avery Graphics' superior range of screen print materials has been specially developed to suit solvent and UV screen process printing. Avery's durable cast films are perfect for fleet and vehicle graphics, branding and architecture graphics.
EFI is the global leader in colour digtal print servers and controllers; super wide format printers and inks, industrial inkjet printing systems and print management, web-to-print and proofing solutions. EFI Vutek, which has super wide printers, is known for its exceptional colour quality when it comes to print-for-pay business. Says Mr Kumar Bhanushali, Sales Development Manager: "In India, there are already about 100 vendors doing exclusive business on EFI Vutek's machines. The EFI Vutek 3360 can print up to 720 dpi apparent resolution for brilliant photographic colour reproduction on traditional roll-to-roll and textile substrates". Mr Bhanushali is very upbeat about the market, for he says that "no other machine can beat the quality of EFI Vuteks, which have already proved their excellence in the Indian market".
Fujifilm Sericol India Pvt Ltd, Pune offers, in its own words, "more than ink....Solutions". Its Acuity Advance offers the latest breakthrough in wide format UV digital imaging technology. Now, 33% faster than previous models, the Acuity Advance is specifically designed for print applications requiring fine detail and high-resolution imaging. What is most impressive is the ability of the Acuity Advance to print up to three distinct layers on any given job with bright, opaque Uvijet white ink.
If the hardware in digital printing is available in such a large versatile models and technologies in India, then the peripheral and other input suppliers are not far behind. Diamond Dispersions of the UK has been supplying a full range of top quality water and solvent-based pigmented dispersions and dyes in CMYK and white, which are designed for the manufacturing into digital inks suitable for printing onto a wide range of substrates including textiles. "The company has been actively tapping the Indian market in the last three years with an agent located in Mumbai", says Ms Sue Wright, Director. Extolling the virtues of its various products, Ms Wright adds that "our products are suitable for both water and solvent based inks and are equally at home in both thermal and piezo print heads".
Aqua Tint Inks, Mumbai, claims to be India's first digital inks manufacturer, is said to have the privilege of being the only Asian ink company6 to be a "Xaar Ink Partner' and "Spectra Approved" ink. It has two plants in India and an office in the US. Apart from the above-mentioned big names, AT Inks also supplies inks to Seiko, Toshiba, Knica, and Ricoh print heads.
Chinese companies have left no stones unturned to tap the Indian market. HeBei YuXin Industry & Trade and Shandong Limei Jet Ink Co - the former specialised in PVC calender films, coating flex, self-adhesives, etc, and the latter with its water- and solvent-based inks, sublimation inks, etc - are two among a few firms happy with the Indian market in selling their cost-effective products in the last few years.
"Our company developed the sublimation ink. The ink name is HMS-8000. It is suitable for all piezoelectric printers, such as Mutoh, Roland, Mimaki, etc" says Lily Liu, Director of International Trade of Shandong Limei Jet Ink Co Ltd, China. This is a high-tech Sino-US joint venture, backed by the most advanced ink testing and formulating laboratory with a series of water-based and solvent-based inks. Ms Lily Liu sees an ever-expanding market for her company's inks in India.
L G Chem of Korea has also a major presence in India through its arm, Plasto India Pvt Ltd. Its product basket includes backlit flexible substrates, translucent and opaque vinyls, marking films and speciality materials. It has well-established network of marketing professionals all over India.
Digital printing is a buoyant sector at the moment thanks to recent improvements in quality and speed. The printing business all over the world is worth US$ 700 billion. Higher growth in digital business is envisaged in Asia, especially India. The Indian digital printing market is expected to grow from US$ 504 million in 2006 to a whopping US$ 2.5 billion by 2012. According to PIRA, digital printing has the highest growth rate in India at 984.8% (2000-10) among all print process markets.
For 97% of its printed matter, the world still depends on mechanical offset presses or copiers. But digital publishing revolution has begun. According to GPI India Publishing Market Profile 2008, the size of the Indian book market is about Rs 10,000 crore and is growing at about 10% per annum. There are about 16,000 publishers in India, making it the third-largest producer of English language titles after the USA and UK.
All the new processes and technologies are slowly turning from a trickle to a modest pouring into the Indian printing market. The momentum shift from analogue to digital in printing is very vertical - in every application whether packaging, marketing collateral, mailers, books, signages, one can see the winds of change everywhere. At present, offset may be dominating in India. The volumes and systems that are flooding the European digital market are likely to happen in India too - perhaps in the next decade. The market leaders are obviously bullish about the Indian market, where digital printing has been achieving a growth rate of 30% in since the last few years.