Signage sector escalates above entry levels at Media Expo 2017

The Indian signage market is coming alive with ultra-modern technology that have found a place alongside the entry-level and traditional processes.

It’s time for the segment to find new avenues to explore.

The Media Expo in Delhi from 22 to 24 September 2017 showed the way. Dibyajyoti Sarma reports

13 Oct 2017 | By Dibyajyoti Sarma

Compared to the previous edition of Media Expo Delhi, the 41st edition of the show, which took place from 22 to 24 September 2017, was rather a muted affair. Businesswise, the show was a success, of course. There were new launches, especially from Indian manufacturers like Colorjet and Monotech, and there were interesting deals. In an unprecedented news, Colorjet booked 100 machines during the show. Plus, HP sold India’s first Latex 3200. But the air of anticipation and excitement was somewhat missing.
You can blame it on the weather too. Most casual visitors gave the show a miss in the first two days due to the continuous rainfall. Another reason was the continuous financial confusion in the market, starting with demonetisation leading up to the GST regime.
The air at the show was of cautious optimism. Those who booked new machines were certain why they needed the machines and went for it. Many others are waiting in the wings to see when the market really opens up.
The moot point, which everyone agrees, is that the signage market is never in danger, despite the burgeoning digital advertising. But the process of creating signage graphics is being negotiated for consolidation. While entry-level wide-format printing (read, solvent-based) is still prevalent, there is an increasing awareness and increasing attempt to shift to more environment-friendly solutions, be it the machine itself, or ink or substrate. While the market is yet to confirm the next acceptable and popular solution, a lot of people are betting on soft signage and printing on textile as the next phase where fabric will replace flex, where water-based inks will replace solvent-based inks. Plus, UV has become ubiquitous, whether in flatbed or roll-to-roll.
The usual showing
There were over 185 brands showcasing some of the most advanced solutions in print, advertising and digital marketing. The show also hosted companies from other Asian countries like China and Korea eyeing the growing potential of the Indian market for solutions in both indoor and outdoor display solutions.
Raj Manek, managing director, Messe Frankfurt Trade Fairs India, said during the opening of the show, “Having established itself as an important event in the corporate calendar for media, advertising and marketing professionals, the platform has time and again been acknowledged for its strong business-generating potential.”
As usual, the show had everything related to signage, from high quality printing machines and materials to cutting edge technologies in glow-sign/LED displays, point-of-purchase/sale materials and environmental-friendly mediums.
For business visitors, the key was to find a solution to attract more corporate clients. It’s the clients, the print buyers, who are pushing the surge in technology disruption, as they always insist on something new, something different to stand apart from their competitors. 
Like every year, Media Expo 2017 in New Delhi gave the visitors the options to choose from. Kamlesh Kothari, director, Weddingwala, who was at the show, said, “With digital India being a major focus, there were many innovative and trendsetting solutions displayed here. UV flatbed printer is one such solution to which I found various price options at this exhibition. It will definitely make my purchase decision easier.”
Green production also had considerable impact. As Amit Jain, director, Directions Retail Projects, explained, he decided to invest in a HP Latex 500 because his customers wanted eco-friendly solutions.
Talking about green solutions, there were eco-friendly wall papers, eco-solvent printers, self-adhesive fabrics, die-less digital finishing, digital heat transfer technologies for garment application, 100% aqueous non-polluting print technology as well as breathable, washable, fire retardant, dry-strippable, bio-degradable fabrics. Eco-friendly fabrics that are compatible with eco-solvent, UV and latex and direct dye sublimation machines.
Highlighting the growing importance of green technology in the future of print and marketing, Manoj Singh, managing director, Purple Wave Infocom, said, “I strongly support and promote green solutions as I think the future of this industry is digital and PVC-free solutions. I have been using green solutions from past five years now and I think it’s the right time the promote eco-friendly solutions in India.”
Local colours
While the multinational brands boast the best of solutions, it was the Made in India brands that attracted most eyeballs with new product launches. Monotech launched Pixeljet Powerpro, a dedicated roll-to-roll UV LED-curable printer. Colorjet, meanwhile, made the first India sale of its first UV roll-to-roll machine Vulcan to Venus Plastics. It looks like roll-to-roll LED UV is going to be the trend.
Last year, Fujifilm launched the Made in India wide-format printer Vybrant. The machine was on display this year as well and generated good buzz, so did its Acuity flatbed printer. But Fujifilm comes with multinational pedigree and years of experience. Compare it with the success of Colorjet and Monotech, and you appreciate the grit of local manufacturing.
Both these companies are growing tremendously in the last few years and it would be interesting to see how they compete with the top-tier brands like HP, Epson, Mimaki, Mutoh and so on. At the same time, Colorjet’s 100-machine deal at the show is not a fluke. It is just a smart investment decision. For example, soft signage is catching on and a dedicated OOH player wants to have this facility in-house. HP Latex is one of the best machines in this category. It is also a big investment. Colorjet has cost-effective alternatives.
In short, both Colorjet and Monotech’s Made in India products have been successful in bridging the void between brands featuring cutting edge technology and the entry-level or traditional (read solvent-based options), often imported from China or Taiwan and sold under a local brand name. (At this year’s show, we saw a company called Vinod Medical Systems from Raipur, Chhattisgarh.)
The big players
Among the big players, Epson showcased its UV LED flatbed printers and the SureColor SC-S series which was launched during Media Expo Delhi 2016. There was also a direct-to-object printer. The company also showcased its expertise in photo printing.
Canon highlighted its Imageprograf ipf671. It is an ideal solution for CAD and GIS designed for high quality results in efficient time. The machine’s compact design fits anywhere to save space and features five-colour dye and pigment ink system. The kit, which can print 24-inches (A1+) sizes is perfect for CAD and GIS.
Mimaki showcased its high specification entry model CJV150 series, inkjet printer, cutter with silver ink. The series, which can deliver a wide range of applications, features eco-solvent inks in a variety of colours ­including silver.
Roland showcased its Truevis SG/ VG series of printers/cutter and Versa Express RF-640. The RF-640 delivers photorealistic imaging at up to 1,440dpi with print speeds up to 521 sq/ft per hour.  
Still room for solvent
In India, if you look at close quarters, solvent still dominates the market. Alongside, green technologies, such as eco-solvent or water-based inks, are slowly catching on because the big corporates, especially multinationals, are demanding eco-friendly solutions. At the same time, wide-format players are warming up to textile as an alternative to flex (solvent), though at the point there are not many substrate options as far as the textile for signage is concerned.
However, the visible trend at the Media Expo 2017 this year in New Delhi was the showcase of technologies going beyond the entry-level or basic solvent jobs. HP was on the forefront of this, as it displayed its HP Latex 335 print and cut solution that can be used for floor graphics, indoor posters, interior decoration, vehicle graphics, wall decals, window graphics and so on.
One thing is certain. Digital inkjet technology is here to say.
Take the example of Xaar, the UK-based leader in the development of inkjet technology and the leading independent manufacturer of industrial inkjet printheads. Just days before Media Expo, at a press conference in Gurgaon, Doug Edwards, CEO, Xaar, confirmed that the company is strengthening its business in India with its wide portfolio of inkjet printheads and new technology for a variety of print applications, because the time is ripe for digital inkjet beyond the traditional wide-format applications, from packaging printing to newspapers.
However, one area where digital inkjet can really make a mark is direct-to-object printing. Xaar is focusing on the idea. So has Roland. At the show, the company showcased VersaUV LEF-300 direct-to-object flatbed printer, which offers direct printing capabilities on a vast array of materials, including three-dimensional items up to 3.94-inches thick.
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