Flexo print market to reach USD 188.9 billion

Smithers analysis finds that innovation is paramount as the flexo print market grows.

04 Apr 2022 | By Aultrin Vijay

Global demand for flexo printing will reach USD 172.2 billion in 2022, with a total of 6.80 trillion A4 print equivalents produced, according to exclusive new data from Smithers.

Comprehensive forecasts published in The Future of Flexographic Printing to 2027 are that a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 1.9% will increase demand to USD 188.9 billion over the next five years (at constant prices). Across the same period volume growth will increase at a faster 2.5% CAGR seeing output reach 7.68 trillion A4 print equivalents in 2027.

“As the market evolves, flexo will benefit from continuing growth in demand for packaging print and labels as an increasingly cost-competitive alternative to gravure and offset litho in these applications; but does also face the risk of losing some market share to higher throughput inkjet presses, in narrow web and corrugated segments over the Smithers forecast period,” the report stated.

Corrugated print is said to remain the largest segment of the flexo print market, with 36.8% share by volume in 2022. Flexible packaging print “is becoming increasingly significant, and will be the fastest growing” of the nine major applications tracked in Smithers’ analysis.

“There will be new demand across 2022-2027 for more printed paper towels and other sanitary and kitchenware. This is a consequence of both increased cleaning regimes implemented to control Covid-19 infections, and the shift away from alternative polymer cleaning materials prompted by single-use plastics legislation,” the report added. Simultaneously, the longer term impact of widespread social distancing and shifts in consumer preferences for media means demand from graphic applications (envelopes, greeting wrap, and more) and publications (mainly newspapers) will trend downwards, the study found.

“Markets in Western Europe are essentially mature,” the report stated. “There is new demand for flexo equipment emerging in the Americas.” Demand for flexo output is accelerating across much of Asia, led by China and India – potentially the world’s two largest markets for purchases of printed FMCGs.

However, the study cautioned that sales for new equipment will be muted across the region. “Instead, the Americas will provide the best new sales opportunities for flexo press manufacturers through 2027,” it added.

The need to produce shorter print runs, and manage new demands for variable data print, is said to stimulate further development of hybrid (flexo inkjet) configurations, and the adoption of CTP and other automation features, and in-line finishing to improve order turnaround.

Another important development for press OEMs is the demand for medium web-width flexo machinery, with specialists in both narrow web label and wide-format central impression (CI) facing different challenges to adapt to this. Another focus for R&D is the effective integration of electron beam (EB) curing stations and inks for flexo print, which is especially suited for high speed print on newly popular monomaterial flexible plastics substrates.

In the short term the flexo market is coping to adapt to rising raw material prices, which are affecting the cost of inks, other consumables, and printing plates. According to the report, as plate supply moves towards stabilisation across 2022, interest in a lower environmental profile for print jobs will foster wider interest in water wash flexo plates, and improvements in anilox roller technology on press.

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