Innovation essential for print equipment market: Smithers report

A Smithers research has found that innovation is essential for future print equipment market as Covid-19 cuts worldwide sales by USD 4 billion in 2020.

26 Jul 2021 | By Aultrin Vijay

The global market for print and finishing equipment will reach USD 15.9 billion in 2021, despite seeing a recovery from the disruption caused by Covid-19; the outlook of the market remains challenging through 2026. This will place a premium on new technologies, value-adding systems and services, and greater automation, as print OEMs look to maintain profitability, a Smithers research has found.

Data from the new Smithers report The Future of Print Equipment to 2026 show sales values fell from USD 17.3 billion in 2019 to USD 13.2 billion in 2020. Its expert forecasting finds that in the post-Covid world sales value will struggle to recover to this pre-pandemic level after this initial rebound in 2021. The market will be flat, with a -0.2% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) for 2021-2026 at constant prices.

Across 2021-2026, the largest growth market for equipment sales will be in Asia, especially India and China. Demand will decline in both Western and Eastern Europe. North and Latin America will also see moderate rises in equipment sales by value over the period, of close to 1% CAGR, the report stated. 

The seismic impact of 2020 is being felt in all technology sectors and geographic markets, but not equally. Smithers’ analysis shows that there will be few segments that will continue to expand through the 2020s as the buyers and print service suppliers adjust to a business environment reshaped by the experience of the pandemic.

The most severe effect will be in sales of analogue platforms used in commercial print and publications, with some smaller print service providers pushed out of business. These applications were already in decline with falling print volumes across the 2010s, now exacerbated by Covid. Smithers forecasts a -1.9% decline year-on-year for analogue equipment over the next five years.

However, overall increased demand for packaging press and digital technology will largely balance out this market decline. Across the Smithers forecast period, the installed base of digital presses will grow overall, with electrophotographic presses adding particularly to the installed base. The installed base of inkjet presses is forecast to be essentially static between 2021 and 2026, as the removal of wide-format presses compensates for greater use of single-pass and sheet-fed units in packaging and other alternative applications.

A leading trend that has seen a marked acceleration in 2020 is the shift to shorter print runs, which is shifting the per unit print costs in favour of digital (inkjet and electrophotography) presses. Digital equipment is easier to integrate with e-commerce, web-to-print and print-on-demand service models, which are increasingly popular; and deliver value-adding variable data print. In the short-term many technology leaders are more focused on incremental improvements to existing platforms, until revenues recover. Tighter budgets mean there will also be more pressure on OEMs to revise their ink pricing strategies.

Traditional analogue press builders are innovating in this space. On analogue presses automation in prepress, on-press plate making and automated wash up, is a priority, to boost operational effectiveness and maintain margins and profitability.

The cancellation of Drupa 2020, and a reduced attendance at Virtual Drupa 2021, has broken the industry’s reliance on this key event in the print calendar. This is leading firms to investigate new online sales and marketing channels to engage with a global customer base and demonstrate their latest equipment.

“This matches with the imperative to offer more direct remote service and support online as Covid restricts on-site visits. Through 2026 these will remain highly effective and low-cost means for both problem-solving and preventative maintenance, with conventional technology now supplemented by mobile and augmented reality systems,” it stated.

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