By Kevin Sykes
From outdoor signage to corrugated displays, an ever-expanding range of applications for large-format printing has meant a continual evolution for today’s print service providers’ (PSPs’) portfolios of offerings. As new applications represent new potential revenue streams, PSPs are increasingly investing in digital technology to enhance their value proposition for customers by offering alternatives to traditional offset printing services.
As the productivity and quality of large-format digital printing continue to increase, long-run print projects are being transferred away from traditional flexographic, lithographic and screenprinting systems. That is not to say all traditional printing businesses are going away. International Data Corporation’s (IDC’s) most recent report on worldwide large-format printer shipments, for example, showed a 1.3 per cent increase in lithographic equipment shipments from the second quarter of 2014 to the second quarter of 2015.
The fastest rates of growth in the wide-format display graphics market, however, have been for ultraviolet-curing (UV-curing) and durable aqueous ‘latex’ inkjet printers. IDC noted “these technologies are where more PSPs are investing, based on the new and enhanced capabilities they offer to customers.”
As the IDC report shows, traditional lithographic printing is still the ‘bread and butter’ of many commercial PSPs, but the opportunity for growth in that area is very limited. As a result, the PSPs are looking toward other technologies to help them achieve incremental growth through additional, higher-margin applications.
A diversified portfolio also helps them be seen as ‘one-stop shops’ by their customers.
Eclipsing the competition
Eclipse Imaging is one such company that exemplifies these trends. Established in 1954 as Hamilton Screen Print (HSP) Graphics, Eclipse has grown to become one of Canada’s leading lithographic and digital large-format PSPs, operating a state-of-the-art 6,503-m2 (70,000-sf) facility in Burlington, Ont.
Eclipse prides itself on continually investing in new technology to ensure it can deliver the greatest value to its customers. Lithography still represents the majority of the company’s business, but the bulk of its new growth in recent years has directly stemmed from the digital side.
In 2012, for example, Eclipse became the first company in Canada to acquire a Scitex FB7600 industrial printer, with the goal of achieving faster turnarounds and increasing cost efficiencies across all print run lengths. This was followed by the installation of a Heidelberg VLF Speedmaster XL 162 press for displays and folding cartons in 2013 and two latex inkjet printers in 2014 to produce flexible signage. And in the summer of 2015, the company became the first anywhere in the Americas to install a Scitex 11000 high-volume industrial press.
All of these acquisitions have been game-changers, enabling Eclipse to offer additional services by printing on corrugated, foam-core and flexible materials.
“As a market leader, we need to stay current,” says Ralph Misale, Eclipse co-owner and chief operating officer (COO). “PSPs that don’t invest in technology risk falling behind when it comes to what they can offer in the way of products and services.”