Wide-format Printing: Developments in the sign and display market

Optimism and signs of growth are evident within the market, says Tichon

Photos courtesy SAi

By Sarit Tichon
All indications suggest the worldwide sign, display and wide-format printing market continues to grow. While there is plenty of optimism, however, sign and display professionals should pay attention to major changes in the industry, as new strategies will be needed for further success. This is particularly true in niche markets where new technologies have made inroads.

Replacing equipment
One of the major changes that have faced the industry in recent years is a growing emphasis on ‘green’ issues. The environmental impact of print production is affecting the decisions made by an increasing number of sign, display and large-format print buyers.

In turn, this is affecting sales of new printing equipment. Both ultraviolet-curing (UV-curing) and durable aqueous ‘latex’ inkjet printers continue to change the landscape by replacing earlier solvent-based printers that outgassed volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Sign shops have needed to watch these trends closely when investing in new equipment.

That said, not all of their older equipment is necessarily obsolete yet. Worldwide data shows 56 per cent of all signmaking jobs still involve vinyl cutting, for instance. This may surprise many people, but even after 20 years, digital printing has added to the overall sign and display market, rather than replacing traditional methods as it was anticipated to do.

There are still beneficial characteristics of cut vinyl, including its depth of colour and its resistance to weather and abrasion. And many signage jobs simply call for lettering, with no need for printers or inks. For these jobs, letter cutting is fast and the pieces are easily mounted.

Working with digital signage
Digital signage may also appear to pose a threat to traditional graphics, given its growing prevalence in supermarkets, airports, shopping malls, sports venues, train stations and elsewhere—but again, it is more of a supplemental technology than a replacement. Digital screens are most effective where they can display information that changes, while static signs remain the best and most cost-effective way to display information that does not change.

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It is not uncommon to see a screen surrounded by printed graphics. This can be a powerful combination, providing both static information and changeable messages, and the trend is likely to grow.

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