EFI Open House Ignites Innovation
During the week of October 11th, dozens of EFI customers and prospects — along with industry media and analysts — attended a series of EFI Ignition open house events that provided a comprehensive view of EFI’s products and the growth opportunities display graphics providers can capture.
The events — one-day invitation-only presentations and demonstrations at the EFI Global Inkjet Innovation Center in Londonderry, New Hampshire — were designed to highlight the ways print providers can take their businesses to new heights by leveraging leading-edge production solutions.
“The pandemic has understandably forced the cancellation or postponement of several large trade shows that would have served as launch events for these products, but that does not diminish our customers’ need for continued advancement and innovation,” said Ken Hanulec, vice president of Worldwide Marketing, EFI in a statement. “Our conversations with customers at the Ignition event will give a strong representation of the market opportunities display graphics businesses have for success in a recovering market using our leading portfolio of innovative solutions.”
As part of the press and analyst event on Wednesday, October 13, the media had the opportunity to hear firsthand the innovation, development, and progress EFI has made over the last 18 months.
According to reports from I.T. Strategies, InfoTrends, IDC, FEFCO, and EFI, the current display graphics market represents approximately $80 billion in output value, and eight billion square meters. Of that, only about 40% is created digitally. But that is soon to change. Market trends accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic — from custom expression and online sales, to digitalization, social media, the environment, and challenges with the supply chain — have been driving rapid digital transformation.
“A combination of custom expression, online sales booming, and digitalization are really causing people to do things faster, bigger, better with more equipment,” says Hanulec. “Equipment is not just the printer and digital ink technology. It’s the entire sophisticated workflow.”
Over the past two years, EFI “hasn’t missed a beat” and continued to invest millions of dollars into R&D and according to Hanulec, “You’ll see that in the proliferation of products we are either in the process of commercializing or have just commercialized,” he said before detailing the new products.
The newest EFI wide-format hybrid printer — the 126-inch wide EFI Pro 30hLED flatbed/roll-fed system — features dual-roll capabilities in Continuous Board printing models to give commercial print shops, sign shops, and in-plant print departments an efficient, versatile entry point into high-quality display graphics production. The printer is positioned to offer superior image quality, versatility, and productivity at a competitive price point, and can print on a wide variety of substrates in a wide variety of applications.
There have also been numerous growth opportunities in premium soft-signage applications, and EFI is capturing this market with the launch of the new VUTEk FabriVU Plus series 70-, 133- and 205-inch dispersed dye-sublimation printers. According to Hanulec, EFI has placed more than 1,350 digital textile printers worldwide, and the number continues to increase.
The 133-inch-wide VUTEk FabriVU 340i+ model with in-line sublimation made its debut at the Ignition events. The FabriVU 340i+ model delivers upgraded performance thanks to eight high-performance printheads, and enhanced high-quality and backlit print modes, with the ability to print on transfer paper or direct to fabric using the same ink set. The FabriVU Plus series’ new CMYK x 2 configuration printhead array — along with new electronics, a new vacuum system, and a new heating element — deliver higher-quality 600 dpi graphics with better saturation and more density.
On the roll-to-roll category, EFI is expanding with super high speed signage production solutions: the EFI VUTEk h5 hybrid roll/flatbed printer with ¾ automation along with the EFI VUTEk XT hybrid printer, and the single-pass Nozomi 18000+ LED printer for display graphics producers coming in 2022. These all that deliver the automation, reliability, and productivity needed to lower costs per square foot, at higher volumes, for an extended range of signage and display products.
New Opportunities in Display Graphics and Beyond
Of special note for the roll-to-roll market, is the opportunity both wallcoverings and floor graphics present for print service providers. Since 2016, the wallcovering market has seen double-digit growth, representing approximately $7.7 billion in revenue worldwide. Market growth in both commercial and private sectors and customized designs — which digital is especially suited for — is an important factor for designers, and is driving the growth in this market.
EFI’s roll-to-roll ink has been tested and certified with the GreenGuard Gold certificate of compliance. This means the inks provide: low emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), contribute to a healthy indoor environment through low chemical emissions, and are acceptable for use in environments like schools and healthcare facilities.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, floor graphics received a new “lease on life” as health and safety information was essential to be shared with the public. Brands now are seeing an emergence of floor graphics as a new “advertising space.” These graphics — in addition to health and safety measures — are being used for lobby entrance graphics, advertisements, and directional signage.
One emerging application Hanulec highlighted was for the LVT and laminated flooring market. Soon to be commercialized, an EFI roll-to-roll printed optimized for the flooring market is being developed. The technology — based on EFI’s roll-to-roll portfolio and VUTEk Qr series — features an optimized ink plus an inline jettable clear bonding agent. These digital flooring applications would be well-suited to hospitality, residential, sports, and healthcare markets. Currently 90% of this market is done by rotogravure technology.
Additionally, with the introduction of mineral inks and digital printing technology, EFI sees a way to reduce the cost of manufacturing wood flooring. This solution would allow for smaller runs (2,000 – 2,500 sq.ft.), expand the color library available to consumers, reduce stocks, and minimize waste, while allowing for color matching and consistency for re-orders.
For the packaging markets, the box is becoming the new branding platform. The traditional analog-printed single color kraft box can now be transformed into a digitally-printed branded box. Digital technology is enabling personalization, providing an individual feel to packaging. In the subscription box and eCommerce-enabled markets, two sided printing gives brands the opportunity to provide a full “unboxing” experience to their customers. Environmentally-minded companies can augment kraft boxes with white inks. Corrugated displays can also be produced with vibrant colors and offer brands the option for regionalization, showcasing local flare.
Where else does EFI see opportunity? Adjacent markets can provide PSPs with huge growth opportunities through the savvy use of digital technology — some of which PSPs might already have on hand.
- Flexible Packaging: 90 billion sq.m. worldwide, and 87% is printed. Worldwide printed value is between $60-70 billion.
- Folding Cartons/Metal Cans: PSPs can leverage the Nozomi design to access this sheet-fed packaging market with the addition of new inks and handling solutions.
- Direct-to-Garment: This segment is driven by online orders and influencers. EFI estimates this segment to grow between 8% and 20% in the coming years.
- Single Pass “lite” for Textiles: This technology could reduce the barrier to entry for textile production.
- Pigment Inline Pretreatment: This technology would help to reduce a production step and promote a green “micro factory.”
- Shower and Bath Enclosures: These products can be highly-customized and color-matched. Using UV LED inks they would also feature GreenGuard certifications.
“The COVID pandemic has clearly accelerated the transition to digital. We see that in our business,” says Hanulec.
Moving on from the display graphics segment, Giselle de la Moriniere, senior product marketing manager, EFI Fiery, provided updates and detailed information about the launch of the EFI Fiery FS500 Pro server and EFI Fiery XF 7.3. Throughout the presentation, de la Moriniere emphasized the breadth and depth of the Fiery products and how they offer faster processing power (processing files 36% faster when compared to FS400 and previous generation hardware), workflow automation, faster throughput, superior image quality, and production analytics for multiple markets including packaging, document collateral, industrial, signage, textile, and home décor.
Industry analyst Kevin Karstedt provided an overview of digital printing technology for packaging opportunities, including a presentation of market benchmark data. According to Karstedt, the packaging market is ripe for growth and opportunity. In 2020, we say the global print market drop both in volume (13.4%) and revenue (7.5%). However, by 2030, packaging is forecasted to be 60% of the global print market, up from 40% in 2020.
But packaging is a large market. Where is the opportunity? Karstedt recommends PSPs identify and target the “huge underserved market”— those companies with less than 100 employees who are looking for ways to differentiate themselves and stand apart from the large brands in the market. These companies want to be treated well. They want access to print manufacturing, quick turnarounds, flexibility, and convenience. Having a customer-service mindset will help to provide these customers with the experience they are looking for — and the products they need. Karstedt estimates that by doing this, PSPs can add 10%+ additional revenue.
EFI also presented highlights of its EFI Nozomi C18000 Plus printer and an upcoming, premium-quality, shuttle-based UV LED printer, the EFI MCORR 1300, scheduled for release in 2022.
The final part tying everything together is the software and an efficient workflow. Nick Benkovich, VP Portfolio Product Management, EFI, shared insights on EFI’s new software offerings and options for PSPs. Workflow software, according to Benkovich, is the key to enabling a fully connected business eco-system and highly efficient — and automated — production.
All of this was topped off with a tour of the demo enter and manufacturing facilities at the EFI headquarters, giving attendees not just a glimpse at the technologies to come, but a hands-on experience of just what these new innovations will be truly capable of.
Denise Gustavson is the Editorial Director and Special Projects Editor for the Printing & Packaging Group, which includes Printing Impressions, packagePRINTING, In-plant Graphics and Wide-Format Impressions magazines, among other brands. She is also the Editor-in-Chief of Wide-Format Impressions.