Perhaps the biggest announcement at the event was the latest wide-format printers, the 330 series. The JV330-130/-160 and CJV330-130/-160 build on the 100 series, incorporating the Mimaki Weaving Dot Technology that the company noted is “a printing technology that changes the order of ink droplet placement depending on printing conditions.”
The printers have speeds of 21 m2/h in standard mode with 4 color (CMYK), and 13.2 m2/h with 8 colors (CMYKLcLmLkOr). New for these printers are two advanced features Mimaki was quick to point out, the XY slitter and the media changer. The XY slitter is an in-line function that allows PSPs to cut all sides of the media after printing without needing to move to another machine, enabling for more automation and reducing post-process work. And the media changer allows shops to load up to three different media rolls simultaneously. A single operator can easily switch between them, making it a much faster option for shops that frequently use several different media types.
Building on that same platform with may of the same advantages is the TS330-1600, a dye-sublimation transfer printer for shops looking to do high production fabric printing. It has a max print speed of 69 m2/h in draft mode, and has two optional units, the 10 kg ink tank and the mini jumbo roll. The large capacity 10kg ink tank can be installed to reduce running costs compared to the standard 2L ink pack applied, and the mini jumbo roll is a feeding option that can be equipped with Mimaki Vision Jet-X Mini-162, a transfer paper roll approximately 2,500 m long for lower running costs. Ink sets are available in 4, 6, 7, and 8 colors. Besides the basic colors of CMYK, light blue, light magenta, light black, fluorescent pink, and fluorescent yellow are selectable among 6/7/8 color ink sets. The print width is 1,600 mm, which is frequently used in textile and apparel applications.
Finally, the last piece of equipment launched at the event was the new CG-AR Series cutting plotters. The plotters are available in two sizes: the CG-60AR features a 606 mm cuttable area, and the CG-130AR features a 1,370 mm cuttable area. Both have a cutting pressure of 550g, which allows them to cut a wider variety of materials, including PVC, rubber sheets, cardboard, and more.
Examining the Opportunities
Beyond taking a closer look at Mimaki technologies, Innovation Days offered a closer look at some of the trends impacting the industry, and how printers of all types can prepare for the coming years.
“2022 Sign and Graphics: Where We Are and How We Plan to Grow” was a session led by Denise M. Gustavson, the Editorial Director for NAPCO Media and Editor-in-Chief of Wide-Format Impressions, and Andrew Paparozzi, Chief Economist at PRINTING United Alliance.
Paparozzi noted that when it comes to the things printers are concerned about for 2022, there is “unprecedented agreement” across every segment on the top concerns. The top five are:
- Material shortages (92.4%)
- Rising substrate costs (85.2%)
- Rising labor costs (72%)
- Rising transportation costs (71.2%)
- Labor shortages (66.2%)
“I want you to know how significant these numbers are,” he said. “We build very diverse groups of participants in our research. Different opinions, different experiences, even different ways of approaching business. And to get them to agree on anything is rare. And to see these kinds of numbers agreeing on the significance of these trends is really unheard of. I’ve only seen it twice in all the years I’ve been doing this, and it captures the margin squeeze that is occurring across our industry.”
Compounding the problem, he noted, are a few overall economic trends. First, that inflation and rising costs have become embedded, meaning they are here to stay, at least for now, and second that the Consumer Price Index is rising far faster than wages — wages were up 5.3% in the last quarter, but the CPI was up 7.2%. “The longer prices outpace wages, the less promising the economy’s prospects,” said Paparozzi.
Second, he noted, is that consumer confidence is falling sharply, down 19.7% from a year ago, to its lowest point since 2011. This, he said, is due to increasingly weaker personal financial prospects because of those rising costs, as well as less confidence in the government’s overall economic policies. This is, he said, the least favorable long-term economic outlook in a decade.
The end result is that economic growth is forecast to slow down to 3.3% this year, compared to 5.7% last year, peaking in the second quarter and slowing down as the year progresses. And, said Paparozzi, as that forecast is revised through the year, it is far more likely to be revised down than up.
However, while there is a great deal of uncertainty, that doesn’t mean there aren’t opportunities for printers, even in this market. In fact, there are a number of markets Paparozzi is expecting to see high growth in the next two years. Some of the top prospects include:
- Folding Cartons
- Architectural Graphics
- Direct Mail
- Performance Wear
- POP/Display Graphics
- Vehicle Graphics
Gustavson pointed out that the reason for growth in these areas is due to a few different trends: convergence and diversification, consumer privacy concerns around digital media, increasing travel, consumer safety concerns, overcoming COVID behaviors, sustainability, and the push for more personalized content among them. “All of these trends impact different markets,” she noted.
To take advantage of these trends and come out of the next few years stronger, shops need to identify the right opportunities for the business. It’s taking a hard look at the specific resources, capabilities, and customers, and choosing the invest strategically in new markets that make the most sense. The right choices, Paparozzi noted, will contribute to sustainable competitive advantages. The wrong ones will deplete resources, fragment operations, and undermine core capabilities, so it is essential to spend time evaluating the business and the real potential growth areas before moving forward.
A few tools to help do that include the Cagan Opportunity Assessment, which is 10 questions to help guide decision-making; Lean Canvas, which is a one-page tool for opportunity evaluation; and the Product Marketing Opportunity Matrix, which allows shops to create a report card for each potential opportunity to better evaluate their strength for the business. Any one of them can provide the insight needed to make the best decisions, so it comes down to personal preference and which one will work best for your business.
Other Market Trends to Watch
Innovation Days also offered overviews of several different segments, with a closer look at some of the opportunities they offer.
One of those segments was 3D printing, with Josh Hope, senior manager, 3D printing and engineering for Mimaki USA, noted that there are a number of markets served in the 3D space — all of which can offer intriguing new opportunities for printers with the right equipment. These include:
- Collectable models
- Tabletop gaming
- Medical models
- Industrial prototyping
- Packaging prototyping
- Service bureaus
- Museum Displays
“As we look at some of the markets that are served by Mimaki products,” Hope said, “tabletop gaming and collectible models — those are two of the big markets that have emerged. To be completely honest those weren’t markets that were initially what Mimaki had in mind when the 3D UJ series came out, but the video game industry — and the gaming industry as a whole — has really flocked to that machine, and it is becoming the defector standard for collectibles and gaming models.” For printers interested in exploring 3D printing, this can be an intriguing and completely new customer base to go after.
On the industrial side, Hugo Gonzalez, applications supervisor for Mimaki USA, noted that one application printers can — and should — be thinking about is printing braille. This is especially true for any PSP already doing any type of signage applications, as this can be a natural addition to customers and applications the shop is already producing.
“A couple of tips for [braille] design,” said Gonzolez. “You can add an additional layer of special color — a layer of white, or a primer. If you are printing braille on top of a printed area — on top of a picture — then I’d recommend an additional layer of primer because ultimately, we’re concerned with adhesion with the material directly. … If the design is flexible, I would recommend printing directly onto the material for best adhesion.” He also suggested that for those working with a pretreated substrate, to make sure the braille is being printed on the treated side of the media.
For applications, Gonzolez noted, braille can be an extension of the personalization and customization market. Options include non-ADA required signage such as for museums, special events, and independent living items — think items such as identification cards for clothing or keys “that can make it easier for the visually impaired,” he said. Once a PSP starts thinking about braille beyond just the ADA-mandated applications, it can be a great additional service to offer customers on nearly any project that will be handled by consumers.
To register to view the events from the past week, visit https://innovationdays.mimaki.com/home.