Nowadays, large offset presses, costing several million dollars apiece, dominate printing business that is estimated for $418 billion a year. Most of the offset presses sold in the world are produced by Xerox.
This state of affairs is likely to change with the introduction of the new inkjet technologies. And the success of new technologies means troubles for Xerox and more business for major makers of inkjet printers like Hewlett-Packard, Eastman Kodak and others.
The introduced inkjet presses, priced as much as $2.5 million per unit, are more expensive than the half a million dollar Xerox machines, but cost less per page. For instance, inkjet machines produce a page for 1 cent, versus about 4 cents for the Xerox’s laser technology. Just like with desktop printers, the digital printer makers expect to make their profits by selling ink.
So far offset printers produces 95% of all printed pages worldwide. Digital presses account for only 2% of offset pages, or $US8 billion annually. However, inkjet makers expect that share to triple in the next 3-4 years as quality and speed of digital printing improve. But even today inkjet makers are sure with their technology digital printing is competitive in price and quality with offset printing.
At the Drupa trade show world’s printer makers are showing new inkjet presses predicted to be the future of commercial printing.
Kodak will demonstrate its Stream inkjet technology that can print at a speed of 150 meters a minute, about half the speed of traditional offset. The technology will be available in 2010, Kodak says.
HP will show its Inkjet Color Web Press, which prints at 120 meters a minute and will be available for sale next year.
Industry specialists are cautious in theirs predictions and say digital printing won’t push out offset as fast as digital photography replaced film. But the shift to digital printing provides an important growth opportunity for printer makers.