Emerging commercial inkjet tech, inks and substrates create a wealth of marketing opportunities

By Vaughan Patterson, product marketing operations manager for Production Print at Ricoh SA
The variety of substrates that can be printed on is growing because digital inkjet printers, which economically print on even one or very few pieces, are much more capable today than ever before. And it’s opening up huge new opportunities for marketers and the printers who support them to create and track returns on investment.
Most of that is due to the growing variety of inks and heads used in printers today. Inks range from the traditional solvent to eco-solvent, UV-curing, and more recently aqueous and even latex. The range of applications has therefore also increased based on the inks’ abilities to firstly be applied to a wider range of materials and secondly its abilities to withstand different environments. These include the more traditional billboards, vehicles, vehicle curtains, building graphics, banners, indoor such as point of sale (PoS) displays, exhibition and stand graphics, museum and so on. But new printers can also print on product wrappers, like foil, plastic, even corrugated plastic sheet and a whole lot more.
That functionality can be used for special promotions where standard equipment can interrupt print streams and be used to create personalised products during otherwise enormous volume runs. Marketers may use that ability to create individualised special promotions linked to social media channels for word of mouth marketing, real-time advertising, influencer marketing and more.
Helping specialised marketing projects stand out are substrates that are foil-like, seem fluorescent, white ink, even a glitter effect. In the past the chemicals used to create white inks would often block digital print heads, leading to inconsistencies and reliability issues, but that is no longer the case. So while digital was not an option for printing white in the past it actually is a viable commercial option today.
These are some of a spate of new technologies and products propelling inkjet to capture much of the short run sign market from screen and lithography presses. Digitally printed PoS materials are increasingly popular for many reasons, compelling printer vendors, substrate manufacturers, and ink manufacturers to innovate new solutions specifically for retail environments. You can even get environmentally friendly plastic board suitable for print applications. Infinity foam board is another made form 100% recycled polystyrene.
Indoor signage and PoS is so popular with printers who can now affordably supply the smorgasbord of solutions mentioned above that it represented 37% of the total global market in 2016 with 97% of that going to inkjet. Retailers and companies promoting their brands enjoy the flexibility and opportunity that inkjet offers particularly with wider varieties of substrate that improve their creative opportunities. And, for brick and mortar businesses and the brands they stock, it’s an opportunity to offer a tactile quality unrivalled by the ephemeral digital domain.

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Ricoh is a global technology company specialising in office imaging equipment, production print solutions, document management systems and IT services. Headquartered in Tokyo, Ricoh Group operates in about 200 countries and regions. In the financial year ending March 2014, Ricoh Group had worldwide sales of 2,236 billion yen (approximately 21.7 billion USD).

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