By Wayne Robinson | July 15, 2022

The latest Commercial Printing Market Report from industry analyst Smithers, available for just €5,950, indicates that over the next five years, digital printing will continue to grow in volumes and value, while lithography will remain static.

Digital printing: growth continues

According to Smithers in 2017, the analog printing industry was worth $734.5 billion; by 2027, this market is expected to be worth $721.4 billion. Digital printing in 2017 was worth $122.9 billion and is expected to reach $189.8 billion by 2027.

Between 2022 and 2027, the global analog printing industry is expected to grow globally, albeit by only 0.8%. The digital printing industry, on the other hand, is expected to experience an annual growth rate of 5.7%.

The Smithers report indicates that inkjet and electrophotographic (toner) printing continues to threaten to replace offset litho in multiple applications as the market adapts to an increasingly digital future. The future of digital printing versus offset printing until 2027 tracks the dynamics of this competition over the next five years, outlining how the latest technological developments will redefine the industry.

Offset litho (sheetfed, heatset web, web coldset) remains at the heart of global printing technology. In 2022, a total of 27.69 trillion A4 prints will be produced on offset litho presses – almost exactly two-thirds of total print production – worth $326.8 billion. By contrast, digital printers will produce 1.67 trillion A4 print equivalents this year, but the total value of that work will be $144.1 billion, underscoring the added value potential of shifting from work to print. digital printing.

Heatset and coldset litho represent the majority of production. These processes are primarily used for magazines and catalogs, and newspaper printing, respectively, all of which have suffered significant losses over the past two years as Covid-19 helped accelerate many readers to electronic media. .

Sheetfed litho demand has been more robust, but is increasingly responding to the inkjet challenge in several key segments. Other analog processes, led by flexo, will better resist this trend, mainly due to the growing demand for label and packaging printing.

Advertising and commercial printing are the primary applications for sheet litho, both of which have suffered severely during the pandemic. The main benefits offered by digital in these applications are faster turnaround time, low cost customization and better cost profiles on shorter print runs. As higher productivity machines are introduced, the cost of inkjet printing continues to drop.

The report says print buying is also moving towards shorter commissions and budgets have been revised to aim for higher returns. In response, sheetfed press OEMs are striving to develop more efficient presses, minimizing downtime and other operating efficiencies. Push-to-stop technology will continue to develop and will be enhanced with machine learning and artificial intelligence software to maximize uptime and make maintenance cycles smarter. This trend is already moving towards a greater emphasis on after-sales services from litho OEMs, helping to maximize returns for their customers.

Smithers says that installing more superwide-format (VLF) offset presses simultaneously provides economies of scale, which will put additional pressure on operators of smaller litho presses.

Another challenge is that the print quality achievable on digital has improved dramatically, with some now indistinguishable from offset lithographic production. In digital, the latest generation of inkjet presses in B2 and B1 formats are also eroding demand for electrophotography, with much of the continuous commercial work migrating to high-speed inkjet machines.

Over the forecast period, advertising applications will represent the largest absolute volume increases for inkjet. Packaging, particularly corrugated and flexible cardboard, commercial printing and books are also growing strongly. Toner printing will experience moderate growth in commercial and graphic applications, including specialty products, such as photo books.

Digital adoption has been led by North America and Western Europe. However, none of these are saturated and all regions will see wider adoption of the technology – Asia in particular. In this region, access to digital technology is enhanced by the production of locally produced entry-level presses, while the global market benefits from more dedicated media and inline finishing.

According to Smither The future of digital printing versus offset printing until 2027 contains authoritative market data on historical, current and future demand (by value and volume) for all digital, offset and analog (flexo, gravure, screen, letterpress, other analog) printing processes. The relative merits of offset and digital printing are summarized with technology profiles including cost comparisons between standard run lengths, inks and consumables costs; including the impact of hybrid printing and the digitization of print rooms.

This is quantified and presented in nearly 150 data tables and figures, segmenting each market by:

  • End-use application (books, magazines, newspapers, catalogs, directories, advertising, commercial, transactional, security, labels and packaging)
  • Geographic region (Asia, Africa, North America, South America, Western Europe, Eastern Europe, Middle East and Australasia).

This “strategic in-depth” study for the printing industry is available to buy now, priced at €5,950.