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Printing Industry Trends


Companies in the printing industry are primarily engaged in printing on materials such as paper, textiles, metal, glass or plastic. Printing business (which represents a great part of the manufacturing market) can usually offer a variety of printing processes including lithographic, gravure, screen, flexographic, digital and letterpress.


Printing generally encompasses prepress and post press as well as printing itself. Prepress is the process that occurs between the creation of a print layout and the final printing. This procedure includes the manufacture of a printing plate (image carrier), as well as the adjustment of images, photographs and texts or the creation of a high-quality print file. Printers usually also undertake post-press work; for instance for brochure printing, post press includes cutting, folding, assembling and binding.


On the basis of annual revenues, RR Donnelley and Toppan Printing Co. Ltd. are two of the largest print companies in the world.


Key Market Segments


Widely-used printing technologies include offset lithography, flexographic, digital and gravure printing:


  • Offset lithography is the most common printing process for printing everything commercial. However the volumes of all offset printing have been reducing recently and offset is being replaced by digital technology printing.


  • Flexographic printing is a widely-used method of conventional printing. This process is used for printing flexible materials such as plastic bags, papers, folding cartons, disposable cups, labels, tags and milk cartons.  Global demand for this type of printing is likely to reach $194 billion in the future.


  • Digital printing, which has a market value of more than $132 billion, is greatly in demand. Today's presses generally use either laser/toner or inkjet technology. Digital printing is ideal for short-run, fast-turnaround jobs. Most printing firms are now offering digital printing and this technology is likely to replace offset lithography in the future.


  • Gravure printing is used for printing magazines, newspapers and direct mail catalogues. It is also used for upholstery and textiles, wall paper and plastic laminates. Over recent years there has been an increase in demand for smaller print runs, which are met by inkjet technology. This is likely to dent the gravure printing market, which is mostly used for long printing runs.



Regional Market Shares


The global printing industry is seeing robust growth in packaging and labels and is expected to grow to $980 billion in the foreseeable future.  The USA, Europe and the emerging economies of Asia are the key markets for printing.


In the USA, one of the largest markets for printing, despite the shift to digital alternatives such as eBooks and online communication, commercial printing is strong, with a market value of more than $70 billion.


Germany, in Europe, is one of the largest markets for printing with a market value of more than $33 billion. In recent years, however, the European printing business has shrunk. The difficult market situation in this region is leading to decreased investment in printing. Imports of printed products are also posing challenges to domestic printers in European Union (EU). More than €1 billion’s worth of printed products have been imported from China to the EU.


China’s printing industry is experiencing rapid growth. The industry, which is worth more than $160 billion, encompasses about 100,000 printing businesses. Chinese printers are increasingly investing to expand their international footprint to Europe, the USA and the Middle East.


India’s printing industry has grown robustly in recent years. India has more than 250,000 printing companies; they are a mix of small, medium and large businesses. This country’s printing industry has more than $11 billion revenues, and is evolving to be one of the larger printing markets in the world.



Market Outlook


The following are among the most important trends in printing:


World demand for 3D printing is projected to rise to more than $16 billion in the near future. Design and prototyping are likely to account for the majority of this demand. However, the most rapid growth is expected in consumer applications. 3D printers are increasingly being used to manufacture direct production parts and finished goods in industries from automotive to aerospace to healthcare. As 3D printing speeds and material quality improves, adoption of additive production technologies is expected to grow. This in turn is likely to expand the market for 3D printers. In the medium term about 2 million units of 3D printers are expected to be shipped globally.


Demand from end users of industries such as food and beverages, personal care, household care and health care is growing rapidly in Asia. Rising disposable income, changing lifestyles and rapid economic growth are all contributing to this trend. Against this background, the Asian flexographic printing market, which caters largely to the packaging industry, is likely to hold a dominant position in the future. 



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