Trend 1: Printing on any material
While printing across a variety of materials has been possible for some time, it used to require specialised machines, such as flatbed UV printers. In addition, the process involved printing a layer of ink on top of the material (or ‘substrate’), eliminating much of its natural characteristics.
Now printing on diverse materials is not only easier and more widely available, it’s also more dynamic because innovations in technology and technique have come together.
Today, we can coat almost any material with polyster, and infuse high-quality graphics into it. This means that when we print on wood, you can still feel the wood, even though there’s a print on top of it. Likewise metals and textiles still retain their textures and finishes, even when graphics are added.
Trend 2: Anything can be a sign
Driven in part by Trend 1, customers are now inspired to think more creatively in terms of what signage can be, and do.
For clients in sectors such as hospitality and retail for example, we’re now creating signs out of tabletops, doors, floors and walls that still showcase the beauty and quality of their source material, but also have graphics within them.
Likewise, interior designers are increasingly exploring the potential of using textiles to carry signage and graphics. It’s exciting times for them: people can see the value-add of an industry that’s less about products and processes, and more about possibilities. In some of our key regional growth markets, such as Egypt, Syria and Lebanon, textile printing is booming.
Trend 3: Perfecting colours
Compared to photographs or brochures, signage used to receive less attention when it came to colour quality. People were content to use the standard four-colour process, especially as signs are often outdoors and in the distance.
This started to change about 10 years ago, when we brought richer colour printing to the sector with our first eight-colour signage machine. Even then, some in the industry didn’t see the point. Nowadays however, the vast majority of what we produce uses our nine-colour machine, that can match 95% of the Pantone® colour range.
There’s a simple reason. Signage graphics are all around, they’re close-up and indoors – in malls, showrooms, restaurants and many other locations. That means clients care more about the accuracy of seeing their brand colours exactly as they should be. Software in colour management is developing at pace to enable this trend, and we’re seeing a real emphasis on such absolute quality in markets such as the UAE.
Trend 4: Going green
Like many other sectors, ours is increasingly environmentally aware. Inks, for example, are one area where change is clearly evident.
In the past, solvent-based inks were used for pretty much everything. They’re fine for outdoor applications, but for the new trends in indoor and close-up applications, they’re not.
Therefore more environmentally friendly inks have come on the market. But again, it’s not just the fact these are now available, it’s the way that they can be combined – with more precise printheads, with software management systems and so on – to create an overall solution for the client; one that’s better, more innovative and valuable.
Trend 5: Single source suppliers
The final change we’re seeing isn’t so much about innovation as about consolidation.
Because there are so many new things happening in our sector, bringing them together is critical. Clients are looking for partners who can combine innovations into solutions, so having an overarching approach and knowing how to get the maximum out of technologies is important.
As a result, people feel that single source suppliers really make a difference for them as a partner. They help to raise the level of knowledge and understanding of the industry so that everyone gains, and it’s win/win. In my opinion, this cycle is going to get even stronger in 2019.