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Will digital printing eventually deliver on all the promises that have been made for it? The answer, according to speakers at Pira’s recent Digital Packaging World conference, would appear to be positive.

  As Des King reports (see page 19), “With digital print costs predicted to be 50 per cent cheaper by 2005 and speeds to run five times faster, converters should now be seriously considering including the DP option. When it comes to adopting digital technology, they should ‘take little steps rather than giant leaps’, but take them soon.”

Kevin Karstedt, compiler of Pira’s five-year strategic forecast, ‘The Future of Digital Printing for Packaging’, reported that 53 per cent of respondents surveyed had confirmed they were planning to use DP. He estimated the market for digital package print in Europe had grown from €40M in 1997 to a current value of €273M, and predicted it would be worth around €330M by 2005. The biggest growth is expected to be in self adhesive labels.

Principal factors determining the DP option were better quality; increased efficiency; a growing demand amongst end users; and more easily managed short runs at lower cost.

Most speakers agreed that digital print should be viewed as a marketing tool rather than an extension to the existing production line. Amongst the drivers for digital print noted were the requirement for regional pack variants; reduced life expectancy of brand design; pressure within the supply chain to print to order rather than inventory; and a general trend towards shorter runs.

The most encouraging aspect of the conference was the positive predictions for digital printing that were coming not from the press suppliers, but from companies who are actually using the technology and benefiting from it. While it’s still too soon to tell how big a role DP will eventually come to play in the converting industry, there is no doubt now that it is here to stay.