40% growth in five years? Why the world has caught inkjet fever

Published 21 November 2019
According to Smithers, the value of the world inkjet market will exceed 100 billion US dollars by 2023. That’s an increase of 40% from just last year! What’s going on? Panu Kupila and Timo Turpela from Finnish printing house Otavan Kirjapaino explain why the world has caught inkjet fever.

Panu and Timo, why are we seeing such rapid growth in the inkjet market?

In recent years, inkjet printing has developed in leaps and bounds. Although the base technology has been around for a while, inkjet printing has always come second to offset methods in terms of print quality. Thanks to recent technological advancements, we’ve finally managed to bridge the quality gap between inkjet and offset printing – allowing for comparable final print quality on both.

The main benefit on inkjet printing boils down to flexibility. In general, when working with smaller batch sizes, inkjet printing is less labour-intensive and more cost-efficient than offset.

Smithers forecasts the largest growth in book, commercial and packaging printing. Does this shift apply for your local market? The top three seems to stand out in Finland, as well. In recent years, shifting demand has pushed for smaller batch sizes in book printing – an area where inkjet truly excels. In mass produced products, such as magazines, we suspect offset will continue to hold its own for quite some time.

You’ve recently made considerable investments into inkjet printing. What was the reason behind choosing inkjet specifically?

It comes down to two words: demand and quality. With books, Finnish publishers have long pushed for smaller batch sizes to help optimize their warehouse management and minimize demand risks. When the technology was finally there to offer results comparable with offset quality, we seized the opportunity.

What are the biggest drawbacks to inkjet printing? What challenges does the industry still need to address?

Although the method is less costly and more flexible with smaller batch sizes, colour costs are a significantly larger expense in inkjet printing – comparable with the cost of paper, even.

Another issue to consider with inkjet is the quality of paper required. With offset we can print on pretty much anything, but inkjet is way pickier. With some paper qualities, the surface is too brittle and with others – too dense.

To control for paper quality as well as the amount of ink consumed, we coat our papers with a colourless, glycerin-based primer. This helps us ensure that all the cost-savings we make with inkjet aren’t wasted on more ink and more expensive paper.

What specific expertise you apart from competitors?

As one of the few book printing houses still left in Finland, we have to constantly evolve. Investing in inkjet printing allows us to adapt to shifting market demand, and to serve our customers better.

The real advantage comes from combining inkjet and offset methods. At the beginning of a book’s life cycle, we offer small and cost-efficient batches printed with inkjet. As demand grows, we can easily scale up to larger volumes produced with offset methods. By flexibly managing the entire life cycle of the book, we help publishers optimize their sales and warehouses.

Why does Stora Enso's paper offering provide a good medium for inkjet printing?

Our number one priority is that the paper we choose work for both inkjet and offset printing. This way, when we scale production up from smaller, inkjet batches to large offset volumes, we can do so without variation in the paper quality.

Throughout the years, we’ve worked closely with Stora Enso and provided feedback for their product development. Stora Enso’s line of LumiForte and LumiSilk papers have given us first-class results with both inkjet and offset printing methods.