The shift from electrophotography (EP) to high-speed inkjet (HSIJ) in the worldwide continuous-feed, digital production print market came to fruition in 2013, and will continue through the 2014-2018 forecast period, opening up broad new opportunities in the market, according to IT research firm IDC.
The report projects HSIJ to reach $1 billion in equipment sales by 2018 with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10.8 percent, while placements of both monochrome and color EP equipment are expected to see further declines.
The continuous feed equipment market is expected to grow modestly at a CAGR of 2.4 percent through 2018, fueled almost entirely by HSIJ, which will grow at a 12.2 percent CAGR.
While the crossover in placements occurred in 2013, HSIJ will grow to 75 percent of placements by 2018.
"A dramatic technology shift occurred in 2013 as high-speed inkjet maintained its momentum, while incumbent technologies declined," Andrew Gordon, research director of IDC’s production output solutions division, said in a statement. "There will continue to be opportunity for color laser, which will hold a quality advantage for a while. However, high-speed inkjet vendors will make great strides toward improving print quality and substrate flexibility."
The report noted providers of this technology have focused on the high-volume segments of the continuous feed market where print volumes and corresponding supplies and service revenue are more attractive.
With the technology shift well underway, HSIJ is poised to become the dominant technology for traditional applications produced by the existing installed base of continuous feed printers.
There is also expected to be a number of upcoming opportunities for EP color technologies where print quality and substrate flexibility is considered of extreme importance.
"While the majority of HSIJ placements are going to the traditional markets, technology vendors are opening up new opportunities in publishing and commercial print," the report said. "Considering the immense print volumes produced in these segments, aspirations to convert these volumes to digital print are driving business development activities. This application diversification will accelerate as vendors find the right balance of operating costs, productivity and print quality."
However, based on IDC's historical data for continuous feed printers as well as current adoption projections, the research firm said it believes there are too many offerings in the market, and predict that a looming vendor shakeout is on the horizon as the market begins picking inkjet winners.