Is print dead? While that is a question sometimes spoken outside the printing industry, from the inside it's clear that not only is print alive, it's still evolving. The advancement of Inkjet digital printing technology has periodically given print service providers new options and capabilities that could improve their standing with customers.

No matter what corner of the printing business you operate in – and your stance on whether to use flexographic or digital printing methods – there is a certain value in watching the developments occurring in state-of-the-art hardware. New capabilities show the enduring value of print and may point to interesting turns the industry will take over the next few years. Not bad for an industry that is periodically declared dead.

The view from the Inkjet Summit
Industry conferences provide great examples of progress made and next steps being planned. The recent Inkjet Summit drew the eyes of the printing industry, with both WhatTheyThink columnist Barb Pellow and Printing Impressions contributor Dave Johannes reporting their impressions of the new and exciting developments on display at the event.

Pellow pointed out that the summit involved testimonials from current Inkjet users about how they have made the technology work for them. This was no doubt a helpful feature for the significant group of attendees who are considering making a move to integrate these printers into their business models but haven't made the commitment yet.

According to Pellow, printers valued the opportunity to learn about the new workflows that come with Inkjet adoption, as well as the different technical specifications of using the technology. Knowing beforehand how different paper stock options, inks and finishes affect print production can give buyers confidence as they add new hardware to their shops. They learned these facts and more by hearing case studies or engaging in one-on-one discussions with print leaders who have become satisfied Inkjet users.

The future of marketing
Printers hoping to expand their marketing capacity have good reason to be interested in advanced Inkjet use. According to Johannes, the future of dynamic content and customized marketing can come from digital printing presses and the right software. The author noted that providers were competing to offer the best options at the Inkjet Summit, indicating that there are plenty of options for shop owners looking to improve their customized deliverables.

While software is one element of the equation, hardware development is also occurring at a promising rate. Johannes noted that today's presses have made "leaps forward" compared to the previous generation of assets. New inksets promise a range of printed colors that providers haven't been able to produce before. With customers sure to be demanding in an era when print is merely one communication option among many, impressive visual quality could be a true difference-maker.

Optimism as a theme
Pellow noted that there is an undercurrent of optimism among printers today regarding Inkjet use and adoption. She pointed to an InfoTrends projection which sees Inkjet tech accounting for 60 percent of digital page production by 2020. According to Pellow, that number feels attainable. With vendors revealing impressive new printing options and shops signaling their willingness to put them into practice, the industry has a general roadmap to success.

Some attendees told Pellow directly that while they haven't committed to Inkjet use yet, it's basically a done deal. Dale Park of New Jersey's Action Graphics told her, "It is not a matter of if, but rather a matter of when, as we project and plan our future strategic business plan."

Johannes explained that the summit has been held five times now, and it never disappoints, allowing leaders in various parts of the print field to share their information on the tech front. The show is sponsored by multiple corporate entities instead of a single vendor. That means innovations from across the spectrum got their time to shine.

Evolution is occurring
As long as technology is improving – giving print service providers new techniques that can impress customers – the printing industry won't become stagnant. Print shops have the option of evolving with the times, and a number of possible vendors to deal with, as well as different technological paths to pursue. Inkjet is just one of the branches of print technology extending on from here, showing the potential for new developments in the future.