Ira Somers, writing for Massivit 3D, discusses some of the business tactics that successful and innovative print shops are implementing to not only stay afloat, but to keep ahead of the pack.

According to Tim Greene, IDC’s Research Director for large format printing, 3D printing, and digital signage markets, print shops are looking for ways to enhance their business offering. Wide format market trends tell us it is not enough to have a digital printing machine that can churn out projects. Greene and two other industry analysts say now is the time for print shops to adopt 3D printing. It is an industry that is growing rapidly in many sectors, including visual communications.

Current trends in the digital printing market

Printing industry revenues are slowing. Commoditisation, convergence and the resulting lower margins remain a wide format print shop’s lethal enemies for the foreseeable future. How important is it for a print shop to keep their finger on the pulse of new tech? Perhaps it is time to reassess your business model. Or consider diving into a new market like 3D printing.

While the 2D print industry growth is slowing, the 3D printing industry growth continues to skyrocket. It is penetrating industries across the spectrum, including visual communications. For innovative, savvy business owners, this is the chance to adopt early and stake a claim of multiple markets and gain a competitive edge.

According to industry analysts, including Greene, the latest advancements in large format 3D printing provide a major opportunity for print businesses. They can adopt the technology to expand their offering and provide unlimited applications to their existing customer base while attracting additional new clientele.

Early-adopter print businesses have already begun offering large format 3D printed displays, signage and thermoformed elements. The shops incorporated 3D into their existing 2D print applications with tremendous results. Top brands, such as Coca Cola, Emporio Armani, and Netflix are embracing 3D printing because it helped them to capture larger exposure by creating more impactful advertising campaigns. They returned as clients to the print shops that offer 3D printing.

Wide format printing is growing … with competitors

Greene shared an eye-opening piece of research in a recent webinar. Essentially, he stated that business might be fine now for wide format print shops, but just because a shop has a digital printing machine and is busy with work, it is dangerous for the business to get comfortable with the status quo.

According to IDC’s research, the wide format industry’s volume is increasing at a 6-7% rate. However, revenues in wide format printing are only expected to grow at a 2-3% rate over the next few years. Greene asserted that this could be due to convergence.

Today, commercial print businesses are offering a greater array of services and in many cases, even moving into wide format printing. Greene said this convergence is partly linked to commercial printers’ traditional business disappearing or simply not growing. Many businesses have been forced to fold, consolidate, or offer something really new. Considering the efficiency of and demand for wide format digital printing, it’s no wonder there are more commercial printing businesses entering the wide format arena, and driving down prices.

Wide Format Impressions recently wrote about this convergence. The article said that it is relatively inexpensive (comparatively) for a traditional commercial printer to get into wide format printing. This begs two questions of wide format printers: why invest in a better wide format equipment to try to stay ahead of your competitors? Why not offer something entirely new?

Investing in the same equipment that is newer, larger, faster and with a better resolution won’t provide a sustainable differentiation. But being different will help print shops tackle market saturation, low margins, and commoditisation.

Printing industry analysts are pointing to 3D printing because of its continually-expanding applications for the visual communications space. At 2018’s SGIA show (now Printing United), Smithers Print Consultant, Dr. Sean Smyth, and What They Think’s Senior Analyst, Richard Romano, discussed digital printing with a large 3D printer. They said: ‘As printers get hold of this technology, they identify [new applications] the technology inventors never thought of,’ and ‘The ability to create a wide variety of different kinds of objects lends itself to as many sectors as possible.’ Now is the time to adopt the technology that is growing at a rapid rate.

3D printing is booming

TJ McCue, writing for Forbes, reported Wohler’s 2019 forecast for the worldwide 3D printing industry. It is projected to reach $15.8 billion in 2020 and $35.6 billion in 2024. These staggering growth figures include all additive manufacturing products and services worldwide. It is an industry that is not going away, and will make its mark in visual communication as in all other segments.

So what does all this mean for print shops in terms of practical steps that can expand their business? Large 3D printers enable print shops to accept previously-impossible projects, penetrate new industries, deliver new applications, attract new customers, and enjoy new profitable revenue streams.

3D printers also help print shops to get out from commoditisation and show customers they are anticipating their needs. Incorporating large 3D printing with its many applications demonstrates that the print shop understands today’s market expectations: hyperlocal, omni-channel marketing and data-driven marketing. With a large 3D printer, the print shop is ready to create high-impact campaigns. Greene said, ‘A large format PSP should expand the scope of the way they think about their business in order to expand the business.’

3D printing and your large format digital printing business

One of the best ways to stay ahead is to offer applications that other print shops can’t deliver. There is no end to the applications that can be created when a wide format printing company incorporates large 3D printing with their offering. POPs, props, window displays, signage, illuminated displays, displays in motion, and more, like:

Event Props

Cameron Advertising 3D printed these props for an Adidas event and they were the hit of the event.

3D billboards

One of the amazing benefits of 3D printing technology is the ability to incorporate it with other technologies as well as traditional 2D as displayed in Armani’s billboard below.

Colorzenith combined wide format and 3D printing to create this billboard for Armani.

You can watch the entire 44-minute IDC webinar with Tim Greene: Super-Sized 3D Printing: Refreshing Your PSP Business With New Revenue Streams.

Read the top 5 stories weekly on WhatsApp or sign up to our newsletter.