Canon and the Future of Wide-Format: Mathew Faulkner

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Tell us a little about your background, how did you get involved with digital printing?

I started out in print working in the packaging sector, during the early days of that shift from analogue to digital technologies, especially in the design and pre-press parts of the business with repro systems, laser imaging and the early inkjet printers used for proofing.  So after a time in manufacturing I crossed over to work for technology companies and I joined Canon in the LFP business 7 years ago.  So it’s been very interesting to see how from those very early days of digital print, as quality and productivity of the technologies has increased, digital print has taken over a lot of the volume from analogue printing, but has also created its own markets through new applications.

How has the market place changed in your view in the past 10 years?

10 years is a very long time in print, the growth in wide format printing has been phenomenal, both in those regular graphics applications for advertising, signage and POS, but also with the emergence of new applications for digitally printing décor or packaging or some of those industrial printing processes.  This is supported by a huge growth in the range of media that’s available for digital print applications of all kinds.

Equally there have been big changes in the area of printed pages, a lot of volume that was printed litho has shifted to digital print technologies like toner and inkjet and in this part of the market there we lots of suggestions about the ‘death of print’ due to communication and the consumption of information through digital means.  But now we’re seeing a new resurgence in the use of print, brands are recognising the value of print as part of campaigns, partly due to digital fatigue, but also regulatory rules like GDPR but also print is very measurable now and the ability to personalise and mass customise print means it can be very relevant and targeted.  Richard Askam, was one of the speakers at Canon’s recent Future Promotion Forum Event, described this as the “tide started to go out, but now it’s coming back in again.”  Which I thought was a very good way to put it.

 What in your view is the biggest factor that is changing the print industry?

There are a few major factors, because of the technologies, nowadays we can print to almost anything at appropriate quality and productivity levels, so the opportunities for printers to get involved in new and growing sectors is huge.

I mentioned already personalisation and mass customisation, this is aided by data – the way data can now be collected and analysed, to be able to create very targeted communications is very sophisticated.  With some of the AI engines that are in use and being developed I think we’re only scratching the surface of what’s possible in terms of the use of data, to produce truly targeted and relevant communications.

Linking those things together, that fact that we can make just one print digitally at very costs effective levels, means that creates a market itself, whether that’s consumers demanding personalised décor for their home, or the classic “print on demand” where artists, creatives and photographers can to offer their work for sale, and only have to print it when they get an order.

Is connecting and inspiring the creative industry a key issue for the future in your opinion?

Every piece of print, bar none will go through some creative process – someone has to design it, whether it’s a one off book or a 100,000 print run of packaging or piece of wallpaper.  So it’s incredibly important for us as a technology provider to inspire creatives, whether they’re agencies, brands, marketers, manufacturers, architects, as to the possibilities of print.  And especially when there are advances in print technologies themselves, or complementary technologies that can be incorporated into print like geo-location or AR.  Plus as I mentioned already, the way data can be mined and analysed to support print campaigns.   

How does Canon connect with the creative industry?

At Canon we’re in a fortunate position with our imaging portfolio, that many of our customers around the world are in the photography, imaging, architecture and creative sectors.  That gives us some unique insight into the creative processes and thinking, and some of the demands and ways of working that are placed on those sectors.  When you carry that through to our print portfolio, around Europe we hold regular events to inspire creatives as to the possibilities of print and also to bring them together with print service providers who can also add their expertise and applications capabilities.  Our recent Future Promotion Forum event that we held in Munich attracted over 300 visitors made up of brands, retailers, marketers and printers was focused on the future of promotional print from the views of industry influencers and thought leaders - and how it supports needs of those end users, this was the first time we had run that event and it was incredibly successful so we’re already planning that again for next year.

Are you positive about the future of digital printing and its place in the new media landscape?

Absolutely, I’m very positive, print is an incredibly exciting business to be part of.  There’s new technologies, new applications, new ways of working and business models all bring opportunities for our customers and the their customers too, to really benefit from using print, whether that’s for customer nurture and communications, for advertising, for packaging products or for decorating spaces.

What sector in your view do you see digital printing playing a larger role in the future?

There are well publicised stats and predictions about the growth applications, there are few that I’d pick out.  There’s great growth in the use of display graphics applications from banners and posters to signage and vehicle graphics.  And as well as understanding what’s driving that growth it’s also important to be aware of other factors such as demand for very fast turnarounds, especially within 24 hours, which of course influences workflows and technology choices.  But also as I mentioned, the new technologies that enable print to be measured as part of a campaign, to be targeted through the use of intelligent data, or even to be interactive with for example AR.

If you’re in print, you cannot have escaped the publicity around the possibilities of printed interior décor, it’s everywhere and at every event and in every publication.  For printers there are some superb opportunities from this, but also careful considerations to be made when looking to move into these new applications areas, both in terms of finding customers, understanding the demands of the applications and establishing the right expertise.  Canon SUCCESS FACTOR SERIES and PPP.

 Finally industrial printing and packaging, more niche today, but potential for huge growth.

 

Marcus Timson