Tim Greene: A wider perspective

Tim Greene

Tim Greene

What is your background?

TIM GREENE: I’m a Management major from Northeastern University but I’ve been studying and consulting in the large format digital printing business for over 20 years. For much of that time I was with InfoTrends now I have been with IDC for almost five years. In all that time I have conducted studies in just about every segment of the large format printing market I can think of and many of those multiple times.

Is wide format now not really a growth market? Is there still opportunity?

TIM GREENE: Well it is interesting – for some companies large format has lost its sizzle as a growth market because some applications such as banners and billboards have largely become commoditized. For shops that rely on revenue from a limited set of applications I would say Yes they should be concerned about the lack of growth. Other companies are investing in capabilities to produce a wider range of applications, including higher-quality and more complex applications that have higher margins, or require the print shop to sell to a new set of customers. This is not easy but it is necessary. Yes there is still opportunity but the competitive nature of the large format graphics market means print shops have to evolve. We have the retail value of print in large format growing at a 2-4% CAGR in North America over our forecast but I talk to shops that are seeing 20% plus growth every year in their large format business and they do it by investing in the latest and greatest, developing excellent sales practices, and staying really close to customers so they understand their business challenges and are ready to meet them.

What is your view of the sale of EFI? What are the ramifications for the market?

TIM GREENE: EFI is a bellwether company for the large format graphics business. EFI has staked out a leadership position in large format UV and has expanded into digital textiles with their Reggiani acquisition. They are also doing really well with their NOZOMI packaging press. The company that bought them, SIRIS Capital declares, as part of its strategy that it prefers to invest in companies that are technology businesses evolving from high-flying growth business to a mature, low-growth business” so it seems they understand EFI’s position and that of the market overall. As such I really don’t think this will impact EFI employees, channel, or customers in the short term (2-4 years) as the company seems to be doing quite well in terms of market performance.

What is the biggest issue right now for wide format?

TIM GREENE: I’d say it is the growing level of commoditization across the core set of applications that large format digital was built on. We talk to shop owners that report that prices for backlit signs, banners, posters, billboards, are all being compressed because of the high level of competition. This is why we see many shops investing in equipment that gives them the capability to produce a wider set of applications or that enable them to find new lines of business. You and I are in really hyper-competitive markets so I don’t want to overstate this as I still the there is organic growth in the large format market, but for many shops the juice is not worth the squeeze the way it historically has been.

Is decor a viable option for wide format printers? If so, why? If not why?

TIM GREENE: I think it is and I think more than enough large format print service providers are active in the segment serve as proof that it can be done. It’s probably not for everyone, just like vehicle graphics or billboard work isn’t for everyone. The shops I see doing well at it have created separate brands and marketing initiatives specifically to reach out to the types of people that buy and specify décor work like interior designs, architects, and store planners.

Is 3D now reaching a level of maturity that means it’s a technology with a clear future?

TIM GREENE: I think one of the challenges with 3D printing is that there are seven major 3D printing technology categories (1. materials deposition, 2. powder bed fusion, 3. binder jetting, 4. materials jetting, 5. vat photopolymerization, 6. sheet lamination, and 7. directed energy deposition), and even among them there are some hybrid and “tweener” technologies. Each of these technologies have their strengths and weaknesses, and each are in their own stage of development, so it is a bit vague to just refer to 3D printing as a singular technology. Back to the question: Clear future? No – Future? Without a doubt. We see the pace of development in 3D printing accelerating. Huge manufacturing companies are investing in it both on the user side and as suppliers because it holds a lot of promise. I mean ALL of the top manufacturers in the automotive, aerospace, and orthopedic industries have 3D printing initiatives.

What applications for 3D do you see as offering the best future?

TIM GREENE - As a whole I think 3D printing is and will continue to find applications and markets that have three key characteristics; first is the need or desire to constantly iterate, second is the ability to support a price premium, and third is a relatively inefficient supply chain. This is why markets like aerospace, automotive, and medical have been the primary adopters of 3D printing historically. We see some great success stories where 3D printing is used for manufacturing of parts and pieces for industrial equipment on a one-off and short run basis which keeps these machines running, extending their useful life well beyond expectations. We see other markets like footwear, eyewear, and dental that are getting a lot of attention from 3D printing manufacturers. All that will support the legacy business, and keep the market growing in the short term. The bigger opportunity is in penetrating production/manufacturing for Industry 4.0/The Digitization of Manufacturing. When 3D printing technology offers the accuracy, durability, cost structure, and repeatability that makes it viable for longer and longer runs of materials – but also when industrial designers take 3D printing additive manufacturing into account when designing products, instead of designing products to be injection molded, that is when we will see 3D printing really accelerate. It seems like everybody is working on it and there are examples that combine automation, personalization, and 3D printing such as with Invisalign.

Tell me about IDC?

TIM GREENE – Sure. I am fortunate to be a part of the premier global provider of market intelligence, advisory services, and events for the information technology, telecommunications, and consumer technology markets. My group covers everything related to printing and imaging, from consumer and office, to large format and production printing including 3D printing. The company was founded 55 years ago (1964) and we have more than 1,100 analysts offering global, regional, and local expertise in over 110 countries around the world. Our analysis and insight helps IT professionals, business executives, and the investment community to make fact-based technology decisions and to achieve their key business objectives. Anybody interested in more info can read more about IDC at www.idc.com or shoot me an e-mail at tgreene@idc.com.

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