Opportunities for IIJ in a changing market
Since 2016 IIJ’s Managing Director, John Corrall, and Head of Ink Technology, Veena Sarojiniamma, have visited every Heimtextil Show. This year, John and Veena give their view on the current trends in the industry and how that will guide IIJ in the final stages of development of their Wallpaper printer.
“Although a lot of the show is taken up with textile applications, our focus was very much on wallpaper. We were keen to see if the show included any new equipment for digital wallpaper production, an indicator for how ready the industry is to adopt inkjet technology.
In general, the wallpaper hall seemed a little smaller than previous years, maybe a reflection on the decline in traditional wallpaper sales over recent years. The people we spoke to said that the first day had been quiet though the second day was better. So, it seemed like footfall was also down on previous years. However, the official statistics for the whole show indicate that exhibitor numbers were up and there was only a slight reduction in visitor footfall.
The mass-production wallpaper market in Western Europe has been in gradual decline for over 10 years. At times this has been compensated by growth in Russia, China and East Europe. However, we heard that probably all high volume producers had had a poor year in 2018. Sales were down 10, 20 or 30% for some. High-end or specialist producers suffering least and higher volume producers suffering more. The slowdown in the China economy was mentioned as one cause.
That doesn’t mean that the demand for a digital wallpaper solution has dwindled. In fact, the opposite appears to be true. The people we talked to were keener than ever, for two really important reasons.
- the need to be able to create something new and attractive in what is a fashion market
- the need to be able to handle shorter and shorter runs more efficiently
It’s probably an obvious statement, but markets that are under stress are often those most ready to risk a change.
So what was new? Interestingly, two conventional wallpaper press manufactures now include digital options in their line-up. One is offering the HP Indigo system. The other has an oil-based inkjet system aimed at absorbent PVC-coated wallpaper. Neither were demonstrating, but it shows how digital technologies are starting to be adopted. The toner based equipment was again shown in the digital hall, the main difference being improved in-line finishing equipment, showing a move to mainstream short run print.”
IIJ will shortly launch its long anticipated single pass wallpaper printing system, designed for high productivity and suitable for turnkey systems or fitting as a digital module to an existing press. We are at the end of what has been a lengthy development process in order to hit all of the requirements for this demanding application. The evidence from the show this year is that the time is right for this traditional market to accept new enabling technology.