Inkjet Printing Trends to Watch in 2021

Even the current pandemic couldn’t stop the advance of inkjet printing technologies. For 2021, there are some exciting developments ahead which will surely drive this area of printing forward.

Road with 2021

Inkjet technologies are evolving very fast and although COVID-19 made 2020 a very challenging year, there are many promising innovations on the rise in this area. In this article, we’ve gathered some of the key ink technologies and inkjet trends that will shape our industry throughout 2021.

1. Thermal Inkjet Printing

Continuous Inkjet (CIJ) printers, known for their speed and durability, are the common workhorse for industrial inkjet jobs. As they are able to deliver a steady stream of ink, they have a major advantage over drop-on-demand systems when it comes to large productions. But the technology behind this benefit, the ink recovery system, can easily become a hurdle for some as these systems are very expensive. 

Therefore, thermal inkjet printing (TIJ) is on the advance and starts rivaling CIJ systems. Up to now, this system had the best cost of production for short-run and medium-run printing jobs. Especially food and pharmaceutical packaging manufacturers can benefit from some of the new TIJ systems launched on the market recently. Additionally, there are environmental gains too, as thermal inkjet printing reduces VOCs by almost 90% compared to CIJ systems.

As the packaging industry had the largest revenue share of the printing market in 2019, it is no wonder that it has been continuously growing since then and probably will assert its dominance in the next years even more. And with the packaging industry using inkjet printing systems as well, this printing field consequently wins out, too.

2. Innovative UV Inks 

Not only because of the Minamata Convention Regulatory banning mercury in 2017, common mercury lamp curing systems have become unpopular for printers. After all, alternatives are now available that offer significantly more advantages, like for example working with UV inks cured by LED lamps. Those inks are able to print on a wider range of substrates such as thin and heat-sensitive films. And we can even add more technologies to the list that have the upper hand on mercury: In addition to the UV inks, new water-based pigment inks for flexible packaging and films, and an electron-beam curable system, perfect for food-grade packaging as it is not relying on photoinitiators, entered the market. 

3. More Flexibility with Hybrid Digital Printers 

Hybrid printing is a real game changer, enabling more work in less time which pays off especially in times of rising production demands. 

With innovative stations, like the Colordyne 3800 series, there’s no need for an expensive second printing system. Commonly inkjet systems are used for versioning, customization, and coding in production runs, while analog systems are top in lower cost-per-print aspects in longer runs.  

4. Future Prospects 

Sustainability has been a key issue in almost all industries for many years now, but the current pandemic has taken this to new heights since COVID-19 has been a warning sign for most people. Therefore, green solutions will become a top priority for all industries, especially with potential new political restrictions and laws. Consumer expectations towards brands are predicted to also rise as they will increasingly only support companies with a positive environmental footprint. Accordingly, inkjet technologies will also have to put even more focus on sustainably in the coming years than ever before.

One major trend missing here, as there will be an extra article on this topic, is Drop on Demand printing, which is expected to be the fastest-growing segment in 2021. But do you think we’ve missed any other important inkjet trend for 2021? Feel free to leave your suggestions in the comment section!