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Digital Rising: Latin American Printing in Transition

Press release from the issuing company

By Noel Ward, Executive Editor, On Demand Journal & Managing Editor, WTT Trade Show Coverage Printing in Latin America is on the cusp of change. From Mexico to Brazil to Chile, print providers are seeing digital printing as an opportunity for new revenue streams, greater profit opportunities, faster production of materials and more personalization. These are the same reasons printers elsewhere adopted digital print technologies but growth has been slower in Latin America for reasons including market size, political uncertainty and unstable economies. In addition, major digital printing equipment vendors--primarily U.S. companies--have focused more on larger (and wealthier) markets, primarily Europe and North America. It's not that there was no digital printing taking place in Latin America, however. IBM, Océ and Xerox have had a presence in Latin America for some years, primarily focused on transactional printing. Wide format printing has also proven successful with the steady efforts of Epson, HP, Scitex Vision, Vutek, and others. CTP is also gaining wide acceptance because it streamlines prepress workflows while enabling a printer to keep an existing press. This is an important factor in countries where high interest rates are common and investment capital can be hard to come by. Now, though, these vendors and others are increasing their presence. Sales and service organizations alike are being expanded in key Latin American markets to support some of the latest digital printing technologies. This clears the way to offering current generation equipment that can provide the capabilities needed in developing markets. Many vendors are also investing in education, both directly with customers, and in conjunction with state-sponsored technical training institutions. The strategy is clearly to ease printers' transition to digital, shortening learning curves and eliminating some of the barriers to success encountered by early adopters in Europe and North America. I talked with Valerie Thomassin, Vice President, Production Solutions Group, Developing Markets Operations at Xerox who told me the company sees significant Latin American interest in adopting digital print technology. "By outreaching to print providers through a venue like Graphics of the Americas--the largest graphic arts show focusing on the Latin American market--we are able to expand the reach of digital and help educate those in the print industry about the ways they can increase revenue and grow business." According to Thomassin, three product categories are well-matched to the Latin American market: Medium-volume monochrome production digital publishing devices, entry-level digital production color printers, and wide-format printers for the graphic arts industry. In fact, Xerox will be introducing a new device in one of these categories on Friday, February 4, at GOA. She says the size of the Latin American markets and local print providers generally create demand for volumes of 150,000 to 300,000 per month for monochrome and 25,000 to 40,000 per month for color. Very high volume digital print solutions appeal to a few printers in Brazil and Mexico, and to some niche publishing markets in Chile and Colombia. As in other markets around the world, digital color printing is expected to be a key part of Latin America’s future and will be a major focus for Xerox. Still, while digital color is coming, monochrome still presents a major growth opportunity for commercial printers in Latin America. The typical print volumes Thomassin describes make short-run monochrome printing-- especially using some of the new mid-range digital printers from Canon, KonicaMinolta, Océ, Ricoh and Xerox--a prime means of making the transition from offset. Given the acquisition and operating costs of such devices, printers who invest in digital monochrome production machines should be able to build a foundation for further digital printing, including color and ultimately variable data printing. The potential in the Latin American market is reflected in the growth at Graphics of the Americas. As noted in last week's report, some 22,000 registered attendees are expected in Miami Beach this weekend, and indications are that it could go higher. In addition, the Xplor Variable Data Printing conference taking place Thursday and Friday has already attracted over 150 registered attendees. Among the 400-plus vendors at GOA are IBM and Kodak Graphic Communications Group, both reaching into a market where each has substantial potential. Adobe and HP, which last year had overflow crowds in their booths, have expanded their presence. Capitalizing on the demand for signage and large graphics, Scitex Vision, Vutek, Epson, HP, and Océ will be among the wide format vendors in attendance. Océ will also will also feature certain VarioPrint models and color printers. In addition, Creo and Presstek will demonstrate how their CTP and plate technologies fit into the offset-to-digital transition in Latin America. One of the cool things about GOA is that it's the most international print show in North America, with 40 percent of attendees coming from other nations. I particularly like the view this provides of how printers in other countries embrace the technologies we take for granted in the U.S and Europe and adapt them to their own applications, customers and markets. I try to talk with printers from Mexico, Brazil, Chile, and other countries to learn how they are managing the transition to digital printing and understand how it fits their world. I'll fill you in on what I find out in Miami Beach Coming next: the Xplor VDP conference that began on Thursday.