3D printing may be garnering all the headlines at the moment, but the news isn't bad for the rest of the printing sector either, Heather Wright discovers.
It's been a long time – if ever in fact – since printing was in the mainstream media as much as it has been recently.
Headlines scream out about use scenarios for 3D printing, from those we've already seen such as mini statues, replacement parts – even for bodies – and assorted other items, to the stuff of sci-fi with talk of colonising space via 3D printing.
(Yes, truly: Adam Steltzner, lead engineer on NASA's Curiosity mission has suggested using 3D printers for that purpose. At a recent conference he reportedly said: “Our best bet for space exploration could be printing humans, organically, on another planet,” and discussed sending bacteria encoded with our genetic information to other planets to be 3D printed, and so begin colonisation.)
Meanwhile, the International Space Station is reportedly on track to receive a 3D printing unit, potentially as early as this September, with the replicators expected to be used to make clothes, food and mechanical parts.
Away from the 3D hype, there have been plenty of other developments too. Not so much gloom Just over a year ago, the printer market was looking a little grey, to say the least. Despite some areas of growth, there was only very small growth in the total market – and that had to be measured against the price points.
Fast forward to the present day, and Jensen Ooi, IDC market analyst for imaging, printing and document solutions, says the printer market has registered new growth recently and that's expected to continue.
“It was anticipated that the overall New Zealand economy would do well in 2014 and, true enough, it has. As a result, the printer market in Q1 2014 registered a new peak in its growth patterns since 2012 for both consumer and commercial products.”
Ooi says end users are opting for fast, reliable and economical printers and, as a result, a large poprtion of low- to mid-range printers are being sold off.
“Due to the intense competition in the market, vendors have resorted to various sales drivers, such as competitive price points and marketing promotions, such as cash rebates and price reductions.”
Ooi says roughly 301,000 units of inkjet and laser printers were shipped in New Zealand in 2013, translating to a market value of nearly US$220 million. Exeed, whose portfolio includes HP and Fuji Xerox, agrees, saying the print hardware business is still 'very important' for them, and is currently growing.
“We sell HP and Fuji Xerox printers and both brands are very well known in the consumer, SMB and corporate market,” says Justin Tye, exeed managing director.
“The printer business has grown this year over last year, particularly in the SMB space,” he adds. “The large format printer business is on fire right now, with the strong economy and great products from HP.”
Ooi says overall printer demand for 2014 'looks optimistic and is expected to set a new positive record' thanks to the improved economy that has directly affected the buying power of end users – both consumer and commercial – in a postive way.
“By the end of 2014, IDC anticipates the market to grow by a further 5% in terms of unit shipments.
“New Zealand is one of the smallest markets in the world for printers, considering that globally there were almost 110 million units of printers shipped in 2013.”
As to the key players in the market these days, the usual suspects continue to dominate with HP, Canon, Brother and Epson leading on the inkjet side, and Brother, HP, Ricoh and Fuji Xerox the key players in laser, according to Ooi.
MPS and new inkjet technology Tye says a key opportunity for resellers lies in picking up the annuity revenue of supplies business by offering a managed print service. “This can be managed by the reseller themselves, where they are focused on print solutions, or via a partner or vendor.”
He says the distributor is about to launch a reseller managed print service programme targeted at resellers servicing SMB customers.
“With this programme, the administration of replenishing consumables is handled by exeed, but the revenue continues to flow to the reseller for years after the hardware sale.”
A recent channel survey by Fuji Xerox Printers backs Tye's enthusiasm for managed print services, with the survey finding that 78% of partners considered managed print services to be the biggest opportunity for increasing revenue.
But managed print isn't the only opportunity ahead for the New Zealand reseller channel. Epson recently took on the laser market with new inkjet heads which it claims combine the quality of inkjet with the speed of laser.
Their international release last month of a range of printers based on the technology garnered plenty of attention and IDC's Ooi says the advancement of the new inkjet models 'certainly sounds like something for end users to look forward to'.
“As it is still somewhat new, these claims still need to be tested in the market,” he says. “The biggest challenge at this stage would be to overwrite the old perception that inkjets are slower, have lower quality and are more costly compared to lasers.”
Meanwhile, David Borg, Fuji Xerox Printers general manager, Australia and New Zealand, says the company is seeing demand for high-value multi-function printers.
“This will be driven by increasing affordability as prices drop, enabling small business customers to purchase these devices.
“This marks a change to the traditional patterns of the demand, where only large enterprise and government have previously been able to afford these devices.”
Borg says the vendor is also seeing a shift toward decentralised print enviornments. “Small businesses are starting to realise the productivity benefits of having multiple smaller printers located around the office.
“With printers located closer to workspace, staff spend less time going to and from the printer, and more time on business-critical tasks. Then, of course, there's the mobile opportunity.
"HP says current industry research indicates that by 2015, 41% of business smartphone users and 43% of business tablet users will print from their mobile, opening up plenty of opportunities for sales of printers with wireless printing capability.
"And of course, we can't forget 3D. Ooi says that the 3D printing hype and visibility in New Zealand have been realised in the retail space, though a strong traction of adoption is still slow.
“However, vendors are very optimistic with 3D printing, as more opportunities are presented by small business users and a handful of consumers.
"The challenge lies within the limited opportunity in educating the general market in understanding the use and benefits of a 3D printer.”
Whichever angle you decide to take, Ooi says thanks to the economy '2014 is a great and exciting year for resellers'.
“With various new models from various brands coming up and the rising market demand, resellers will have an exciting year to look forward to in terms of unit shipments.”