This Week in Imaging: Office-Inkjet Making Gains, Particularly Ink-Tank Models

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Photo credit: Kathy Wirth

While inkjet-printing continues to make gains in production and commercial printing, office inkjet printing also continues to grow, as evidenced by recent research from International Data Corporation (IDC), with particularly stronger growth in developing economies, and particularly within the (refillable) ink-tank/ink-bag segment.

In Central Europe and Russia in fourth-quarter 2017, IDC reported that inkjet shipments posted year-over-year growth of 12.6 percent in units and 14.3 percent in value. The inkjet market was characterized by a significant shift towards ink-tank models. Ink-tank models recorded 26.5 percent growth in unit terms. Ink-tank printers represented more than 30 percent of the overall inkjet market in unit terms and over 48 percent in value in fourth-quarter 2017. (Ink-tank models incorporate four tanks, one each for cyan, yellow, magenta, and black inks, that users refill with high-capacity ink bottles. “Ink-bag” models – available through Epson – use replaceable high-capacity bags of ink.)

While HP Inc. remained the leader in shipments of printers and copier/MFPs in Central Europe and Russia, HP Inc.-branded models recorded a moderate 7.8 percent decline, but Samsung-branded shipments contracted by more than 40 percent. This may be because Samsung-branded models are being transitioned to the HP brand name – thus lower sales –  but may also be because Samsung models are all laser-based, while HP Inc. offers both laser- and inkjet-based models.

London-based IT market-research firm CONTEXT also reported that shipments of printers in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) in fourth-quarter 2017 remained stable compared to last year, noting though that “there was a dip in the performance of most categories, except for inkjet MFPs, which continued to show rising growth.”

In Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), according to CONTEXT, there was a 5 percent year-over-year decline in fourth-quarter 2017, “driven by falling sales of laser hardware, while sales of inkjet MFPs and printers in particular continued to increase, registering growth of 7 percent each.”

Worldwide Fourth-Quarter 2017

In the worldwide printer and copier/MFP market in fourth-quarter 2017, IDC recently reported that growth “was driven by a solid performance in the inkjet market, which grew 3.3 percent year-over-year.”

Contributing to inkjet’s growth in fourth-quarter 2017 were increases in Latin America, Central and Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa, and Asia/Pacific (excluding Japan) (APeJ). According to IDC, some of the factors behind these gains included “a rise in shipments of ink-tank inkjet devices outside of the APeJ region.”

HP PageWide color-inkjet All-in-One.

Epson Workforce Enterprise  A3 inkjet copier/MFP.

Our Take

As we’ve discussed previously, in the United States and other developed economies, it will probably take some to dis-associate office-inkjet with much older consumer inkjet printers that in the past were characterized by slower print speeds and a perceived higher cost per page versus laser printing.

Both HP Inc., with its PageWide business inkjets, and Epson, with its PrecisionCore and RIPs (replaceable ink pack) business inkjets, have been working hard in the past several years to remove this stigma. HP, for instance, emphasizes its PageWide business inkjets’ 40-percent lower color cost per page versus laser printers, print speeds of up to 75 ppm, and fewer moving parts versus laser for better reliability.

Epson, with its A3 color 75-ppm WF-C17590 and 100-ppm WF-C20590 inkjet copier/MFPs, emphasizes, for instance, up to 50-percent lower energy consumption versus laser (via no toner fusing to paper), and, with its lower-end ink-tank office models, printing for up to two years out-of-the-box with included ink, and lower cost per page versus laser. Both also stress inkjet’s eco-friendliness that include significantly less imaging-cartridge shipping, packaging, recycling, and manufacturing concerns, as well as the handling and shipping of the various other required laser-printing components such as waste toner and receptacles, fuser units, filters photoconductors, transfer belts, etc.

While business ink isn’t displacing office laser/LED (toner-based) printing in a big way in the United States quite yet, both HP and Epson, and other inkjet vendors (Canon and Brother International) appear to be making big gains in developing economies. Will this success eventually reach the United States and other developed economies? Stay tuned.

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