Digital printing is going to turn entire value chains upside down

The global market for industrial digital printing is huge and will only grow. There are more and more applications in production processes that can bring great benefits such as adding flexibility and reducing costs. However, creating concrete solutions for the high complexity, low volume, high mix markets is no sinecure. This is especially true for OEMs whose technological core doesn’t include digital printing. They find the maximum added value in NTS as a partner in the development, construction and life cycle management of printers and modules.

Digital printing is nothing new in the industry. For example, the rise of inkjet technology has revolutionized the graphic and packaging world over the last few decades. This was driven by a big advantage over traditional offset. New digital printers brought unprecedented flexibility - for example by facilitating the personalization of billboards, magazines and packaging within large-scale production processes - resulting in the emergence of new business models.

Service record

'By now you can speak carefully of a reasonably mature technology regarding these markets', states Wim Steenbergen, Business Manager Digital Printing at NTS. 'This is reflected in the feats of our company. NTS has, for example, a significant service record in the field of designing and realizing digital printing equipment for OEMs in the graphic industry. However, if you are talking about digital printing in the high-tech industry, it is justified to talk about a development that is still in its infancy. The printing of esthetic and functional layers offers a wide variety of application possibilities for various sectors. The same applies to all kinds of 3D printing applications. In practice however, you'll see these kind of new and promising applications still sparsely find their way to the market. In this respect, we are only at the beginning of the digital printing revolution. '

Textiles, cars and dental prostheses

Ask Wim for the current and future applications of digital printing and the implications for the market, and he offers many examples. The possibility of applying materials very accurately and with great flexibility, also in small production runs, leads to the replacement of traditional processes in various industries. You can color textiles with a printer instead of a paint bath. The semicon can use printing to deposit functional layers such as conductors or insulation. Printing an optical structure that is placed on TV screens makes it possible to switch between a 2D and 3D viewing experience. It is conceivable to replace cabling in cars with printed circuits on the bodywork. And the low-cost printing of dental prostheses not only gives a better result than the current casting process, but also enables decentralizing production.

Great opportunities

Wim: 'Within NTS, we run a number of these type of projects in collaboration with clients. They are in different phases, from a first idea to the actual production of machines and modules. However, they are all born from the realization that digital graphic, functional and 3D print technology - as a stand alone application or process step - can bring substantial benefits. It allows you, for example, to achieve more flexibility in production processes and reduce costs by reducing the use of materials. But also think of adding functionality; creating entirely new applications and making production more sustainable. Of course, all those potential profits vary per case. But one thing is sure. Digital printing is going to turn entire high-tech value chains upside down, in the semicon, apparel industry, food, consumer electronics, you name it. That means there are great opportunities for machine builders who bring this digital technology to those markets.'

Market approach

High-tech machine builders for whom printing is core business typically lean on their own innovation and production power. NTS supports them from its proposition as a development and manufacturing partner. But especially OEMs who see opportunities in realizing digital printing solutions, but do not have the sufficient knowledge and experience in-house to do so, can benefit optimally from the services of NTS.

'This is why we focus on them in our active market approach', states Shahzad Khan, Strategic Business Developer Digital Printing at NTS. 'That's a strategic choice. We want to add maximum value to ensure success for both parties. To achieve this we also see complementarity and entering into a long-term relationship as an important prerequisite. NTS ideally seeks involvement in the entire creation process, from the initial idea and development, to component manufacturing, assembly, maintenance and service. This fits our company as a highly vertically integrated organization that has everything under one roof. In addition, our projects usually entail creating first of a kind solutions in digital printing. These are new products that need to be brought from a concept to a reliable technology and robust implementation in high speed and high throughput 24/7 production processes. And that requires a multitude of specific knowledge and competences, multidisciplinary and experience as a system integrator.'

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This news article was part of our newsletter Accelerating News Q4 - 2019

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