Bridging the gap between offset and digital – insights from Konica Minolta

| 6 November 2020

The evolution of digital printing has been remarkable. In a new world after the coronavirus pandemic, market share will continue to grow across so many sectors, including industrial, packaging and commercial. 

Overall, the global print market is shrinking in volume terms – but only slightly. According to research by Smithers[1], “The Future of Digital vs Offset Printing to 2024”, output measured in billions of A4 prints was 49,973 in 2014 and is forecast to be 49,654 by 2024.

Looking at the global market from a print value perspective, the past year has seen a remarkable crossover point where the value of offset litho print output was overtaken by the aggregate value of non-offset litho analogue processes.

Flexo is the main winner in the analogue markets, mostly thanks to expansion in the packaging and label sectors. According to the research[2], offset litho printing is predicted to decline by $18.6 billion in a five-year period to 2024.

Digital, on the other hand, is definitely the fastest-growing print segment. It may still only have around 5% market overall penetration in terms of volume, but now boasts 20% of the total global market value.

Digital technology enables access to many features that customers in the commercial print, packaging and industrial markets seek for profitable applications. These are typically economic, low-cost, short-run production; versioning/mass customisation and personalisation. And with those features comes the potential for supply chain re-engineering to eliminate wastage, accelerate time to market and bring out new product categories.

Technological changes impact print in many ways. There are major shifts in B2C and B2B communication channels from printed media to online and mobile communication. But across all print markets there is increasing demand for faster turnaround, lower inventories in the supply chain and more impactful, targeted/personalised content. Digital printing provides the answers.

Overall, digital print will increase in value globally by almost 80% from $103.1 billion to $180.9 billion in a 10-year period to 2024. In the past, toner has been the dominant digital colour process for commercial print, advertising and label markets, and on mono output in books and transactional print.

However, inkjet is the real growth engine for digital printing. A technology overview can be found here[3] on our website of this increasingly important print process. In value terms inkjet had overtaken toner by 2018. Once reserved mostly for transactional applications, production inkjet has become a viable and advantageous solution for many high-value applications.

“There are several reasons behind inkjet’s growth,” says the The Future of Digital vs Offset Printing to 2024 report[4]. “Most significant is the development of scalable and robust, single-pass, inkjet print technology. This has enabled high productivity inkjet printing, coupled with the increasing capability of inkjet inks to address a wider set of application needs. These improved capabilities have enabled inkjet systems to grow their addressable market with increased productivity and lower total cost of ownership.”

Graphics, packaging and publications are all growth areas for digital printing. Book printing is the one area in the publication segment that will show growth because of inkjet printing. Globally, the value of inkjet output had overtaken electrophotography by 2018, according to Smithers. And in a five-year period to 2024, inkjet printing by value is predicted to grow by $41 billion to $118.3 billion. Improved printheads have also been a factor in the rise of inkjet production. Konica Minolta is highlighted as one of the OEMs that have refined a new generation of printheads designed for single-pass printing applications.

Surely, as the graph below from the Smithers Pira The Future of Digital vs Offset Printing to 2024[5]  shows, it is only a matter of years before the crossover point happens when digital takes over from litho as having the most value.  

The considerable market potential was behind the decision to launch our AccurioJet digital colour UV inkjet sheetfed B2+ production press. Since the official commercial launch[6] at drupa in 2016 it has become a natural bridge between offset and digital. Now the Konica Minolta AccurioJet KM-1e version unveiled in the summer of 2020 continues this driving force behind the trend of changeover from offset printing. The machine has superb print quality, high production reliability and linkability to high level workflows. Other significant benefits include minimum set-up time, reduced service time, as well as automatic duplex and production flexibility. There’s no compromise on substrates, quality, colour consistency, registration and immediate finishing. The AccurioJet KM-1e is known as the ‘Swiss Army Knife’ of printing because it has so many uses and provides customers with additional business and new revenue streams.

New developments include the ability to print on transparent, metallic and coloured media and improvements to the thin coated paper stability. There is no need to use digital stocks or expensive coatings. The AccurioJet KM-1e also benefits from Konica Minolta’s patented Dot Freeze Technology™, which provides even better colour stability and consistency. The end result is instantly dry, perfected prints.

The B2 segment will continue to drive growth in heavy production, according to research from Keypoint Intelligence/InfoTrends Western Europe Production Printing Market Forecast: 2018-2023 for On Demand Printing & Publishing[7].

As the world adapts to a ‘new normal’ after the coronavirus pandemic, we at Konica Minolta will continue to provide all our customers with practical support as we help shape ideas around the world, around the clock with our dedicated approach in a collaborative, partnership approach.

Two-way dialogues are extremely important, particularly with our expanding family of AccurioJet KM-1 users. Our own analysis is consistent with market trends: inkjet is definitely on the rise. Overall, volumes for our own customers went up by around 60%[8] over a year-long period to the end of December and the average trend is also showing significant increases, still so even during the pandemic.

One of our European customers saw its overall volumes in 2019 more than double on the AccurioJet KM-1 compared to the previous full year. It believes the inkjet printing increase is strongly linked to how markets continue to evolve with the increase of shorter-run length jobs where litho jobs are easily transferrable to the AccurioJet KM-1. Customers, in general, tell us they are able to capitalise on the machine’s ability to match offset quality and have quicker job turnarounds, greater efficiency and substantial cost-savings. And print quality is better than offset, say many.

Another European customer has also had an impressive 43% rise in volumes on the AccurioJet KM-1 in the same period and says, “The AccurioJet KM-1 can be used for all kinds of substrates without the need for pre-coating. However, it’s not just about investing in a machine; it’s an investment in trust. Konica Minolta is a global innovator…”

Digital will continue to tick all the boxes, as the printing industry adapts to cope with more customisation, versioning and shorter run lengths. The result is that our customers will be transferring more jobs from litho and will use the AccurioJet for additional business and new revenue streams.

Final word from one of our newest AccurioJet KM-1e customers: “Short-run digital production will become increasingly important, particularly after the pandemic is over.”


[1] Executive summary – The Future of Digital vs Offset Printing to 2024, Smithers Pira

[2] Print process prospects – The Future of Digital vs Offset Printing to 2024, Smithers Pira

[3] Konica Minolta website inkjet technology overview

[4] Print process prospects - The Future of Digital vs Offset Printing to 2024, Smithers Pira

[5] Litho, other analogue and digital market developments over 10 years - The Future of Digital vs Offset Printing to 2024, Smithers Pir

[6] Website story - Konica Minolta officially launched KM-1 at drupa 2016

[7] Placement forecast – Heavy Production Colour – Keypoint Intelligence/InfoTrends Western Europe Production Printing Market Forecast: 2018-2023 for On Demand Printing & Publishing

[8] Konica Minolta Europe own research in volume increases among its customers