In response to the recent release of formidable 60″ wide format inkjet printers from Canon and Hewlett-Packard, Epson has now released a 64″ model of their own, the Epson Stylus Pro 11880 printer. The wide format printer market has become so competitive that these Original Equipment Manufacturers are releasing new printer technology just about every two or so years. This printer is the first time Epson has released a printer wider than their extremely successful 44″ size, as seen on the 9800, 9600, 10000, and 10600 models. This is an enormous benefit to production-oriented facilities who prefer the quality and track record of the Epson brand name, but desperately need the extra width. Given that Canon and HP printers are only 60″ wide, the Epson 11880 offers an additional four inches in width which could prove to be a deciding factor in consumer decision making. The logic is that if one can choose between two relatively similar printers at the same price point, why not invest this large sum of money into a printer that offers larger capability?
As most experts know, the truth is that none of these wide format printers from Canon, HP, and Epson are similar at all. Granted, the purpose of them and the market they serve is similar, but the technical makeup and capabilities of the printer vary quite drastically. The Stylus Pro 11880 was specifically developed to address a few key technological voids when compared to earlier printer model releases. First, it prints both matte black ink and photo black ink at the same time, without needing to swap out ink cartridges. Epson has been widely criticized for not solving this sooner. This will save the printmaker thousands of dollars in ink swapping and wasted time. Next, the printing speed is drastically improved. The Stylus Pro 11880 is expected to more than double the speed of the Stylus Pro 9800, therefore making it a powerhouse within production environments. Given the high speed of the Canon and HP printers, the Epson 11880 will now attract the high volume printing audience who, until now, were relatively forced to invest in other OEM technology. The high volume market uses a ton of ink and purchases a significant amount of equipment each year. The advent of this new printer model should therefore open up a substantial growth opportunity.
The OEM is banking on features like these (but not limited to these) to propel the Epson 11880 far past the recent wide format printer releases from HP and Canon. Given the existing market share and general adoration for the brand due to its blatant first-mover advantage into the giclee printing segment, most expect the Stylus Pro 11880 to dominate the 60″ printer segment.
One common topic amongst giclee printmakers is of the potential backlash for the quick and continual release of new technology over such a short period of time. The market mainly consists of small business owners who cant continue to afford to purchase printers every two years, and they simply cant keep up. The result of such an approach is a market flooded with old outdated printers such as the 9600 and the 10000 printers, and tons of entrepreneurs wondering how they are going to compete and differentiate themselves. Although this might create some negative press, in such a competitive market does the OEM really have a choice?