The demand for custom ceramic products is being reignited by companies that have embraced digital decorating technology.
Flexibility is Key
manufacturers are in a struggle for survival against cheap Asian imports. For
companies that rely on “make-to-inventory” business models, this battle has no
end in sight. The most common response is to move production to low-cost
manufacturing countries in an effort to compete more effectively, but the
steady stream of U.S. business casualties continues
The dominant Asian business model relies on the
inexpensive mass-production of commodity products. If U.S. manufacturers mass-produce products that
can be mass-produced in Asia, it is likely
that they will face never-ending price and margin erosions.
On the other hand, producing uniquely personal and customized products is
contrary to the dominant Asian business model, which gives local producers the
advantage. One option is for U.S.
manufacturers to acquire commodity products from offshore companies and then
customize those products with digital ceramic printing.
example, the North American porcelain memorial portrait industry has been
wholly untouched by cheap Asian imports. While offshore suppliers have taken a
large share of the granite sold into the funeral industry, virtually no Asian
suppliers of significance currently produce porcelain memorial portraits, even
though typical margins run 1000% and up. Instead, the blank porcelain is made
offshore, while the customization-and the capture of the high margin that goes
with it-is done in North America.
personalized, customer-specific products are most effectively produced close to
the point of sale. Language and time zone disparities, along with geography,
create hurdles to offshore producers. In addition, consumers who want (and are
willing to pay for) personalized products also expect the personal service that
goes with it. This creates an advantage for local companies when they can
quickly create proofs and prototypes to address the design iterations that are
often necessary during the customization process.
In just the last year, a number of significant advancements
have extended the capability and usefulness of digital ceramic printing. Among
these advancements is a new class of state-of-the-art printers that eliminate
the traditional reliance of digital ceramic printing on used, obsolete printer
technology. The new printers are reliable, easy to use and produce
photographic-quality decorations with new fine-particle-size ceramic toner
With computer-to-print simplicity and low
cost, ceramic decorations can be produced at up to a 1200 by 1200 dpi print
resolution. The new printers can decorate full-bleed 12 x 12 in.
tiles and can print continuous images up to 45 in. long in “banner” print mode.
In addition, some systems are price-competitive with sublimation systems while
avoiding the product deficiencies of sublimation
A glass toner system is now commercially
available, as is a new low-cost desktop ceramic printer. In addition, digital
ceramic printing has the smallest environmental footprint of any ceramic decorating
technology, and it uses less energy. The process uses dry print chemistry that
eliminates all organic solvent and other liquid waste streams generated by many
other ceramic decorating processes. Finally, enhanced relationships with the
printer OEMs make on-site service available from printer manufacturers.
digital ceramic revolution is in full swing and is opening a host of new market
opportunities for companies that have adopted its use. It is a potent weapon in
creating higher “value-add” products in markets where there is little
differentiation-other than price-evident to the customer.
For additional information regarding customizable ceramic decorating,
contact the author at (303) 278-8868 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.