Thermal Printers Heats Up to 8% Growth

8/12/2003 - According to current research supporting Venture Development Corporation's "Global AIDC Industry Business Planning Service 2003," worldwide revenues for bar code printers are projected to reach $1.5 billion in 2003. VDC forecasts annual growth to be slightly under 8% over the next four years.

The industry remains heavily dominated by thermal printer shipments as the technology provides low-cost, high-quality labeling solutions. This trend is expected to continue as the adoption of AIDC solutions further transcends the supply chain particularly in industrial/manufacturing environments to item level coding of products such as electronic parts, components, and consumer products.

According to Taylor Smith, AIDC Analyst, "While the instability of leading world economies may negatively impact near-term growth for AIDC solutions, VDC is confident that increased workforce mobility and direct part marking/coding applications will provide growth opportunities for bar code printers through 2007. In addition, compliance standards such as the U.S. FDA's unit-of-use regulation are expected to provide solid growth for the bar code printer market." Primary considerations for the AIDC bar code printer market include:

Asian bar code printer vendors expand presence: The increase in number of local Asian bar code printer suppliers yields more lower-cost bar code printers. The low-cost manufacturing capabilities, in addition to reduced labor costs, enables Asian suppliers to effectively compete in their price-sensitive home market, as well as penetrate into the more mature markets of Europe and North America leveraging lower selling prices as a competitive advantage.

Portable printers a hotspot for thermal printing growth: Workforce mobility provides several advantages to an organization some of which include decreased costs, improved efficiency, and reduction in time spent on tasks. The continued advances in WLAN technologies (i.e., Bluetooth and 802.1x) and increased use of PDCTs and other mobile devices should aide in accelerating the adoption of mobile printer solutions.

Connectivity for bar code printer solutions remains a priority: Demand for remotely monitored, IP printers continues to be great. With installation environments (warehouse and manufacturing floors) now covering a large area companies are able to greatly reduce cost and increase efficiency by remotely monitoring all printers from a single location as opposed to manually inspecting each printer.

Strict standards drive demand for 100% compliance labeling: Bar code label verification within printers, also known as online data validation (ODV), is increasingly required within compliance labeling applications. While external kits have historically accomplished this task, a few companies have developed internal verification features that confirm the quality and integrity of bar code labels as soon as they are printed. This procedure ensures that all labels produced meet necessary compliance standard requirements.

Significant growth opportunities for RFID printer products: The establishment of AutoID, Inc. by the Uniform Code Council (UCC) and EAN International intends to expedite the adoption of RFID technology through development of EPC (Electronic Product Code) standards. In addition, Wal-Mart's recent announcement requiring the company's top 100 suppliers to install RFID chips at the crate/pallet level by 2005 provides further evidence that the use of RFID technology is gaining momentum. RFID printer/encoder solutions are currently available on the market and primarily support the growing adoption of smart labels and smart cards; however, RFID technological and market development is critical to enabling a migration path to RFID solutions.

About VDC
Founded in 1971, VDC is a technology market research and consulting firm that specializes in industrial and commercial electronics, computing, communications, software and power systems markets.

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