Commercial Printing, NEC

SIC 2759

Companies in this industry

Industry report:

This industry classification is comprised of diverse establishments involved in commercial or custom-job printing not categorized elsewhere. Examples of products include newspapers and periodicals printed on behalf of publishers, engraved announcements, circulars, maps, tags and labels, directories, stock certificates, and currency. Procedures include screen printing, flexography, letterpress, digital printing, embossing, engraving, debossing, and thermography on substrates such as paper or plastic, but not textile. For information on commercial lithographic printing, see SIC 2752. For commercial gravure printing, see SIC 2754.

Industry Snapshot

The miscellaneous commerical printing industry is composed of a variety of printing specialties. The National Association for Printing Leadership reported that the printing industry began to decline in revenues early in 2008 as the U.S. economy began to sink into recession. For the six months ending May 2009, the industry sales were down 15.9 percent compared to the same six months in 2008. However, signs that the industry was improving began to appear in 2010. According to Dun and Bradstreet, the industry generated $13.4 billion and employed 171,500 in 2009. In descending order based on revenues were California, New York, New Jersey, Ohio, Missouri, Texas, and Pennsylvania. These seven states accounted for approximately 47 percent of industry revenues.

Organization and Structure

Letterpress and flexography are two common relief-printing methods. In relief printing, plates are cast or engraved to produce a raised image. The image is transferred by applying ink to the plate's surface and pressing it against paper or other substrates. Letterpress and flexographic technologies are similar, except that letterpress plates are made from metal and flexographic plates are made from rubber or photopolymer materials. As a result of different plate composition, flexographic processes require special inks to avoid plate damage.

Screen printing (sometimes called porous printing or silk screening) employs a screen stencil. The image area is left open and non-image areas are sealed using a substance called "resist." Ink is applied to the screen and forced through its mesh onto paper or other substrates such as glass, plastics, and metal (including highway signs). Screen printing is commonly used for limited quantity outdoor posters such as billboards and point-of-purchase advertising displays. Screen printing is unique in that it allows printing onto uneven, oddly shaped, or extremely large substrates.

Thermography, also called raised printing, is used primarily for business cards, social invitations, and stationery. The raised effect is achieved by applying a colorless resin powder to the wet ink. The powder then assumes the color of the underlying ink and, when heated, it bubbles and bonds to the paper. Some printers use pearlescent and glitter powders to create special effects.

Background and Development

Human interest in making multiple copies of art and documents dates back many centuries. The Chinese, credited with the invention of paper, designed a kind of wooden movable type based on Chinese characters. Modern print methods, however, trace their beginnings back to the early 1400s when Johannes Gutenberg, a German publisher, developed movable metal type based on alphabetic characters. Gutenberg created molds for individual letters and cast them using a metal alloy made of lead, antimony, and tin. He hand-assembled text, letter by letter, from pieces of type that were kept in a special "type case," with compartments for each letter, accent mark, and punctuation mark. To print, Gutenberg locked the type in a frame and placed the frame in a fixed position on a hand-operated wooden press. He spread ink made of soot and linseed oil on the surface of the type and pressed paper against it with a movable flat platen.

Wilhelm Haas, a Swiss typemaker, developed a metal hand press in 1787. Haas's press produced higher quality impressions than previously existing wooden presses. Further print improvements came during the early 1800s, when flat platens were replaced with steam-driven "impression cylinders." Because an impression cylinder rolled over a plate, it created even pressure across the entire surface and required less energy to operate. The first press to replace its flat platen with a metal cylinder was constructed in the United States by Richard Hoe in 1844.

A major innovation in typesetting technology occurred in 1884 when Ottmar Mergenthaler, a German immigrant to the United States, invented the Linotype machine. It operated by casting lines of type rather than individual letters. A Linotype machine stocked engraved letter dies in a storage area. The letters were released by typing on a keyboard. The machine ordered them, along with punctuation marks and spaces, into entire lines that could then be cast into metal bars. After lines were cast, the individual letters were routed back into storage for future use. The metal bars of type were used to make printing plates. Prior to the invention of the Linotype machine, typesetters could set approximately 1,400 characters per hour. A Linotype machine could set 6,000 characters per hour.

Other typesetting refinements included the Monotype machine, which was invented in 1897. The Monotype machine produced a perforated paper tape to control typecasting equipment. Renee Higonnet and Louis Moyroud developed photographic typesetting techniques during the 1940s. During the 1950s, computer technology was first employed. Further progress over the next several decades brought additional improvements in typesetting capabilities through the advancement of Optical Character Recognition and digital scanning. Prior to the development of offset lithography during the early twentieth century, letterpress was the most common form of printing in the United States and other developed nations. Even during the latter twentieth century, it remained the most popular printing method in economically developing nations.

A great deal of excitement was generated in the late 1990s by an emerging technology that relied solely on an electrochemical reaction to produce an image. This dynamic plateless and filmless process still had no firm nomenclature in early 1997, but one of the developing companies, Elcorsy Technology of Montreal, registered the name "elcography." Images could be changed or manipulated in real-time, while the press was still running. A memory buffer in the system allowed another job to be "moved into line" while the press was still printing a previous piece. The transition from job to job was accomplished seamlessly, with no need to recalibrate the press. Elcorsy sold its first elcography press, dubbed the ELCO 400, in 2001.

The entire commercial printing industry has relied on continuously improving technology to remain competitive. One area under study during the late 1980s and early 1990s was the development of better flexographic inks containing higher levels of pigment solids to improve drying and color density. According to an April 2003 issue of Ink World, this research paid off by the early years of the first decade of the 2000s: "UV flexo inks are increasingly popular in flexible packaging and label applications, which are traditional markets for flexographic inks in general. In addition, some traditional litho printers are choosing UV flexo as a supplement to their litho business, such as in the folding carton and envelope printing industries."

Another significant technological stride in flexography surrounded direct-to-plate (DTP) flexo technology, which was fully realized for the first time in 1996. The Illinois Decatur Herald & Review was the first of several newspapers to commercially use DTP in every section of the full color newspaper. Other flexographers were moving toward DTP technology, which is advantageous because of time, resource, and environmental savings.

One unexpected environmental bonus for flexo is that a mixture of baking soda effectively cleans press rollers. Previous roller cleansers were hazardous to the environment, whereas the Environmental Protection Agency considers baking soda nontoxic. Printers also found that the baking soda mixture is gentle on the rubber composition rollers and thus preserves the life of expensive equipment better than harsh cleaning agents.

Because of advances in offset lithography, some predicted that letterpress and flexography ("flexo") would fall into disuse. Enhanced technologies emerged, however, and brought increased interest in flexography. A 1992 article in Graphic Arts Monthly claimed that nearly all telephone directories and full-color newspaper comics were being printed by flexography and that the volume of regular newspaper sections printed by flexography had doubled within the previous few years. The report anticipated that the future availability of better paper grades and improved inks would also bring increased use among magazine printers.

The flexo trend among newspapers continued into the mid-1990s because flexo continued to offer several advantages over other printing methods. Those advantages included water-based, environmentally friendly inks that did not rub off, brighter colors, an enhanced ability to print on light paper stocks, and competitive make-ready time.

Screen printers also benefited from four-color-process work refinements, computerized design, increased press speeds, and environmentally responsive improvements. In anticipation of governmental regulations mandating cuts in solvent use, screen printers began turning to water-based inks cured with ultraviolet (UV) light. Traditional inks contained solvents to aid in drying; UV inks were dried with UV light.

According to American Printer, the screen printing industry was previously a secretive and "unwieldy group of individualistic entrepreneurs." Screen printers put images on everything from highway signs to pens and computer components. The market's four leading categories were decals and labels, electronic components, point-of-purchase displays, and signage.

To meet future challenges, the Screen Printing Association International, headquartered in Fairfax, Virginia, established the Screen Printing Technical Foundation in 1985. The nonprofit foundation was charged with the responsibility of developing guidelines, testing methods, and uniform practices. Specific areas under study included ink opacity, weather exposure, process colors, ink-drying techniques, and ways to eliminate moiree, a problem pattern caused by improper screen alignment. Screen printers hoped that standardization would help the process become more conventional and result in increased sales.

In the mid-1990s, a new kind of printing technology emerged that allowed digital files to be uploaded into the memory of an elcographic press. No film and no plates were used; rather, the image in the memory was translated into a series of electrical pulses. A special ink--a waterbase with pigment polymers and salts to enhance conductivity--coagulated in response to the pulses, and was cold-offset onto the paper. This new process was first utilized in short run, high-speed markets, and industry prognosticators expected it to grow quickly into the high-speed publishing arena.

Diversification in the late 1990s in the industry was driven by customer demand as well as the economic climate. Commercial printers found themselves offering additional services including database management, facilities management, Web site design, and production of CD-ROMs. Industry establishments planned to diversify using a number of strategies, including offering all services in-house, partnering, or merging/acquiring other companies.

Several segments exist within this industry, the largest of which is other general job letterpress printing. Shipments in this segment accounted for 27 percent of total industry shipments in 2001. Label and wrapper letterpress printing accounted for 18 percent; engraving, nine percent; advertising letterpress printing, five percent; and catalog and directory letter press printing, 1.6 percent. Magazine and periodical letterpress printing and financial and legal letterpress printing both accounted for less than one percent of total industry shipments in 2001. Other commercial printing, not specified by kind, accounted for 38.5 percent of shipments.

An emerging global economic crisis slowed industry expectations during 1999. When the booming domestic economy also began to slow in 2000, printers throughout the United States felt the impact. Between 2000 and 2001, the value of shipments in the following industry segments declined: magazine and periodical letterpress printing, financial and legal letterpress printing, advertising letterpress printing, other general job letterpress printing, and engraving. In fact, the only sectors that recorded shipment increases in 2001 were label and wrapper letterpress printers, whose shipments remained well below late 1990s levels despite a slight gain in 2001, and catalog and directory letterpress printers, who had realized significant gains in the value of shipments since 1997.

In 2006, per data published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. quick printing firms employed 10.6 percent of the printing industry total with 25.9 percent of the total printing firms; commercial screen printing employed 10.6 percent of the industry total responsible for 13.9 percent of printing firms; commercial flexography printing firms employed 6.2 percent of the printing industry total with 3.8 percent of printing firms; other commercial printing employed 7.9 percent of the industry total with 8.9 percent of printing firms; and digital printing employed 3.4 percent of the industry total that accounted for 4.7 percent of printing firms.

Between 2006 and 2016, industry employment was projected to fall 22 percent, in part due to increased imports, the utilization of the computer, and the wide use of the Internet. While digital printing was considered a small part of the printing industry, it was the fastest growing industry segment and the majority of commercial printers incorporated digital printing within their printing mix. Also, some consolidation occurred in the small- to mid-size firms as a means to better invest in new technology, which was also expected to slim down overall employment. Total production of U.S. printing manufacturing was projected to climb at an annual compounded rate of 2.6 percent between 2008 and 2013.

Current Conditions

According to Dun and Bradstreet, in 2009, there were nearly 20,000 firms in this industry, generating nearly $13.4 billion in revenues. By industry revenues, commercial printing, not elsewhere classified, was the largest sector, with $5.64 billion, followed by screen printing with $2.22 billion, labels and seals printing with $1.17 billion, and flexographic printing with $787.5 million. Commercial printing, not elsewhere classified, and screen printing dominated the industry by number of firms, accounting for 9,571 and 4,682, respectively. Only publication printing with 645 firms, letterpress printing with 583 firms, and invitation and stationery printing and engraving with 445 firms had more than a two percent share of the industry's firms. By number of employees, the top sectors were commercial printing, not elsewhere classified, with 76,403; screen printing with 30,241; flexographic printing with 7,358; and labels and seals printing with 7,090.

At the beginning of the 2010s, the print industry was being affected by several trends. First, both the home and the business environments were rapidly going digital. Generally speaking, the printing industry was in a state of decline because so much of what was once recorded, transmitted, and stored on paper was now being done so electronically. The capacity to store and transfer data on and among electronic devices advanced rapidly during the 2000s. In addition, cloud computing began offering consumers the option to store information on the Internet. Electronic formats for reading books and other information such as the Kindle and the iPad continued to threaten traditional paper-based print sources. Not only convenience, security, and cost considerations but also environmental concerns pushed U.S. consumers further toward the digital age. Second, a deep-cutting recession that impacted the United States beginning in 2008 affected the overall commercial printing industry. For example, according to a report released by Market Research, the value of the flexographic printing industry fell to $6.5 billion in 2009. Utilization was 57 percent.

According to a 2010 report by InfoTrends, although the overall print industry was expected to continue to decline as digital alternatives increased in popularity, digital color printing was expected to the one bright spot. The InfoTrend report predicted that the color printing market would outpace the declining black-and-white print sector, increasing from 65 percent of the market share in 2009 to 77 percent by 2014. Digital printing was particularly popular due to the high demand for personalization, small print runs, and quick turnaround times.

Industry Leaders

One of the largest organizations in the industry was the Deluxe Corporation. Deluxe was the largest check printer in the United States at the end of the 1990s, with more than half the market share. Through its divisions, Deluxe provided short-run computer forms, business forms, electronic tax filing services, and screen printed promotional items like pens and coffee mugs. In 2009, reflecting the poor economic environment, revenues were down to $1.3 billion. Nonetheless, the company remained the country's top distributor of consumer checks.

The American Banknote Corporation, formerly the United States Banknote Corporation, was one of the largest security printers in the world. ABN produced a wide variety of security items for corporate and commercial customers. These included products such as stock and bond certificates, travelers checks, gift certificates, promotional coupons, dividend checks, union benefit stamps, certificates of deposit, and motor vehicle certificates of origin. About 75 percent of its sales came from overseas markets; the company had subsidiaries in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, the Czech Republic, France, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. Sales totaled $230.7 million in 2009.

© COPYRIGHT 2018 The Gale Group, Inc. This material is published under license from the publisher through the Gale Group, Farmington Hills, Michigan. All inquiries regarding rights should be directed to the Gale Group. For permission to reuse this article, contact the Copyright Clearance Center.

News and information about Commercial Printing, NEC

Producer Price Indexes-June 2015
PPI Detailed Report; June 1, 2015; 700+ words
...job 0947-0609 06/82 printing General job printing, nec 0947-06091 06/09 (lithographic) (offset) Commercial printing, nec 0947-11 12/88 Screen printed materials 0947-1101 06/82 Screen printed labels 0947-11011 06/09 Screen...
Research and Markets Adds Report: Digital Printing Industry in the US and its International Trade [2011 Q3 Edition].(Report)
Entertainment Close-up; August 25, 2011; 576 words
...Activities Industry Group (3231), and the Manufacturing Sector (31-33). Its SIC equivalent code is: 2759 - Commercial Printing, NEC (digital printing, except quick printing). The industry's revenue for the year 2010 was approximately...
Research and Markets Adds Report: Digital Printing Industry in the US and its International Trade [2011 Q3 Edition].
Health & Beauty Close-Up; August 25, 2011; 700+ words
...Activities Industry Group (3231), and the Manufacturing Sector (31-33). Its SIC equivalent code is: 2759 - Commercial Printing, NEC (digital printing, except quick printing). The industry's revenue for the year 2010 was approximately...
Research and Markets Offers Report: Commercial Screen Printing Industry in the U.S. and its International Trade [2010 Edition]
Manufacturing Close-Up; July 13, 2010; 700+ words
...Automotive Trimmings, Apparel Findings, and Related Products (printing and embossing on fabric articles); 2759 - Commercial Printing, NEC (screen printing); 2771 - Greeting Cards (screen printing of greeting cards); and 3993 - Signs and Advertising...
Monthly sector analysis.
Acquisitions Monthly; March 1, 2005; 700+ words
...Provide telecommunication services Highbury House Communications-(UK) --Publish trade reference books 2759 COMMERCIAL PRINTING, NEC Access Plus PLC (UK)--Provide print-related marketing services 28: CHEMICALS AND 2821 PLASTICS MATERIALS...
Research and Markets Offers Report: Commercial Screen Printing Industry in the U.S. and its International Trade [2010 Edition]
Manufacturing Close-Up; July 13, 2010; 700+ words
...LLC's new report "Commercial Screen Printing Industry in the U...primarily engaged in screen printing without publishing...establishments engaged in screen printing on purchased stock materials...Commercial Printing, NEC (screen printing...
Research and Markets Adds Report: Digital Printing Industry in the US and its International Trade [2011 Q3 Edition].(Report)
Entertainment Close-up; August 25, 2011; 576 words
...the hierarchy of Printing Industry (32311), Printing and Related Support Activities Industry Group...33). Its SIC equivalent code is: 2759 - Commercial Printing, NEC (digital printing, except quick printing). The industry's...
Research and Markets Adds Report: Digital Printing Industry in the US and its International Trade [2011 Q3 Edition].
Health & Beauty Close-Up; August 25, 2011; 700+ words
...the hierarchy of Printing Industry (32311), Printing and Related Support Activities Industry Group...33). Its SIC equivalent code is: 2759 - Commercial Printing, NEC (digital printing, except quick printing). The industry's...

Search all articles about Commercial Printing, NEC