There’s an interesting sidebar within this month’s feature on ink jet inks (“Printing Money: Ink Jet Continues to Grow,” starting on page 28). Researchers at IBM came up with an early version of color ink jet printing in the 1970s, but executives at the company decided there was no practical, or profitable, application. Had they realized the potential of ink jet printing, IBM would be in a much different position today. That illustrates the need for foresight. There are numerous innovative companies that are finding their own niches, whether they are industry giants such as Hewlett Packard, DuPont or Epson, or creative new ink companies such as American Ink Jet Corporation, Squid Ink and Lyson Inc. All of these companies have expended great energy and resources finding solutions to challenges faced by ink jet technologies, and, as a result, are flourishing. As new ink companies started to flourish in the market place, larger companies began to take note. It should come as no surprise, then, that many of the established ink companies have taken a strong interest in the ink jet ink market. Sun Chemical, Flint Ink, Van Son, Sericol and countless other major manufacturers are looking to develop their own niches, and are utilizing their expertise from years of working with the printing industry to enter the market. Meanwhile, the companies on the leading edge are finding new ways to maintain their leadership in the field.
Will ink jet always be a high-margin segment? As competition strengthens, pricing will inevitably come down. However, there will always be opportunities to develop new technologies, and stay ahead of the competition. That is the essence of entrepreneurial thinking, and it separates those companies that have ideas with those who follow. In the end, the creative leaders will thrive.