Feeling the Buzz at Labelexpo

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by Noel Ward, Editor@Large

The Chicago suburb of Rosemont, Illinois is probably not on anyone’s bucket list of must-see locations, yet every two years the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center is packed to the roof trusses with label and flexible packaging pros looking for new technologies that will help make them more money. There was a lot to see.

My own curiosity aside, I was there at the behest of a client who needed me to shoot video for immediate uploading to the web. This cramped my cruise and schmooze time on the floor, but I did see and find out a few things.

The first thing I noticed was the energy. I don’t have a visitor head count yet but past shows were around 17,000 people, and this one seemed at least that busy. The larger vendors had a steady stream of attendees looking at all manner of analog and digital printing systems and word was that deals were being cut. I happened to be in the Anderson & Vreeland booth late on the last day, talking with a C-level...

G7 Color Strategy Paves The Path to Reinvention

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Koenig and Bauer Builds New Automation Into Commercial Offset Presses

by Sean O'Leary

Two centuries after the establishment of Schnellpressenfabrik Koenig & Bauer in Würzburg, Germany, corporate management at the world’s oldest printing press manufacturer initiated a yearlong “pause to assess”. This process was intended to determine strategies Koenig and Bauer would develop in response to the colossal evolution of the global printing industry. In the course of projecting the company’s pioneering worldview into a new century, what smart technologies would be required to respond to the rapidly changing topography of Printing 4.0?

The result is a series of new automation tools designed to empower commercial offset printers to reinvent themselves in a world growing more digital every day.

“As commercial printers are faced with shorter run lengths and faster turnaround times, our customers are looking for new offset press configurations that will enable them to print...

Finishing Is Not An Afterthought

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AccuLink’s Engineered Workflow Leverages Standard Finishing’s Automated Finishing Solutions
by Sean O’Leary

When long time trade printer AccuLink got the recommendation from Dscoop, Tom O’Brien understood right away it was going to be a game changer.

One of the world’s largest digital print and design communities, the Dscoop organization links HP digital PSPs with designers, creatives and users. So when a major personalized print products company was looking for an east coast manufacturing partner, the organization tapped AccuLink as a contender.

The good news was that the client would be bringing a formidable new revenue stream, but as Operations Manager, Tom O’Brien also knew that AccuLink would have to up their game.

“We could foresee this adding huge volumes to our business,” said O’Brien. “The scenario they presented, and the numbers they predicted were scary, but my brother Paul, our IT guru, and I were up for the challenge.”

The O’Briens determined that the chance to...

Xeikon Café: Sharing Ideas and Experiences

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By Noel Ward, Editor@Large

Just about all the major equipment and software vendors these days hold annual events to connect with customers and prospects, talk about new technologies, and try to bring a personal touch to what can otherwise be a somewhat distant relationship. These shindigs span the globe, take on all formats and some are decidedly better than others. I’ve been to many of them over the years and have found some are crafted to address the needs of customers. Which, you’d think, would be the idea.

Most of these events gather up a variety of partner companies who get space on a micro trade show floor, replete with pipe and drape or portable booths, making the overall experience more casual, much lower key, and less frenetic than a normal trade show. Still, there are a couple of vendor-hosted events that have morphed into semi-exclusive clubs with full-on show floors, and where the KoolAid is in the beverages available during breaks.

In this age of evolving media...

Bringing the Bling

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Duplo Taps Into Tactile With A New Digital Spot Coater
By Sean O’Leary

As printing markets continue to morph and mature, some existing choices disappear while new opportunities simultaneously arise. While there is no question there is an abundance of stress in the 21st Century printing world, it is also equally evident that things are as interesting as they ever have been for those of the intrepid and innovative persuasion.

To thrive in this hypercompetitive new environment, printers are in the hunt for anything they can do to add interest to the printed product: marketing collateral, packaging, direct mail, business card, invitations and especially labels. With consumers immersed in a veritable Matrix of visual and aural stimuli, printers - and the brands owners they serve - continue to ask: how can we better compete for consumers eyeballs?

Let your fingers do the walking

One approach is to disregard the eyeballs and go for the fingertips. That is, get the...

How to Stop Chasing Color and Increase Profitability

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By Noel Ward, Editor@Large

Chances are, you’re seeing more and more jobs that require full color—it may be even most of the ones coming in, given the rapid increase in digital short-run printing. With that demand comes the need for color consistency, reliability and predictability, so you have to set and satisfy customer expectations for how colors will look on the printed page. And that is not always easy. Some familiar color reproduction challenges include:
  • Repeatability (matching previously printed colors)
  • Maintaining a neutral gray balance
  • Inability to match displays or proofs

In addition, accurate color is especially important for “brand” colors and is further compounded by the use of different substrates, print engines and software providers. The result is a moving target that increases the cost of printing through added labor and the time required to ensure colors meet expectations while providing the predictability, consistency, and reliability you...

You, the Tax Man and Section 179

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By Noel Ward, Editor@Large

Owners of small to mid-size businesses—meaning just about any type of print provider—know first-hand how tough it can be to keep a business profitable and moving forward. You’re always looking to get the most favorable returns on every deal and you try not to leave any money on the table. And when it comes to taxes, it’s especially important to know how to work the rules. And right now, one of the best of the bunch is called Section 179. Your tax guy has probably told you about it and it pays to do what you can to take advantage of it.

Packed into the big tax reform bill that passed late last year, Section 179 offers some significant advantages for commercial printers, quick or franchise shops, and label and package printers. Success in all these businesses increasingly depends on keeping pace with technology because every month seems to bring news of a new press or software that has the potential to change the way your business works. Of course, you...

SGIA and NAPCO Media Engineer an Inclusive Trade Event for an Evolving Market

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Sean O’Leary


In October 2019, the Specialty Graphics & Imaging Association (SGIA) and NAPCO Media will launch Printing United, a trade show and conference envisioned to reflect the dynamics of a convergent printing industry. The move is the most recent development in a process, first announced in February, that began with a split between Printing Industries of America (PIA) and the Association for Suppliers of Printing, Publishing and Converting Technologies (NPES). These entities were previously joint operators of the Print and Graph Expo shows.
Having bought out their partners, NPES, now rebranded as Association for Print Technologies (APTech℠) will operate the PRINT ’18 event, scheduled in September at Chicago’s McCormick Place.
If that sounds a little confusing, let’s back up and get some help from Ford Bowers, president and CEO of SGIA.

This April, Bowers sorted out the...

You've Been Hacked!

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By Noel Ward, Editor @Large

Well, maybe you haven’t been hacked (that you know of), but chances are one or more of your customers has, whether or not they are willing to admit it.

I was getting a glass of wine at the One Canon event a few weeks back when Carlos Fernandes the head of Agile Cybersecurity Solutions came up and introduced himself. He asked how familiar I was with the issue of cyber security. I said that to be honest, I’d thought of data security as something important, but not always as a critical consideration for people in the printing business, outside my friends who run transactional service bureaus. Wrong answer.

I learned more the next day when Mr. Fernandes (whose company is partnering with Canon) took the stage and explained the rather scary fact that many, if not most, U.S. corporations have been hacked in one way or another. We hear about the high profile ones in the news because they involve household name enterprises and millions of records, but most...

The Light Stuff:

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GTI’s Illuminating thoughts on ISO 3664.:2009 and color viewing environments

Sean O’Leary

As printing technology gallops like a runaway stagecoach along the digital trajectory, one critical production facet persists as decidedly analog and human: the dream of universal color viewing environments. Especially for higher value creative projects, the standardization of color evaluation supply chains is essential across the creative/production continuum. Designers, brand owners, agencies, photographers, pre-press and printers all need to eyeball images, soft proofs and prints in consistent viewing environment. This statement is all the more applicable when the workflow incorporates digital elements such as flat screens, cameras and software platforms that impose divergent color spaces along the way.

For the past decade, the international color viewing standard for graphics and photography has been ISO 3664:.2009 an upgrade of the benchmark previously revised in 2000. In 2009, the...

Why Inkjet?

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By Noel Ward

When the first high speed inkjet machines, all roll-to-roll devices, began reaching the market there was a lot of skepticism. Even some of the journalists and analysts with whom I swap perspectives weren’t sure inkjet was going to be a real player. Some thought (or maybe hoped) electrophotographic (EP) systems would go on forever. EP was, after all, their comfort zone. Many remained skeptical about inkjet.

Why would anyone want cutsheet inkjet?
A couple projects got me under the covers of some machines so I could learn what was going on. I didn’t drink the vendor’s KoolAid, listening instead to early adopters who make their living putting ink and toner on a page. It was clear that roll-to-roll wasn’t going to take over the market on its own. There had to be high-speed cutsheet, too. But when I ran this notion past the usual suspects in the analyst community they said I was crazy: “Why would anyone want cutsheet inkjet? It can’t really be done and provide the...

Of Piggly Wiggly, CHILI Publish and the Fourth Wave of the Industrial Revolution

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by Sean O’Leary
CTO, PrintPlanet

It is not every day that one has the privilege of attending an event that kicks off with a discussion of how the Fourth Wave of the Industrial Revolution traces back to the 1916 self-service grocery innovations of PigglyWiggly. Nevertheless, that was how CHILI CEO Kevin Goeminne opened his talk at the Spicy Talk ‘18 Chicago Workplace on February 15. CHILI, of course, is the creator of a surging browser-based document editing platform that allows users to create documents and generate a print-ready PDF.

Goeminne was providing an overview and update of CHILI Publish for a roomful of commercial printers from around the Chicago region. The event also marked a semi-official launch for the company’s new North American headquarters, which opened about six months ago. CHILI’s Global headquarters are in Aalst, Belgium, with a third regional hub in Singapore. As Goeminne noted, CHILI has been on something of a roll, with 30% average growth over the past...


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by Noel Ward, Editor@Large

What do you do when things go sideways? What does your team do? Who decides? And how do people feel when it’s all over? Successful? Or maybe like everyone just dodged a bullet?

When things don’t go according to plan, there are usually a few people in any organization who fall apart, operating under a policy that goes something like, “when wracked by fear, or deep in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout.” Meanwhile, cooler heads usually prevail and things (again usually) work out okay.

Work the Problem
Other times the approach comes from experience: when you’ve seen enough things go wrong you assume you will get through the next crisis. That “seat of the pants” approach can work but it is not the ideal way to handle uncertain situations. A more seasoned approach is one that’s pounded into members of NASA and is part of astronaut training. It’s called “Work the Problem.”

You probably remember the movie Apollo 13 where Ed Harris, the...

Accelerating Delivery for Parts & Service

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by Noel Ward, Editor@Large

Ask yourself a question: How dependent is your business on the support available for the equipment and technology on your shop floor? If your company is like most others in our industry the answer is probably something like, “More than I’d like it to be.”

To minimize the stress and moments of panic that come with an unexpected equipment failure, you probably have a series of procedures in place to help ensure you can still meet deadlines and SLAs when things go sideways. Every shop I’ve been in has steps, processes and procedures that are followed when the dragons come to call. And while those are underway a few people are usually on the horn to a supplier or three, trying to fix the problem.

It’s essential to have such procedures ready and when you need them it’s vital to have partners who can help ensure you get the replacement parts or products you need as quickly as possible. And, in our age of prompt delivery, the bar is set nearly as high for...

Chasing the Holy Grail of Inkjet Printing * Third of 3 Parts

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Episode 3: Ink and Substrates Matter

by Noel Ward, Editor@Large

So you know inkjet is the game changer and has a lot of room to grow and change, and that an inkjet press running coated or glossy paper offers more paths to profitability. Priming fluids may have helped, but are not necessarily essential. So it sill comes down to putting the ink on the page, which is why Ink and Substrates Matter.

Inks and Substrates Matter
On any flavor of press, substrates have always been a key part print quality. All the print providers I spoke with described Mitsubishi’s SWORD iJET as the go-to choice when a glossy stock was needed, although each winced slightly when noting that SWORD can be nearly twice as expensive as uncoated papers. The price, they say, is limiting wider adoption, but they appreciate the paper’s advantages: a wide color gamut, quick drying, and the ink adhesion high-speed inkjet printing requires.

Other coated and glossy stocks are gaining ground. All...

Chasing the Holy Grail of Inkjet Printing: The Second of Three Parts

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Episode 2: To Prime or not to Prime?

by Noel Ward, Editor@Large

The story so far: Inkjet printing on glossy and coated stocks is a Holy Grail of inkjet printing. But like in human relationships, there’s chemistry involved, only here it is the chemistry of inks and the surface of the paper. The technologies are advancing all the time, but for the moment it comes to one question:

To Prime or Not to Prime?
The surfaces of glossy or coated stocks are resistant to ink penetration. Inks must sit on the surface instead of being absorbed as happens on an uncoated paper. As noted in Episode 1, this results in two problems: the inks cannot spread into the paper fibers and can have trouble drying quickly, which can result in offsetting or smudging when the paper is rewound onto a take-up reel or stacked after printing. Complicating these issues is that inkjet presses use more ink to create an image than does an offset press.

Inkjet press vendors already offer...

Chasing the Holy Grail of Inkjet Printing

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Episode 1: Where Ink and Paper Meet

By Noel Ward, Editor@Large

It’s probably no coincidence that adoption of high-speed inkjet printing has been growing right along with the throughput speeds of the presses. But for all they offer, high-speed inkjet systems have typically lacked the ability to handle coated or glossy substrates. Now, thanks to changes in inks and papers, such stocks are speeding beneath the print heads of many inkjet presses. This expands the opportunities for print providers but not without some challenges.

The first one comes as the ink hits the paper. While glossy or coated surfaces can enhance the visual “pop” of text and images on printed image, their “harder” surface resists ink penetration, limiting dot gain and the extent to which colors can merge. This can impact image quality because unlike offset presses, inkjet systems rely on some ink absorption into the outer layers of paper.

The next challenge is related: lack of...

Xeikon Café Opens Shop in Chicago

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By Noel Ward, Editor@Large

If you aren’t a Xeikon customer or prospect, or just didn’t go to the recent Xeikon Cafe in Chicago, you missed a great event. We’ll get to that. But first, a bit of history.

That was then…
A quarter century ago, at a trade show called IPEX (now a mere shadow of its former self) two smallish companies rolled out their full-color digital printing presses. Today, the latest iterations of their machines are still influencing the ever-expanding world of digital printing.

This is now…
Xeikon, the Belgian company that rolled out its DCP-1 press in 1993, is now owned by Flint Group, once known to the world as Flint Ink. Xeikon is on a quest to expand market share via a compelling range of products using toner, inkjet, and UV inkjet technologies. More than half the company’s current business comes from the label and packaging market—the segment of printing with the greatest potential for digital growth. This places Xeikon in the number two...

How Canon Users thINK

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By Noel Ward, Editor@Large

Early fall is a fine time to go to south Florida. Hurricanes are (maybe) a bit less likely to disrupt travel plans, the temps have dropped out of the nineties and although the humidity is still there, the lower end of the Sunshine State is not a bad place to be, especially when the venue is the tony Boca Raton Resort and the reason for being there is Canon thINK 2017. This third iteration of Canon’s customer-driven conference brought in more than 400 people from around North America and other nations. Most were current Canon customers while others were in decision mode about which press to buy.

As its name indicates, thINK is inkjet-driven and is intended to promote Canon’s line of inkjet presses and support the customers who use them. Between the “partner pavilion” where some 38 companies showed off their offerings, 70 speakers, more than 30 interactive sessions, and tours at Canon’s nearby Customer Engagement Center, there was constant activity and...

An under-the-radar flight pattern for MCS Inc.

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by Sean O’Leary

The first thing Glenn Toole said to me was “We change our world every 4 - 5 years and if we don’t we’re not moving ahead.”

It was just last week that your PrintPlanet reporter stopped by MCS, Inc.’s Bolingbrook, IL National Demonstration Facility for a follow up chat with Glenn Toole, Vice President Sales & Marketing. This trip was sort of a continuation of a brief Print ’17 booth visit, after which I had been dogged by a feeling that there was more than a trade show story here. I realized that MCS was a positive example of a mid-sized American company that had been making all the right moves for decades, and maybe that kind of story needs to be told more often. Below is a summary of my wide-ranging chat with Toole.

MCS, Inc. develops and manufactures inkjet imaging systems, inserters, electronic tracking systems and integrated platforms for the mailing industry. They have managed to get here by figuring out how to thrive in a highly competitive...


A 30-day Fix for Managed Chaos

As any print professional knows, printing can be managed chaos. Software that solves multiple problems and provides measurable and monetizable value has a direct impact on the bottom-line.

“We reduced order entry costs by about 40%.” Significant savings in a shop that turns about 500 jobs a month.

Learn how…….