Putting the customer at the center

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An interview with the Managing Director of Enfocus
Some of our members may be aware of changes at Enfocus during this year. As change happens, staff turnover occurs and some new faces emerge. Such has been the case at Enfocus, however the one constant is their ongoing customer support, evident on PrintPlanet posts and by their own, internal customer support. At PRINT-17, our staff had the chance to meet the new Managing Director, Wim Fransen, and discuss his customer-centric focus.

No stranger to the industry, Fransen worked with Enfocus’ parent company, Esko, for 22 years prior to joining Enfocus this July. We found him to be quite knowledgeable about the nuts & bolts of Pitstop and Switch. This is not surprising since previously, he was Esko’s director of Interactive Applications Software Products, where he headed a team of managers and engineers for packaging design and pre-production applications.

Fransen related that PRINT was a fantastic opportunity to meet...

Seeking Full Disclosure: Who was Underwhelmed by PRINT 17?

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By Noel Ward, Editor@Large

Trying not to be snarkier than usual, I look back on four days at PRINT 17, remembering what it once looked like, thinking about what many I spoke with said about the show, and wondering what universe NPES lives in when they say this show went well.

To be sure, the educational sessions, on the floor and in meeting rooms, were very good. These are one of the prime reasons for attending a trade show and anyone who goes to a show without taking advantage of these opportunities is not getting the full value of their trip. There are few better places to gain an understanding of the trends in the industry and what they mean to individual businesses. But this story is not about those sessions.

As of Sept. 18, 2017 the NPES website claims 20,000 people attended the recent show in Chicago. It’s a nice round number but it’s probably not a final tally that will pull out some 4,500 vendor personnel and free-loading press and analysts. At some point we’ll hear how...

Short-Run Rotary Die-Cutting: More Value and More Margin

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By Richard Romano, Industry Analyst

Printing today is about more than ink on paper. In fact, even saying “ink on paper” is an anachronism, given the bewildering variety of substrates that today’s equipment can print on. Today’s print customers are increasingly looking for ways for what they produce to stand out from other printed items, either in customers’ mailboxes, on store shelves, or any other environment where printed materials are jostling for attention. To that end, printers and their customers are placing an increased emphasis on specialty finishing—things like spot varnishes, digital embossing, variable-data finishing (there’s a term you’ve probably never heard before!), foil-stamping, die-cutting, and more—to create extremely high-value printed products.

Of course, few of these finishing techniques are new; in the analog print world, many specialty finishing applications have been around for decades, if not longer. What is new about the modern...

Automated Cross Platform Color Management is Now a Thing

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"What do you want the job to look like, where is it going and what are the rules for mapping out of gamut colors?"

Sean O’Leary
Chief Technology Officer | Print Planet

I was recently involved in producing case studies documenting a half dozen large commercial printers’ installations of high speed production inkjet printers. The featured inkjet models were built by Xerox, Fuji, Ricoh, HP, Konica-Minolta and other major manufacturers and they had been installed over the past 18 months.

After listening to hours of interviews with the owners and managers of these shops, one particular scenario popped up again and again: virtually all of them were operating with a triple combination of printing technologies that included offset, high speed inkjet and color- toner-based output. These commercial printers represent the spear tip of a trend that is only beginning to get traction. Whatever their origins and core business, each company had formulated a strategy that...

Noodling with Job Planning and Imposition Software

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By Richard Romano, Industry Analyst

I once bought a pasta maker. It seemed like a good idea at the time. I mean, I like pasta (it’s part of the heritage, after all!), and fresh, restaurant-quality pasta is one of life’s great delights. However, since I do not actually run a restaurant, the pasta maker ended up being more trouble than it was worth. From all the prep work it takes to make the dough to put into the thing, to the elaborate clean-up required, it turned out that just picking up a box of Ronzoni—or, better yet, going out to my favorite Italian restaurant—was a far more convenient option. So the pasta maker went into the kitchen cabinet and has pretty much stayed there ever since.

Let’s face it: a lot of the hardware and software that a print business buys is like the pasta maker. It sounds like a good idea at the time and that it will make our lives easier, but just doesn’t live up to our expectations. Take imposition software. There is no shortage of job...

All Wrapped Up

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By Noel Ward, Editor @Large

Back in the “long strange trip it’s been” days of the Seventies I was riding right seat in a west-bound 18-wheeler, talking with the driver about roads, distances and his life as a trucker. He pointed to a truck streaming east, running well above the speed limit.

“There. Monfort of Colorado. Fastest trucks on the road.”

And they were. You could tell the always-immaculate Monfort fleet by the orange and white paint jobs with the name emblazoned on the side of the trailers. Orange paint on a white trailer definitely stood out in the days of the 55 mph speed limit, a time when truckers called the left lane of Interstate 80 the “Monfort Lane.”

Monfort of Colorado is long gone, as are nearly all types of painted signage on commercial vehicles. Today, everything from long-haul rigs to plumbers’ Transit vans to Smart Cars can be dressed in colorful high-impact graphics, every one of them inkjet printed on plastic films that are tightly wrapped around every...

Universal Punch: Not as Grand as the Grand Unified Theory, but Far More Productive

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Ingenious Universal Hole Punch Pattern is Compatible With Most Binding Methods

By Sean O'Leary, Chief Technology Officer

For 50 years, particle physicists have struggled to develop what is known as the Grand Unified Theory. This elusive formula would mathematically link together the four major forces of the universe – gravity, strong nuclear, weak nuclear and the electromagnetic spectrum. But despite some sporadic progress over the years – some of which appeared to harmonize these cosmic forces - the Grand Unified Theory remains the Holy Grail of science.
On a far more practical scale, however, Mexico City-based Universal Punch, has announced a breakthrough in the quest for the universal binding punch pattern, a 50 year long search for an antidote to the proliferation of multifarious mechanical binding methods. The imminent rollout of the internationally patented...

Speeding the Shift to Inkjet from Offset

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By Noel Ward

The machine is deep blue, maybe 30 feet long, 10 feet high and deep. The owner calls it a variable offset press. It resides in a climate-controlled room, just outside of which an 8-color Speedmaster churns out work at 18,000 sheets per hour. The big blue inkjet press may be far slower, but it is actively taking work from the company’s two offset presses and a pair of full-color toner presses. The CTO of the operation says there is no reason to ever buy another offset press, and two other toner systems have already left the building. Part of the CTO’s thinking is that the inkjet press can print on a full range of standard offset papers including coated and glossy stocks that previously could only be printed using the big iron on the other side of the wall. He’s not alone in his thinking.

I spent some time in the past few weeks talking with and visiting commercial printers who have added high-end inkjet presses to their inventories and are witnessing first-hand how...

Print That Hits the Spot

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By Richard Romano, Industry Analyst

“It just caught my eye as something different.”

Such was the feeling of Greg Wallace, owner of Waltham, Mass.’s HPGprint, when he was given a demonstration of Duplo’s new DDC-810 Spot UV Coater at last year’s Graph Expo. “It looked like it was a different kind of machine and could add value.”

“Added value” is the biggest driver of unique finishing options today, from digital embellishments like foil stamping to UV coatings, which work to help a printed piece stand out from other printed materials, as well as convey a more “upscale” image. It also allows print service providers to offer high-end print products at more of a premium price than they could get for “generic” commoditized color.

Duplo’s DDC-810 is brand new to the market, and HPGprint is the world’s first installation. The machine uses 600 x 600-dpi inkjet heads to lay down a UV-cured clear, gloss varnish to selected areas of the substrate. It supports a maximum paper size of...

What the Scribes & successful printers learned about automating

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By Richard Romano, Industry Analyst

Students of printing history likely know the name Johannes Trithemius. He was a German abbot in the 1490s, about 40 years after the invention of the printing press. By Trithemius’ heyday, the printing revolution was in full swing, automating the process of reproducing documents and replacing the earlier method that involved hand-copying by scribes, monks cloistered and copying documents in scriptoria. After the printing press, demand for scribes plummeted, and monks began looking for other things to do. However, some decided to mount a resistance. Trithemius begged monks not to give up the art of manuscript copying, and wrote a famous treatise on the subject called In Praise of Scribes. He had a problem, though: he needed to quickly produce a large number of copies of his treatise. In one of the great ironies of history, he had a treatise called In Praise of Scribes printed on a printing press. Saved by automation!

The fear...

What! You’re not Using Web2Print?

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By Noel Ward, Editor@Large

Raise your hand if you remember jobs coming in on CDs or DVDs. Thanks!

Now raise your hand if you remember jobs coming in on Zip Drives? A few more. Very good!

How about on SyQuest drives? Excellent! (How does if feel to be that old?)

Finally, how many of you had jobs come in as mechanicals, so you had to take a Photostat of every page and make plates so you could run it on your press? (How does it feel to be ancient?)

Having been there and done all of these over the past 25 or so years, I have to say it is kind of nice to hand a printer an 8 gig thumb drive containing a high-res PDF of the job file, a color laser print of what the job should look like, and come back for the finished work the next day. Even better is sending the job, fully composed and in printer spreads, via email, to a print provider on the other side of the country (or from another country as I did last month) and know it’s going to print out exactly as I expect. That’s the...

New Affordable, Short-Run Finishing Systems:

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A Competitive Edge for Commercial Printers?

by Sean O'Leary
Chief Technology Officer, PrintPlanet

One of the hidden problems with the digital revolution is that it opens up new business opportunities for everyone – not just you. For example, you may have thought that a high volume inkjet press investment was a strategic move that would put you one step ahead of the competition, but in reality it turned out you’re just keeping up with the pack. For small-to-medium commercial printers in particular, striking that balance between the leading edge and the bleeding edge is always a challenge. And as the digital revolution enters its third decade, that treadmill shows no signs of slowing down.

As I’ve pointed out previously, there is a tendency in the business press to focus on the latest and greatest printer technology at the expense of developments further along the production line. But it is also true that the “printing” part of printing is more easily commoditized...

No Jackets Required

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By Noel Ward, Editor@Large

Taking the jackets off your offset presses is the first advantage of adding LED-UV dryers to your press. After that, things get even better, putting an end to conventional drying methods while eliminating environmental concerns associated with old-school UV curing.

Back in the day—and much of that day is still here—drying inks after printing required hot air or heat lamps. Forward-thinking printers who opted for UV inks had to add mercury-arc UV lamps because the UV inks changed the process from drying to curing, a chemical reaction called polymerization, which turned the wet UV inks into a solid. This shortened drying time but the high temperature of the lamps limited the range of substrates that could be used. The lamps also produced ozone, requiring exhaust systems to meet air quality standards. But now LED technology, not unlike that used in the latest crop of flashlights and car headlights, offers a more efficient way to cure UV inks for a...

You Won’t Survive by Printing Alone

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By Noel Ward

In the mid-90s I was going into print shops, setting up internal networks, training prepress people on using QuarkXPress and dragging many shop owners kicking and screaming into the tenuous new world of digital file prep and digital printing. Some embraced the new technology while others were skeptical or resistant. Suffice it to say that those who survived were not the skeptics or resisters. A couple years later I was an active advocate for digital printing, editing a magazine focused solely on the emerging technology. I got used to being called delusional while watching printers who denied the value of digital print slowly close up shop or be absorbed into companies who realized digital was just another way to print.

Today, virtually every print shop has some digital printing capability yet the need to change one’s game doesn’t stop. Successful printers know print is only one element of modern communications and that they have to do a lot more than put ink or toner...


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Smart Inks: A Tsunami On The Horizon

It’s usually the printing presses and other hardware that fire hype and imagination in the printing world. This is partly because we can actually watch the latest print machinery at work and (often) admire the convergence of design and function as the big iron cranks out the product.

Meanwhile, the less accessible chemistry of ink is often all but ignored, in spite of chemistry’s place as a core driver of progress in the world of printing. Ink is, after all, the material that gets printed and the visual information it represents is the whole point of the process in the first place.

Yet here in the 21st century, the advent of digital technology and variable data marking has breathed new life into ink development. Customization, serialization and watermarking have been driving the demand for faster drying formulations in a rapidly changing landscape. In mainstream graphics, printing for example, this has meant a movement toward UV...

Targeted Direct Mail Without a Postal Permit—Yes!

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Every Door Delivery (EDDM) Is the Door to Saving Time & Money on Direct Mail

By Richard Romano, Industry Analyst

As any mailer can tell you, acquiring mailing lists for direct mail campaigns is perhaps the biggest challenge in marketing. Sure, lists can be purchased, but they’re expensive, and mailing lists can go out-of-date quite easily as people move, switch jobs, get married, and are otherwise on-the-go.

Few people, it seems, are aware that there is an easy and inexpensive solution to the mailing list problem right under their noses. One of the most tragically under-utilized tools for business (especially small business) mailings is available from the United States Postal Service (USPS). Launched in 2011, the USPS’s Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM) is a terrific online tool that lets you target print direct mail campaigns literally by street. If you only wanted to reach homes and businesses in a three-mile radius around your physical location, you could do...

Pay Attention to the Machine Behind the Curtain

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By Noel Ward, Editor@Large

They served champagne. It was a product launch, after all.

About halfway through the afternoon, at the far end of a meeting room deep within the Boca Raton Resort, Canon pulled back the curtain on the Océ Colorado 1640. Rolling out an entirely new set of technologies, the new roll-to-roll large format printer opens up new opportunities for Canon–and its customers–in the fastest growing segment of the large format market.

The print samples on the surrounding walls and spewing out of the machine were impressive, causing some in attendance to wonder how the color gamut and print quality was being achieved with only four ink colors. And what was with the two heads ripping relentlessly back and forth across the paper, in alternate directions? Then there was this new UVgel ink. The operative term was “Huh?”

Filling a space
Canon already has a strong presence in large format with its Océ Arizona flatbed systems but it lacked a roll-fed machine...

Managing Multiple Order Acquisition Pathways–All Roads Should Lead to Rome

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By Richard Romano, Industry Analyst

Your footage of the riots: a-one
Feature segment-network-deal time,
I’m sending you a contract
Ker-ching ker-ching
Marky, give us a call 970-4301
Or at home try 863-6754
Or my cellphone at 919-763-0090
Or you can email me at
Or you can page me at–
–“Voice Mail #3,” from the Broadway musical Rent

Many of us have an ever-growing and ever-changing number of ways that people can reach us. There is the phone (often more than one; home, office, and mobile), email (sometimes more than one address), texting, social media (Twitter direct messaging, Facebook Messenger, LinkedIn Mail), and even good old-fashioned print mail. For some, the fax also clings to life, and at one time many of us had a pager number (remember those?).

We are so awash in ways of being reached that managing our communications can be a substantial challenge, especially if we need to retrieve or refer back to a...

So. You Want to do Label and Package Printing

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By Noel Ward

You’ve been doing a nice mix of commercial printing and have a host of satisfied customers. A digital press or two have been taking up some real estate on your shop floor for a couple of years, helped expand your reach, and now you’re looking for more opportunities. You’re thinking labels and folding cartons seem like a fairly natural transition into packaging. After all, how hard can it be?

Labels and folding cartons are often seen as the low hanging fruit of package printing. It makes sense, you think. As long as you can print on paper or lightweight paperboard the processes for labels and cartons aren’t all that different than what you do already and you can probably use equipment you already have. Even better, there may be some customers from whom you can hopefully snag a bigger share of wallet by printing some of their packaging to go along with the brochures you’re already printing. But is it really just another print job? And is this a place you really want to...

Digital Textile Printing Likely to Fuel The Excitement at FESPA

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by Sean O'Leary

As New Years' tentative dawn turns into the glorious early morning of the year 2017, we note that the wide-format industry is already gearing up for FESPA 2017, the global print expo for the large format segment of the print world. Featuring about 700 exhibitors and a 23,000 sq. m. footprint, this mega show will take place at Messe Hamburg, Germany from May 8 Р12 2017. Reflecting the three ring circus beneath the big top tent of wide-format, the event will feature three zones: digital wide format, textile printing and screen printing. Encompassing an unusually wide spectrum of application niches, the show features everything from graphics and soft signage and vehicle wrapping to garment printing, industrial textile printing and interior d̩cor.

The tagline for FESPA 2017 is “Dare to Print Different”. While the phrase seems to be a conflation of several other recent inspirational event slogans, it nevertheless prompts us to ask: what might we find at FESPA 2017...


The Push To Be a More Versatile Printer
The Push To Be a More Versatile Printer
As the printing industry continues to evolve, printers face the challenge of becoming more agile and responsive to meet fast-paced changes in technology and the increasingly varied demands.
Learn more..