Is it just me or does it seem to anyone else that print technology is slowing down?
First, we seem to be in a time that’s nearly devoid of breakthroughs, those game-changing technological moments when the universe changes to uncover a totally different way of thinking and doing things. OK, inkjet is certainly in the process of reinventing the way some printing is done, but this is really more evolutionary than revolutionary. Inkjet has been around for decades and is finally becoming feasible for higher speeds and lots of applications. But a breakthrough? Not so much.
Next, digital technology, by which I primarily mean those screens we all carry in our pockets, has surged forward. In just a few years we’ve gone from cell phones the size and weight of a brick to ones we use for video calls with people on the other side of the globe. Never mind all the cat and dog videos that pollute the internet, all of which come from cell phones.
Sometime last year you may have gone to a trade show. What did you see? Did it matter? Did it push you over the edge to actually buy something? Or was it a semi-justifiable excuse to get out of the shop for a couple of days? It's OK if your answers are Not much; No; No; and Yes.
No matter your answers, trade shows are not what they once were and are decreasing in importance. For example, the 2016 visitor tally at drupa came in around 260,000, down 17% from 2012 when over 314,000 showed up. And that was down about 75,000 people from 2008 and 2004. It was certainly quieter during my week there, with the upside that the lines for beer and sausages were shorter. According to the drupa folks, visitors from Germany stayed an average of two days, while those from other lands stayed about four. Given the vast size of drupa, this may indicate that many attendees primarily came to see new technology and maybe to get within handshake distance of making a deal...
Skills MIS-Match: Three Signs Your MIS May Not Be For You By Richard Romano, Industry Analyst, and Joe Lehn, PressWise
Now more than ever print businesses have a need for their operation to be guided by some kind of central intelligence, usually called a Management Information System (MIS). The MIS is not by any means a new concept, but it is playing a greater role in today’s print businesses. The thing to remember is that not all MISes are created equal. Just as different employees bring different skill sets to an operation, so too, do different MIS implementations. To be effective, an MIS needs to be tailored to the individual business.
Here are three warning signs that your MIS may not be a perfect, or even good, match for your business.
MIS-Match #1: The problems that your MIS was designed to solve are not the problems you have.
As Margaret Mead once said, “Always remember that you are absolutely unique. Just like everyone else.” Your print...
Violet Is the New Black: Epson SureColor P-Series for Commercial Printing and Packaging Proofing
By Richard Romano, Industry Analyst
One of the perennial challenges in any printing workflow is accurate proofing. Back in the day, when prepress workflows were still largely analog and film-based, proofing was not foolproof, so to speak, but color proofs generated from color-separated films gave a pretty accurate representation of what was going to come off press.
As prepress, and then printing itself, became increasingly digital, getting one digital machine–a proofer–to accurately show what another digital machine–a platesetter or digital press–was going to produce became fraught with difficulty, especially when the common frame of reference was often a computer monitor–essentially another digital machine. So the refrain “why doesn’t the print match the monitor?” was an oft-heard complaint from many graphic designers and print buyers.
There are a couple of legends about digital printing that continue to bring a lot of pain to some print providers. They hamper the expansion of digital print specifically and hurt the print industry in general. Ironically, parts of these legends were initiated and promulgated by some of the very people who built and sold digital presses.
First is the idea that short runs are the main reason to buy a digital press. This has been, and always will be, a perfectly valid reason to pull the trigger on a shiny new Canoxdigo Bizipress 9100i. But it is only one reason. Short runs fill a need and in some ways digital presses have fueled a self-fulfilling prophecy that helped foster the ongoing trend to shorter runs. So if you invest in a digital press you will–and probably should–do a good number of short-run jobs. This fills a need and not doing it leaves money on the table. But it is only a very small part of what...
MIS for the Masses: Printlogic Targets Small Print Businesses
By Richard Romano, Industry Analyst
One major trend in print enterprise management software today is the emergence of MIS/CRM and workflow management systems that are as powerful as those used by the largest printing establishments but are tailored to, and are easy to use by, small and mid-size printers–that is, those in the three- to 20-employee range. The goal is to give smaller players all the benefits of a large, complex system without requiring them to invest the time and manpower in learning how to run it. It’s about scaling down the power of a big system, keeping it flexible, but also not bogging the user down in a slew of features that they’ll likely not ever use.
We welcome a new player in this market with a solution that costs as little as $115 a month.
Such a solution will need to have what have become essential components of today’s print enterprise management system: estimating, inventory...
Long Island was humid. Hot. And flying in from the Maritimes took some time. But for a Canon event the effort is always worthwhile. Here’s a short take.
Two or three times a year Canon updates journalists and analysts on how the company is moving forward, the new products being rolled out and how it is positioning itself in a changing marketplace. And so it was in early August when about 30 of us showed up at Canon USA headquarters in Melville, New York to hear some of the latest details and to get a fresh sense of the company’s tagline, “See Impossible.”
We got a fair bit of detail on some of the latest machinery and software, but the bigger piece on this trip was a new go-to-market strategy called One Canon. According to Canon, this is a unifying architecture that puts the company’s multiple business units under one roof and shifts the company’s operations from a product-driven strategy to a customer driven one...
Most people reading this are likely familiar with the concept of the “supply chain,” the businesses that provide the resources that printers need to get jobs produced: paper suppliers, equipment dealers, consumables distributors, and so on. Naturally, printers are part of their customers’ supply chains. In fact, every business in each link in a supply chain has its own links that make up larger supply chains–with so many chains it’s a veritable army of Jacob Marleys.
We can narrow things down a little further by talking about the “marketing supply chain.” (Wikipedia defines this as “the chain of suppliers that an organization relies on to produce marketing materials [print, promotional products and point of sale] to market their products and services, although what we will be talking about here is a bit different.) A...
For many years, the wide-format graphics conversation centered predominantly on the printing equipment, and usually for good reason, as it is the most expensive and conspicuous part of the production process. Occasionally, finishing capabilities were added into the mix, but one piece of the production puzzle that routinely got short shrift was the front end, aka the RIP.
Time was, a raster image processor (RIP) didn’t do much else than turn PostScript data into printable dots, but the trend today, especially in wide-format printing, is for RIPs to become control centers for the entire workflow. As a result, the front end is being called on to perform more tasks, Color management is the traditional advanced function of the front end, but it has become common for “RIPs” (if we even want to call them that anymore) to have plug-ins or modules that add features for specific end-use applications...
Although new inkjet systems are claiming a lot of the pre-drupa fanfare, there appear to be some startling developments in the post press world worth paying attention to...
For example, U.S. binding equipment manufacturer Rhin-O-Tuff has just told PrintPlanet they will unveil a potentially game-changing off-line automated collation and punching platform at the show. Incorporating BDT Print Media GmbH’s advanced media handling technology, the Tornado Autopunch EXâ„¢ automatically feeds, collates, punches and outfeeds ready-to-bind book stacks. According to our sources at the Boise, ID-based company, combining this particular set of capabilities in a single system is previously unheard of.
No one can accuse the visionaries at Highcon of thinking small. Since the company’s 2009 establishment in Yavne, Israel, the founders’ objective has been to digitally transform the post printing end of the production line, and in the process create demand for a new industry paradigm that doesn’t even have a proper name yet. Or, as the mission statement suggests: “To bridge the gap between design creativity and production capability with innovative digital technology that unleashes the power of paper.”
Highcon first introduced the Euclid Digital Cutting and Creasing Machine at drupa 2012. As the flagship of the company’s “direct to pack” initiative, the original Euclid demonstrated the potential to transform conventional “carton folding” manufacturing into a flexible digital process. The advantages of digital converting technology, of course, are analogous to the evolution of digital printing: minimal set up time, faster turnaround and affordable...
The ascendancy of production inkjet may be written in disappearing inkâ€¦or not.
by Sean O'Leary
There is a speed bump dogging the supremacy of inkjet technology like trouble dogs River City. We’re talking about de-inking. That is to say, “pulp laundering”, the key component of the recycling process in which ink residue is washed and filtered out of incoming paper stock. The problem is that aqueous inkjet formulations are difficult to completely remove from paper pulp and that can mess up the whole process.
Technically speaking, the reason for this is as follows: “hydrophilic pigments and soluble dyes do not agglomerate to suitable particle size for the dominant separation method, i.e. flotation, but dissolve or form too small pieces which remain in the liquid phase or adhere on the fiber surface causing deteriorated brightness.”
That excerpt is from a 2012 patent application for a deinking method. It is basically saying the dye particle sizes are too small to...
It’s no secret that each year sees more and more offset work migrating to digital, a technology transfer driven largely by a decline in run lengths. While today’s digital presses can productively handle these short runs (however you want to define “short run”), the bottleneck has historically been in the finishing stage. For much of the past 15 years, the lack of finishing equipment that was compatible with digital presses was a common lament. This isn’t so much the case any longer, but today the key issue isn’t the dearth of digital finishing capabilities, but rather the ability to efficiently finish these short-run jobs, particularly if they involve multiple finishing processes. In order to be productive–and therefore profitable–print service providers need to maximize finishing productivity. One way of doing this is by means of what we might call “inside the box thinking”: how many finishing processes can be combined into a...
drupa Expert Article 8. Edited for PrintPlanet
Author: Michael Seidl
Digital printing has succeeded in establishing value in the traditional areas of the print media industry, but adoption has been slower in packaging. The exception is label printing. The requirements of the packaging industry are completely different from those in traditional printing, and the players have taken more time to adopt a digital future. But, increasing numbers of producers and customers are recognizing the benefits of digital packaging.
According to the latest forecasts, the volume of the worldwide print market is set to grow to â‚¬420b by 2020 from a current level of around â‚¬407b. Projected figures show very clearly that print packaging is the only print industry area that will grow significantly, with a yearly increase of 3.3%, to â‚¬141b by 2020.
A turning tide
Consumers demand greater choice, and brands must work to differentiate themselves in order to acquire market...
Drytac, a manufacturer of graphics printing, finishing and specialty products, has appointed Hayden Kelley CEO of the Richmond, VA-based company. Effective January 1, 2016, Kelley was handed the reins of a diversified global operation with manufacturing and distribution locations in the US, Canada and Europe. With core capabilities in film coating and converting, the company develops and markets products for an eyebrow raising range of markets, including commercial printing, in-plant and copy shops, screen printing and a long list of wide-format and display related businesses.
Founded in 1976 by current Chairman Richard Kelley, Drytac has managed to negotiate and thrive amidst the colossal changes wrought by digital technology and globalization while holding onto its independence. While many graphics outfits have fallen victim to consolidation or bankruptcy over the past four decades, Drytac proved it is...
Sold Out January 19 -22 Event Claims 10% Registration Uptick
This year’s EFI Connect event opened yesterday at Wynn Resort in Las Vegas, as another sold out conference, with 10% more pre-registered customer attendees than 2015. Networking and information sharing between attendees is a key highlight, with the list of Connect 2016 participants representing many of the world’s leading print businesses.
The Jan. 19-22 conference – one of the printing industry’s largest and longest-running users’ group events – features a solutions center and more than 200 technical, sales and business management sessions, including hands-on customer labs, interactive Customer sessions, user meetings and a development track conducted by InfoTrends.
During his keynote, EFI CEO Guy Gecht stressed the need for customers to “bet on changes in the market forces to accelerate.” Successful printing...
Digital Packaging Summit 2015 Converting Cognoscenti Gather to see the Future
By Noel Ward, Managing Director, Brimstone Hill Associates
The rich content at first annual Digital Packaging Summit (DPS) made up for the less than sunny Florida weather. Put on by nGage Events and Napco Media at the Ponte Vedra Beach Inn and Club near Jacksonville, this unique, invitation-only event gathered some 55 converters and more than 20 printing equipment and supplies companies to share knowledge, ideas and perspectives on the changing nature of label and package printing. All converters were vetted to ensure only highly qualified individuals–key purchase influencers and decision makers–were in attendance.
The label and packaging segment of the printing industry has been slow to adopt digital printing for a variety of good reasons, but as digital printing technology has evolved, a growing number of print providers are seeing the advantages digital presses...
Many printers I talk with say they worry that some jobs may be handled without the attention to detail they claim is part of their company culture. Ensuring that such care is taken is not always an easy task, especially once a job leaves prepress and lands in production. Sooner or later, almost every print business owner I talk with shares tales of how colors have been wrong, how press operator time per job is more than expected while press uptime and reliability is less than expected, all of which show up on the bottom line. Raise your hand if any of this sounds even a little bit familiar.
Most shops I talk with have made what turns out being unnecessary service calls, usually around press performance and color quality. Showing up as press downtime, these are often traceable to infrequent calibration and profiling. Talking with operators, it’s not uncommon to hear they don’t like calibrating or profiling a press, claiming it’s too hard or too...
The “Screen Printing” Show as a Mirror of 21st Century Enterprise
Back when I was a trade journalist focusing on the graphic arts, I specialized in disruptive technologies such as wide-format inkjet and electronic displays. This niche was rewarding because it allowed me to make predictions that most people would probably forget I had made, including me. At one point I even considered becoming a futurist, but I procrastinated and the opportunity flew by. I moved on to the internet and time went by.
It was after more than a decade away from the fray that I had the opportunity for some time travel: in a more or less impromptu visit to the Specialty Graphics and Imaging Association (SGIA) show in Atlanta. My day wandering the vast show floor provided a fascinating chance to observe the condition of an industry once known as “screen printing”, but which now resists an easy description. The 225,000 sq ft event was something like an archeological dig, with...