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

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 details for the assembled members of the BindRite Dealers Association, a national organization of regional dealers for binding, document handling and converting equipment. Speaking at the organization’s annual meeting in Bonita Springs, FL, Bowers emphasized the concept embedded in the name of the new event: an overarching strategy to unify the widest array of printing and visual display technologies under one roof. According to Bowers that will include (but not necessarily be limited to) screen printers, commercial printers, garment printers, label printers, packaging printers, signage/graphics companies and wide-format shops.

“More than 80% of the printers we asked said they preferred a consolidated event,” said Bowers.

Printers of all descriptions have been carried into the future by successive waves of consolidation and emergent technologies, and yet new opportunities have presented themselves just as quickly as the flat footed have gone by the wayside. At the same time, there has been a growing trend for “printers” of all types to expand their businesses into niches that they may not have considered a decade ago. In fact, Bowers cited statistics that indicated 95% of printers believe there are opportunities to expand into other vertical markets. The common denominator is digital technology, the deployment of which is will continue to erode craftsmanship as the arbiter of success.

Over the years, the “screen printing show” has done a good job of riding that wave, adding photo labs , sign shops and commercial printers to the already diverse pantheon that comprise its historical base. Back in the ‘90’s, as wide-format digital imaging began to threaten screen printing, one would not necessarily have picked the SPIA to end up as the leader among the many trade organizations embracing digital. In the mid-nineties, the pundits predicted there would be no more screen printers by the year 2000. Instead, the smart screen printers began incorporating digital technologies into their existing business, and the pundits disappeared.

As one of the first print related industries affected by digital, SPIA saw the wisdom of morphing into the Screenprinting and Graphics Imaging Association (SGIA) and then the Specialty Graphic and Imaging Association (SGIA). Fast forward to now, and the annual Expo is not only booming, but is also a little bit crazy in terms of the range of exhibitors one might encounter; if SGIA is successful in bringing in commercial, label and packaging suppliers and printers, we would expect that trend to continue.

The publications of NAPCO, which previously provided onsite editorial coverage for Print/Graph Expo, will now be onsite at Printing United. As publishers of Printing Impressions, Package Printing, InPlant Printing and Book Business, the media company is embedded in a number of the core markets that participate in Printing United.

Clearly specific segments of the print universe will continue consolidation and technology driven-change, but at the same time there has never been a more exciting time to be in the printing business, whatever the particular definition your reality encompasses.

As Bowers pointed out, the expanded embrace of all things print is a reflection of a process that has been underway for a couple of decades. In a global market that is shrinking in some ways yet expanding in others, we will leave it to you to consider how many North American trade shows can remain viable in the near -to -mid term.

The first Printing United show debuts October 23-25, 2019 in Dallas. PRINT ‘19 will be in Chicago October 13-15. But it is certainly not too soon to consider your plans for next year; the future is coming fast.


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