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Oct. 13 2009 02:03 PM
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Attendee numbers were off at Print '09 as would be expected in this withering economy. But who was there and what transpired highlights the underlying future vibrancy and of the printing industry. Just as the national printing trade associations are telling their printer members that they must "reinvent themselves." Mirror reflections would suggest the same challenge for organizers of tradeshows.

With 90 seminars running upstairs and dozens more free on the show floor in the special interest pavilions and in many suppliers' booths the opportunity for education was truly unprecedented. The first three days (Friday through Sunday) of this six-day event were Death Valley for attendance. Suppliers simply cannot be expected to invest the premium costs levied by a facility like McCormick Place and not get more face-to-face exposure with more prospective buyers. And yet the printers that were in attendance, while perhaps not signing immediate purchase contracts, were reported to be seriously planning for 2010 capital moves.

No printer's strategic plan can be considered to be thorough and complete without key officers becoming personally immersed in the emerging technology enhancements prevalent at the leading national tradeshows. While capital investments are made in stair step fashion, the technology learning/planning process is a continuous, near vertical learning curve for users. It never flattens out. So for me Print '09 was truly a Mecca of current information.

As has been my practice, this summary tradeshow article will touch the highlights but concentrate on opportunities for my clients - the small to medium sized printers including the in-plants.

No block buster new technology or product was introduced and in fact most press announcements, including for the first time the Must See ems List, were released in plenty of time to plan efficient scowering of the two halls dedicated to Print '09. The emerging medium-sized printer could have spent their entire visit focusing exclusively on extraordinary software applications and come away with several winners.

The pace of change and advancement of technology by manufacturers continues to outpace user adoption. This is good news for buyers as the concern for Beta testing in many applications is virtually unnecessary.

Executive Outlook 2009 Conference
Two telltale statistics worth noting about this bell weather gathering concerned attendee statistics (excluding speakers): 25% were international and a full 20% were in-plants. These are significant numbers for this or any national conclave. Both may be indicators of who might lead the printing industry in select technology investments and recovery growth.

Andy Paparozzi, NAPL's Chief Economist and popular keynoter, said the decline in initial unemployment insurance claims is a proven leading indicator that the sliding national economy has found a bottom. "A bottom simply means conditions have stopped deteriorating, not that a recovery is at hand," he cautioned. Recovery may not be evident before the second half of 2010.

Because of the "hypercompetitive" print markets he offered this advise; "maximize productivity, automate (to squeeze out labor costs), get faster (to minimize touches, steps, & waiting time), cross train, and develop seamless digital workflows (that extend via the web into the client's facility to minimize turn time and bottlenecks)."

The Digital Print Council of PIA emphasized its first ever website competition ( This should provide a clear benchmarking of creativity for printers of all sizes to be considered for updating their own website. Winning websites are to be announced in November.

Inkjet Webs Now Running In Line With High Speed Finishing
At Drupa 2008 several digital print engine manufacturers demonstrated high speed inkjet web presses as concept products with no finishing capabilities. Twenty months later many were offered for sale at Print '09 with full speed in-line or near line finishing systems. First quarter 2010 availability was tauted in several cases These finishing suppliers have all demonstrated the credibility of engineering and manufacturing heavy duty, reliable units. Here is only a capsulation of the in-line/near line advances;

Targeting the transaction high volume printing market, Pitney Bowes and HP announced a strategic alliance resulting in the Intellijet Printing System to be sold by Pitney Bowes. At speeds up to 400 feet per minute of 30" wide web (70 million A4 color variable data impressions a month) the HP SmartStream digital front end will be driving the HP T300 color inkjet web platform. Orders were being accepted on this nearly $4 million production system for delivery in early 2010.

HP and Timson described their joint effort at combining the same HP T300 web platform connecting to Timson's Digital Book Finishing System and running at the 400 fpm press speed. The first installation was underway at France's CPI, Europe's leading book printer, during Print 09.

The Hunkler POPP7system will receive the printed web from the HP T300 for production of newspapers in the evening and then can be used for print- on-demand book signatures during the day. This Hunkler unit can also receive product inline from the HP Indigo W7200 and W3250 models.

Different complimentary announcements by RR Donnelley allude to a major digital POD juggernaut being rolled out. Introduced at Drupa 2000 Muller Martini's SigmaLine of automated signature folding, collating, perfect binding and trimming all based upon their JDF/JMF workflow system "Connex" was well before its time. RRD announced the purchase of five SigmaLines at Print 09. Though the specific intended web press feeding these units was not announced (five different digital press manufacturers had SigmaLines on their trade show floor at Drupa 2004), RRD is reported to have several units, even a proprietary one, capable of feeding this hungry binder. In May, Baker & Taylor, a global digital book and entertainment products distributor, announced that RRD had been selected to provide POD, distribution, and value-added services out of B&T's Momence, Illinois facility. It is assumed that one of these SigmaLines might be planned for that Illinois plant.

Digital Wide Format Marketing Tool for All Printers
The digital wide format pavilion has grown each year. This year it was fascinating to see two different booths with live demonstrations of auto wrapping. Backdrops, window graphics, wallscapes, and boat/van/truck wraps all can add a "wow factor" to a company's self-marketing efforts.

Duston Noble of gave such demonstrations of how to work with a two-dimensional substrate around surface contours without sacrificing image integrity. He advised going to to subscribe ($150/year) to their 1/20 scale template software for most all vehicle specifications. Background graphics can be purchased from ($12 for one time use of 72 dpi image). Photoshop can integrate your logo or message into this background graphic. Local free lancers trained to apply the wraps can often be found listed on

A general commercial printer does not have to go into the business of digital printing vehicle wraps. But if they are in the business of digital printing color graphics they are silly not to have relationships with local experts who can make the printer's delivery vehicles turn some heads! It may not be that big a stretch to barter wrapping services for your digital printing of the adhesive-backed vinyl.

Neat Applications & Market Niche Tools
New HP ElectroInk white ink was announced for their Indigo 5000 and 5500 press lines. To be available in early 2010, this white ink will allow customers to address high-value applications such as point-of-purchase, point of sales, displays, overlays, name plates, and greeting cards.

The question of digital print quality has been mute for some time. The question of how can we get all print output to look alike is paramount and now has a practical solution. ORIS Press Matcher from CGS Publishing Technologies ( accurately and automatically transforms the color data within digital files so that the resulting printed output-from digital presses, conventional lithographic presses, wide-format printers, and other devices-are consistent and gamut-optimized over multiple runs, visually matching across multiple digital devices and offset presses. This technology allows the user to color match easily and quickly regardless of the user's color management experience and skill level.

A color target is output on the device and scanned with a spectrophotometer. The software then calibrates the device to GRACoL or any other desired color specification. This optimization is then applied, via network hotfolders, to all incoming digital files, with no manual color correction required. This technology allows for a new level of consistency to be achieved and brings color management into the realm for smaller houses. Press Matcher costs $30,000, but in combination with other CGS packages such as Ink Saver can result in bundled investment savings. Their Ink Saver software adjusts the electronic file to incorporate gray component replacement (GCR) and under color removal (UCR), which typically results in 25% ink savings on all output devices.

KODAK NEXPRESS Dimensional Printing takes place in-line and produces "raised" images that can be set to specific heights. The result is a tactile effect that creates a dimensional feel. It mimics the surface of the items depicted in the image. For example, customers can print an image of an orange that feels like an orange or wood grain that feels like wood grain.

KODAK PRINERGY Digital Workflow provides an intuitive and direct way for operators to dynamically sort and access jobs. From one operator station, an operator can plan and schedule print jobs for any number of presses. Before the job is launched, the operator can view the number of hours of printing that are scheduled for each digital press and track ink and paper status. It allows for centralized control over digital printing. This system optimizes the digital workflow and maximizes the available press capability.

The Rules Based Automation (RBA) of this software eliminates processes, simplifies the production, and automates procedures regardless of the level of complexity. Using RBA, many errors are eliminated, touch points disappear, and the process is much faster. This is particularly beneficial in a multi-shift operation.

The Heidelberg Prinect Press Center was designed to allow all tasks-from job preparation and press setup to print sheet measurement and evaluation-to be accomplished faster, more accurately, and with greater reliability. This platform makes it easy for operators to keep track of the entire printing process, including the activation/ deactivation of printing, dampening, inking, and coating units.

Intellistart is a process oriented, wizard-based operating program that provides improvements to the make-ready by automating tasks and preparing for the next job while the previous one is finishing. The Wallscreen is a unique component that among other features provides the user with an animated overview of all press processes in one location, allowing the user to see and control a job from one screen.

The control of a press is a complex and involved process, and the judges felt that the Prinect Press Center helps to drive down make-readies and improve the control of the press by focusing on the unique user interface. The overview of the entire press allows the operator fast and effective analysis of issues, allowing more effective solutions to be developed. This technology is a solution to a problem that has challenged the industry for a number of years.

Diamond Color Navigator on Mitsubishi Lithographic Presses is a new color adjustment interface that allows press operators to perform color adjustments both prior and during printing by using their own intuitive color sense rather than attempting to interpret the CMYK balance necessary to achieve a desired color match. Through a single operation, the operator can color balance an entire image or sections of the image without the need for manual ink key adjustments. Lesser-experienced operators are able to isolate very specific areas of the image that need adjusting and then select a specific shade from a color wheel rather than guessing which percentages of process colors will achieve the requested shade. The system then automatically moves all the appropriate keys on each print unit to yield the selected color.

When customer asks, "Can you make this area bluer?" Now the technology is there to allow this to happen in one easy move. This is an innovative step forward in the control of a press.

The Xeikon 3300 Digital Color Label Press from Punch Graphix offers a significant improvement in label printing quality with its unique 1200 dpi (four bits per spot) resolution. It can print on scalable widths and a range of substrates from self-adhesive films, including co-extruded film, to unsupported film, paper, transparent and opaque foils, and paperboard with substrate weights ranging from 1.6 mil to 16-point board. The Xeikon 3300 claims monthly duty cycles of up to 2.3 million linear feet and has no frame size restrictions, resulting in higher productivity and throughput. It features full rotary technology where the speed of the press is independent of the label size and the number of colors used.

The high 1200 dpi resolution allows the introduction of security features that are becoming increasingly important with the threat of product counterfeiting.

Estimator Corp (, a software supplier of wide format digital print management software, announced an addition to its roll and sheet solution. It incorporates a new linear finishing feature for ICut, seaming, welding, trimming and more.

Employing square foot pricing to a variety of inputs including material cost, ink coverage and print charges, Estimator via its linear foot rate (LFR) feature provides a separate charge for machine time usage. Advanced features include: four ink settings plus opaque white, three DPI quality ranges, printing from rolls or sheet stock, one or two sided. An imposition feature automatically optimizes the square foot usage for both roll and sheet.

Virtual Systems Corp. (, provider of business management software for print, mail and fulfillment, showed the latest version of Digi-Shop, a program for managing cross-media campaigns, direct mail, email distribution, and postage.

Digi-Shop is designed specifically for companies that provide web-to-print, digital print, mail services, and other data-driven marketing services. Digi-Shop creates estimates, plans and tracks production, and accounts for postage while allowing for faster turn on invoices and detailed cost and profit analysis. Traditional print MIS are designed to manage manufacturing processes, not data-driven, transactional activities.

The XML schema underlying Digi-Shop allows the use of Web Services to integrate with a wide-range of web-to-print applications. Using this same process, data can be passed back to printers' existing print MIS or accounting systems for billing and invoicing. There is no need to change front-end or back-end applications to manage value-added services like pURL, email, direct mail, fulfillment, or Internet response marketing.

Digi-Shop is available both as an add-on module to Virtual Systems' Mail-Shop® or as a freestanding application. Current Mail-Shop SQL users can add the MIS management of digital print capabilities to their existing systems.

Brackett Onglematic 6P+GP is a tabletop automatic index tab cutting device for on-site cutting of index tabs up to 12.5" long. 500 sets of 9 tabs can be cut in less than 1 hour. The ability to offer custom-sized and custom-shaped tabs and dividers on the spot is one more way to gain an advantage in this competitive market.
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MGI's ( JETvarnish offline digital inkjet spot UV coater accommodates sheets up to 20" x 29" at about 2,450 per hour. The 100% digital JETvarnish can handle runs from one to thousands with computer controlled drop-on-demand print heads enabling precise registration.

The JETvarnish is ideal for spot UV coating on a wide range of applications and substrates, including book covers, posters, brochures, personalized direct mail, premium packaging, corporate materials and many others. Investment is $250,000 with expendables costing about $0.04 a sheet.

Digital printing of envelopes is gaining interest. Xante has had such a unit for some time. However, Straight Shooter ( introduced for the first time their LF-12 high speed laser printer feeder. It is a top feeding unit holding up to 500 envelopes. The manual feed tray of the straight threw flow digital print engine is opened, the feeder is slid in place, and the unit is ready to run. Several multifunctional printers (MFPs) seem to be ideally suited for this feeder, which is expected to sell for less than $6,000. A take away conveyor is provided as part of the package so that a single operator can feed and remove.

I can't imagine a technology learning venue any more effective than what the Graphic Arts Show Company has evolved Print into. And yet I'm not signing the purchase contracts for the equipment. This trade show business model, like those for printers themselves, must evolve and become more cost efficient for the suppliers and manufacturers. This cost efficiency is simply defined as attracting potential buyers to make the trade show yield an acceptable return on investment.

However, considering how aging the equipment populating most conventional printing plants is, it simply does not take much new information to overwhelm these outdated printers. The most up to date 8,000 printers in North America probably have the modern mechanical capacity to meet the printing volume demands now being serviced by the 35,000 printers still struggling to survive. Just as the USPS should be developing an ultimate business model around half its 2007 mail piece volume, perhaps future Print tradeshows should be designed to service these strong 8+ thousand printers?