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Buying a Digital Press (Now)? -- Waldman

October 2001
After one of those flights that was so early it feels as though you never went to bed, I somehow found myself standing at the reception desk of the Chicago Hilton at 9:30 a.m. Friday morning, September 7th. Like any experienced PRINT or Graph Expo attendee, I made my room accommodations months ago. Shock number one jolted me awake—there was no line and I was able to walk right up to the registration clerk.

Shock number two—the Chicago Hilton, one of the prime hotels for PRINT, had rooms available (as did other hotels, which I discovered later). Shock number three—there wasn't the usual mob waiting for the bus that takes you to the show. Shock number four—at McCormick Place, there didn't seem to be significant lines or crowds anywhere.

I don't have official attendance figures, but the decline was obvious. However, for those of us that did go, it was a far more civilized experience. You didn't have to fight crowds to get the information you needed. Also many of the exhibitors told me that the quality was high, with less tire kickers and more serious buyers. PRINT 01 was an excellent opportunity to more fully explore today's big dilemma, digital presses and/or digital imaging presses.

Which Is the Right Path?
We've seen this many times before: Emerging technologies that will prevail, but when, who and in what form? And, as always, there are many bright, shiny innovations presented with all the hype that this is the goose that excretes the golden egg.

However, all too many excrete the usual excreted product and disappear from the market, unfortunately taking some printers with them. In the early '70s it was photocomposition and there were so many companies with so many innovative ideas.

Let's return to 2001 and the "digital" and "DI" press dilemma. I'm going to commit the sin of grossly oversimplifying (forgive me, Frank Romano) when I put all this into four categories—production digital presses, desktop digital printers, wet digital imaging presses and dry digital imaging presses. Bear with me as, hopefully, this will make the landscape a little more visible, but do keep in mind there are vast differences within my arbitrary categories. With apologies to many of the fine manufacturers and their products, I'm going to single out a few to make my points.

Production digital presses are mostly electrophotographic (there's also magnetography and a few other technologies) devices that use no plates and can change images on-the-fly, hence true variable imaging. There's virtually no makeready.

 

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