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Graph Expo Preview — Digital, Anyone?

August 2007 By Erik Cagle
Senior Editor
TO PARAPHRASE a gag from the late, great comedian Rodney Dangerfield, “I went to Graph Expo the other day and an On Demand show broke out.”

If imitation is really the sincerest form of flattery, then the On Demand folks should be downright blushing at the degree of digital technologies that will be offered when Graph Expo storms into Chicago’s McCormick Place South complex from September 9-12.

Not that the Graphic Arts Show Co. (GASC), Graph Expo’s producer, is out to steal another show’s thunder; rather, it is only a telltale sign of the trend that is enabling printers across North America to expand their product and service offerings.

The fact that Graph Expo sold out its exhibitor space a solid 45 days prior to kickoff is due, in large part, to the digital revolution sweeping the printing industry. Chris Price, newly named vice president at the GASC and a 23-year veteran of the trade show circuit (including the last nine spearheading Graphics of the Americas), is amazed—though not surprised—at the degree to which digital has insinuated itself into the Graph Expo fabric.

“The digital aspect of Graph Expo is growing at an unbelievable rate,” Price says. “We’ve (booked) 460,000 net square feet, and our small- format digital output vendors, not including wide-format, comprise more than 130,000 net square feet. In general, the On Demand show has about 100,000 square feet, with about 64,000 of that being small-format digital output.

Not Just a Print Show

“We have new attendee marketing campaigns. We’re going after the industry segments that, quite honestly, probably viewed Graph Expo as strictly a printing show. Now, with all of the digital offerings, we can appeal more to the high-volume, transactional printer. We can go after the creative pros. It’s the show for digital book printers, not to mention the sign printers.”

Chicago should provide a little something for everyone, and a few surprises. Freelance journalist Stephen Beals notes that direct imaging (DI) presses, while largely written off by industry pundits, will generate interest at the show among printers looking to replace aging offset hardware.

“The pronouncements of the death of digital offset are premature. The numbers just work in an era of shorter press runs,” Beals says. “The automation of the Ryobi/Presstek presses make them very efficient and profitable. Digital—toner and ink-jet—will certainly continue to capture a lot of that market segment, but I think you’ll see unusually high interest in DI at this Graph Expo.”


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