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Graph Expo: Digital Printing and Workflow -- Digital Shows Its Dominance

November 2008 By Mark Smith
Technology Editor
REAL ESTATE wouldn’t normally seem to be a fitting theme for a printing industry trade show. The weeks leading up to Graph Expo 2008 were hardly normal, though, so real estate factored into the show in three ways.

• Repercussions of the subprime mortgage crisis were an undercurrent at the show, which put the spotlight on investing in digital printing equipment as a sales opportunity, and workflow as the path to becoming more efficient and therefore more competitive.

• The floor plan of the exhibition was a striking contrast to past years, with large booths for digital printing vendors dominating the portion of the show floor previously dedicated to heavy iron. 

• Digital press manufacturers crammed as many machines as they could into their booths, whereas wide-open floor space and as few as a single press were found in several offset vendor booths. Also, wide format and even superwide/grand format ink-jet printing systems were given significant square footage.

Drupa, of course, was another theme, as “new” in Chicago generally amounted to the first U.S. showing.

Noticeably absent were the new color ink-jet presses for page production that grabbed so much attention at Drupa. Video displays were the most that could be seen of any of the concept presses and technologies announced in Germany by HP, Kodak, Fujifilm, Screen and Xerox. PRINT 09 is expected to be a coming-out party for new ink-jet color production presses here.

The focus at Graph Expo was on what’s available to buy today, especially with the deadline looming for the investment tax credit.

Digital press vendors asserted that the current economic conditions play to the technology’s strengths. Shorter runs produced on demand combined with more targeted, personalized printing enable the industry’s end customers to make the most of their printing spend, the argument goes. And, it’s more sustainable to boot.

HP reported having installed some 130 units worldwide of the  HP Indigo 7000 digital press since its introduction at Drupa. Yet, it still expects to sell more 5500 models because the new machine is targeted to higher end users with its faster (120 ppm) print speed, larger image size and more robust duty cycle. The company also again showed the HP Designjet L6500 (104? wide) ink-jet printer that uses low solvent HP Latex inks.

Kodak felt the introduction of the Versamark VL2000 drop-on-demand color ink-jet printing system was overshadowed by the Stream Concept Press in Germany. It is capable of printing 1,072 ppm in duplex mode. New in Chicago was a Dimensional Printing feature for the Nexpress S2500 color press that applies a special Dimensional Clear Dry Ink to give the print surface a raised effect. The manufacturer also contributed to the mini resurgence of black-and-white systems with its introduction of the 300 ppm Digimaster EX300 printer.












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