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PRINT 13 Preview: Casting a Wider 'PRINT' Net

August 2013 By Erik Cagle, Senior Editor
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This year's PRINT 13 trade show extravaganza emphasizes the trend toward the Great Diversification Movement being felt in the industry. Like a dynamic college football team, today's printer is expected to use a spread offense that provides a multitude of looks that can help your team outperform the opposition.

To take it a bit further, time of possession is critical. You don't want to turn jobs over to the opposition because a certain piece of equipment or capability is not in your playbook.

The quadrennial PRINT show comes at a most interesting time. The printing industry is enduring some violent changes from a technology standpoint. With the decade-long trend toward shorter runs continuing; digital printing, especially inkjet, stepping up its game; and electronic alternatives continuing to harvest market share, diversification is on the lips of many shop owners as they prepare their trek to Chicago for the Fall Classic, which takes place Sept. 8-12 at McCormick Place.

This show continues to take a page from today's printers by offering a program that is high on diversity and light on heavy iron. Gone are the days where an exhibit next to an offset press manufacturer's booth meant bringing a bottle of aspirin; the loud clatter of the 40˝ sheetfed beasts will not be piercing the air.

Nor will you be in danger of getting lost in a vendor's booth. Also gone is the time when a booth was the size of a junior college campus. In fact, the show is confined to a smaller footprint these days, notes Ralph Nappi, president of the Graphic Arts Show Co. (GASC), which runs PRINT and its sister exhibition, Graph Expo.

"The days of taking huge booths, just to appear big, are long gone," he says. "That's not just in the United States. At China Print, it was obvious that booths of noteworthy size were not to be found."

What the show will have is a greater variety in the printing garden. For example, the Converting & Package Printing Expo (CPP) has the distinction of becoming the first co-located show in PRINT/Graph Expo history. Admission to CPP is inclusive with PRINT 13 registration. Among the other new wrinkles:

  • Two new pavilions have been added. The Photo Finish is dedicated to photo imaging and the popularity of photo books, wide-format imaging and related services. Sidelines, the expanded revenue streams pavilion, is aimed toward new money-making sources from a wide variety of specialty printing.
  • The mailing and fulfillment pavilion, Deliver, has been renewed and "re-imagined." The U.S. Postal Service and the Association for Marketing Service Providers (AMSP) were both highly instrumental in helping to give the pavilion a makeover.
  • The educational platform shifted its focus, taking a "how to" approach for implementation and execution of products and services for its 70-plus sessions. There will also be "ask the experts" stations on the floor and in the theaters geared toward enabling printers to actuate new and ancillary capabilities.
  • Co-located events continue to billow inside the McCormick Place confines. Four years ago, GASC logged 22 events, a figure that has climbed to 34, 49 and, now, 64. Nappi feels it not only validates PRINT/Graph Expo as the central industry event; it is truly wide-ranging, covering the full gamut of today's marketing services providers while offering a little something for neighboring professions (newspapers, designers, creative professionals).

Nappi strongly feels the increase in show attendance is largely due to the success of the co-located events, and he anticipates the upward tick to continue with the exhibition this September.

The Executive Outlook annual day-before-the-show kickoff will once again be preceded by a Webinar preview of the Must See 'ems product and technology awards. A Best in Category winner will be selected from the Must See 'ems pool. A Legacy Award will be given for a technology that is 10 years or older and a former Must See 'ems winner, and the Positively Print honor will be bestowed upon the entity that most effectively promotes the "power of print" message through its organization's campaign. Executive Outlook takes place Sept. 7.

So what can we expect to see at PRINT 13 in Chicago? Jim Hamilton, production group director for InfoTrends, will provide a presentation at Executive Outlook on a topic that has been of particular interest, not just in the printing industry, but the technology sector as well: 3D printing. Hamilton notes, "It's an interesting topic, but except for Afinia—which has 3D offerings and will be showing a label printer—there will be few, if any, 3D printers on the show floor.

"I'm also looking forward to seeing the B2-format digital printing products. The HP Indigo 10000 has been on the market for some time now, and we should see some other examples, including Konica Minolta's KM-1, which was shown as a technology demonstration at drupa 2012. It's a bit too early for Landa, but they did announce at China Print that they will be going into beta testing with a B1-format unit early next year," he adds.

"The high-speed continuous feed inkjet market continues to grow, and though I'm not expecting any big new product announcements, there will be plenty to see including an Océ ColorStream 3900 in the Canon Solutions America booth. Another interesting area is the use of UV inkjet for coating, dimensional and other applications. MGI has expanded its offerings with the JETvarnish 3D and Scodix showed some great print samples at China Print and PrintPack India, so I'm looking forward to seeing what they bring."

Marco Boer, vice president of I.T. Strategies, believes that the smaller footprint and lack of monster-sized machinery will make for a more intimate experience, and thinks show-goers will benefit from vendors putting on more application demonstrations.

As for technology, Boer feels digital inkjet will continue its dominating presence at the show. Breakthroughs in ink chemistry technology will also help to open some doors for printers, he notes.

"Being able to print on new substrates is critical, particularly for something like wide-format graphics. It allows for new applications," Boer says. "If I can print something on a stretchable piece of film or vinyl and wrap it around a car, the printing is going to cost $500, but to wrap it will cost the customer $2,000. So, you have all these auxiliary services being enabled by the development of new ink chemistries. That's a significant enhancement."

Getting in on the ground floor of a printing technology can enable companies to reap greater margins while navigating the learning curve, Boer stresses. That's one of the primary value propositions of the PRINT/Graph Expo experience.

"Because you're able to get a better profit margin, you're able to make more mistakes while you're coming up that learning curve," Boer says. "That's something we all underestimate. Sure, you can wait to buy the next generation of product but, the longer you wait—and, yes, the machine might not be as expensive in 12 months—the more you're going to miss out on moving up that learning curve."

Trish Witkowski, the chief folding fanatic at, whose 60-second Super-cool Fold of the Week video appears in this magazine's "Today on PIWorld" electronic newsletter, is eagerly awaiting the PRINT show. She notes that print finishing machinery is becoming increasingly modular, flexible and functional.

"Flexibility has really been an overall theme in print finishing over the past few years, as manufacturers are looking for ways to offer more than, say, just a folding machine, or just a saddlestitcher," Witkowski notes. "As printers entertain the idea of replacing often decades-old bindery equipment that may still be working just fine, thank you, manufacturers are loading up their machines with features that enhance the versatility and value of the investment. It gets better and better.

"In the digital print finishing arena, the bar raises every year. We're seeing special print techniques and substrates, higher speeds, multiple finishing processes in a single pass, and the automation of creative formats for mail and marketing," she adds. "It's fabulous to see greater economy in engaging print formats. Mail can be so much more than tri-folds and postcards these days, and I delight in seeing the manufacturers reflect this in their offerings."

For more information on attending PRINT 13, visit PI


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