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August 2001

If there appears to be one technology that is going to steal the show at the eight-day PRINT 01 trade show held at Chicago's McCormick Place, September 6-13, it is going to be the digital imaging (DI) press.

"No matter what you think about the DI press, pros or cons, you no longer can ignore the impact of DI technology. We've identified at least a dozen manufacturers that will exhibit a DI press, reports Bill Lamparter of PrintCom Consulting Group.

The buzz surrounding color digital presses began last year at DRUPA and not much has changed since the German show. However, many of the DI presses that were unveiled at DRUPA are now closer to market. "The direct-to-press or fixed printing direct imaging concept has been finding growing acceptance among commercial printers. Recent announcements indicate that at PRINT 01, almost every commercial press manufacturer will have a DI press available within a reasonable delivery time frame," notes Lamparter.

With so many manufacturers ready to deliver digital presses, Charlie Corr, group director of CAP Ventures, says that PRINT 01 offers printers a unique opportunity to evaluate the DI phenomena.

"Many of those manufacturers that made announcements at DRUPA are closer to market, so it is a chance for printers to understand what is the value propositions of DI and why printers should invest in digital imaging technology," he remarks.

Other Attention Grabbers
While digital presses, in general, will garner the most headlines at PRINT 01, of particular interest to attendees will be the long-awaited NexPress, a joint venture between Eastman Kodak and Heidelberg, as well as Xerox's FutureColor. PRINT 01 will mark the first time that both presses will be running side-by-side at a trade show, according to Corr. "You'll see both of them running real applications and people will be able to kick the tires."

Although the digital imaging presses seem to be the belle of the PRINT 01 ball, there are still many important technologies at the exhibition to see and understand.

But don't expect many new technology innovations in the web offset press arena, advises Richard Holliday of 3P Consultants. "I'd be surprised if there is any great new technology in the web field. What I am really anticipating is the makeready devices that the manufacturers will be offering to help improve productivity."

Holliday says that manufacturers will be continuing to push the adoption of closed-loop color control. He also expects to see efficient and flexible plate and folder changing devices to be highlighted.

"We'll see more automation and more flexibility. All of these features are intended to really reduce the minutes between the runs, as well as the spoilage. As run lengths get shorter and shorter, two things happen: the percentage that the press is in run mode compared to make-ready gets lower, and spoilage as a percentage really starts to climb. If you cut the number of good copies in half, you've just doubled your spoilage. If you're a web printer, you darn well better be paying attention to your makeready because it's a bigger and bigger percentage of your success," Holliday states.

It's not just web press manufacturers that are trying to cut make-readies, however, reports Werner Rebsamen, professor emeritus at the Rochester Institute of Technology. The theme of PRINT 01 for bindery equipment is going to be zero makereadies, he reveals.

"It doesn't matter how fast the machine runs. Jobs are becoming shorter and shorter. We are becoming short-order cooks, so makeready times need to be shortened." Rebsamen says PRINT will find industry leaders such as Muller Martini, Stahl, MBO and Polar showing more and more equipment that is fully automated.

Speed is also driving the growth of the on-demand market. "The on-demand market and digital printing cannot grow without on-demand bindery equipment," Rebsamen notes. As a result, print providers can expect to see more on-demand finishing gear on the show floor.

While there is much to be seen for on-demand digital printing, smaller- and medium-size printers should not feel left out. There has been a virtual explosion of new technology in the half-size sheetfed press market, contends Clint Bolte, industry consultant.

"We are going to a see a continuation of a trend that began five or six years ago. Technology proven on the 40˝ presses in conjunction with prepress workflow advancements is being rolled into the half-size market. This is really exciting," he states.

And no matter what format presses you're running—both sheetfed and web—computer-to-plate workflows are continuing to grow as the equipment, technology and plate material offerings expand, according to Lamparter. "PRINT will provide the opportunity for printers to update their information on CTP."

CTP technology should be near the top of every printer's to-do list. Even so, Holliday offers these words of advice. "I assume that everyone is looking at CTP, but they need to give serious thought to the integration of CTP to their presses."

Remote proofing and color management are also expected to be stand-outs at the show, especially as ink-jet color proofing becomes more affordable and the quality continues to improve, adds Bolte. "Ink-jet is going to play an important role in remote proofing."

It's an Evolution
Remote proofing will continue to gain popularity as the color management workflow software solutions continue to evolve. "Color management is still suspect and still evolving, but the need is definitely there," says Bolte. The Internet will also continue to play an important role in remote proofing, he predicts.

"Remote proofing over the Internet is just an ideal application."

However, when the discussion turns toward the Internet, the impact of e-commerce solutions cannot be overlooked. "We've had a lot of road kill, so to speak, from the dotcom area. But I can't help but see a handful of people continuing to look at the practical and pragmatic application of the Internet. The expectations, the promises and the hoopla were unrealistic in the beginning, but there is no doubt that it will play a very vital role in the print buyer/printer relationship," Bolte states.

Lamparter believes that this exhibition will see the entry of e-commerce solutions from the industry's old-guard players. Heidelberg, Fujifilm and Pitman are all companies worth watching in the e-enabled space.

"Despite the shakeout, e-commerce and e-communications between sellers and buyers are still viable and growing phenomenons," Lamparter remarks.

Andrew Tribute, international editor for Seybold Publications, agrees that it would be detrimental for printers to rule out the Internet. "Printers need to have a detailed understanding of the use of the Internet for all forms of work. The failure of the dotcoms in print should not be seen as a reason to ignore Internet developments. The future of printing is largely built around communications and the use of remote services accessible via the Internet. This will be in areas like communication with customers, handling receipt of work, delivery of remote proofing and communication with other service suppliers," Tribute says.

Although much of the show floor buzz will about digital printing, remote proofing issues and the Internet, there are some areas that should not be overlooked, advises Lamparter. Among his technology must-sees are single fluid ink technologies and digital asset management (DAM) solutions.

"DAM has become a buzz word encompassing electronic filing and retrieval, as well as content information modules. DAM is becoming increasingly critical for package printers and converters, as well as for commercial printers and their publisher customers," Lamparter reveals.

Corr's list of technologies to see at PRINT includes software that enables printers to become direct mailers. "There is a lot of work up for grabs and some printers are looking to enter the direct mail market. Most print providers can benefit from a simple tool set that allows them to become direct mailers," Corr says. "We are not talking about the highly personalized L.L. Bean catalog, but rather simple variable data software solutions."

For Bolte, there is one group of vendors worth traveling off the beaten trade show path to visit. "There are some very professional used equipment dealers, with nice marketing programs and warranties. They're worth a look." Just more proof that there will be something for everyone at PRINT 01.


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