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ROYAL IMPRESSIONS -- Getting With The Program

March 2004
BY MARK SMITH

Technology Editor

If digital printing were an animal, it would have to be a cat because the concept/technology is on at least its fifth or sixth life. The perceived killer application for the process has swung from short runs to variable data printing and now, some argue, back to short runs. Direct-to-press, digital offset solutions initially grabbed attention, but have since been over-shadowed by all-digital machines.

Christopher DeSantis, president and co-founder of Royal Impressions.
Christopher DeSantis bought into the concept—both figuratively and literally—from the start. His steadfast belief in the potential of the technology has led to buying new digital equipment early and often. As a result, Royal Impressions is now well positioned in a market flush with opportunities, believes its president and co-founder.

The New York City-based company was started in 1989 as a print brokerage selling offset services primarily to financial institutions. DeSantis had previously worked for an office products company selling copiers in the Wall Street area. "I was attracted by the residual business that printing provides compared to selling machines," he says.

DeSantis leveraged his existing client relationships and established partnerships with print suppliers to build the business and gain offset printing expertise. "We never wanted to buy iron," he reveals.

The introduction of digital equipment meant Royal Impressions had to respond to a new set of business dynamics in the early 1990s. "We had started selling black-and-white copying and litigation support services, but the crazy deadlines made it difficult to outsource that work. Given the timeframes, we realized it would be best to bring the capability in-house. That was right around the advent of digital color printing, with the Canon CLC 1 doing amazing high-speed, five-copies-a-minute, output," he says, tongue firmly in cheek.

"Being a young owner, I've always stayed on the cutting edge of technology and taken some risks," DeSantis continues. "When I then started hearing and reading about variable data printing, I thought it had tremendous potential. The concept made a lot of sense."

Royal Impressions encountered a number of challenges in developing that market, the company president reveals. Its progress was slowed by technological issues and a need to build the required infrastructure, as well as educate and sell clients on the marketing approach.

"It was scary," DeSantis admits. "At first, the technology was not there yet. The state-of-the-art in processing files (RIPing) at the time meant a project could take hours or even days to run. Since we didn't have an internal IT department, we had to outsource all of that work. And, we had to educate our clients on the technology."
 

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