I would like to welcome special guest Frank Romano to my blog this week. A man who needs practically no introduction, Frank’s career has spanned 50 years and he continues to serve as a wealth of knowledge and insight within the printing and publishing industries.
Keeping up with the industry is no easy task. With constant announcements of partnerships, new technologies and equipment, the world of print is a fast moving one. I gathered a list of questions that I believe encompasses the crucial emerging areas of the industry and, with Frank’s insights, I hope you enjoy and learn something new.Welcome Frank,
It’s clear digital printing is replacing offset in certain current—and predicted future—market segments. How high of a priority is it for offset manufacturers to start developing technology to enable greater efficiency for shorter runs? Heidelberg’s Anicolor press comes to mind and seems to have had success.Frank
: Most presses made in the last few years are fantastic at short runs. But the printing industry still has a large contingent of legacy presses, and this is weighing us down. Thus, printers have installed digital printers to produce very short runs. I see Anicolor technology becoming a part of the entire Heidelberg line over time because of its superior advantage.I am excited for Heidelberg’s partnership with Ricoh and re-entrance into digital printing. What are your thoughts on the partnership, and how dominant of a role do you predict Heidelberg will have in the future growth of digital printing?Frank
: It is good to see Heidelberg back in digital printing. Ricoh (for page printing) and EFI Vutek (for wide format) are great partners. I hope that someday we see Heidelberg-developed products for these markets.Package printing has been a very steady and growing market in the United States. First, has this trend been taking place worldwide as well? Second, can you predict any future markets in the U.S. that you see emerging into similar levels of steady growth?Frank
: Package printing is growing globally in every category. New substrates will be developed to supplant traditional board and film, and there will be an explosion in brands. This will require lots of print—with no Internet competition. You can’t send a box of Wheaties over the Internet. At least, not yet.Most of the packaging material today is printed flexo and offset. Could you ever foresee the possibility of inkjet taking over the print volume of flexography, and if so, what’s it going to take to get there?Frank
: We are moving closer every day to “inkjet flexo.” There are inkjet printing modules from Agfa and EFI that can work inline with flexo to apply variable printing. Because inkjet can do a better job with imagery (without loads of spot color units and virtually no makeready), it will open new vistas for flexible packaging.For commercial printers with digital and offset, what type of technology would you recommend companies start looking into to guarantee their future?Frank
: Flatbed UV inkjet can print on virtually any substrate—plastic, glass, textile, ceramic, etc. I think printers have to move beyond the page to selected areas of industrial printing where value-add is better. Signage is a good market, but flatbed inkjet can get you into many new markets.
What are your thoughts on the future of JDF (Job Definition Format) and how do you see it further developing to expand “lights out” production?
: As I said when JDF was introduced: “JDF will be like air; it will just be there.” It is the great integrator of workflows. But we still need to move stuff around a print shop and that is hard to do with the lights out [cue rimshot
Thank you Frank, for sharing your insight and taking the time to be part of my blog.