Signs of Spring More Obvious for Printers
THOSE OF us in the graphic arts industry don't need to travel to Punxsutawney, PA, and watch a groundhog to find out how many weeks of winter we will still have to endure. We'll leave that to the weatherguessers.
The more dependable signs of spring for printers are the upcoming season of trade shows—namely the On Demand Conference and Expo, running March 8-10 at the Javits Convention Center in New York City, and, the Punxsutawney Phil of all graphic arts shows, Drupa 2004, held in Düsseldorf, Germany, from May 6-19.
One sign that the graphic arts industry might be ready to get back in full bloom is the large number of press conferences and new product announcements leading up to these industry events. The trade press has been doing some globetrotting of late, trying to keep up on the latest technologies and announcements from graphic arts equipment manufacturers. We have logged a lot of frequent flyer miles in the process, and visited some interesting locales, like Greece and Belgium.
This is good news on several fronts. First off, manufacturers are continuing to update and perfect their wares. This gives printers more options and even more automated and faster equipment to choose from. It also shows that the equipment vendors are willing to spend money to promote their upcoming product launches—in anticipation of successful shows—both here in the U.S. and abroad.
Many of the pre-Drupa new product announcements have a digital focus, as you can see from our Digital Digest story on page 46. Because it is a Drupa year, many of these products will not be shown at the On Demand show, but will make their official U.S. debuts later in the year, most likely at Graph Expo in October. This is not to say there will be nothing new to see in New York, but we already know there will be even more to come in Düsseldorf.
This phenomenon has been coined "The Drupa Effect" by some vendors and industry observers. Many smaller, regional shows have been scaled down this year, with manufacturers opting for modest booths and a more low-key presence in anticipation of the big show in Germany. Manufacturers have used the regional shows more as a place to meet-and-greet customers than to debut products or sell equipment.
The importance of digital printing and digital workflow technology is obvious from many of the recent announcements. This year's Drupa is already being called the "JDF Drupa," due to the number of manufacturers offering JDF-compliant equipment.
So it seems only fitting that this issue is heavily dedicated to a digital printing theme. Especially with On Demand taking place this month, it is equally fitting to have New York City-based Royal Impressions as our cover story. Royal Impressions is known as a leader in the digital printing world and continues to upgrade its award-winning facility with the latest digital equipment.
We also focus on how to sell digital printing, which is a hot topic in the industry right now. Many "Old School" printing salespeople need to learn more about how to sell new digital technology to their customers. Printers and digital printing equipment manufacturers are both well aware of this fact and are working to make sure digital printing becomes a mainstay in pressrooms.
Digital printing is our future—we don't need to see our shadow to predict that.
Mark T. Michelson