Digital Digest: EFI 'Connects' With Users At Worldwide Conference
LAS VEGAS — EFI CEO Guy Gecht’s opening keynote address that kicked off the 17th EFI Connect worldwide users’ conference may have focused on the growing technological impact of artificial intelligence (AI), but a major highlight was the more than 200 educational sessions led by real-life industry experts on business management, sales, marketing and production technology for users of EFI products that occurred throughout the four-day event held here at the Wynn from Jan. 17-20.
Gecht’s opening keynote to the record crowd of approximately 1,500 EFI customers, supplier partners and media representatives hailing from 37 nations was quite thought-provoking, as he outlined technological revolutions that started with the development of the personal computer, followed by the internet, mobile smartphone technology and, more recently, the rapid acceleration of artificial intelligence.
He recounted IBM’s “Deep Blue” computer that defeated chess champion Garry Kasparov in 1997, IBM’s Watson computer that beat “Jeopardy” game show championship contestants in 2011 and discussed what futurist Ray Kurzweil terms Singularity, a point in the future where machine intelligence becomes infinitely more powerful than all human intelligence combined, to which the human race can’t adapt.
Special sessions included fireside chat keynotes hosted by Gecht with Jeff Jacobson, who spoke on Connect’s opening day in one of his first public presentations since becoming CEO of Xerox, followed the next morning by a fireside chat with Quad/Graphics CEO Joel Quadracci. Quadracci told the story about how Quad/Graphics was originally built through “greenfield” growth, until he realized that to “be successful we had to be the consolidator in the marketplace.”
As a result, Quad/Graphics acquired World Color Press, Vertis and Brown Printing, which led, in part, to the subsequent closure of 36 printing plants in the past six years alone to better align industry capacity with market demand.
EFI CFO Marc Olin gave a “State of the Products” presentation, joined by Gaby Matsliach, SVP and GM of Productivity Software. Olin noted that EFI launched more products this year at Connect than at any previous conference.
He traced the increasing importance of the digital front end (DFE), from the basic hot folders of 2010 to today’s fully automated Fiery Command WorkStation. The same Fiery that’s driving your VUTEk printer, he said, can now be integrated to your Pace MIS application to provide common integration.
“Fiery has now become part of our fully certified MIS integration suite and is an integral piece of the total end-to-end production for both content and business workflows,” he says. “So if you’re not taking advantage of that yet, you’re really putting yourself at a competitive disadvantage.”
He went over recent Fiery technology innovations like the Fiery NX servers and NX station, and the new Fiery Navigator add-on that lets users monitor color management settings across all Fiery DFEs in their operation.
Olin discussed some future launches as well, like the Nozomi single-pass inkjet press for corrugated printing and AquaEndure inks, a new water-based UV-curable ink to enable a broader range of display graphics applications.
“The benefit of that is that you get the … curing associated with UV and LED, but with a water-based ink,” he said.
Another recurring theme at this year’s EFI Connect was the emphasis on multi-channel communications and how wide-format inkjet printing is an important part of the marketing mix. During his fireside chat with Guy Gecht, Joel Quadracci spoke about how direct mail, signage and point-of-purchase (POP) is “all part of a campaign. Integration of channels is the key. Knowing what channel drives what and the interconnectivity between them is essential,” he noted.
“Inkjet is a great driver for profits within EFI,” said Ken Hanulec, VP of Marketing, EFI Inkjet, during a special press briefing during Connect.
EFI continues to invest in inkjet technology — in all of its forms. A few examples:
- Work has already begun on EFI’s new facility in Londonderry (a suburb of Manchester), N.H. — a $40 million commitment to inkjet for the company. EFI anticipates the building will be completed by February 2018 and the company will close its facility in Meredith, N.H., completely at that time.
- EFI’s CretaPrint division moved into a new facility in Spain but EFI ended up doubling the size of the facility within 90 days of move-in once the Nozomi was announced at drupa. Currently there are approximately 850 CretaPrint machines installed worldwide but, by September 2017, that number should exceed 1,000.
- In March 2016, EFI acquired Rialco Limited, one of Europe’s suppliers of dye powders and color products for digital print and industrial manufacturing industries. EFI plans to improve its inkjet portfolio with Rialco’s advanced ink component capabilities.
- 17 inkjet products were commercialized to market in 2016.
During Connect, EFI announced its new VUTEk 5r and 3r LED-UV roll-to-roll printers. Printing at speeds up to 4,896 sq. ft./hr. in resolutions up to 1,200 dpi, the 5-meter EFI VUTEk 5r and 3-meter EFI VUTEk 3r printers feature high-resolution, 7-picoliter EFI UltraDrop Technology. The printers are also available with a complete range of upgrade options, including optional light colors and white for multi-layer printing; in-line finishing for all-in-one printing, cutting, slitting, and collecting; auto backlit and blockout printing; and more.
During Gecht’s opening keynote, Mike Graff, CEO of Clifton, N.J.-based Sandy Alexander — a former Durst customer — provided a brief video interview about its recent installation of the brand-new VUTEk 5r. “The productivity and enhancements in the equipment are nothing short of amazing,” says Graff. “We are really excited about the equipment. In terms of the LED print quality, being able to produce anything on a Latex machine or a traditional machine is terrific. The output is nothing short of amazing in terms of quality. And also the XY cutter is a tremendous time saver.”
EFI’s largest soft signage printer, the 5.2-meter EFI VUTEk FabriVU 520, also launched at Connect. The printer gives users new capabilities for producing a broader range of soft signage products, including wall murals, theater drapes and other superwide seamless applications. The printer can produce up to 4,800 sq. ft./hr. (446 square meters), and prints at resolutions up to 2,400 dpi. It can do both direct-to-textile and transfer printing with an easy changeover using the same inkset for greater versatility. A patented ink-recovery system saves more than 95% of the ink lost in textile printing systems offered by other manufacturers.
After purchasing a 3.2-meter EFI VUTEk printer last year, marketing communications company Image Options became one of the first companies in the world to install the 5.2-meter FabriVU model. The pair of advanced soft signage production devices has helped the Foothill Ranch, Calif.-based company grow its service offering.
“Image Options invested in EFI’s soft signage products with the FabriVU 340 and because of the demand we have seen, we quickly expanded our capabilities with the new FabriVU 540 printer,” says Tim Bennett, Image Options’ CEO. “This technology allows us to enter new markets with the widest and highest-speed performance available on the market today. The new 5.2-meter printer also gives us the ability to offer high-quality capabilities to clients who need un-seamed exhibit graphics.”
EFI also presented a technology demonstration of a new, 65˝-wide EFI Wide Format LED inkjet hybrid roll/flatbed printer at Connect, showing the continuing evolution of the “cool cure” platform.
Additionally, Gecht highlighted two customers in the audience who already kicked off 2017 in a big way, by installing new equipment. Brian English, co-owner of Cleveland-based 4walls, purchased an EFI VUTEk GS2000 and Dennis Riggs, CEO of Miamisburg, Ohio-based Promotional Spring, installed the VUTEk LX37.
Connect also featured new technologies and exhibits in its solutions center from EFI partners, including: 3M, Berger Textiles, Canon, Duplo, Enfocus, Esko, KDX America, Klieverik, Kodak, Konica Minolta Business Solutions U.S.A., NextWave, The Print and Graphics Scholarship Foundation (PGSF), Print ReLeaf, Progress Software, Ricoh Americas, Riso, Xerox, and Zünd.