GRAPH EXPO 'Fall Classic' Is Approaching; Here's a Preview
The mornings are cooler. Kids are heading back to school. College football is invading your television on Saturdays. And the busiest season of the year is right around the corner for the printing community. That can only mean one thing...it’s Chicago time!
- Co-located Events. The annual printing and packaging event finds itself with new neighbors for 2015, including Process Expo, the International Dairy Show and InterBev Process shows. GRAPH EXPO and Process Expo will have a two-day overlap, Sept. 15 and 16, offering attendees at any of the five events all-access admission to all of the exhibit halls. Printers, packagers, processors and converters can network and explore the common ground and crossover opportunities. Sadly, this year’s batch of Jersey Cows will not be on display.
- The Industrial Printing Pavilion. Interest in printing and plastics—in regards to 3D printing, industrial and decorative applications—is pretty high and attendees can get a glimpse of the machines in action, along with a dossier of possible (and profitable) applications.
- Application Island. Speaking of applications, this island-themed exhibit (itself created in print applications) garners the best opportunities to sell and tells you how to peddle them to your customer base. Periodic Tiki presentations featuring some of the industry’s best-known gurus will provide sage advice on devising and selling said apps.
- Materials Matter. This booth celebrates the role materials play in the print ecosystem as multiple substrate manufacturers demonstrate the role substrates play in print jobs.
- Education Main Street. Printers looking for that next batch of skilled employees need look no further than Main Street, where representatives from some of the most renowned colleges, universities and educational organizations will be on hand. Learn about curriculum, scholarships and even internship opportunities from schools that have long populated the industry with tomorrow’s talent.
As an aside, booth 570 will showcase, “The Hiring Hub: Closing the Skills Gap!” This recreation of the SkillsUSA championship challenge is designed to ensure a quality future workforce.
GRAPH EXPO and CPP EXPO 15 offer arguably the strongest wide-ranging menu of printing and related technology under one roof. It offers pavilions dedicated to inkjet printing, in-plants, mailing and fulfillment, marketing and newspapers, to name a few. It boasts EXECUTIVE OUTLOOK, a four-hour preview event that provides a glimpse into the technologies and trends available for investigating on the floor. The Must See ’ems, as the name suggests, is a technological appetizer that spotlights some of the hottest new hardware, software and workflows to grace the industry. And, as always, attendees have a choice of more than 50-plus educational seminars to whet their informational appetite.
According to Ralph Nappi, president of the Graphic Arts Show Co. (GRAPH EXPO’s organizer), roughly 400 exhibitors representing more than 1,000 different product brands will be on hand, making it essentially the same size as the 2014 edition. Nappi expects somewhere above 20,000 visitors to grace the South Hall. As far as name brands go, he notes of the vendors that all of the “usual players” will be represented at the show.
Focus on Workflow
As has been the case for the past several years, Nappi expects inkjet and packaging solutions to garner much attention at the show. “I think there will be a little more emphasis on workflow, too. There’s been a lot of interest there,” he says.
Nappi points out that the exhibition will play host to right around 50 co-located events for related organizations, a figure that will probably remain static in the foreseeable future.
Factor in that the show did not add a new market segment for the first time in about eight years further indicates that the event has come of age in representing all key facets of the industry. That said, GRAPH EXPO will be taking a break from Chicago in 2016 when it relocates to Orlando, Florida, for a one-year commitment. It will mark the first time in 20 years that the annual event has stepped outside the Windy City.
So what will be whipping attendees into a frenzy next month? Jim Hamilton, group director of InfoTrends’ Production Group, sees this year’s GRAPH EXPO as a stepping stone to drupa 16 and points out that a number of announcements made at the previous drupa exhibition are now being commercialized. He feels that any big reveals will be held off until next spring in Germany. However, a number of products have already had their coming-out parties, such as Canon’s Océ VarioPrint i300 (nee Niagara) cut-sheet inkjet press and the Xerox iGen 150 digital press with the fifth color capability.
Getting Ahead of Themselves
“In the past couple of years, some manufacturers have made their announcements too soon and it’s taken them a while to get the actual products to market,” Hamilton notes. “The ones that did get out on time are the exception. HP, with the Indigo 10000, did a nice job with that. Companies like Canon, Ricoh and Xerox are more likely to hold off, follow the process and not announce too, too early.”
On the software end, Hamilton notes that a number of companies, including Xerox with its FreeFlow, have done a good job of integrating digital printing workflows, while some companies do not have a full strategy yet. The finishing side offers attractive value-add solutions from Scodix, Highcon and MGI, to name a few, especially as packaging becomes more of an application focus for digital.
At press time, Hamilton believes there may be a few product surprises that will turn heads in Chicago. In addition, partnerships and acquisitions, such as EFI’s recent addition of textile printing equipment supplier Reggiani Macchine and grand-format printing solutions provider Matan Digital Printers, could make headlines.
Indeed, announcements are being withheld until the eleventh hour, and it becomes tougher to time their reveals/releases to coincide with the major printing shows. Marco Boer, vice president of IT Strategies, notes the development cycles are getting longer as the technology becomes more complicated. But while heavy iron will be tougher to spot in McCormick Place than a booth without a bowl of candy, Boer is confident that attendees will get a full serving of application examples from vendors, including Ricoh and Canon/Océ, demonstrating what substrates their machines are capable of using.
“We’ll see a lot of emphasis on improved print quality from companies like HP, with its HDNA (High Definition Nozzle Architecture) print heads,” Boer says. “There will also be an emphasis on expanding the range of applications that inkjet can print on. Kodak will place some emphasis on package printing, for example. I also see toner (digital) machines being key, but not much offset technology.
“Xerox will be heavily promoting its iGen 5. Toner (presses) can print on all of these substrates that inkjet may or may not be able to print on. It’s also got more affordable entry points.”
Boer believes GRAPH EXPO maintains its relevance due to its ability to provide show-goers with a chance to compare and contrast so many different vendors in one place. The specialization trend of many new events also leaves it as one of the few sources of catching all-encompassing technologies, in-person.
For Trish Witkowski, the chief folding fanatic of online community foldfactory.com—whose 60-second Fold of the Week videos appear every Thursday in Printing Impressions' “Today on PIworld” e-newsletter—finishing provides an especially attractive menu of items at GRAPH EXPO. She believes there’s a huge emphasis on value-added print (VAP) gradually reversing the trend from printing being viewed as a commodity into something that commands a premium.
Opportunities for Special Effects
The ability to provide special formats and finishes stands as a differentiator for printers. “We’re seeing this play out not only in B2B environments, but also in B2C where the saturated photo card and wedding markets are adding foil, and special substrates and diecut shapes to get noticed,” Witkowski points out.
“The explosive expansion of compatible substrates for digital printing, along with the addition of exciting digital printing effects like opaque white, custom colors, transparent inks, laser cutting and textured effects, has led to tremendous creative possibilities and broader acceptance of digital printing as a high-quality medium by the design elite. This is critical.
“However, the next step is awareness and training, and the challenge now is for industry vendors to provide the tools and strategies for printers to sell VAP to their customers,” she adds. “There’s a huge opportunity here.”
Witkowski also sees opportunities for direct mailers to bolster their technology. These include automated formats and finishing for mail, and technologies that help people manage data, save money on postage and create highly personalized communications with less effort.
“Although these categories are not new, the technology behind them seems to be improving exponentially year over year,” she notes. “I’m always impressed with what I find.” PI