Like Our Industry, GRAPH EXPO Evolves—Mark Michelson
Long-Gone are expansive booths greeting throngs of showgoers as they first entered the McCormick Place show floor—stands teeming with the familiar clickety-clack sounds coming from live demos of sheetfed offset press and traditional bindery gear in action. The clickety-clack sounds of the former anchor booth exhibitors have been replaced by digital equipment vendors like Canon, Xerox and EFI, showcasing digital presses, wide-format digital printers and on-demand finishing solutions.
On the show floor this year will be new, mid-range digital color printing systems moving further upstream, incorporating quality levels and feature sets of higher-end devices. And, although still in the product development stages, new B2-format cutsheet inkjet presses for commercial and folding carton/packaging applications will garner star, coming-attraction attention.
Also evolving is a move by many digital equipment providers
to downplay hardware and, instead, give greater attention to their workflow software solutions. Albeit less sexy than the colorful images coming off a digital press, workflow has become a huge differentiator for those printing establishments that are profitable and those that aren’t. The holy grail is creating an automated prepress and hybrid print production workflow system, which also connects seamlessly into a printer’s MIS infrastructure.
Plastic Print, a new pavilion at next month’s GRAPH EXPO, is being put together in conjunction with the Society for the Plastics Industry. It will focus on opportunities between printing and plastics, including 3D printing. I’ve yet to find a commercial printer who has built a successful business model around 3D printing output services, but it’s still a fascinating technology that bears watching nevertheless.
There will also be a heavy emphasis on co-located events during the show, similar to recent years. It helps bring more printer attendees to Chicago, and reinforces GRAPH EXPO’s role as the one annual industry gathering that brings all constituencies together. Hope to see you there!