Graph Expo--A Show of Shows
GRAPH EXPO 98 and CONVERTING EXPO 98 was a hot ticket—sales were robust, booth traffic was brisk, technology advancements fierce and cooperative announcements healthy.
BY MARIE RANOIA ALONSO
Question pondered: Could GRAPH EXPO 98 be a "Show of Shows," when the international spectacles that were IPEX 98 and PRINT 97 captured the printing industry's collective practically within the same 12-month span, with IPEX in September and PRINT 97 the previous September?
Does $108 million answer that?
That's the figure Heidelberg reported it registered during the show's four-day tour of Chicago's McCormick Place recently. Heidelberg's success was not singular. Scores of the show's more than 550 exhibitors reported GRAPH EXPO and CONVERTING EXPO was a money maker.
MAN Roland, for example, announced a total dollar volume of orders in the $70 million range. For Komori America, the recently concluded show was a blowout—its best show ever in North or South America, according to Komori officials. WAM!NET officials termed the exhibition spectacular. Kodak Polychrome Graphics executives reported incredible traffic throughout the event and Sony Electronics representatives spoke of a "tremendous response" by show-goers. Muller Martini revealed that it exceeded its sales expectations by 50 percent the first day of the show.
"We had incredible traffic every day," says Howard Lippin, manager of marketing communications, U.S. and Canada, for Kodak Polychrome Graphics. "The quality of visitors was excellent. It was a great show, no question about it."
Harry McMillan, executive vice president at Komori America, praised the educated prospects who flocked to the Komori exhibit.
"We had record sales the first two days, and came out of the show with a blowout," McMillan states. "We saw team buying, as well as people coming in groups with a program of what they were going to see."
What did they see?
The more than 44,000 show stompers were witness to an impressive array of sophisticated prepress software and hardware options, as well as the latest and greatest performers in digital and traditional printing press markets, and a score of workhorse finishing devices.
And then there were the exhibits. Getting more creative with each major show, booth themes were nothing short of remarkable.
PrimeSource, sporting an elaborate booth designed to look like a construction site, was itself constructed with meticulous detail, down to the wooden planks, yellow construction barriers, hard hats, flannel shirts and work boots—all surrounding an array of prepress and printing devices, including a Xeikon variable-data printing demonstration.
Upon visiting the decked-out booth, one wanted to both take part in the variable data demo to custom create, via Xeikon technology, a booklet on prepress, press and postpress tools—and swing a hammer.
WAM!NET backed up the impressive WAM!VAN—a purple semi that rivals the Titanic in grandeur—decked out with millions of dollars worth of digital prepress goodies, all under a big purple roof.
Scitex demonstrated some spectacular creativity with its technology 'pods' in its exhibit, one of five Scitex locations at the show. The pods each represented specific areas of prepress, from scanning to digital color proofing. Scitex also had a strong presence at booths featuring technologies including the Karat digital press and the British Telecom venture, Vio.
Heidelberg, as usual, caught attention with the largest booth at the show. A map was absolutely necessary to find any member of the Heidelberg team working in the 25,000-square-foot exhibit.
The massive Heidelberg booth contained all aspects of Heidelberg Prepress, Heidelberg USA and Heidelberg Web Press, as well as an array of Heidelberg saddle stitching and perfect binding systems, including cutters and folders of the Polar and Stahl persuasion.
As for major announcements at GRAPH EXPO 98, all tallied, it was a light news show, with a few interesting technological exceptions.
In areas of digital front end (DFE) technology, Agfa, BARCO, Creo, Fujifilm, LDR, Scitex, Screen, Ultimate and more touted open compatibility between various DFEs and a host of output devices.
Digital asset management sophistication was trumpeted by Canto, Imation, Inso, Marcus Technology, North Plains and other top players in asset manipulation.
The thermal push throughout the prepress segment remained strong, with Agfa showcasing the thermal version of its digital platesetter, Galileo, and Optronics promoting its new ThermalSetter imagers, which use the Kodak IR thermal diode imaging head to expose thermal plates and film. In other thermal moves, Creo showed its family of thermal imagers, including Trendsetter, and Scitex pumped the Lotem 800V thermal platesetter, plus a new version of the Brisque digital front end.
Imation held a press conference with Creo and Presstek to officially launch the Matchprint Laser Proof system, a digital halftone proofing device that now makes that market—thanks to Polaroid's Pola-
Proof, Kodak Polychrome Graphics' Approval XP4, Fujifilm's PictroProof, Presstek's PEARLhdp and Creo's Spectrum—command even more avid attention.
Not so quiet these days, DuPont Color Proofing unveiled its Thermal Dylux, an imposition proofing solution that can be imaged on a 830nm platesetter. Thermal Dylux was demonstrated at the DuPont booth on an eight-up Creo Trendsetter.
Speaking of thermal imaging, Fujifilm focused on its now commercially available Brillia LH-NI negative imaging plate, which requires preheating in order to produce run lengths of up to 1 million impressions, with postbaking. Fuji also put the spotlight on its newly launched Valiano digital workflow solution.
Variable data printing was a hot button for a new player, Digital VIP—a sophisticated variable data solution by Digital Works. Likewise, Bitstream's PageFlex and its multi-layer approach to complex variable data possibilities, remained a crowd pleaser. PageFlex is currently in production mode with select IBM digital printing systems.
Varis, now in cooperative agreements with Xeikon, and variable data software specialties from Agfa's Chromapress camp and digital press providers IBM, Indigo, Xerox and Xeikon, were also highly impressive.
At the Indigo camp, the new UltraStream digital offset color press and e-Print Pro, a low-cost digital press designed as an entry-level product for prospective on-demand printers, were premier launches.
Regarding cooperative announcements, Prograph—which launched nine new products, unbundling a number of production planning tools—entered into a strategic business alliance with electronic job ticketing specialist, Programmed Solutions.
Under specific terms of the Prograph/Programmed agreement, Programmed Solutions will market and sell Prograph Production Systems' products, known by the brand name Elysium Systems, to general commercial printers with sales of less than $30 million.
Prograph will build a bi-directional interface to Programmed Solutions' Printing Management System to download information about equipment, labor, materials and other job specifications to Prograph's shop-floor data-collection system.
After receiving this information and while running the job, Elysium Systems will send cost data to the Programmed Solutions Printing Management System, providing customers with real-time job information, including a log of waste amounts and causes.
In other areas, Portalis made its U.S. debut, announcing it had signed agreements with PrimeSource and Pitman to distribute PressPort throughout the United States.
Next year, GRAPH EXPO 99 and CONVERTING EXPO 99 will be held October 17 to 20, moving to the South Hall of Chicago's McCormick Place.
Word has it that nearly 80 percent of all available floor space for the 1999 show is already sold to major players in prepress, press and postpress.