Print 05 & Converting 05 -- See the Unforeseen
Both Davis and Lamparter also see a big geopolitical dimension to this year's show, specifically, a larger Chinese role than ever before. To Davis, China presents increasing off-shore competition for American printers. To Lamparter, the Chinese are emerging as possible suppliers of equipment for those same printers at significantly lower prices than present suppliers.
"There may be more things at the show from China and India than most people expect," he says.
Want to look further down the road? Cal Poly's professor Levenson is your guide. "The new technologies that will impact the printing industry in the immediate future will likely be invisible," he contends. "They will be vast improvements to the internal components of equipment that will enhance speed and accuracy, and miniaturize the internal parts of equipment."
Also, look into "wetware," as Levenson has. "Wetware involves harnessing the power of living, organic components to build and use technology," he notes. This is the path that leads to the cerebral cortex-to-press future. "The graphic communications industry is entering the realm of uncharted territory in this area."
Of course, once upon a time getting a completely new, personalized color page with every turn of a press cylinder was uncharted territory, too.
All this speculation does more than pique interest in a big trade show. It also gets people thinking about what the industry needs most, and when those needs are likely to be met.
Bolte suggests visitors to the big show should take pains to look beyond the biggest booths. "Smaller exhibitors are increasingly coming up with innovations to significantly impact printers' operations, particularly in the value-added services areas of fulfillment, mailing, wide-format and now RFID," he says. "Be patient and scout out the fringe booths because many suppliers are not on the main aisles."
For the printer who just wants a way to fold and stitch his digital output, professor Levenson's single-atom switches and "wetware" may sound more like a fantasy than a forecast. But the day may yet come when we find ourselves reminiscing about when we first saw products based on these technologies—and the show that brought them to market.