Ricoh’s INTERACT 2018 Expanded to Serve All Industry Segments
Early announcements of Ricoh’s INTERACT 2018 conference, held June 18–21 at the Westin Hotel, Westminster, Colo., near Ricoh’s Boulder plant, promised to be bigger and better this year, and it delivered in several ways. Now in its eighth year, the biggest change for this event was that it brought multiple Ricoh product groups together: wide-format, continuous feed, cut-sheet and software and services. All of these groups previously held their own customer events, but now share a single forum, signaling the ongoing convergence of technologies within the industry and across all segments.
The 450 invitation-only attendees were a mix of customers and prospects, with an estimated 250 of these being actual customers drawn from both enterprise print operations and print service providers (PSPs), both of whom can benefit from the innovations and techniques that were displayed. Ricoh also was able to secure commitments from dozens of vendor partners to participate in the event and offset the event costs. Vendor kiosks and table top exhibits lined the conference hallways, and Ricoh, of course, showcased its own products, giving us a hands-on look at two new inkjet presses before they were publicly released.
As an informational forum, the conference offered four tracks: the software user group; print hardware education; business development, with an emphasis on marketing; and sessions devoted to showing attendees the full scope of Ricoh’s hardware and software options. It was interesting that Ricoh’s software team appears to be embracing and promoting the concept of being hardware agnostic in that Xerox, HP or Canon machines can all use Ricoh’s software tools.
In terms of hardware, INTERACT gave us previews of two new inkjet printing systems, each targeting a specific segment of the industry, although the hardware itself indicates that the lines between the segments are blurring. These are:
- Ricoh’s Pro VC70000, unveiled to the public on June 29, and designed for commercial printers who want to move work from offset presses to digital inkjet with no tradeoffs. The press is equipped with a continuous feed platform that allows commercial printers to produce higher quality materials, such as high-end catalogs and magazines, traditionally the preserve of offset. Additionally, Ricoh has developed inks that the company says enable savings in paper costs while expanding the list of acceptable media.
- The second system, officially announced on July 2, is the Pro C7200 series, a sheetfed toner-based system that features fifth color station models to expand commercial shops’ capabilities and satisfy the needs of certain specialty and niche (read value-add) markets. The press accepts sheet sizes up to 49.6” with in-line sensors and calibration for improved front-to-back registration and color consistency. Notable, too, is Ricoh’s new invisible red toner that produces images visible only under ultraviolet light, perfect for adding security features on tickets, coupons, ID cards, etc.
INTERACT 2018 reinforces what we at Madison Advisors have been saying regarding the convergence of the transactional print and commercial print markets. Transactional service providers are always looking at improved throughput to drive earnings growth in a price-conscious market, whereas commercial printers have typically focused on digital image quality and color accuracy coupled with availability of a wide variety of substrates, similar to what they use in the offset world. This allows them to transition from offset to digital relatively seamlessly and/or to produce hybrid products, employing each of the different print technologies in one finished product, optimizing the different operational and cost efficiencies of each. Ricoh clearly is concentrating on providing a universal print hardware and software technology platform that satisfies the priorities of both markets.
As it grows, INTERACT will challenge similar existing events such as HP’s Dscoop and Canon's thINK. All of these events, staged by manufacturers for their customers, have broadened their scope to keep up with advances in digital hardware and software. They provide invaluable opportunities for networking with peers and sharing experiences. Perhaps best of all, they provide manufacturers with insights about what they may be missing and what more they can do for us.