Thinking Ink: Canon Solutions America Celebrates its 2nd Anniversary

Jim Hamilton
Feb 17, 2015

About a year after Canon Solutions America (CSA) announced that it was exploring the idea of forming a user group for its production print customers, it has announced a name for the group and the date of its first event. The group is called the thINK Customer Community and its inaugural event, the thINK Customer Conference, will take place September 8th to 10th in New York. The thINK Customer Conference will overlap with Canon’s Expo (the once every four year showcase of Canon technologies).

Though thINK is described as a “Community of Canon Solutions America Production Print Customers,” the focus is clearly on inkjet, with JetStream and ColorStream users as the core of new members. thINK’s advisory board is made up of some of the best known Canon/Océ customers and includes Bob Radzis of SG360, Dave Johannes of IWCO, Mark DeBoer of Darwill, Andy Gerry of Intersections, and Art Manzo of GlobalSoft Digital. Two Canon Solutions America executives, Francis McMahon and Eric Hawkinson are also on the board as non-voting members. Radzis, Johannes, and DeBoer were at a press/analyst event that Canon Solutions America hosted last week at its Florida headquarters to celebrate the second anniversary of its birth, when the components of Canon Business Solutions and Océ North America where combined to form CSA.

At the event, CSA talked about its 2014 results and strategies for 2015 and beyond. Some items stand out more than others, but the recurring theme throughout the event is that inkjet technologies form the core of CSA’s growth plans:

  • Build a foundation, and then grow – Toyotsugu Kuwamura, President and CEO of CSA, described how the group managed small revenue increases (1% and 2% respectively in 2013 and 2014), and that with an efficient infrastructure in place (and upcoming product launches) that the company expected higher levels of growth in the coming years. (3% in 2015, 5% in 2016, and 6% in 2017). CSA reports that it was about a $1.7 billion business in 2014, with the biggest component of that being the Enterprise Services & Solutions (ESS) business. Though large, ESS is not where CSA expects its biggest growth. That is expected to come from the Production Print Solutions (PPS) and Large Format Solutions (LFS) groups.
  • Large format growth – LFS is the smallest of CSA’s groups, but it has been growing at the fastest rate (7% year over year from 2013 to 2014), with significant growth expected in the coming years supported by products from the ColorWave and Arizona families.
  • A new name for Niagara – CSA said that a new name would be announced for the Niagara technology at Hunkeler Innovationdays (February 23-26, in Lucerne, Switzerland). InfoTrends expects that CSA will continue to use the term ‘Niagara’ to describe the underlying technology (in a similar fashion to how Kodak uses ‘Stream’ to describe the inkjet technology used in Prosper) but will choose a new designation for the actual product name. (For additional details on where InfoTrends sees ‘Niagara’ fitting in the Zone of Disruption, please download the free white paper entitled, “The Cut-sheet Inkjet Color Revolution.”)
  • ImageStream 3500 and Niagara print samples – CSA showed, but did not distribute, print samples from the ImageStream 3500 and Niagara. Both looked very good.

ImageStream 3500 print sample
  • 2015 arrivals for Niagara and the ImageStream 3500 – The first ‘Niagara’ has already been installed in Europe at a company called T Systems in Weingarten, Germany. The first four Niagaras in the United States will be installed in the second quarter at OneTouchPoint, IWCODirect, Merrill Corporation, and PPI. CSA is confident that it will have more Niagara orders than it can deliver in 2015. The first ImageStream 3500 in the U.S. will also be delivered in the second quarter. It will go to IWCO. The ImageStream 3500 runs at 525 feet per minute speed and is built on the JetStream transport. It supports a 30-inch wide web (there will also be a 20-inch version). Canon will show the ImageStream 3500 at Hunkeler Innovationdays.
  • New Media and Solutions Lab – CSA has invested more than $1 million to create a media and solutions testing lab to support its paper testing program. CSA reported that it is actively engaged with over 30 paper mills and that about 900 papers are available to its U.S. production inkjet customers. This lab will also support cut-sheet paper development for Niagara. CSA reported that its customers printed 71.5 billion pages in 2014 (across all product categories). That’s a lot of paper. (CSA thinks it’s about 30% of the total production digital market). And so it makes sense that CSA would invest heavily in its relationships with the paper mills.
  • The Designer’s Guide to Inkjet – CSA has published a designer’s guide to inkjet written by Elisabeth Gooding and Mary Schilling. It’s a very interesting book and is worth a look for both designers and production people. Particularly useful are the descriptions at the end of some chapters that describe how the principles in the guide were applied to the production of the book, which was produced on a Canon Océ ColorStream 3500. The internal book block was printed on Cham Inkjet Matte Coated 90 gsm PromoPrint P and Inkjet Matt Coated 160 gsm PromoPrint P was used for the cover.

  • Packaging in CSA’s present and future – CSA’s activities in wide format have brought it into the packaging arena because of flatbed products (like those from the Arizona family) that can be used for corrugated box applications. InfiniStream, the continuous-feed liquid toner technology demonstration shown at drupa, will ultimately bring the company into the folding carton packaging market, but the progress on that device has been relatively slow, and it is unlikely that there will be a significant number of installations in the U.S. anytime soon.

There is other news, some of which is under non-disclosure until later this month, but the big message from CSA is that they have built an effective foundation, they have innovative products in the pipeline (the bulk of which are inkjet), and they feel they are ready to grow.

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