What Do I Take Away from the 2016 thINK Conference?

Jim Hamilton
Oct 17, 2016

Last week I went to Boca Raton, Florida for the 2016 thINK Conference. thINK is a user community made up of Canon Solutions America (CSA) inkjet customers. This conference was the second such meeting and it has grown since the inaugural event in New York a year ago. Attendance is up significantly (from 350 to 450 attendees). Also impressive is the growth in partners. Nine additional partners joined for 2016, which brings the total number of partners to 34. This resulted in a larger exhibit area (or Partner Pavilion, as it was described on site). Finishing systems, paper, and software tools are the recurring themes of these partners.

thINK logo 3 - 400

Keynote sessions included tennis great Chris Evert, inspirational speaker Scott Burrows, the Winterberry Group’s Jonathan Margulies, and David Humphreys of The Economist. Though high-profile keynotes are intellectually stimulating and inspiring, I find that the two most important benefits from events like these are the educational sessions and the opportunity to network with peers. The conference program this year expanded to include twenty sessions across five tracks. Those sessions that I attended were well done and thought provoking. The opportunity to hear innovative peers speak about their experiences is priceless. Two examples will demonstrate this.

  • Finishing for inkjet: I moderated a session about inkjet’s impact on finishing. The panelists were John DiNozzi, President/Owner of Access Direct and Andrew Hennings, Director of Operations at Epiq Systems. Both shared remarkable insight that I know was valuable to the full room of attendees. What’s particularly interesting is how the speed and productivity levels of both cut-sheet and continuous-feed inkjet systems are causing print service providers to rethink their finishing operations. An increase in productivity in one part of an operation can create bottlenecks in another part.
  • Target markets for inkjet: My colleague Barb Pellow conducted a session that focused on target markets for inkjet. It emphasized the role that inkjet plays in direct mail, publications, and transactional printing. Dave Cleary, CFO at Direct Marketing Solutions, shared the value inkjet is delivering for his clients.  Larry Soler, Director of Digital, Prepress and Press, at Thompson Reuters, Core Publishing Solutions, discussed how inkjet has transformed the publication market. Pete Studer from Impact told the audience that full color TransPromo is a profitable reality in today’s market.

Holding the event in Boca Raton had the added benefit of allowing visits to the nearby CSA Experience Center. For that reason, it seems likely that this event will return to Boca at some point in the future though no date or location has yet been selected for the next meeting.

Some other take-aways:

  • On display were print samples from Voyager, the B2-format inkjet technology demonstration shown at drupa 2016. Canon says that it will become available in the first quarter of 2018.

Canon Voyager samples from thINK conference 2016 - 400

  • A media locator for inkjet-suitable substrates is under development and Canon says that will be complete by the end of the year.
  • CSA stated that it had installed over 200 print engines in the United States and that there would be 45 JetStream and ImageStream placements by the end of 2016. The company noted that year to date over 30 billion customer pages had been printed on these devices.
  • Canon Océ reports that it has more than 1,000 continuous-feed inkjet systems in the market worldwide, accounting for about 40% market share and more than 200 billion inkjet A4 letter pages printed to date.
  • The next Canon Océ continuous-feed inkjet launch will be the ColorStream 6000 Chroma. Canon Océ also said that it would be reinvesting in the Océ Innovation Center in Poing. In addition, the company hinted that a new continuous-feed inkjet announcement coming in a few weeks (no further details provided).
  • 7,000 copies of the Designer’s Guide to Inkjet and the Inkjet Edge have been distributed to date. See our video reviews of the Inkjet Edge and the Designer’s Guide to Inkjet.
  • More than 40 Canon Océ VarioPrint i300 units have been installed. The company says that these devices provide 20% to 40% total cost of ownership (TCO) savings versus electrophotography. Volumes have also been significant, with over 200 million pages printed and an average monthly print volume of 2.5 million pages. The biggest user produced 8.5 million pages in one month. Canon Océ says that 40% to 60% of the volume has moved from devices like Xerox’s iGen. In addition to TCO, one reason reported for the i300’s success is 95% uptime. The i300 platform continues to evolve with improvements such as dynamic perforation, integrated booklet making, PRISMAsync developments, and ColorGrip. The substrate range has also expanded. The device now supports more than 300 papers.
  • An omni-channel campaign supporting a video series called ‘The Connection’ highlights three customer sites: Darwill, HardingPoorman, and pii. For more, see pps.csa.canon.com/TheConnection

Page volumes for production color inkjet continue to grow at double-digit rates. According to InfoTrends’ U.S. Production Printing & Copying Market Forecast, the inkjet page volume (including existing roll-fed and new A3-format cut-sheet models entering the market this year) will grow at a 20% compound annual growth rate between 2015 and 2020. Events like thINK are building on this momentum and are driven by end users who are looking for the type of information, education, and networking opportunities that an organization like thINK can provide.

The 2016 thINK conference was a remarkable and valuable event. All signs point to the continued expansion of this user community. I expect great things from this event in 2017.

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