Print17 – First Take

Pat McGrew
Sep 21, 2017

by Marc Mascara and Pat McGrew

PRINT 17 made timely return to Chicago as multiple hurricanes impacted the southern United States. Roughly 20,000 attendees had the chance to learn from this year’s display of innovation and technology from over 450 exhibitors. The top five vendors remained the same, with only slight changes in booth sizes and rankings, but there was a renewed excitement with more hands-on equipment demonstrations and theatre presentations.

Print 17 Size Table

While PRINT is not a packaging, label, or wide format show, all major vendors were talking about these applications alongside solutions for enterprise and commercial print. It is a big decision to bring hardware to a show, yet a significant number of presses, toner and inkjet, along with finishing solutions were on the show floor.

A focus on print quality resonated throughout the show floor with announcements of new and improved inks, color management and automated calibration systems. Exhibitors such as SCREEN and Xerox are bringing to market ink formulations that enable offset-like quality on standard paper stocks, broadening the debate regarding pre-treatment of paper for InkJet presses. The emergence of inksets and priming solutions for offset stock continues to grow causing end users take note of potential lower costs that give them alternative paths to the print quality their customers demand. While not yet a trend, it will be interesting how ink and priming options play out as a factor in the overall equipment purchasing decision.

Color Management was on everyone’s lips. Traditionally we tend to believe that every printer has an indispensable color expert that manages the color systems, but there is a renewed push is being made toward a “no color expertise required” operation. This show saw advancement in the integrated systems with both pre-run and run time color calibration and management options. This is a feature that will become a must-have. The Epson printer/proofer is worth noting for both its quality and its price point. Also, worth noting MUST SEE EMS 2017 award winning IQ-501 Intelligent Quality Optimizer from Konica Minolta, precise color with one touch ease.

Specialty inks and enhancements (CMYK+ samples) dominated the buzz throughout the show floor. A wide range of 5th and 6th station applications including coupons, certificates, and promo items all highlighted the range of new toners and inks available. White toner applications were shown using light production from OKI to high-volume production with Xerox. A key question from prospects being heard repeatedly regarding the vendor samples of white ink on display, center around single or multi pass. In most cases with the new inks, it was very difficult to distinguish the difference.

Xerox Sample Print17

Xerox (pictured above) captured attention with a new set of samples exploring the use of white ink over and under CMYK. One of the challenges faces by those who choose to add these enhancements to their portfolio is the need to train designers. OKI took a proactive approach by featuring their in-house master designer demonstrating white and color on color design techniques. Standing out with a gloss and textured embellishment, Duplo introduced the DDC-810 Raised Spot UV Coater in a compact footprint with 600 x600 dpi inkjet technology, UV lamp curing, and camera image registration to deliver production output. Harris and Bruno was part of this group with both priming and post-coating solutions for conventional and digital environments. They did a nice education piece for printers who are not sure how coating can allow them to offer more (shown below).

Harris & Bruno PostCoat

SCREEN told a great commercial printing story with their Truepress Jet520 (IMAGE), showing a provisional feature including print heads for extra inks allowing for up to six colors. The heads are expected to achieve a wider color gamut increasing the impact of advertising materials. SCREEN also announced the Truepress Jet 520NX with partner Diversified Nano Solutions Corporation offering INkcrypt DNA-identity Ink and X-Nano Special Effect inks. Based on unique ink-identity, which can be authenticated with smart devices, INKcrypt provides item tracing, complete supply chain transparency and elimination of fraud and counterfeiting.

Inkjet told a story everywhere throughout the exhibits and a number of the educational sessions. Major vendors as Xerox, HP, Canon and Ricoh all displayed production print inkjet while even the specialty vendors like MCS demonstrated Sheet fed inkjet page printers and a 4 – color envelope printer in line with a Pitney Bowes Flowmaster. The future of print touched on smart 3D printing and printed electronics. The MGI Ceradrop F-Series boast a rotating “plug & play” inkjet/aerosol jet head-holder. While attendees could touch and feel the physical equipment, they also had the ability to virtually immersed their self in the equipment’s mechanics at the “ink drop” level. An interesting change this year was the number of companies that invested in build AR and VR solutions for their press demonstrations. With Augmented Reality, you can see the press and take a tour of it. The Virtual Reality solutions give you the ability to walk around the press and even go inside to see the inner workings such as the Konica Minolta sheet fed inkjet AccurioJet KM-1 and the HP PageWide Web Press T-series.

HP Samples Print 17

Print samples always foster a healthy discussion around relevance and presentation; this year’s showing was no exception. Samples were swirling around the show floor exploring both application range and highlighting new imaging abilities. While most vendors generally tend to produce canned samples that show case a featured image on the front and the production notes on the back, a handful worked with their customers to display production samples. Most notable was the print sample area located in the center of the HP booth with many different application and sample types, all from current Indigo and PageWide Web Press customers. Attendees we talked to indicated that real world samples provide a better understanding of the actual work produced.

Workflow solutions become more important with every show as evidenced by the footprint for software providers. At Print 17 there were workflow solutions from the major hardware vendors, established software vendors, and emerging solutions providers, but the offerings were incremental with new features or updated interfaces on top of established platforms. There were more partnerships in evidence, with established CTP workflow provider SCREEN partnering with digital workflow expert Solimar to bring stronger capabilities like batching, DaVinci furthering their partnership with Konica Minolta, and the continuing additions to HP’s PrintOS and Konica Minolta’s Accurio providing new capabilities for their customers. Ricoh offered talk tracks on many workflow solutions, but focused on their new business consulting services to match the right workflow to customer environments. Enfocus Switch is also one to watch with its AppStore approach and new leadership at the top with an eye for the power of workflow architecture. It will be worth watching the impact of the tier 2 and tier 3 workflow management and Print MIS providers. There are some excellent feature sets and user interfaces that make many of them viable solutions for both the mid-market and high-volume market.

We expected to see Industry 4.0 and Workflow Automation talk tracks featured among the major vendors. At drupa last year many of them were touting their JDF/JMF integration options, and we expected to see progress. However, we did not see as much on the show floor as we expected. To deliver on the promise of workflow automation requires more data capture and more analytics, which will require vendors to invest in sensors, communication and programming. Balancing that against production costs of printing and finishing equipment should be part of the strategy conversations over the next few years.

GASC Print 17

We believe that Print 17 retained its position as a must-attend print show, but it is clear that there is still work to do to attract the emerging array of hardware and software providers and provide value for time invested for attendees. The trend toward innovative display methods for heavy equipment using AR and VR is one that is likely to continue to grow as marketing budgets are constrained and the cost to move presses only gets higher. Using this technology to engage with prospects is a great way for vendors to set expectations about press capabilities, and then arrange for personal demonstrations at their Customer Centers later.

As printers look to grow their offerings by expanding into labels, packaging, and wide format, it was clear that their vendor partners were on board and the workflow management and Print MIS providers are standing by with solution suites that can help printers bring in new technologies and integrate them into their workflows. The new ink sets are more evidence that the digital press providers are listening to their customers and moving toward providing ink options that enhance print quality even if there is a higher cost.

 

 

 

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