Jun 14, 2016
After digesting a week of meetings at drupa 2016 (May 31st to June 10th, Düsseldorf, Germany) along with plenty of good German food and beer, the InfoTrends analyst team believes the show can be characterized by five major themes:
- Inkjet 3.0 –After important advances in production inkjet printing at drupa 2008 and 2012, this drupa can be considered “inkjet drupa 3.0” because of new and improved print heads, higher quality levels, wide printhead arrays, improved performance on a range of substrates, and expansion across a range of document, packaging, and decorative applications. These developments have brought digital printing into the mainstream. All of the leading offset press manufacturers are now committed to a digital print strategy, and though for some there is an important component that is based on electrophotography, it is the high productivity levels of inkjet that have convinced them that there is a place for digital print in production environments.
- Digital printing of packaging – Though digital printing of packaging is certainly being influenced by inkjet, the major theme in this area is process automation. Digital printing, digital embellishment, and digital die-cutting were seen integrated across many production lines for labels, folding cartons, corrugated packaging, and even some direct-to-shape applications. Despite its commercial print heritage, drupa is morphing into a show with a significant package printing component. Meeting the needs of different segments of the packaging market is a challenge that requires effective software, workflow, and finishing if the true advantages of digital print for the entire supply chain are to be gained. It’s not clear today that digital printing system vendors have fully grasped the magnitude of this.
- B1 digital – Many commercial printers have an almost emotional attachment to the B1-format press platform that has served them so well for offset printing. The new generation of B1-format digital printing devices appeals to them because they can see how they would fit easily into their production lines with minimal disruption (despite the fact that smaller digital devices might be just as efficient and/or cost effective). drupa 2016 saw the arrival of larger format digital cut-sheet color printing systems as well as off-line systems for special effects such as spot gloss, dimensional effects, and metallic foils. The progress in B1 sheet-fed design is facilitated by wider inkjet arrays that benefit from the latest advances in inkjet head technology. The challenge for any of these larger format digital printing devices is to meet the production requirements for quality, consistency, substrate support, and color registration while performing at high speed. Also important is integration of finishing technologies that leverage the benefits of digital print. Therefore laser cutting and creasing, particularly for folding carton applications, is also advancing, and for some of these devices the focus is on a B1 sheet size. For the off-line digital devices used for special effects, the B1 sheet size opens up sizeable opportunities because these systems are capable of supporting conventional presses as well as digital printers.
- Special effects – Offset print processes have typically excelled at special effects beyond process color such as spot gloss, flood coats, foils, and corporate color matching. This kind of embellishment is now accelerating for digital print. Electrophotographic devices are using effects like printed metallic, dimensional, clear gloss, spot colors, fluorescent, security and other embellishments to differentiate the printed products and provide added value. Inkjet, particularly with ultraviolet (UV) curing inks, is extending this with some eye-popping results that leverage dimensional clear and metallic foil. The use of hybrid configurations, including those that leverage electrophotography and inkjet together, will have compelling applications in commercial and packaging markets. Many of the off-line special effect solutions, as noted above, are able to support larger format conventional sheet sizes, which opens their market impact significantly.
- Industry 4.0 – For many years, system providers have talked about how production data can be used to drive operational excellence and even facilitate predictive service calls. Cloud-enabled production data tracking is now making this type of data-driven production a reality, not only for commercial and packaging applications, but for decorative and industrial ones as well. Today these tend to focus on a single vendor platform (rather than a true heterogeneous ecosystem). Despite these limitations there are still many benefits, such as performance benchmarking across peers with similar equipment. This also elevates the importance of automated workflows that make it easy for production managers to assess and react to their production site(s) based on real-time data. Taking this even further, InfoTrends expects to see semi-autonomous print production and robotic automation culminate in what has been described as “Industry 4.0,” in other words the foundation of a fourth industrial revolution that is based upon automation and data exchange in manufacturing technologies, similar as what has happened in the car industry.
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Apr 7, 2016
Note: This blog is a result of an ongoing discussion about market definition that began with a conversation that Frank Romano and Ron Gilboa had at SGIA last November. Jim Hamilton joined the discussion later and after a few exchanges Frank suggested that we present this in point/counterpoint form. Frank will go first.
Frank: Separated by a Common Language
When you are on a ship in the South Pacific Ocean, thousands of miles from any land, and the satellite connection is down, you start to overthink things. Some people multi task; I multi think. And I started to think about all the new technology we will see at drupa for printing beyond the traditional. But as I read the releases, articles, and punditry, I wonder if we are all on the same page.
Take the three terms that are now bandied about: industrial and functional printing, and decoration.
- Industrial Printing: the product is produced using multiple technologies in an integrated manufacturing process. A prototype gear that becomes part of a mechanism is industrial. A container that has its identification printed at the factory where it is filled is industrial. Printed display screens are industrial. Most printed electronics is industrial.
- Functional Printing: the product is sellable in and of itself. A brochure is functional. A sign is functional. A 3-D printed model of a person is functional (your own personal mini-me). A package is functional. A printed T-shirt that changes color in the sun is functional. Products that change color due to external influences such as light (UV/black light), temperature (heat), pH changes, or water contact are primarily functional. “Smart” textiles and wearables are functional. Home decor wallpaper, fabric, and floor coverings are functional. The argument may be made that everything has a function, so why have two categories. But we must distinguish between products where commercial printing may be integrated at the point of manufacture, and products that may be produced by outside services.
- Decorative Printing: adding type, color, and imagery to existing products. This would include inkjet food decoration, printing on glass, wood, textiles, and other material. In the late 1800s they figured out how to print on metal, and beautiful tin boxes were produced for both home use and packaging. Embossing, coating, and die-cutting are decorative. This category may not be necessary, but Ron likes it.
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Mar 23, 2016
Highcon, the digital finishing system supplier, recently held a three day event at its headquarters in Israel to show technology developments that it will soon unveil at drupa 2016 in Germany. The short version of our report on this “pre-drupa” gathering:
- Since its debut at drupa 2012, Highcon has placed 25 of its “Euclid” and “Euclid II” devices globally
- In 2016 it will add a new portfolio of digital cutting and creasing systems and related tools, the Highcon Beam, Highcon Euclid III and the Highcon Pulse.
- These products will give carton converters and other printers new access to Highcon’s unique finishing, and also to two applications new at Highcon, 3D printing and variable data cutting.
Why Highcon Matters Read more »
Jan 27, 2014
This week, Konica Minolta announced that it will take a 10% minority shareholder position in MGI Group. This investment is valued at â‚¬13.7 million. Konica Minolta’s technologies in this area include office MFP devices, an upcoming B2 digital printer under its own brand, and a wide range of commercial and industrial printers for textiles, woods, and materials. According to Konica Minolta, the relationship with MGI is one step of many in a growth strategy that involves investing in technologies and companies that can advance its market penetration into digital printing. This alliance is also beneficial for the MGI Group, whose growth strategy is to expand its range of digital printing solutions for commercial printing environments into digital printing for industrial environments. The MGI Group already offers a wide range of products, including:
- Digital color printers (e.g., the Meteor DP8700S XL)
- Print enhancement tools (e.g., the JETvarnish 3D)
- A variety of finishing products for card, punch, and envelope that are integrated with its printers
Figure 1: Meteor DP8700 XL
Figure 2: JETvarnish 3D
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Dec 10, 2013
Though inkjet has been a hot topic since 2008 (remember the ‘inkjet’ drupa?), it is hard to underestimate the continuing impact inkjet is having across all areas of the graphic arts. I think 2013 marks an interesting turning point. Inkjet is everywhere from document printing to labels & packaging to decorative to functional and 3D printing.
Gartner Hype Cycle
3D printing had to be one of the most talked about topics of 2013 and jetting technologies are the key behind many 3D printing implementations (though in this case they are jetting materials rather than inks). That being said, in my opinion 3D printing has reached what Gartner likes to call the ‘Peak of Inflated Expectations’ and others have described as ‘Irrational Exuberance.’ The way some people talk about 3D printing you’d think that before long you’ll be 3D printing your beer complete with the bottle (with a label on the outside and a cap on top).
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Jun 25, 2013
Stratasys, one of the largest 3D printer vendors, has acquired Brooklyn, NY based 3D print vendor MakerBot. This acquisition is a defining moment for the 3D printing industry, not only because it brings together two system vendors, but also because of the value of MakerBot’s Thingiverse.com online community.
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Apr 25, 2013
NAB takes over the Las Vegas Convention Center
The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) trade show has been running for over 85 years and this year it was estimated that over 92,000 media and entertainment professionals from over 150 countries filled the halls of the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC) from April 8 to 11.Â Â
At this year’s International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January, Ultra HD (4K) displays were the talk of the show. If 4K displays are to succeed, they will need 4K content and that is where the NAB trade show comes in.
Apr 15, 2013
A science article in the New York Times by John Markoff last week detailed an innovation from Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) that could revolutionize the world of chip manufacturing.Â In a new manufacturing process from Xerox PARC, slivers of silicone called “chiplets” are immersed in a carrier liquid and are then “printed” onto a solid carrier material, much as toner particles are managed today in laser printing via Fluidic Self Assembly (FSA). Following Xerox’s rich heritage of innovation from the 1970s such as laser printing, Ethernet, the modern personal computer, graphical user interface (GUI), object-oriented programming, ubiquitous computing, amorphous silicon (a-Si) applications, and advancing very-large-scale-integration (VLSI) for semiconductors, printed chiplets Â could possibly surpass these. Chiplet technology has the potential to revolutionize conventional manufacturing of chips and other microelectronic components, a change that will give benefits in flexibility, timeliness, and efficiency for companies that make such products.
The image below provides an enlarged view of the chiplets, each no larger than a grain of sand. Using systems that are essentially laser printer, Xerox’s PARC may one day be able to create desktop manufacturing plants that use chiplets to “print” the circuitry for a wide array of electronic devices.
Source:Â Amy Sullivan/PARC
An enlarged view of small slivers of silicon, each no larger than a grain of sand, called chiplets. Using laser printers, Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center may one day be able to create desktop manufacturing plants that use chiplets to “print” the circuitry for a wide array of electronic devices.
Jul 30, 2012
The expanded use of inkjet heads for document printing in production environments is just one application of the technology. At drupa, in addition to a dedicated focus on document printing, there were also examples of functional and 3D printing. Heidelberg showed a technology demonstration of a printed touch screen, Ricoh displayed Objet 3D printers, and there were quite a few other examples.
A “Tree” with Leaves Made of Printed Solar Cells (drupa 2012)
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Mar 7, 2012
Three-dimensional printing has garnered a lot of attention lately in the news with emerging medical advancements (for creating artificial body parts like jaw bones) as well as industrial applications, such as replicating machine parts on-site. Traditional printer companies have also entered the market. Hewlett Packard has released a 3D printer designed for professional environments known as the DesignJet 3D. Industrial printers currently have the ability to create solid items through their printers in plastic, metal, ceramics, and other materials to mass produce tiles, jewelry, and even home goods. Considering that other printing technologies have been adapted for consumer use (e.g., quilting, scrapbooking, photography), it does not seem too far off that 3D printing could have practical applications for consumers.
At the moment, the market can only support single substance (i.e., plastics) printing for consumers (due to technical logistics and price points), but this appears to be far from a deterrent. Already, many consumer websites are allowing users to produce crafts, such as building blocks and simple toys, vases, jewelry, and cellphone cases. Many of these websites also connect designers using 3D print techniques and allow them to share the software used to create the items, or provide them with opportunities to sell their printed goods. Using this as a stepping stone could catapult three-dimensional print into different industries. I believe it is only a matter of time before consumers are able to print cookware, furniture, and even clothing (at the moment, only items such as the plastic swimwear designed by Continuum appears to be available).
Images taken from Continuum Fashion website
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