Diversity on Display at PRINTING United 2019

Pat McGrew
Nov 12, 2019

A show like the first edition of PRINTING United, hosted by SGIA in partnership with NAPCO Media, brings optimism to the print community. It was a large show that filled 6 halls and 720,000 square feet. Over 600 exhibitors gathered at the Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center in Dallas, and the event attracted printers from a diverse range of segments. The show floor was divided in to three main areas, including decorative printing (screen printing and direct-to-garment), sign & graphics printing, and document printing and finishing (new to the SGIA visitors but right at home for PRINTING United).

A view of the show floor at PRINTING United

The event enabled vendors with a wide range of solutions to showcase their technologies to a large and engaged audience, but it proved to be somewhat of a challenge to those that were focused on specific market segments (e.g., signage, textiles, screen printing, display graphics, commercial printing, or transactional printing). The show was a lot for attendees to navigate, but they were able to do so with the help of an intuitive app. Like many other exhibitions, PRINTING United was augmented by educational sessions in a dedicated Brand United forum. There were also a variety of theatre presentations on the show floor, but these were only mildly attended.

The printers that Keypoint Intelligence – InfoTrends spoke with stated that the event felt like a print show from yesteryear. Vendors, meanwhile, reported having productive conversations with traditional SGIA attendees as well as the commercials printers and enterprise transactional printers who made the trip to Dallas. PRINTING United attracted a healthy array of industry exhibitors, including Heidelberg, who had been notably absent from any North American print shows since 2012. This leaves us to anticipate PRINTING United 2020 in Atlanta, with a bigger show floor that will be capable of accommodate even more exhibitors.

For this edition of PRINTING United, the big takeaways were that innovation continues in all print segments. The event highlighted an expansion of options in wide format printing, including UV-curable printing and expanding décor applications, as well as packaging print solutions on an ever-expanding range of media types. New commercial printing options featured smaller footprints and the expanded use of specialty colors. Ultimately, however it was the technological expansion that continues to evolve in both inkjet and EP that caught the attention of attendees. We were also excited to see more advanced direct-to-garment solutions featuring printing on synthetics, as well as increased automation across all segments (including digital dyeing of threads for automated embroidery).

Although workflow typically exists between the lines at most major print shows, it was displayed front and center at PRINTING United within major vendors’ hardware vendor booths as well as independent stands. The diversity that is emerging in the print MIS solution space was also showcased at the event. Well-established vendors like Avanti, EFI, and Print Reach (a new entity combining Virtual Systems with Page Path) were of course highlighting their solutions, but we also saw an emerging group of SaaS-based lightweight (“skinny”) print MIS solutions at the show to address the gap between small and mid-sized print service providers.

Software vendors from overseas used PRINTING United to continue building their reputations in the North American market, including PrintIQ (Australia), Accura (UK), and HiFlow (Poland). Vendors like Caldera, PrintFactory, and ONYX were also showcasing their tools, which are pushing up against workflow management vendors (e.g., Agfa, Enfocus, and OneVision) that offer preflighting, page preparation, color management, RIP functionality, and other features.

Finally, it was clear that the over 30,000 printers that attended the show came with questions. The talk track this year revolved around how to promote business growth with value-added applications, unique finishing solutions, and innovative product offerings. Varying levels of convergence are occurring across the industry as printers continue to add more products and services, along with the supporting printing technologies. Because of this, PRINTING United was a popular event that covered a range of important industry trends and attracted attendees and exhibitors across the printing ecosystem.

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