I recently had the privilege of spending two days at the PRINT 18 show, and while this is not a complete review of the show, several things stuck out in my mind that I wanted to cover.
Ink was everywhere
My first impression was that everywhere I looked, there were inkjet devices. PRINT 18 is a show tailored to commercial printers, and I didn’t see any traditional presses. What I saw were both toner-based and inkjet-based digital presses from the traditional copier manufacturers, and a plethora of inkjet devices from nontraditional manufacturers. This move to inkjet was especially noticeable in the wide-format arena. It seemed like every aisle had inkjet wide format printers from manufacturers that were new to me.
Manufacturers moving to industrial print
One trend that has been progressing over the last few years is the move to industrial print by the major copier manufacturers. The pace of that change is increasing, and it is understandable. For most manufacturers, the opportunity in the corporate world is stable and potentially declining. They are looking for areas where technology will allow them to penetrate new markets.
Industrial print is an area where they can displace legacy printing presses with digital presses that provide capabilities that offset presses will never have. An example of this is variable data. In the past, many mass mailing types of jobs were printed on an offset press and then sent to be customized by a company that would run them through a digital printer.
These jobs are now being produced in a single pass on a digital press. The page quality is every bit as good as what would have been printed on an offset press and being able to print the variable data in one pass saves significantly on the cost associated with the running the print job through multiple devices.
One other trend that attracted my attention was the abundance of inline and post-process embellishment. These devices used different methods including inkjet to put varnish or metallic embellishments on the printed page. In some cases, these embellishments were done online in a single pass, and others were post-printing processes handled by another device.
The result was pages that catch your attention, and according to the various providers have a much higher impact when used in direct mail pieces. While the ability to do this is not new, the current technology allows these devices to be readily customizable and efficiently produced.
Some of the manufacturers I will cover have been at these shows for several years, and I wasn’t surprised to see, while others are relatively new in this arena and I was very surprised at their presence.
Canon showcased a variety of their devices, both toner-based and inkjet-based. One device, the Océ Colorado 1640, is billed as the world’s fastest 64-inch roll-to-roll device and the output was impressive.
Canon also partnered with Duplo to show the potential of printed pages with spot coated UV embellishment. The tactile feel of the output is significant when used in marketing applications.
Samples were available from both the Océ ProStream 10000 and from the still-in-development Voyager product. The Voyager will be a seven-ink printer.
Sharp had a single device at the show, an MX-8090, which is their latest light production print device. The device was fitted with a Plockmatic Production Booklet Finisher allowing for booklets up to 120 pages to be bound inline.
Ricoh had both toner-based technology and a life-size simulator of the VC-7000, which is an ink-based replacement for the traditional offset press.
On the toner-based front, they displayed both the Ricoh Pro C7210X Graphics Arts Edition and the Ricoh Pro C9200 Graphix Arts Edition devices. The C7210X is a five-color toner-based device that expands the color gamut. The C9200 can print to heavier and longer stock than most devices.
The Ricoh booth also showcased the EFI Pro 16h LED wide-format printer. This device has the capability of printing on either thick rigid substrate or roll-fed substrate. The output is truly stunning.
Xerox also showed the capabilities of both toner-based and inkjet technology. On the toner front, the most impressive output came from their new Irridesse Production Press. This device has six color stations and can print with white toner as well as metallic inks.
Xerox also showed off the capabilities of their customizable envelope feeder and conveyor on the Versant Digital Press.
Also on display was the I-Gen 5 color press with its five-color workstations and the ability to print using orange, green, blue, white or clear toner.
Xerox also offers color inkjet technology with the Brenva HD Production Inkjet Press.
This was not a company I expected to see in the industrial print arena, but they showcased products in two different areas. They had several devices engaged in printing T-shirt transfers, and some of the devices could print with white toner, enabling printing on a wide variety of colors.
The other focus was on envelope printing, with two devices present for this purpose. One of the devices, the C924DP, is capable of CMYK plus white toner.
This was another manufacturer that surprised me. Epson showcased a variety of wide-format inkjet and dye sublimation devices. Their devices could print on a variety of media, and the output was amazing.
HP showcased the expanded capabilities of their Indigo presses. The new Indigo 12000 HD has twice the resolution capability providing improved print quality. The Indigo 7900 also has new capabilities with two invisible ink colors, yellow and blue, as well as white ink, and soon to be released metallic silver.
RISO is not new to the digital printing market, but they are becoming strong contenders in the transactional printing arena. They demonstrated the T2 device, which consists of two print engines with an inverter connecting them. The results are 320 pages per minute of full-color output.
At the show, they had a roll feed to cut sheet system attached that provides impressive paper capacity. While this device is not for a graphics type of application, it is perfectly situated for printing statements and bills that need variable data and some color on the page.
They also had a similar device at a lower price point that prints at 160 pages per minute. This allows their dealer network to be very aggressive in per-page pricing and still maintain acceptable profit margins.
Konica Minolta previewed several new devices. They showed off the Webjet 100D and 200D which provide 1,000 and 2,000 pages per minute of color inkjet production designed for the transactional printing arena.
Also on display were several products from MGI, highlighting the ability to create eye-catching pieces with multiple types of embellishment including foil and three-dimensional varnish coatings.
They also had their AccurioLabel 190 GM edition coupled with a mini-GM die-cutting solution allowing for continuous-roll label printing and cutting in a single process
The AccurioWide 160 is the KM-produced wide-format printer that can print on both roll feed and rigid substrate media. The device uses UV cured ink in four color plus white to provide outstanding quality output.
What it means for the copier dealers
During my tour of the various booths, I realized that the traditional copier dealers are going to need to widen their horizons and expand their skillsets both in sales and service if they want to take advantage of the industrial print market growth. The new products require a different sales process and will require representatives that truly understand the printing business and the associated processes.
From the service perspective, the existing profit model will change, and I am not sure that anyone knows just how. I had a hard time getting any clarity on that point, but the focus is typically more marketing oriented at big shows like this.
One thing I am convinced of is that the dealer’s world is changing and it is only the forward-thinking and adaptable dealerships that will thrive in this new world of industrial print.
Ken Edmonds is a consultant, management coach and service management trainer with 25 plus years experience in the industry. He has had the opportunity to participate in every function inside a dealership, having owned a Toshiba dealership and worked with two different manufacturers as a district service manager. During that time he had the opportunity to learn from and share information with some of the largest dealers in the U.S. He has had the privilege of attending the BTA Fix class two times, the Pros Elite Group Training two times, the Service Managers Achieve Results Through Training conducted by John Hey and John Hansen, and the BTA ProFinance training. He is a noted speaker and contributing editor to multiple publications.