With the quadrennial Print 09 trade show less than two months away (Sept. 11-16), industry vendors have begun revealing what they will exhibit in Chicago. Print workflow technology has evolved substantially since the last big Print event in 2005, which means this summer is the best time in four years for commercial printers to shop for integrated workflow software and systems—especially shops that are considering adding a digital press, as well as those who’ve already gone digital but seek more production efficiencies with their offset pressrooms.
A record 86 percent of creative pros now either buy or recommend on-demand digital printing, up from just 52 percent on the eve of Print 05, according to the Annual Print Survey in GD: USA’s June issue. Globally, the production workflow software market is expected to grow to $12.6 billion by 2012, says InfoTrends’ research. (It was $7.4 billion in 2006.)
With double-digit annual growth comes a lot of product innovation. Touting color management and cross-media production, dozens of related software vendors will be among the more than 600 exhibitors assembling at McCormick Place to fill some 600,000 net square feet of floor space. These developers will show off their products and conduct demonstrations galore—Print 09 is the largest congregation of software demos in North America, all under one roof. Many of these exhibitors will overlap with the Job Definition Format (JDF) programs, including a Print Automation Pavilion, sponsored by the CIP4 organization. CIP4 also is planning “JDF Works Print Shop Live” that will mirror the automated production lines set up in the EFI and Heidelberg booths at Graph Expo last year.
For print firms driving a mix of both offset and digital jobs, creating files that achieve consistent output on all machines is an ongoing challenge. Today’s digital press color workflow technology now is mature enough to make the transition relatively painless, however. The color management used for conventional offset print is essentially the same for digital printers.
That’s what sheetfed and web shop Dome Printing, Sacramento, Calif., has learned. The firm expanded in March with a 40,000 sq-ft digital printing, mailing and fulfillment center called Dome Direct.
Like many printing companies, Dome was reactively pushed into mailing and fulfillment by customers who wanted these services. The firm stopped offering mailing in the early 1990s after a 10-year stint, then resurrected the service in 2005. It installed an HP Indigo 5500 digital color press in late 2007, and a monochrome Kodak DigiMaster in early 2008 that runs variable-data letters on preprinted four-color shells. Today, Dome mails about six million pieces each month and has become a preferred facility with the U.S. Postal Service.
Three brothers, Tim, Andy and Bob Poole, are partners in the business, which is in its 40th year and has become Northern California’s largest privately held printing company with some $30 million in annual sales. The firm added two Heidelberg Speedmaster XL 105 presses to its 95,000-square-foot print plant in 2006. Since going digital 18 months ago, Dome’s sales reps have brought in offset work they wouldn’t have even known about before—let alone quoted on—because the company is now on print buyers’ radar as a “digital printer.” It’s a marketing advantage, the Pooles say.
New Stuff to Watch For
At Print 09, Agfa Graphics (Booth 2600) will show its :Apogee Suite 6.0, the newest version of its workflow software solution, which made its North American debut in June at the IPA Technical Conference.
“Printers today want a streamlined workflow that enables them to present one face to the customer and has the ability and flexibility to drive multiple output devices in offset presses, digital presses and wide-format printers,” said Deborah Hutcheson, senior marketing manager, Commercial/Wide Format, Agfa Graphics, North America. “A printer’s prepress workflow must provide efficiencies, increased productivity and quality enhancements, and all of this is a result of effective JDF integration.”