Must-See Show Floor Destination: FUTURE PRINT Pavilion

The future is now. With electronics being manufactured in a variety of printing processes, now is the time to learn about two important emerging technologies that offer exciting new opportunities for print producers and equipment manufacturers alike—printed electronics and RFID. Located within the PackPrint Pavilion on the show floor, Future Print features free consulting and the ability for attendees to network with industry experts.

But what is Future Print? According to Malcolm G. Keif, Professor, Graphic Communication Department, Cal Poly State University and GRAPH EXPO speaker, Future Print can be defined as any process, technology, or product that opens new opportunities for printers to expand their market.

“Printing as we know it today is being challenged by many electronic technologies, such as the Internet, mobile phones and apps, e-books, and e-ink,” says Terry Mitchell, Director of Marketing at FUJIFILM North America, Graphic Systems Division. “Future Print is the future of print. It’s the bringing together of current printing processes with emerging ‘electronic print’ applications.”

But what does Future Print mean for commercial printers and other print service providers? Currently, there is a lot of “future” functional printing already being done today, and that will continue to grow. These include products for markets such as printed electronics, barriers and sensors, medical consumables, and security printing. “Each of these markets uses printing as a means for applying functional inks to substrates—often plastic, but could be paper, too,” says Professor Keif. “Printing can be used for patterning conductive or dielectric inks for low level electronic components; inks that function as gas barriers, gas sensors, or gas scavengers for packaging or industrial applications; medical consumables like glucose strips and medicinal patches; or forensic inks or high-resolution imaging for security applications. Printing as a manufacturing technology for functional products will definitely increase,” he adds. “And, in many cases, the graphic world and functional world with begin to merge so that products will be both informational and functional. The notion of a magazine or book that has electronic components is not too far off.”

One of the biggest opportunities for print shops, according to Steven Schnoll, Managing Director of Schnoll Media Consulting and a GRAPH EXPO speaker, lies in cross-media technology: “Printers were always known for delivering content via ink on paper,” he says. “Today, seekers of content have a plethora of choices. The savvy ex-printer realizes this phenomenon and now needs to develop methods to repurpose content for multiple delivery mediums.”

The Future Print Pavilion within PackPrint offers information and education about these new technologies. For instance, Cal Poly (Booth 5150) has done both electroluminescent and electrochromic displays. These relatively low level static display technologies offer a glimpse of the future for printers. The school also has done some work with oxygen barriers for filmic materials and has additional plans for work in printed electronics, active packaging, and security printing.

Fujifilm North America (Booth 627) features the Acuity Advance HS wide-format UV printer, which utilizes grayscale printheads and is designed to accurately jet very small ink droplets for demanding imaging applications. The Acuity provides the ability to print directly onto metal, plastic, and uneven surfaces, allowing printers to produce custom operator interfaces and the decorative elements of touch panels.

Schnoll is presenting several sessions this week, stressing the many new technologies that integrate content like QR/TAG and NFC codes and targeted database marketing. He also focuses on cutting-edge topics such as 3D printing, nanolithography, organic, and printed electronics.