One of the things GRAPH EXPO 2011 attendees will notice in the Press/Finishing section is the continued growth of digital technology. The influence of digital technology is present in all of the 11 distinct segments of the printing and graphic arts industry represented at GRAPH EXPO 2011: commercial printing, in-plant printing, transactional printing, quick/instant printing, package and specialty printing, mailing and fulfillment, book printing, wide-format printing, newspaper printing, creative services, and media/print buying.
Driven by the demand for shorter runs, more color, and faster turnarounds, digital alternatives have firmly established their place. Digital printing and value-added services are predicted to account for more than 45% of printers’ revenue by 2012. However, offset is still the major revenue producer industry-wide, generating more than 51% of revenue, or an estimated $40 billion to $50 billion. Nevertheless, digital has made itself at home in the offset, wide-format, and finishing worlds.
On the offset side, the digital evolution is evident in automated press controls that have greatly reduced the time needed for makeready and the required skill levels of press operators. Without digital technology, we wouldn’t have computer-to-plate systems or direct on-press imaging. All of these digitally driven applications can be seen on the show floor of GRAPH EXPO 2011.
Analog copiers long-gone
Printers are well aware that the days of the analog high-speed or color copier are long gone. Today’s digital presses are ideally positioned to take advantage of the changing nature of print jobs. Not only are they ideally suited for the world of short-run color and fast turnarounds, they also are essential for variable data and personalized printing, where each printed page is a digital original.
GRAPH EXPO 2011 attendees can see these digital powerhouses in action in the press/finishing section of the show floor. Also on the show floor are examples of the growing role of high-speed production inkjet technology. Here again, digital is essential for both the technology that puts ink on paper and the databases that make high-speed color transactional printing possible.
So, what are printers looking at in terms of press acquisitions? According to one recent survey, in shops with sales of between $1 million and $3 million, 25.8% were considering automated four-color presses and 35.5% were considering the purchase of a variable data digital press. In shops with revenues between $3 million and $5 million, 20.6% were considering the purchase of a four-color press, while 55.9% were considering variable data digital presses.
Of course, you can’t have offset or digital output without considering finishing operations. Here, too, digital is driving increasingly sophisticated finishing capabilities. Just as press makeready has benefited from digital developments, so has finishing. There are many more automated or semi-automated options now, replacing the labor-intensive work that was once the hallmark of postpress operations. As digital printing has taken hold in more segments, suppliers have responded with complimentary finishing solutions.
These digital developments that continue to drive the printing industry can all be seen in the Press/Finishing section of GRAPH EXPO 2011.