"It's All Here"

Each summer, as our industry’s leaders prepare for their annual migration to Chicago, I look forward to my annual pre-show chats with Ralph Nappi, president of both the Graphic Arts Show Company (GASC) and NPES, the Association for Suppliers of Printing, Publishing and Converting Technologies. Naturally, Nappi always is excited leading up to a GRAPH EXPO, but his enthusiasm for this year’s PRINT show is off the charts.

For starters, I asked him what this week means to him.

Ralph Nappi: PRINT 13 represents the convergence of everything that is happening in our industry—and we are not just talking about mailing and fulfillment services any longer. Now, ‘value-added print’ means offering cross-media solutions; it means packaging and label printing; it means production inkjet and wide-format signage. It’s very exciting, and these next five days should prove exciting as well. It’s all here, Mark, under one roof. It’s a good thing there’s an extra day to see it all!

Show Daily: How is this year’s show responding to these varied segments?

RN: We’ve responded in several ways. First of all, there’s the co-located CPP Expo for packaging, converting, and label printing. This isn’t an ‘event’ or even a pavilion—it’s its own tradeshow in and of itself, and it's right here, side by side: 25,000 sqft in the South Hall.

The ‘INKJET CANDY STORE’ is new, centrally located on the floor and featuring equipment from nine exhibitors focused in the wide format inkjet markets. We also have partnered with the International Sign Association (ISA), which is sponsoring the BIG pavilion focused on grand- and wide-format print applications, equipment, and education. New, too, is the ‘PHOTO FINISH’ Photo Imaging Pavilion, which I believe is self explanatory yet nonetheless strategic, and the ‘SIDELINES’ pavilion, which is focused on specialty printed products and advertising specialties that can boost profits for commercial printing companies.

SIDELINES brings together distributors, brokers, marketers, and other graphic communications professionals who deal in products such as tickets, tags, labels, plastic cards, stickers, specialty envelopes, decals, awards, etc. and, of course, trade show handouts that you’ll see here at PRINT 13.

SD: It seems like there are even more co-located events than last year. Is that accurate?

RN: Yes, and it’s probably what I am most proud of. We have 66, and counting, co-locations this year. Four years ago, there were 22; then it grew to 34. Last year, we had more than 50. These growing numbers continue to make a poignant point and statement: that this show is a total industry event that’s much more than about buying. Education and networking are equally important, which is why so many sectors now look to PRINT (and GRAPH EXPO) as the place to be and be seen.

SD: Are the MUST SEE ’EMS products here again, as always?

RN: Yes, they’re back in force. There were 141 MUST SEE ’EMS entries this year, which is the most in recent memory! A lot of people say there is not much new technology taking place in our industry, but I contend that’s only the case if you’re looking at it through your old, analog-print glasses. Today’s print industry is much more than offset printing.

A new ‘Future Print’ category was added for 2013, and EFI’s facial-recognition demo ‘wowed’ judges for innovation. Called SmartSign Analytics, the system automatically captures and analyzes signage viewership and engagement data using a webcam. This advanced technology can help signage providers and retail marketers better measure and understand the effectiveness of their efforts, thus proving the power of print. EFI, which won eight MUST SEE ’EMS awards this year, is the epitome of a ‘glass half-full’ organization within our industry. (See separate story about EFI’s MUST SEE ’EMS haul on page 6.)

SD: Are the other special-interest pavilions back from GRAPH EXPO 2012, too?

RN: Yes, but they’ve all been “reimagined” for freshness, so they’re definitely worth checking out if they’re up your revenue alley, so to speak. For printers who mail, we again have ‘DELIVER,’ the new Mailing & Fulfillment Center which is for the first time, this year, sponsored by the U.S. Postal Service and the Association of Marketing Service Providers (AMSP). The popular MARKETING PAVILION, sponsored by the Chicago American Marketing Association and Canvas Magazine, is back.

Plus there are eight other special-interest sections on the show floor: 1) NEWS PRINT—the newspaper pavilion, sponsored by News & Tech, is dedicated to newspaper printers and production executives; 2) THE IN-PLANT PLACE, sponsored by IPMA; 3) FUTURE PRINT, sponsored by Flex Tech Alliance, features today’s hottest technologies including printed electronics, RFID, and 3D printing; 4) GREENspace, a showcase on sustainability and eco-friendly products and services; 5) the Prepress/Software: Workflow & Design section; 6) Press/Finishing; 7) the Printerverse, sponsored by PrintMediaCentr; and, 8) Education Main Street, for attendees seeking well-educated, talented industry newcomers to augment their company’s workforce.

SD: Is there anything else you’d like to mention, Ralph, as the show begins?

RN: Yes, I’d like to comment about the last day, Thursday, which is our annual Career Awareness Day. As usual, there will be 1,000 or so students from vo-techs and high schools, from a five- to six-state area, walking the floor and collecting posters and samples. I know a lot of attendees and exhibitors think this scene is a major distraction, but I ask everyone to please keep in mind: These kids are our future.

I’m encouraged because enthusiasm among young people has not diminished. We have the same numbers coming here as we did at PRINT 09 and even going back to GRAPH EXPO 2008, which bodes well for the future of our industry. It means that teenage students still view print as a place to be; it’s still “cool”! And we should welcome them with open arms.