Thinking Big

I just got back from the Specialty Graphics Imaging Association (SGIA) Expo in New Orleans. It was quite an experience—a hodge-podge of equipment for producing digital wide-format printing, digital textiles imprinting, and screen printing, all under one roof. It seemed a little schizophrenic to me, but the various technologies seemed to be peacefully co-existing, at least for the time being. There were lots of familiar names at the show such as EFI, HP, and Agfa, but there were also a raft of companies I’d never heard of.

What became obvious after a while is that a digital transition is well underway within the segments that SGIA represents. I was at the show in my new role as executive editor for the Cygnus Graphics Media Group which includes Quick Printing, Printing News, and Wide-Format Imaging. What I was looking for were areas of synergy and crossover among the three magazines.

A lot of the wide-format stuff was actually grand-format (larger than 64") and probably too big for small commercial printers to consider. However, there was plenty of stuff that would fit into a small commercial operation. The addition of this capability is already underway. In the franchise segment, wide-format accounts for 3.3% of sales. In the Top 100, it makes up 3.5% of sales. That’s not huge, but it is significant. It is also likely to grow as commercial printers look for new profit centers.

One indication of this increasing crossover into wide-format was the number of commercial printers who stopped by the Cygnus booth. Those I spoke with had mostly made the transition to a digital workflow and were very much aware of how that has prepared them for a major move into the wide-format arena.