These are InfoTrends’s top ten trends from PRINT 13:
- Who was there? Who wasn’t? Agfa’s departure from the show floor over the summer added another important company to the small cadre of vendors skipping the show (Heidelberg, Kodak, and Screen). In truth, Kodak actually did have a booth, a smallish one at the very back of the show floor, but it wasn’t what you would typically expect out of them. Of much greater importance was Kodak’s participation in others’ booths, including Konica Minolta (for Creo and Prinergy) and Adphos (for the Prosper Imprinting heads). And though the timing of Kodak’s emergence from Chapter 11 may have made a big presence unadvisable, it was nevertheless a missed opportunity to show off the new Kodak to its core audience. It is also clearly time for Kodak to name a new leader who will bring the market knowledge and vision for the next chapter in the company’s history. This has dragged on way too long.
- Attendance up? One of the last open questions about PRINT 13 should be answered next week when official numbers are released: “How many people attended the show?” The downturn in the printing market along with the declining level of interest in trade shows has hurt events like drupa, IPEX, Graph Expo, and PRINT. The show floor spaces have contracted and the number of visitors has declined. Yet except for portions of Sunday afternoon when the show competed head to head with the Chicago Bears football game, the show floor seemed pretty lively. When the figures are released, we’ll know for sure but it seems likely that the numbers will exceed Graph Expo 2012. That being said, they aren’t likely to approach historic levels for the once-every-four-years PRINT event. At PRINT 09, for example, there were 28,678 attendees (including exhibitors and attendees), and 18,999 verified attendee/buyers according to the Graphic Arts Show Company (GASC). Graph Expo in 2012, on the other hand, had a total 21,022 participants (including exhibitors and attendees) and 13,694 attendee/buyers. Our guess is that total PRINT 13 attendance will be around 25,000.
- Software Gearing Up for the Cloud – The Cloud is no longer a trend but instead has evolved into a software delivery model that has become well established in the printing industry in web-to-print, VDP, and cross-media software solutions. In addition, more and more we’re seeing workflow management, Print MIS, and transactional software make its debut in the Cloud. When Xerox announced its Cloud Consortium, many expected to see similar announcements from other vendors. After being somewhat quiet for about a year, Xerox announced its new FreeFlow digital workflow collection at PRINT 13, FreeFlow Core, which was built with “Cloud-ready” architecture which provides an explanation for the delay of a full launch of the Cloud Consortium. Kodak included a web-based interface with its launch of Prinergy 6, known as Workspace. Also announced at PRINT 13 was Avanti Slingshot, a Print MIS solution built from the ground up and available through Cloud-based or on-site hosted models. Another Cloud announcement at the show was a new Enfocus’ solution to missing fonts that was launched in PitStop 12 through a partnership with Monotype. For more on this topic, InfoTrends will be exploring Cloud workflows in an upcoming study.
- Personalization Is Going Video and Local – Personalization has evolved each year to include a new channel or technology. Last year at Graph Expo, XMPie and Mindfire announced personalized video tools. Also last year, Pageflex, GMC, and XMPie each announced a partnership with LOCR to create the XMPie Mapping Service. This year at PRINT 13, XMPie partnered again with LOCR to combine the two, expanding the service to enable the creation of animated video maps that can be personalized with geo-localized information relevant to the recipient.
- Customer Communications Solutions Are Closing Workflow Gaps – Both Compart and Crawford made announcements at PRINT 13 of new partnerships that provide solutions to close some of the many gaps found in customer communications management (CCM) workflows. The results of InfoTrends’ multi-client study “Overcoming Implementation Challenges in Customer Communications Management” confirmed that such gaps commonly appear when users implement CCM solutions. Closing these gaps is very important, particularly as more enterprises focus on reducing paper communications, replacing them with multi-channel electronic communications, managing customer channel preferences, and optimizing print production workflows.
- The Evolution of B2 Digital – There were quite a few B2-format cut-sheet production digital print devices at PRINT 13, but there was one that hadn’t been seen since drupa 2012, the jointly developed Konica Minolta KM-1 / Komori Impremia IS 29. The KM-1/IS29 was in the Konica Minolta booth at the show and though it was printing live, they weren’t handing out samples yet. In its press conference Komori said that the device has room for two extra imaging stations (in addition to CMYK) which could be used for effects such as clear coating, white, or Pantone colors. They also hinted that with some additional modifications it could handle a B1 sheet size. The companies announced that the products were heading for an end of 2014 launch in the United States, Japan, and Europe. In the meantime, HP is having a lot of success with its B2-format Indigo 10000 and says that it has installed 60 units worldwide.
- B2 versus A3+/B3 – Canon’s announcement of “Niagara” was big news at the show in large part because there will now (finally) be another cut-sheet inkjet offering in A3+/B3 format. It has been nearly a decade since RISO announced plans for a high-speed color inkjet printer that today is represented by the new ComColor X1 series. Niagara will join the fray sometime in 2014 and will get other companies thinking about what inkjet could bring to cut-sheet production printer designs. Canon notes that there are two major items that impacted its decision to move forward with the Niagara B3-format design: (1) A B3 product could be offered at an acquisition price much lower than the current crop of B2 digital products (such as the Fujifilm JetPress 720, the HP Indigo 10000, and the Screen TruePress SX), and (2) it could benefit from existing feeding and finishing options from the Canon-Océ VarioPrint 6000 series. B2 format has a lot of value for some applications such as packages, point-of-purchase signage, and posters, but there is also a lot of value to the idea of a lower cost yet high-speed cut-sheet inkjet device that could make it possible to do the types of white-paper-in/full-color-out workflows that have been such a tremendous success with continuous feed inkjet. (Note: B2 format is 19.7 by 27.8 inches or 500 by 707 millimeters. B3 format is half the size: 13.9 by 19.7 inches or 353 by 500 millimeters. A3 is 11.7 by 16.5 inches by 297 by 420 millimeters. When the term ‘A3+’ is used, it simply means ‘larger than A3,’ and typically denotes sizes around 12 by 18 inches or 305 by 457 millimeters.)
- Progress on Inkjet and Newspapers – Cabot, producer of pigments for inkjet inks, sponsors an annual event at which it brings together vendors and end users to talk about key market issues. This year the topic was newspaper printing and the guest of honor was Rodd Winscott, President of Newsweb, which is one of the few sites in the United States using production color inkjet in a newspaper application. Newsweb has a TKS JetLeader 1500 and will be installing a second unit in a few months. Newsweb has identified a fascinating sweet spot with shorter run newspaper work, to a large extent with weeklies and monthlies in run lengths generally not exceeding 7,000 copies. Some of the key benefits described by Winscott are immediate change-overs between newspapers, more flexible use of color, significantly less paper waste, easy operation, flexible cut-off (allowing different formats on the same width roll), and very good color registration. Digital printing of newspapers has had much more impact outside of North America, so this success by Newsweb could have significant implications for the U.S. market.
- White Ink and Packaging – Labels and packaging were another area of excitement at PRINT 13. One issue that digital print devices (both inkjet and electrophotographic) struggle with is the creation of good opaque white, which is required for printing on clear or off-white substrates. Whether UV inkjet, aqueous inkjet, liquid toner, or dry toner, the cost and opacity of white will be a key battleground as technologies face off against one another. In the end, the digital printing technology that succeeds will be able to print on a wide range of substrates (with good speed and color quality), produce opaque white economically, and be suitable for use with food packaging.
- Effects beyond Four Color Using 3D UV Inkjet – MGI and Scodix are running head to head with some new capabilities that leverage UV inkjet. PRINT 13 was a great place to see fantastic print samples and hear from early customers who are helping spread the word. It’s a new world and it’s interesting to see how these effects are being marketed. Imagine you have been asked to laminate five hundred book covers. When you deliver the job you could also show that customer how the same book cover would look with one of these added special effects. Spot varnish? 3D? Metallic? What a way to upsell for the next job! For one example of how a print service provider is promoting these capabilities, see www.sculpteduv.com. Supporting this trend is the growing number of device installations. Scodix reported that is has sold 81 units and installed 68 of those (15 in North America). MGI says that there are 32 installations of its JetVarnish 3D.
That wraps up our top ten.