What to Expect at Print '13

Written by Howie Fenton
Senior Technology Consultant, NAPL

Xerox Booth 1202 at Print '13
Every four years, the Graph Expo Show, a North America Graphic Arts event, morphs into the International Print show. This year’s Print 13 comes at an interesting time in our industry, because while the worst is over (hopefully), we are still reeling from the effects. While there are many serious effects, the most devastating is remaining low demand. Print demand peaked right before the 1999 and 2007 recessions at about hundred billion dollars. For the last three years, demand has remained at approximately $75 billion.
The Print 13 show will reflect these and other changes and the manufacturers will show how new hardware and software effect could re-energize demand, as well as new products with more value to help graphic arts companies struggling with this loss in demand.
One new category of equipment garnering a great deal of excitement are the inkjet production presses. Not to be confused with large format inkjet equipment designed to make signs and posters, production inkjet printing is an alternative to toner-based and offset printing.  With a high enough volume, an inkjet press will print color pages at a fraction of the cost of toner-based devices. The early adopters of inkjet production printing are companies that manufacture books, direct mail, and transactional printing.  Right now, however, due to cost of entry, the adoption is mostly with these high-volume niches…but it’s inevitable that the price will come down over time.
One of the most important trends in the industry are companies offering new products and services with higher value. My colleague Andy Paparozzi and I will make a presentation discussing this trend on Monday called, “The Secrets of Leading Digital Companies.” In that presentation, we will preview the results of NAPL 2013 State of the Industry Report and talk about diversification of services.
This will be reflected at the show as well because the showroom floor has been “Reimagined” to demonstrate this year’s theme known as, “Innovate, Integrate, Communicate.”  Anyone walking around the floor will see that there are new dedicated areas focusing on different types of value added services. For example, the Deliver area sponsored by the Postal Service and the Association of Marketing Service Providers will focus on mailing and fulfillment services. Another new area called photo finish will feature leading suppliers of photo services, photo book, wide format and finishing capabilities.
Another section is called the “Experiential Lab” where show visitors can get up close and personal to examine and learn more about key emerging technologies including printed electronics, 3-D printing, and near field technology. There will be an area called BIG – the new wide format pavilion that will show the latest output equipment, software as well as different media and finishing options. Xerox will be presenting on Monday, September 9th at 12:30pm in the ISA Wide Format Innovation & Application Theater with a session titled ‘Keep up with BIG Opportunities’. The Marketing Pavilion, sponsored by the Chicago American Marketing Association and Campus Magazine, will be filled with presentations about marketing.
What to See.
The inkjet production presses remain the most revolutionary and disruptive technologies. For the early adopters, the quality, reliability and productivity issues have all been overcome. But before we see widespread adoption will have to print on a wider variety of substrates and reduce the cost of entry.
For the in-plant printers, there are at least thirteen presentations and two luncheons…and don’t be surprised to hear the industry analysts and experts focus on cross media marketing, social media and mobile marketing.
I wish I could predict radical new improvements and software technologies. Unfortunately, I would categorize the enhancements to the web-to-print solutions, print MIS solutions, and prepress PDF workflow solutions as evolutionary. Most of the announcements will focus on better integration of different systems.
I would love to hear your thoughts on what you are most interested in seeing leading up to Print 13?

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Howie Fenton is a consultant at NAPL. Howie advises commercial printers and in-plants on benchmarking performance against industry leaders, increasing productivity, and adding digital and value services through customer research. For more information click here.

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