Recent newspaper and packaging activities highlight the 40th year of business for Canada’s largest printer, as TC Transcontinental prepares for the future around two key strategic platforms.In 2016, Montreal-based TC Transcontinental, North America’s third largest and Canada’s largest printer, with over 8,000 employees in Canada and the United States and 2015 revenues of $2 billion, is celebrating its 40th year in business. Additionally, in the past few months, the company has made headlines multiple times for other reasons: In May, Transcontinental sold off all of its newspaper assets in the province of Saskatchewan, amounting to 13 newspapers and associated online properties, and closed its printing plant in Saskatoon. In June, Transcontinental acquired Robbie Manufacturing, the third packing company it has purchased in the United States in just over two years. In July, the company commenced a five-year contract to print Canada’s largest-circulation daily newspaper, the Toronto Star, after its owners, Torstar, announced plans to shut down its printing plant in Vaughan, Ontario. Transcontinental’s past few months of widespread activity, seemingly disparate events, fit into the company’s strategic plans for growth in both the newspaper and flexible-packaging sectors.Local publishingKatherine Chartrand, Director of TC Transcontinental’s External Communications, clarifies that the May sale of TC Media’s Saskatchewan newspaper assets occurred because the assets were small in number and geographically remote from the bulk of TC Media’s other newspaper assets, which are based in Quebec and the Atlantic provinces. “Because of the limited synergies with the rest of our newspaper assets, it was simply not efficient for us to continue publishing a small cluster of newspapers in Saskatchewan,” she says. The buyer of  TC Media’s Saskatchewan newspaper assets, Star News Publishing Inc., already published five community newspapers in Alberta and Saskatchewan and printed over 60 community newspapers in Western Canada. “Because of Star News Publishing’s location in Wainwright, Alberta, and longstanding roots in that region, the sale made sense,” says Chartrand. “They are in a better position than we are to plan and maintain the growth of these assets.”She adds that the closure of the Saskatoon plant, with an accompanying loss of about 30 full-time jobs, was a direct result of the decision to sell the newspapers: “The buyer prints their own papers at their Alberta facility, and the remaining commercial printing volume in our Saskatoon plant didn’t justify keeping the operation open.”Chartrand recounts that around the 1980s TC Media first started to expand its publishing activities with the acquisition of Les Affaires (a paid-by-subscription business weekly) and other financial publications (plus consumer magazines which it later sold; 15 of them for example, to Quebecor Inc.’s TVA Group in 2014.) Subsequent acquisitions since the 1980s by TC Media include 20 Telemedia weekly papers in the greater Montreal area in 1995, 32 Cogeco newspapers in Quebec and Ontario in 1996, and the purchase of 74 Quebec weekly papers from Quebecor subsidiary Sun Media in 2014. At present, Chartrand says TC Transcontinental is the largest publisher of local newspapers in Quebec and Atlantic Canada, with 111 titles in Quebec (including the daily Métro Montreal, all but one title free of charge), 35 titles in Atlantic Canada (including seven paid dailies, 17 paid weeklies, and other free-of-charge weeklies and periodicals), and two in Ontario (Seaway News in Cornwall and Orléans Star in Gloucester, both free weeklies.) “We are proud to provide high-quality information to the communities we serve and are working hard to develop effective multi-platform solutions for our advertisers in these regions,” says Chartrand. However, she adds, a constant decline in advertising revenues year over year makes it especially challenging for TC Media and other publishers of community newspapers to continue providing high-quality information, while also endeavouring to convert their operations to more sustainable digital business models. To offset this present economic challenge, along with other Canadian media companies and associations, TC Transcontinental is currently seeking the support of various levels of government. Chartrand reports, that in April, François Olivier, President and Chief Executive Officer of TC Transcontinental, recommended an action plan to the Federal parliamentary Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, including:• Temporary financial incentives for up to five years for local media publishers to cover part of their content-production costs;• Temporary financial incentives for up to five years for local media publishers to support investments in the digital transformation of their business model;• Increased ad spending by government institutions in local print and digital media; and• A review of the way recycling fees are calculated so that publishers can pay reasonable amounts based on their recent circulation volumes rather than outdated data.Chartrand adds, that besides community newspapers, TC Media is the largest publisher of French educational resources in Canada, with an annual count of more than 12,000 educational books in French annually, covering all grade levels. The company also publishes more than 800 French and English titles in the supplemental educational and general interest areas.Newspaper printingTC Transcontinental not only publishes community newspapers as described above, but also continues to position itself as a newspaper printer par excellence. The company began its new five-year printing contract with the Toronto Star on the evening of Saturday, July 2, at its modern Vaughan, Ontario plant, a 30-minute drive northwest of Toronto.Brian Reid, President of TC Transcontinental Printing and TC Transcontinental Packaging, explains: “Our Vaughan plant is a relatively new facility with state-of-the-art technology and a team that’s very experienced in printing newspapers. When the Star first opened their own plant in 1992, almost 25 years ago, it was also state of the art, but obviously technology has evolved a lot since then. From 2007 to 2010, when TC Transcontinental opened our Vaughan plant, we invested roughly $800 million to upgrade our entire North American print platform. I think our investments in new technology provide the Star with the opportunity to get a high-quality product on new equipment and also reduce their printing costs.” Reid continues: “Our model is a little different than traditional manufacturing environments. For outsourced newspapers we work with highly skilled, self-directed teams and a lot of automation. The result is a very efficient operation that allows us to make the investments we need, still make a reasonable return, and at the same time provide savings considered to be significant by the news publishers who decide to print with us.”Reid says equipment highlights at Vaughan include two KBA Commander CT hybrid presses, both 66-inches wide with four towers and an individual capacity of 48 broadsheet pages in one path. “Hybrid means we can run both heat set and cold set and combine them – something very unique in newspaper printing,” he explains. “What this capability allows us to do, which helps in our pricing model, is to run newspapers at night, which are usually cold set – although The Globe and Mail runs some heat set on their outside cover and some of  the internal sections – then run flyers during the day. All of our flyers are heat set.”He says, besides The Globe, TC Transcontinental produces work for Torstar, Postmedia, and other newspaper publishers at their facilities in Vaughan, Calgary, Vancouver, Halifax, plus two plants in Montreal. In 2009, Transcontinental built another plant near Fremont, California, equipped with three hybrid Man Roland web presses with similar capabilities to the KBAs in Canada, to produce the San Francisco Chronicle, a paper they still print. “To print a daily newspaper, you have to be relatively close geographically to where the paper will be delivered, within a few driving hours,” Reid explains.He continues: “Flyer work is our biggest segment in print and it’s very stable. Our research and the fact that we print billions of flyers each year demonstrate that consumers still like their printed flyers. Our customers still say they are the best way to drive traffic to retail stores.” In Quebec, TC Transcontinental distributes its newspapers and retail flyers through its own marketing product called Publisac, a weekly bag containing printed flyers, newspapers, and specialty promotions with advertising printed on the outside that is hung on the door of households across Quebec (approximately 3.5 million homes). Elsewhere in Canada, the company manages the distribution of flyers to some 10 million more households through Targeo, its own Pan-Canadian distribution strategy and brokerage service.“Newspapers are down a little bit because their revenue from advertisers has declined,” says Reid. “Some specific segments are better suited to online advertising, things like automobiles, so there is not nearly as much advertising for cars in printed newspapers these days. Real estate advertising has declined as well. “As a result, newspapers are re-envisioning their models and choosing to outsource their printing so they can focus on their core business of providing content, rather than printing, which requires constantly upgrading the platform with capital investment. We have developed a model that’s win-win, so we can offer savings to newspaper publishers, yet still make a reasonable return that allows us to maintain a state-of-the-art printing platform.”  Flexible packagingIn explaining what made Robbie Manufacturing such an attractive prospect, which Transcontinental acquired in June, Reid says culture is always one of the most-critical factors when the company is considering an acquisition: “Since the inception of our business 40 years ago, we operate a certain way based on values that come from our founders, the Marcoux family. “These values are innovation, team work, performance, and respect in the way we treat customers, suppliers, and each other internally. Because we spent a lot of time getting to know the owner and leadership team at Robbie, we were able to get a very good sense, that although they used some different terminology to describe it, their culture was similar to ours.Reid continues to explain that Robbie Manufacturing also possessed a strong management team who were very supportive of the transaction and wanted to stay on. “Because we’re relatively new in flexible packaging, we need strong, talented people who are experienced in flexible packaging to add to our team.“Third was their capability to add to our packaging portfolio with grocery-store pouches for products that include deli items and frozen foods, as well as packaging for multipack consumer goods.” Typically, Reid explains, if you buy a three-pack of, say, household cleaners in aerosol cans or plastic bottles, the products come wrapped together with shrink wrap film over a cardboard base. But Robbie figured out an alternative packaging system for multiple consumer goods that eliminates the cardboard tray and prints on really, really thin shrink wrap film in a way that compensates for distortions to the printing caused by stretching the film around the product. Using their method, only when the film is in place can you actually read what is printed on it.“Robbie’s national salesforce is nice, too,” says Reid, adding to the list of reasons behind the acquisition. “It expands our sales coverage across U.S.” The Robbie Manufacturing plant in Lenexa, Kansas, is also about an hour and 15 minutes drive from Clinton, Missouri, site of the first packaging company Transcontinental purchased, called Capri Packaging. Reid says the production managers at Robbie and Capri already knew one another before Transcontinental acquired both companies. Capri prints rolls of packaging for dairy products, the largest being cheese and next largest yogurt. In May 2014, when Transcontinental acquired Capri from Schreiber Foods Inc., the Green Bay dairy company with over $5 billion in annual sales.Transcontinental retained a huge 10-year contract with Schreiber which gave them security with the transaction. In September 2015, Transcontinental made its second acquisition of a packaging company by purchasing Ultra Flex Packaging Corp. in Brooklyn, New York, a manufacturer of roll-stock, pouches, and bags for the coffee, tobacco, confectionery, snack foods, and pet foods segments. Why has Transcontinental moved so decisively into flexible packaging, which represents a clear shift in the company’s revenue generation, over the past couple of years? Reid explains: “First, for many reasons, the flexible packaging segment is experiencing a lot of growth: it’s cheaper, it distributes better, in many ways it’s more environmentally friendly – there are lots of reasons why there is a big shift toward it.”“Second, the manufacturing process for flexible packaging is very similar to what we already do in our offset printing. The process still involves prepress, printing, and finishing, the big differences being that for flexible packaging we print on plastic instead of paper, and we use flexo plates instead of offset plates,” says Reid. “The finishing methods are also different, most involving converting and laminating, but still we have some familiarity with these processes. They’re not entirely foreign to us.“The third reason is that flexible packaging hasn’t been consolidated yet. The fact that there are a lot of players allows us to look at acquisitions and ideally try to build a North American platform, both through organic growth and by seeking opportunities for acquisitions in the U.S. and Canada.” Transcontinental has since installed a new press, laminator, and slitter at Capri, and a new press and lamination line at Ultra Flex. We plan to make similar investments in the growth of other companies we acquire,” says Reid. “For sure, there will be more acquisitions.”
Alain Jacques / President / Solisco Printers / Scott, QuebecThis past May, Solisco Printers marked its 25-year anniversary after the company was founded in 1991 by Alain Jacques and Jean Grégoire. The company initially focused on the publishing market, which remains a core business generating around 35 percent of its annual revenues, and more recently has expanded into the retail industry with the goal of serving niche vertical markets with catalogues and a range of related services from digital adaptations to distribution.In 2011, Solisco initiated a new phase of investment with the installation of a Goss Sunday 3000 web press, which is now the cornerstone technology for the 400-employee company, headquartered in a 200,000-square-foot plant. PrintAction spoke with Jacques about the past 25 years and what the future holds for Solisco.What is Solisco’s market position today?AJ: We used to only mainly focus on magazines. Now we want grow the retail and catalogue side of our business, because newsstand sales today have been suffering. It is not a growing market, but there is still a huge market for magazines all across the U.S., so we want to offer the best services for high-end magazine and catalogue clients for the next few years. With competition you have to offer a bunch of services around the product. You have to be aware of the strategies of our clients and be a lot more involved.What is Solisco’s key tech advantage?AJ: Three years ago we invested in a Goss Sunday 3000. It was a risk but it has been a good reward for us, because it is a high-productivity piece of equipment... In our printing market, you must be a low-cost producer. In Canada, in general over the past few years, we have not invested in equipment as much as the U.S. has. How does Solisco attract talent to Scott?AJ: We do not have a lot of population around but people come from Quebec and we also do a lot of training with our people. We have a school inside Solisco. We have classes and train our people who earn a diploma. We have been one of only a few producers to do this and every session we have about 10 or 15 new diplomas.What new markets are you focused on?AJ: To print more jewelry catalogues, for example, we are going to go to all of the jewelry shows and directly show how we are going to be able to service that sector. We try to go vertical on specialty niches, so we do not go after big, big retailers or publishers… more emphasis is put on the manufacturers of products.How do you approach niche markets?AJ: We have subject-matter experts so whatever the client needs they are going to have the right person to answer their questions. Our sales reps know about the print itself, but when it comes to mailing and distribution or developing content for example, you need internal expertise.How important is distribution for publication printers?AJ: We do a lot of publishing in the U.S. and it is quite different than Canada with all of the co-mailing that exists. We have developed some expertise with geo-localization to get the best return on your investment. You have to offer services to go beyond just the cost of the transportation.What is your primary objective moving Solisco forward?AJ: Our tagline at Solisco is Experts with Character – innovation is the key. Innovation in everything: Research and development, on new types of products, adding equipment, whatever it is that is going to help clients sell more. Innovation is my key word for the next few years.What is Solisco’s investment plan for the near future?AJ: We are working on a major retooling to have all new equipment and get rid of the older equipment, adding capacity to our facility. This is a major tenant that we have for the next couple of years. I would like to put in another [Sunday] 3000... We are working on the project right now. You need the right balance between signing contracts with major clients and having productivity gain. That is a risk that I am willing to take right now in the next two to four years. We will also be investing in new bindery equipment, so it is part of a pretty big project… we are talking about $20 million over the next four or five years, minimum… I believe print is going to be there for the next several years.What excites you most about the future for print?AJ: Canadian Tire just put out 12-million copies of a catalogue, last month. For me that is a game changer. They are going back to print. We see a lot of clients going back to print because it works. You have credibility in print that gives a client an edge over others that do not use print. I do not have any apprehension about the future with printing. Even if it is going to slow down for the next few years there is so much consolidation that there are a lot of possibilities, but you have to keep your eyes open.
Alpha Poly Packaging Solutions of Brampton, Ont., for more than two decades primarily focused on the print production of polyethylene plastic bags, originally garbage bags before quickly moving into higher value food-service products, the latter of which was buoyed by an acquisition that basically doubled its size overnight. Alpha Poly’s February 2016 acquisition of Mikia Printing, a specialty flexible-packaging converter, however, speaks more to the company’s future.   View the embedded image gallery online at: http://www.printaction.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=latest&layout=latest&Itemid=1#sigProGalleria0f8c947620 The Mikia purchase is the most-recent example of a range of strategic investments led by Alpha Poly President Patrick Kerrigan, who took over leadership of the 50,000-square-foot operation in 2012, succeeding his father, Paul, who founded Alpha Poly in 1989. Kerrigan has been shifting Alpha Poly’s business approach since leading a lean-manufacturing audit in 2009, followed by a branding change, a new sales approach, and ultimately a multi-million-dollar capital equipment investment. In 2013, Alpha Poly installed a massive 8-colour MIRAFLEX AM from Windmoeller & Hoelscher to produce higher-end process print jobs.  This investment was followed by a decisive push to capture the growth in multi-laminates with a Nordmeccanica Super Simplex SL laminator. With the support of family members holding key leadership roles, including Matthew Kerrigan, Stephanie Kerrigan and Martin Boeykens, Alpha Poly is positioning itself as one of Canada’s leading independent companies in the robust flexography sector.Kerrigan worked outside of the family business for 15 years after going to school for broadcast journalism at Mohawk College in Hamilton, Ont., which ultimately led to a career in post-production for television and movies. Kerrigan explains this experience allowed him to learn about his own approach in the business world before joining Alpha Poly. “I love to work with people and to mentor,” he says. “It is exciting to watch people grow – helping their families grow.”Manufacturing measuresWhen Kerrigan led the lean audit for Alpha Poly in 2009, he faced difficult decisions of managing a manufacturing business, particularly one that has worked to foster a family-like atmosphere across the entire operation. Following the audit, Kerrigan estimates Alpha Poly reduced its labour by 30 percent and increased its output by 80 percent. “The return on investment was paid back in a year,” he says, noting how much discipline it took to institute the changes; for example, having one operator work two packing machines instead of a traditional one-to-one ratio.  Just prior to the lean-manufacturing audit, Alpha Poly had purchased the assets of a struggling London, Ont., operation that had succumbed to selling work below cost, an easy trap to fall into in any printing sector. “You need to know and understand your costs,” says Kerrigan, who was preparing to have the same lean analyst return in February to reset Alpha Poly’s base after the past three years of change management to branding and sales. “It is great to see things moving ahead,” says Paul Kerrigan, who continues to attend major management meetings. “Patrick is driving the ship. We have a lot of good workers and that is a big part of making your business successful. It is exciting to come in and hear about all of the things going on.”As he began to transition into leading Alpha Poly, Kerrigan leveraged years of broadcasting experience to evaluate the company’s brand position, which lacked a concrete marketing plan. Alpha Poly’s eight-year-old Website was in need of a revamp to better support the sales structure and any future manufacturing investments.“When people heard about us, because our name used to be Alpha Polybag, the first thing was ‘Oh, you do the shopping bags for the grocery stores,’” Kerrigan says, noting the company had also been printing roll stock for a long time, as well as reverse printing on polyesters. “We re-launched our name to let people know we are not just a bag manufacturer. “At that time, I knew the next phase of the company was to get into multi-laminates because you could see back then it was a growing market,” Kerrigan says, recalling reports that indicated multi-laminates would experience eight or nine percent worldwide growth year over year. “Everything is moving from rigids like plastic clamshells and jars to stand-up pouches, so I knew it was a market you wanted to be in.”Developing new marketsKerrigan explains a key driver of Alpha Poly’s strategy began to unfold in late-2012 when he crossed paths with David Mailman, who was helping to  lead packaging manufacturer Multipak Ltd., which was in the process of shuttering its operation. The high-end flexo knowledge of Mailman fit perfectly with Kerrigan’s plans to move Alpha Poly into new markets, which would require investing in the new press. “The stars aligned,” Kerrigan says. Mailman arrived in early 2013 to take over Kerrigan’s role as Plant Manager and to help direct the company’s capital investment.This allowed Kerrigan to focus on melding Alpha Poly’s rebrand with a new sales approach. “I kept feeling that every time we came into our monthly management meetings we were always looking in the rearview mirror – what happened in the month before,” Kerrigan says.He brought in an outside firm to review the sales strategy and a decision was made to implement the Salesforce.com CRM tool. At the time, Kerrigan explains Alpha Poly was generating healthy but flat annual revenue growth of around six percent. “We started setting targets for everybody and measuring,” he says. “People want to do better, but if you do not have anything to measure you do not know how well you are doing.” A sales roadmap was put in place to steer away from a shotgun approach and instead focus on what constitutes an ideal Alpha Poly customer.In its most recent fiscal year, Alpha Poly experienced year over year revenue growth of slightly more than 20 percent. “We know where we are going because we can see everything in our pipeline,” Kerrigan says. “We can do accurate budgeting now… plus you have metrics that everybody is looking at.” The reinvigorated sales structure is also supported by a new business-development approach led by Kate Davis and former HP Canada trailblazer Debra Swift.The February 2016 arrival of Vaughan Campbell, former owner of Mikia, who takes on a prominent technical sales role with Alpha Poly, helps establish one of the strongest senior leadership teams in Canadian flexography, with a technical and strategic ability to reach into completely new flexo markets. One of the most promising aspects of Alpha Poly’s new direction is that it currently only generates around five percent of its business from the United States.    With all of the investments in people and technologies, Kerrigan continues to focus on bottom-line growth. “We have to keep this cog going and we have really invested in this team to help us,” he says. “Our next goal… I would like to see in the next couple of years a 10-colour press in here.”
Steve Cory of Objex Unlimited shares insight he has gained from almost five years of innovative 3D printing, which stands to revolutionize a range of industries.Just as most people might be shocked by the invention age of inkjet printing (1951), toner printing (1959), and laser printing (1969), the birth of 3D printing traces back to 1983 despite its new stature as the beginning of a third industrial revolution, opined by futurist Jeremy Rifkin three years ago. Today’s potential of 3D printing, also commonly referred to as additive manufacturing, is based on its sudden widespread accessibility, akin to the consumer-level arrival of the Internet in the late-1990s despite its 1969 roots laid down by ARPANET.The availability of mature 3D printing technology now falls into the hands of revolutionary business leaders who take enormous risks to disrupt legacy markets and to ultimately generate new revenue models. In the west end of Toronto, Steve Cory, President of Objex Unlimited, is one such entrepreneur who has been exploring the possibilities of 3D printing since 2011. He has built a worldwide name for Objex developing innovative scanning booths, unrivalled 3D figurines, creative and industrial prototypes, and by diving headfirst into any potential 3D arena his team of young engineers, artists, programmers and writers can imagine.Growth of Objex UnlimitedCory found his way into 3D printing after reading what he describes as one of those big-future articles in The Economist, highlighting a 3D-printed chainmail glove and working clock. He became obsessed with the implications of additive manufacturing and for six months researched the sector, attending a handful of local 3D-printing enthusiast meetings.In mid-2011, Cory, at age 35, had been running his own consulting business for more than a year. A problem solver at heart and a trained mathematician, he had built a successful career by leveraging Information Technology to manage production, including a 100-person plant making sprockets and roller chain; catering facilities at Pearson Airport; and with the document-destruction company Shred-it. “I was always a good manager because I had better information than anybody else,” Cory says. “I would go get it myself, because I was really good at understanding ERP systems, pulling the data – optimizing it.” Computer Integrated Manufacturing exploded across the business world in the 2000s and Cory in 2009, with the recent arrival of two young children, decided to use his attractive skill set to branch out on his own. He became bored, however, with the tedious routine of sitting around the kitchen table and developing process solutions in Excel.Cory in September 2011 made a seminal decision to invest around $100,000 to purchase a used 3D colour printer and to lease a 3D plastic printer, followed three months later by his first scanner. “It took three months to complete my first order, which was $200,” he says, “and it took me another two months to sell a $50 order to a guy who still buys from me all the time.” Cory also began to serve as a distributor of 3D technologies to sustain  his more inventive plans for 3D printing. As fate would have it, the second handheld scanner he sold was to an influential Toronto businessman who would soon become a silent partner in Objex Unlimited.“I wasn’t really looking for a cash infusion at that point,” Cory says. “I was ready to muddle through for the next coupe of years and grow slowly as revenue permitted, because I knew it would take time.” The cash infusion, however, allowed Cory to dream even bigger, broaden Objex Unlimited’s 3D printing assets, and begin to hire and train a unique collective of employees to push the frontiers of commercializing 3D applications.“My business partner feels a big responsibility to give back and we are both very proud of the jobs that we have created here… 26, 27 jobs and probably 15 of these people would not have jobs like this,” Cory says. “They are extremely intelligent and talented, but maybe they didn’t go to the right school or maybe they are a little too wacky to survive in a normal working environment.” Cory prides himself on the creative atmosphere at Objex, which, to take from his own long-term business mantra, is very likely fostering future leaders of Canada’s 3D printing industry.Exploring the futureObjex Unlimited today primarily uses Multijet Modelling, Fused Deposition Modelling, Stereolithography and 3D inkjet technologies, in addition to a range of ancillary equipment, to meet almost any non-metallic prototyping or modeling needs. This includes printing with carbon fibre and Kevlar additives.“Prototyping is the reason 3D printing exists, because there is nothing better to make one-offs [particularly] if it is a small part with high detail,” Cory says. “When I started Objex there were three or four other 3D printing companies in Toronto all very strong in the automotive industry.” Understanding it would be difficult to push his way into auto-part prototyping, where engineers supply great geometries but are naturally picky, Cory instead took a risk to focus on more creative 3D printing. As a result, Objex Unlimited is likely the most diverse 3D printing operation in Greater Toronto, probably Canada, running 14 machines. It affords Cory an unprecedented perspective – as both manufacturer and distributor – for what the 3D market can bare.“There is a lot of really good marketing out there that makes it look like you can get a $1,000 printer and make parts for the Space Station,” he says, adding most people entering 3D simply do not understand its many critical manufacturing nuances, such as how difficult geometries are to reproduce, working with negative space and support materials, or why Z-axis builds provide little product strength. Cory explains any 3D printer between $20,000 and $50,000 is really a starting point to figure out how 3D works.“A good 3D printer is $100,000 and they go up from there – it is capital intensive,” he says, reinforcing the need to take a long-term approach. Objex Unlimited itself – albeit on a unique path of 3D discover – is only now beginning to realize meaningful return on its investments, expecting to generate anywhere from $5 to $6 million in revenue by the end of its current fiscal year. Cory explains the growth of 3D-print portals, driven by machine utilization, ganging jobs on a printer bed via online templates, presents significant challenges. “I really feel, that in some ways, 3D printed parts are disregarded by people because they have had bad experiences with them – poor quality, bad results, because everybody is chasing that low cost and lowest cost is not the right way to do it.”He describes building an aluminum extrusion for a window, as an example. It might take three hours to print the part upwards on the Z-axis, but it can be easily snapped. If the window part was instead built lying down, this would require filling its negative space with support materials (later torn away or dissolved) and it might take seven hours to print, but the part actually bends because its lines are built horizontally on the X and Y axes.Leading the wayCory and his team are now a few months into an ambitious project to produce thousands of 3D figurines. Selftraits is an Objex-owned storefront studio on Queen St. West in downtown Toronto selling 3D selfies starting at $120 each. Selftraits leverages one of Objex Unlimited’s key R&D programs, a 3D scanning booth that employs 140 synchronized SLR cameras and vast amounts of intellectual property, from electronics and lighting to focusing tools and data transfer. The system was built by two 24-year-old Objex employees, who are now working on a fourth iteration of the machine, which Cory calls The Cobra and will sell for around $250,000.“Everybody tells me our photo booth is overkill: ‘Why would you use 140 cameras when 60 is fine.’ It is to reduce the digital sculpting time,” Cory explains. The Queen St. store opened on December 10 and scanned about 300 people to make 5-inch-high figurines before Christmas. “I don’t think anybody in the world could have done that – not just scanned but delivered.” Cory hopes Selftraits will be scanning 500 to 700 people per month this summer. “It is both exciting and scary because we are proving a business model that you can have a free-standing store to make [3D] selfies and actually make money.” Objex is now working on a mobile booth to scan dozens of people per hour at major events, in addition to high-profile art installations, which will place the Toronto company onto an even bigger 3D world stage.
At the age of 17, Vinay Tewathia, after a high-school co-op placement with a local print brokerage, began to build a printing business in the basement of his family’s home. He initially designed and brokered print, developing a business model around the high-impact possibilities of modern production technology. By 2004, Tewathia founded New Era Print Solutions and focused on adding value to print through special finishing treatments. He acquired New Era’s first major press in 2012 with a Heidelberg DI. This August, as he was in the process of doubling his shop’s space from 3,200 to 6,400 square feet, to accommodate a 29-inch, 5-colour Heidelberg press with coater, PrintAction spoke with Tewathia about his passion for print.   View the embedded image gallery online at: http://www.printaction.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=latest&layout=latest&Itemid=1#sigProGalleria2a4391081a This article originally appeared in PrintAction's September 2015 issue.Why have you invested in a 29-inch press?VT: We already have one Heidelberg machine. We have windmills and letterpresses where we do all of the finishing, from foil stamping, embossing, offline UV, and the OPP laminations and more of the specialty stuff. So we are just expanding more on the production side… we are known as higher-end printers within our local community. So the whole point of us acquiring the machine is so we can take on more and more, not outsource as much and be cost effective for the current brokers that we are dealing with.Why focus on high-end print?VT: Everybody knows how to get a quick postcard, business card or flyer done, but a lot of people get stumped or have questions when it comes to creating something with a foil stamp or adding a finish or some sort of elegance to the job.Starting from the age of 17 and coming up in this industry, you are young and see how traditional technologies can be married with new technologies, so you just try to create something different and use new looks and feels.Why print instead of digital media?VT: We are in both. Print has been the stronger revenue for me. It is kind of where I started… I did a lot of the design for free [in the beginning] just to get the work flowing, incorporating it into my print price. What I find today is that digital is becoming more and more over-saturated and people want that tangible good in their hands and that is why we went the route of specialty and high-end finishing versus just everyday print production. How significant was the DI press purchase?VT: Purchasing the DI was probably the best move we have ever made… it is probably why we are in the position to now acquire the 5-colour Heidelberg. Without the DI, I just had a digital machine and we were outsourcing so I would always have to gang things up on a bigger sheet. It was very tough to offer different stocks and types of jobs, outside of just ganging things up and trying to make a profit.How will the 29-inch format help New Era?VT: A lot of the work I outsource now is to 40-inch machines and I find this is a happy medium to bridge the gap between outsourcing jobs and keeping them in-house. I am hoping the Speedmaster will allow us to do pretty much 95 percent of our work in-house... we definitely anticipate becoming a lot more profitable.How will the facility expansion help?VT: Right now in our one side we have the DI, three letterpresses, offline UV coater, OPP laminator, a folder and our cutter, with a whole bunch of skids and paper on the floor. We are now putting the press on the other [newly expanded] side with all of the paper, which will give us an easier workflow and customer-pick up area on the  current side.Why do you have such optimism for print?VT: Everybody has new challenges and new things they want to do and I always feel like we are helping them out. Sure, printing is a tangible good, but I also feel like it is a service industry because you are serving people who have needs on a daily and weekly basis… to be honest that is what drives me all of the time… driving for success, trying to get bigger and better companies through our door.What key print challenges are you finding?VT: A lot of the market is underselling and undercutting each other and the truth is if the bigger companies put their heads together and stabilize costing I think it would really revive where print can go in the next five to 10 years. I think print is being undervalued and that is a  significant challenge. What is the risk with this new press?VT: It is just over a half-million-dollar investment… the biggest one we have made thus far. It is the most critical time, being at an age where I am, but I feel it is going to get us over the next hump in business.Why invest in offset, and not digital toner? VT: Offset is traditionally what I have been dealing with for the last 14 years… I still feel like it is going to be almost impossible to replace conventional offset machines. There is still going to be a need for bulk work and specialty work; and you are still very limited when it comes to digital machines. The investment on a brand new digital machine to me is too risky... I know what I can produce, create and generate with this offset machine.
Craig Riethmacher grew up surrounded by the business of large-format printing, with his father being one of the founding shareholders of Middleton Group back in 1952. Middleton today is a unique printing operation in Canada, based on its move into merchandising more than a decade ago and a continuing drive to deliver the rich quality of screen printing through two massive, 4-colour, UV-enabled inline presses, and four single colours.Middleton was also among the country’s first screen printers to dive into inkjet printing, taking on a 4-bed-per-hour Inca Eagle 44 press in 2005, followed three years later by a 10-bed-per-hour Columbia Turbo. In late-2010, Riethmacher led Middleton’s purchase of a massive Agfa M-Press Tiger press, which produces up to 170 beds per hour.In March of this year, Middleton replaced its Columbia Turbo, after running it for seven years, with Canada’s first Inca Onset R40-LT UV inkjet press. Before touring the company’s impressive 50,000-square-foot printing plant, Riethmacher sat down with PrintAction to discuss the growth and direction of Middleton Group. The following article was originally published in PrintAction June 2015 issue.Historically, what was the largest technology jump for Middleton?CR: When I worked on the presses we switched from solvent-based inks to UV inks. That was a really big jump, because it just changed everything. It changed all of our equipment and all of our processes.What were the early days of digital like?CR: The speed was horrible compared to screen-printing, so it was really limited in the beginning... But it was beautiful when it came out – just so slow. The biggest bonus was the lack of prepress compared to screen. Why did you invest in the new Inca?CR: The Inca is so good for us because of the type of work that we do; having to do those thick substrates and edge-to-edge printing and now we can do whites and spot gloss clears, so it is a really good press and it fits our shop.How much has printing white advanced?CR: It is great. We are screen printers so we have had that luxury of doing digital and putting a screen ink on the back or vice versa, but you still run into some weird curing issues... We went through a good amount of R&D on that, so to be able to just send in a sheet and have it come out with white on is great.Will digital inkjet replace screen?CR: Ten years from now if they keep going as they have in the last 10 years, we are going to be running some pretty speedy digital presses. I don’t think you will ever replace screen 100 percent, but it will get close. I do feel there will always be a place for screen.What percentage of your work is screen versus inkjet?CR: We do more digital. I would say probably 60/40. It is very much quantity related too. Larger jobs that are over 500-plus sheets tend to go screen – depending on what the job looks like. Sometimes we will look at the artwork and realize it is going to be very difficult to produce screen, like some jobs with fine light colours that have really low percentage tones where we are going to pull our hair out trying to achieve colour, so we just put them on the digital press. How important is print today at Middleton?CR: We are definitely not just a printer anymore with all the permanent display work we do, but we still like to boast that we are a pretty darn good printer. We always have been and I think we always will be about quality. We will take the extra step to make sure our quality is well above average before it goes out the door.Do you feel the competition of commercial printers getting into wide-format inkjet? CR: Yes – when we were just screen-printing, it was just us and three or four other big competitors. That became five or six as digital started and now there are people with [digital] in their garages, nipping away at things. There are so many types of digital. So, what we tried to do here was not become a so-called digital shop where we have other processes like roll-to-roll. We buy digital equipment that compliments our screen print and it makes us a better large-format printer – better at what we do best and what we sell best.Will you scale up the R40-LT over time?CR: We have the M-Press, which really pounds out the prints and it wasn’t that we were looking for another print pounder… The LT was perfect for us because it is four times faster than the Turbo. Even at the base model and quality is exactly the same whether you have the full R40 or not. We will definitely be looking to scale up the press moving forward.How much of your sales is from merchandising versus print?CR: I would say about a 60/40 split with printing still being higher… Print is very competitive. We are going to get what we can, but if we really want to grow our business we have to grow it on the merchandising side, while still being a great print provider. That is really where our focus is... helping the bottom line.
The following article was originally published in PrintAction's May 2015 issue.Cenveo McLaren Morris & Todd is home to some of the most knowledgeable technicians, managers and salespeople in Canada’s printing industry. Nearly three years ago, one of these key assets, Steve Hanley, set out on a career-defining journey with one of his key sales clients aiming to mass-produce a groundbreaking baby-formula label.After months of collaborating with the client, testing inks and coatings in Germany, covering financial plans with corporate, Hanley and Cenveo MM&T’s journey materialized in late-2013 with the installation of a 14-unit Heidelberg Speedmaster XL 106 sheetfed press. The more than $6 million investment, unique in its printing configuration and automation, is rivaled in approximation by only a handful of such high-end presses in North America.Holding one of the most interesting histories in Canada’s printing industry, from its origins of producing Hallmark Cards to its role in establishing the worldwide phenomenon of the Trivial Pursuit board game, the new 14-unit Heidelberg press is pushing Cenveo MM&T along an impressive growth path in pharmaceuticals, where packaging is often as important as the formula.Hallmark and PursuitMM&T was acquired by Cenveo, then operating as Mail-Well, 17 years ago, adding yet another important marker to its 59-year history in the Canadian printing industry. Headquartered in Stamford, Connecticut, Cenveo is a $2-billion company operating in the management and distribution of print and related offerings. The company is overseen by one of modern printing’s most dynamic businessman, Robert Burton Sr., who has been Cenveo’s Chairman and CEO since September 2005 – with sons Mike Burton serving as Cenveo’s COO (June 2014) and Rob Burton as President.Cenveo encompasses more than two-dozen entities in over 100 facilities. It employs more than 270 sales associates in North America, with additional entities in the Dominican Republic, India and Thailand – 8,100 employees in total. It acquired a Canadian printing gem with the acquisition of McLaren Morris & Todd, co-founded in 1958. One of those original builders, John McLaren (in association with Harry Morris and Art McLaren), secured greeting-card producer Hallmark as a massive customer for its sheetfed presses. Greeting-card production would come to represent 25 percent of total company revenues by the early 1960s.After being purchased by Southam in 1967, which brought in web-offset presses for direct-mail and advertising work, MM&T would soon enter the spotlight by working closely with the creators of Trivial Pursuit, Chris Haney and Scott Abbott, to manufacture their world-record board game. (Today, more than 100 million copies of the game have been sold in 26 countries.) The original Trivial Pursuit had 6,000 questions on 1,000 cards – a printing risk with a world of potential benefit. MM&T’s early involvement with Trivial Pursuit led to an expansion of the facility to a total of 115,000 square feet. Building on its greeting- and Trivial Pursuit-card knowledge, and moving with the 1980s boom in collector cards, MM&T shifted its expertise into label work. This application direction was emphasized after John Morris and Alan George purchased MM&T from Southam in 1995. In 1998, they sold their company to Mail-Well, which, after combining with acquisitions led by Robert Burton Sr., became Cenveo in 2004 – resulting in Cenveo MM&T (CMM&T).A year later, CMM&T installed its first 10-colour flexographic press to dive deeper into label printing. This was soon followed by the installation of a 7-colour full web Goss press. The newest direction for the facility is positioned squarely at feet of the Heidelberg XL 106.Research and testingBefore the Heidelberg XL 106 was purchased, Hanley visited Germany on three separate occasions to test out the printing units, twice with Heidelberg and once with KBA. The CMM&T team sent over specific inks and did thorough press testing on behalf of their client before pulling the trigger. “Part of the testing in Germany was to prove it to Cenveo’s corporate leadership, ‘Here is where the client wants to go, here is where I got them, and this is the press that is going to do it,’” Hanley recalls. Hanley himself established the protocols for how the files should be tested, which took place on three different substrates in each of two main application categories, cartons and labels. “Heidelberg was very excited about the project too, because it highlights what they do.“KBA is a very capable press as well,” explains Hanley, who was impressed with both high-tech factories, but the XL 106 better fit CMM&T’s application and long-standing experience with Heidelberg machines.The purchase of the press was based on the baby formula producer signing a 5-year printing contract with CMM&T. It was the first such press configuration that Heidelberg has produced.  “It is a duo press with flexo and offset capabilities, 14 units, all UV capable, extended dryer. It is a very unique packaging press in the world,” says Hanley. “We had faith in Heidelberg to deliver the product.” The Heidelberg press arrived in Mississauga literally by 17 tractor-trailer loads. “Heidelberg knows what they are doing, so there were no issues with it at all,” says Peter Zamos, who has been with MM&T for 31 years and led the technical implementation of the press into the plant. Leaving the feeder, sheets first travel into a flexo unit where a premium liquid silver foil is applied, which is key to reaching the client’s graphic goals for its new baby-formula label design. “The advantage of putting it on in the first unit is then you can tint it and it will look like foiling.”This immediately raises technical challenges in a press run, but the liquid foil is a highly efficient route for long-run label production, as opposed to applying traditional mylar (metallized polyester film) or other forms of foil. The baby-formula work is now produced in a single pass at very high speeds. “There is an unknown factor with a raised plate when you are trying to marry it to a lithographic plate in the next units,” explains Zamos, describing fit and trapping issues when breaking from the conventional wisdom of putting the opaque colour down last.Zamos feels the capabilities of the Heidelberg press are almost like a return to the craft of printing, including the file preparation of Autumn Graphics, a specialized flexographic prepress house from London, Ontario. Autumn Graphics has been working with CMM&T and this client for approximately 20 years. “You are trying to fit transparent ink around an opaque shell without having a visual problem,” he says. “From a client’s perspective, there is a craft to that.”Leaving the flexo unit, sheets travel through two drying stubs before reaching the offset units, coating and drying units. Karl Cox, who took over as the lead of CMM&T’s facility at the beginning of 2015, agrees with the artistic value that the new press brings. “The art aspect of it is not only in how we look at the colour and how we get to the quality, but how we run the press efficiency at its maximum speeds,” he says, continuing to point to how business flows into the press, scheduling its run and labour to meet the expectations and needs of the facility.During his early research, Hanley also had to consider how the printed labels would fit into the client’s packaging line. “A key challenge is to run at high speeds and to reach the proper coating gloss levels to have it run smoothly through the customer’s lines at high speed,” he explains. The production team is targeting a superior gloss level of 90 and is currently just below this high standard, while also committing to run with a delta E of two or less (well below the normal standard of delta E 3).“This was Steve’s passion. He believed this is what this organization needed and went for it – the proof is that he got it right,” says Cox, Regional Vice President, Sales and Operations at CMM&T. “It is exceeding the ROI that we positioned for the press when we brought it in. We are ahead of schedule. It has been a massive success for us as an organization.” Cox explains the press has already attracted new clients and he expects more. “We first wanted to perfect our art as a business with the press, before taking it to market for new opportunities. We are really at that point now.” This strategy fits well with CMM&T’s historic approach of working with high-end, demanding clients. “We used to print for Hallmark Greeting Cards. It was our first account and Hallmark has always been a very quality-oriented company,” says Zamos. “If you are going to buy a card for $6 you want it to be perfect and their quality levels are almost at pharmaceutical levels... Really, it is nothing new for us.”In addition to closed-loop colour, the Heidelberg XL 106 includes auto inspection cameras with pharmaceutical-specific PDF architecture to capture an image of each sheet – and dreaded hickeys – at press speed, to mark and pull errors from the run.Printing and mailingCox joined Cenveo in January 2014 to implement structural change at the Clixx Direct Marketing facility in Scarborough, which Cenveo purchased in 2010. After more than a decade of Cenveo’s growth through acquisition, Cox is tasked with consolidating processes and to capitalize on individual assets at CMM&T. Cenveo is divided into three groups: Packaging, which includes CMM&T; commercial print; and the envelope group, as a result of the Mail-Well acquisition. After acquiring the assets of National Envelope in 2010, Cenveo became the largest envelope manufacturer in North America.“We are starting to see an  improvement in mailing,” Cox says. “That provides us with huge opportunities... We can essentially print in this facility and then add variable aspects at the Clixx facility. The two facilities work very well together.”One of Cox’ first moves at CMM&T was to bring in a lean manufacturing black belt to drive further efficiencies. The facility has been deeply involved with both external and internal auditing processes since 1996, when a client’s new Request For Proposal approach required partners to be Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) certified.“We took it on very aggressively… and we passed every audit they could throw at us,” says Hanley, noting the baby-formula market has higher standards than most pharmaceutical sectors. “It really highlights the importance in the quality of printing and in every aspect of the quality of that product.” Concern for quality control in the sector came to a head about five years ago when several infant deaths in China were tied to contaminated baby formula products of the country’s domestic suppliers.“We have a platform that we can grow with a lot of different products and services that meet the needs of our customers,” says Cox.  “That is what really impressed me [about CMM&T]. We have a great team here.”Hanley is one of the top salespeople in the Canadian printing market and he sees an enormous opportunity ahead, because of the new 14-unit Heidelberg press. “This is the defining moment of my whole career,” he says. The packaging industry is still largely comprised of small entrepreneurial businesses and Hanley expects many mergers and acquisitions are ahead, mirroring the past decade in commercial printing.“There are some challenges on the commercial side from a margin perspective and there are different types of challenges in packaging,” says Cox. “We have opportunities for margin and growth potential through the development of new products, the installation of new presses, and in the innovation that we have brought to market with this press. That is where we see opportunity.”
Friesens of Altona, Manitoba, began to install its new 73-inch manroland R900 HiPrint XXL perfecting press in March on its way to building one of the world’s most-efficient pressrooms (originally published in PrintAction September 2015).   View the embedded image gallery online at: http://www.printaction.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=latest&layout=latest&Itemid=1#sigProGalleriaa9a9f6802c The town of Altona in southern Manitoba holds slightly more than 4,000 people in an economic landscape primarily driven by farming- and agriculture-based businesses, as well as the manufacture of books. In early March, the town became home to one of the world’s three 8-colour, 73-inch manroland R900 HiPrint XXL perfecting presses, which Friesens Corporation is leveraging for short-run book work. Most presses of this size are saved for the packaging sector, where perfecting is usually not needed to print on both sides of the substrate. Of course, Friesens’ press also required significant inline colour management tools to deal with a massive sheet that will often hold 64 unique and different pages at one time. The company is well known by other printers for its near-spotless pressroom and by North American publishers for its ability to print short-run, colour-intensive works of art.“I never want to lose the underdog mentality that has existed as part of the fabric of this company for 107 years. We are in the middle of nowhere, but that just breeds ingenuity and hard work,” says Curwin Friesen, CEO of Friesens Corp., which provides an ownership model for its approximate 600 employees, tying the highly respected book manufacturer even closer to the community.When the R900 arrived in Altona by dozens of tractor-trailers, it was too large for Friesens’ shipping bays and the company needed cut a massive hole into the side of the building for direct entry into what would become a newly configured pressroom. Installed, the press is  approximately 100 feet long and weighs half a million pounds. Before commissioning the press in July, celebrated with a ribbon-cutting ceremony with hundreds of staff members and around 75 dignitaries, Friesens conducted three and half months of set up and testing.Form efficiencyThe decision to go with the R900 was made a little more than a year ago, after first discussing the possibilities of moving to very large format technology at the drupa 2012 trade show in Germany. It would be a challenge to handle such a large sheet and perfect it without marking, which can be a technical struggle even with 40-inch perfectors.“It is very much an efficiency play and a progression from where we have moved in our history,” says Friesen. The company began working 8-page signatures, four pages on each side of a sheet sent through the press twice, drying twice before folding. When press technology improved the crew moved to a machine printing 16-page signatures, again twice through. “In the late-80s, we went to 50-inch format when others were on 40-inch format and that allowed us to go to a 32-page, 8 ½ x 11 signature.” The press sheets still traveled twice through the press, but the company’s 50-inch machines were printing a 64-page children’s book with just two sheets and four make-readies. The new 8-colour, 73-inch manroland R900 perfector allows Friesens to print a 64-page children’s book with one sheet and one make-ready. The relative efficiency of the new press, over the 50-inch machines, is increased by anywhere from 300 to 400 percent, with a more precise number expected after more time with the R900 reveals figures like wastage, press speed, and finely-tuned make-ready – with the latter number ending up slightly more than a quarter of 50-inch machine make-ready. “There are hardly any book manufactures in North America who are running 50s and almost none overseas. It is basically a 40-inch world and we live in the 50-inch world and now we are trying to live in the 73-inch world,” says Friesen. “Is it more efficient – absolutely. Are we excited about the productivity numbers we are starting to see – you bet we are. Since the ribbon cutting, every week is getting better and our crews are getting more familiar with it, more comfortable.”Pressroom buildThe multi-million-dollar technology investment included the purchase of a massive Maxson Automatic Machinery Co. precision sheeter, because Friesens has traditionally converted its own stock, which now sits about 15 feet in front of the press. A new large-format platesetter – about 65 feet long in its own controlled positive air space – is also close by and integrated with robotics to move the massive 73 x 50-inch plates – in addition to 50-inch plates – through the imaging process, before a specialized conveyor is wheeled about 10 feet to modified catwalk rails where crews finally touch the plates for mounting on the R900.The manroland R900 configuration is also unique because Friesens’ management decided to maintain its bindery set-up for 32-page signatures, resulting in an inline slitter system integrated with the new press, as well as the continuing interest in 50-inch machines. “One of the other things unique about this press is that we put an engineered pit underneath it, so we have better access and that is not done anywhere else in the world,” says Friesen, noting how much the company’s mechanics were involved in the R900 investment project.“The beauty of it is that we were starting from scratch and our goal was to create the most-efficient pressroom in the world and everything mirrors this mindset,” says Friesen. Market mattersDespite its massive size, the efficiency of the press and pressroom allows for incredibly short runs of around 4,000 books and up, with an ideal range at around 10,000. “We are a short-run book manufacturer that is what we specialize in within our book division,” says Friesen. The company already produces long runs that may measure around 100,000, but the R900 also presents a new opportunity to provide sheetfed press quality on some lower-end Web offset press speeds.“Books are not DVDs. Books are not music. Books are different. As we see with business cards, some players in the market believe that business cards are going to be around forever and they certainly do not seem like they are going away,” says Friesen. “One large player has also used large format on short-run business cards to change the game.” Friesens generates approximately 55 percent of its revenue from the U.S., which Friesen has noticed picking up because of the lower dollar, and 45 percent domestically. Based on various avenues of research, he notes the book market has been very stable for the past five years, to the point where independent bookstores are growing for the first time in a decade. Friesen explains it appears the concentration of e-readers has hit a saturation point in North America. “E-books have their niche and have an important role in the book business, but not the only role,” he says. “Publishers see that sales are bearing that out and so we continue to believe there is a strong future for books.”Friesen describes one recent report from Deloitte based on polling a sample of 18 to 24 year olds who exhibited a strong propensity toward printed books. “Despite the fact that they live in a digital world they still like print for a bunch of reasons.” Friesen is also noticing more on-shoring of book printing, relating that many publishers are returning to North American printers instead of having the work done in China. The trend is driven by much busier Chinese ports and the need for shorter turnaround times, as well as more preference to print lower run totals; for example, two 5,000 jobs instead of 10,000 at once. Friesen explains it is not in a printer’s best interest to print 10,000 books and have the publisher only sell 2,000. “Is China still going to be a big printing force – absolutely – but if five percent of that business returns, or 10 percent, on a billion-dollar industry, that is significant.”In addition to its strong roots in yearbook production, typically with runs measured in the hundreds, self publishing is a growing sector for Friesens, through its FriesenPress division that sells packages – potentially with editing, copywriting, designing and proofreading services in addition to printing – that might cost around $3,500 run on digital presses instead of $15,000 via litho.“We believe that we are going to be in books for a long, long time and if we are going to be in books then we better be geared up for it and not just dabbling,” says Friesen, projecting a relatively stable market for at least the next decade. A little more than five years ago, however, Friesens’ managers were tasked with expanding the company’s interest in packaging, which resulted in think4D, consisting of around 40 employees.After purchasing a Toronto company and related patents, and investing a few million into R&D, think4D is a unique operation in the world that marries thermoforming and printing.  “We found thermoforming and print were two different worlds,” says Friesen. “With some of the technologies we were researching, we thought that we could combine those worlds. Why not print on the plastic and then thermoform that piece out of the plastic already printed.”This innovation in packaging is built from a culture that developed over decades by leveraging technology to innovate the process of manufacturing books. “It isn’t always just the numbers we paint on press at times. There are efficiencies and robotics and workflow… yet the product we are producing is an art piece, often at the end of a creative chain.”
Five years ago, Webcom Inc., one of Canada’s preeminent book manufacturers for three decades, began building a true evolutionary printing platform around HP’s new T300 Inkjet Web Press. Webcom’s paradigm shift, a fundamental change in the basic concept of book printing, now represents an investment of $30 million and a 2.1-billion pages-per-year digital inkjet manufacturing capacity the Toronto company.In October 2015, Webcom continued to illustrate its intent on shaking up the book-publishing world by installing a new HP Indigo 10000 press. PrintAction spoke with Mike Collinge to learn more about the direction of a Canada-first platform.What key advantages does the Indigo 10000’s 29-inch format size provide?Mike Collinge: It allows us to do larger-format products that you cannot do on smaller systems, whether it is a [traditional] Indigo, NexPress or iGen, basically they all are suited to 11 x 17-type products and, in books, that limits you with spines on books and jackets and oversize book products. It also allows us to double our throughput, so we are able to respond much quicker in peak periods, which publishing has. Third, it allows us to cut a lot of the processing and labour expenses in half because we are producing at least twice as much as we could before every hour.How does the 10000 fit with Webcom’s existing HP Inkjet Web Presses?MC: With digital inkjet and an HP Indigo 10000, we are able to offer our customers cost-efficient, offset-quality, short book runs of tens, hundreds or a few thousand books at North American – if not globally – competitive rates… all very, very efficiently. How does this platform best help clients?MC: The unique solutions we offer help a publisher pull their capital investment out of keeping inventories and redeploy that [capital] so it is not stagnant in a warehouse… It also helps them customize books for small markets… or, with a backlist title on the end of its lifecycle, our technology allows a publisher to keep products alive.What growth is available for web inkjet?MC: Inkjet still has a really positive outlook for the next five years. The industry studies say over 20 percent CAGR in digital inkjet and one of the top two drivers of that growth rate is targeted to be books. So it is a high growth part of the book manufacturing business. It is not all necessarily new business for a manufacturer or publisher… but it is definitely a fast-paced, high-growth segment for the publishing industry.How difficult is it realize enough margin for large digital-printing investments?MC: It is not just about printing a physical book and shipping it to the door. We are addressing supply-chain and inventory-management needs and customer integration. We have a lot of investment in systems, people and process… rationalizing and automating our customers’ order entry processes is part of our solution.Has Webcom moved from unit-cost print?MC: It is a total cost of ownership model that we take to our publishers and they need to look at more than just a print and bind… we are not quote-and-produce vendors for them. We are business partners.How does Webcom leverage inkjet colour?MC: Inkjet technology is so flexible that you can put colour on two pages in a 400-page book and not have to make sure that it is on a certain form or signature… When a publisher is looking at how to differentiate their product in a very competitive marketplace, whether an educational publisher or trade, colour is an underutilized capability because the print community has made it expensive and awkward. Inkjet really addresses that for short run products. What is the outlook for printed books?MC:[At November’s BMI conference] Markus Dohle, CEO of Penguin Random House, said, “Our basic strategic assumption is that print will  always be important, always – not in 50 years or 100 years – always.” So the Amazon forecast of the demise of the printed book was, and I still believe is, premature and inaccurate. Digital headlines do not match the reality of the publishing world or what their consumers are choosing for preferred book format. I am happy that our publishers are still successful and sustaining their businesses, but I think Webcom’s solutions are much better valued if there is urgency on them not to patronize old publishing models. How does Webcom provide sustainability?MC: Depending on the product, somewhere between 25 and 50 percent of books printed in the past have gone to obsolescence or recycling. Our technology makes it reasonable for a publisher to print only what they need, only what they have back ordered, without significant premiums… We are buying world-class technologies that have sustainability underpinning them.How do you qualify the risk of being first with new technologies?MC: We have a very succinct vision of what we can deliver for book publishers in North America. We have fantastic ownership and a strong financial position to be able to make these investments. I would call them investments, as opposed to risks. Whether it is in technology, process or people, these investments are the building blocks to help us deliver us on that vision for our book-publishing customers.
After new ownership was established in 2006, Marquis Book Printing of Montmagny, Quebec, has invested millions in acquisitions and new technologies to become one of Canada’s largest printers. Serge Loubier, President of Marquis (photo by Anny Lecault). Serge Loubier, President of Marquis (photo by Anny Lecault). Marquis' Kolbus KM 600 in Montmagny. Marquis' Kolbus KM 600 in Montmagny. Marquis' Timson ZMR in Louiseville. Marquis' Timson ZMR in Louiseville.   View the embedded image gallery online at: http://www.printaction.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=latest&layout=latest&Itemid=1#sigProGalleria13aeb7fec4 Marquis Book Printing over the past three years has more than doubled its annual revenue through consolidation, beginning in mid-2012 when the company, headquartered in Montmagny, Quebec, acquired two manufacturing plants from TC Transcontinental. The purchase of Transcontinental Gagné in Louiseville and Transcontinental Métrolitho in Sherbrooke added just over $35 million to Marquis’ revenue base, which was around $20 million before the purchase. The company’s employee count went from approximately 125 to 350 people.Just over a year later, in late-2014, Marquis’ management team reaffirmed its confidence in the book-printing sector by acquiring certain assets of Imprimeur Lebonfon, a former Quebecor plant in northern Quebec, which included bringing over members of Lebonfon’s sales team who were generating about $10 million in business. Today, Marquis Book Printing is generating more than $60 million in annual revenue as one of Canada’s largest independent printing operations.As Canada’s biggest monochrome printer, running six massive, highly automated Timson web presses in Louiseville, Marquis is also beginning to shift into more colour work to move with the book market. In October, the company’s future outlook for book manufacturing also materialized in an exclusive partnership with SoBooks of France to create a transatlantic technology bridge for on-demand book publishing. The most unique strategy currently being employed by Marquis, however, revolves around a yearlong project to build its own UV-enabled web-offset press, scheduled to start-up this December.Printing platformMaurice Marquis founded Marquis Imprimeur in 1937 and quickly began to focus on book-printing capacity after acquiring some rights from European publishers, because books were no longer being shipped overseas during World War II. He even built what was called the Bibliobus, travelling from town to town to sell books printed by Marquis. The company never lost sight of its core competency to manufacture books, a position that was embraced in 2006 through a management buyout by Serge Loubier, who now serves as President of Marquis, Pierre Fréchette, Vice President of Sales, and Marc Delisle, who remains involved as an advisor.“Five years after the management buyout, we were where we said we were going to be,” says Loubier. “ Then we went all in with the [TC Transcontinental] deal. We pushed all of the chips into the middle.” At the time, Transcontinental, which was moving toward a marketing-services platform, was Marquis’ largest competitor in monochrome and two-colour book printing, which remains as the heart of its operation with newer investments like Canada’s first Variquick PC 15 press and an Oce’ Varioprint 6250. The Marquis platform has also been enhanced with a 10-colour Heidelberg (adding to four- and two-col0ur litho presses), a Xerox Versant and iGen150.Over the past several years, Loubier has focused on annual capital expenditures of around $2.5 million to purposely build the platform and to support the more than $15 million invested in Marquis’ market consolidation strategy. Initially, Loubier explains the plan – as presented to the banks – was to shutdown the Louiseville plant acquired from TC, now called Marquis Gagné, and move assets to Montmagny to realize savings, but minds were quickly changed after spending time in the facility. “The employees were like the gold out of the transaction that we made – a really good crew over there,” says Loubier, noting the plant is led by a relatively young workforce that was surprisingly bilingual, being based in a francophone region of Quebec. “The heart couldn’t live with the idea of closing [Louiseville] and we had also miscalculated the space needed to produce big runs of books… we didn’t have enough floor space, in my mind, in Montmagny.” With a potential relocation to Montmagny, Loubier was concerned the skilled Timson operators and well-trained salespeople and CSRs from Louiseville might not join Marquis. This was the case when the Sherbrooke plant purchased from Transcontinental was closed, which also showed Marquis was ultimately going to do what was necessary to succeed in its consolidation plan. He worked with Louiseville’s union to settle on a 15 percent cut and a five-year contract, saving about $1 million per year in costs, and targeted opening up more business in the United States to support the plant. At the time, Marquis was generating about $400,000 in business from the U.S. and the management team set an ambitious growth target to reach $4 million. “In the first year, we managed to bring in $5 million from the U.S.,” recalls Loubier, noting this was at a time when the Canadian dollar was at par with the U.S. greenback. “It has been three years since the deal and we are going to finish this year over $15 million [generated out of the U.S.].”Loubier is now comfortable in stating that the consolidation plan has worked out well. In explaining its success, he points to the stability provided by the Montmagny plant and its unique Marquis Laurentien division based in Quebec City. Purchased about a year prior to the Transcontinental deal, Laurentien was the province’s largest producer of school agendas and number two (behind Marquis) in yearbooks. With the TC Metrolitho deal, Laurentien became number one in both categories. The Laurentien division has about 40 employees focusing on the typesetting and graphic design of books, particularly in the educational sector, including working with more than 1,000 schools. Marquis is now growing its work with schools in other Canadian provinces and again focusing on expansion in the United States.New opportunitiesLargely based on the dollar advantage for Canadian exporters, and a stabilized book-printing market, following a few years of uncertainly around the potential impact of electronic publishing, Marquis is now shifting toward more organic growth for its printing platform. “For the next three to five years, our plan is to double that capital investment,” says Loubier, hinting this will likely point toward putting more sheetfed power into the platform, integrated finishing, and also new inkjet web press technology currently being investigated.“We need [inkjet] technology that will accommodate monochrome with a click charge that we can then switch to a colour click charge,” says Loubier, noting Marquis’ unique need to maintain high-volume monochrome production as it looks to the future with colour. “I also want to be able to choose my paper, to change it, and I want to print like offset… I thought [press makers] would never achieve it, but they are starting to show me things.”Loubier also remains intent on running what Marquis knows best – “a big press is hard to beat” – and the company’s vital litho systems are highly automated. “My average run at Marquis has to be 3,800 to 4,000, so my big concern is not the speed of the press when it is running. It is how long it is stopped for,” he says, describing a recent run of 1,500 books with 144 6 x 9-inch pages that took just under 15 minutes to print. “We have Timsons in Louiseville with zero makeready. We do not stop to change the plates.”In the more immediate future, however, Loubier is eager to start up the web press invented by Marquis. The eight-month project has been led by Alain Roberge, former owner and Director of Lebonfon, because of his engineering background and years of experience in web-offset production. An outside firm provided schematics for the 16-page press as Marquis planned out its interior, including the integration of a brand new closed-loop colour control system. In November, the company was adding folders and preparing to take the press apart for moving and reinstalling in Louiseville. “We wanted a press that would do four-colour without heatset. The ink will be dried by UV lamps, so there will be no emanation and no gas involved in the process. It is going to be the greenest colour web in Canada,” says Loubier. “I like machines, so building my own press was always a dream.”
After 15 years of managing data, Prime Data moves deeper into full marketing automation by leveraging print with one of the world’s first Canadian-built Delphax Elan inkjet presses. Featured in the August 2015 issue of PrintAction magazine.In early 2015, Prime Data of Aurora, Ont., became the third company in North America to install a Delphax Technologies Elan 500 press, built in nearby Mississauga using a sheetfed inkjet architecture with Memjet Waterfall print heads and a transparent Mylar substrate transport system. Supplying data-driven marketing services for more than 15 years, Prime Data’s initial goal with the Delphax system was to reduce inefficiencies associated with printing offset shells for post variable imaging.Prime Data’s Elan 500 installation is unique because it is producing variable colour marketing materials, whereas the other two Elan systems are primarily printing monochrome collection notices (California) and government forms (Quebec). With its world-first printing position, Prime Data has been transforming itself to operate more like a tech startup to mirror a growing shift toward marketing automation. “We have a mantra around here, everything is always in beta… to have a tech startup mentality and keep that in the place to make everyone feel comfortable with change,” says Steve Falk, owner and President of Prime Data.Over the past couple of years, Falk has instituted several initiatives to embrace print, which currently accounts for approximately 30 percent of his company’s revenues. These strategies range from investing tens of thousands of dollars in security measures to new CSR tools and from cross-media consulting to variable full colour printing with sheefed inkjet.Inkjet innovation The Memjet print heads employed by the Elan have 70,400 jets that fire up to 700-million drops of ink per second, hitting resolutions of up to 1,600 dpi, on a range of coated and uncoated substrates with weights from 60 to 350 gsm and format sizes from 8 x 8 to 18 x 25.2 inches. This translates into printing up to 500 A4 images per minute.“The biggest thing [the Elan] did was simplify the process of doing batch-run direct mail, so we did not have to worry about offset shells… being able to roll it into one process where you go straight to colour imaging at an affordable price,” says Falk. Prime Data continues to leverage both colour and monochrome Konica Minolta systems for shorter-run applications. Falk explains, however, today’s highest-end toner presses produce upwards of 150 colour sheets per minute in simplex mode and are not fast enough for Prime Data’s larger variable runs. It would require multiple million-dollar toner machines to eliminate offset shells.“There is only one sheetfed inkjet printer right now and it is the Canadian-made Delphax Elan,” says Falk, noting roll-fed inkjet options from companies like Canon Océ and Ricoh do not fit with his current client base. “For our marketplace, [with a need] to change stocks and sizes several times a day, for the run sizes, sheetfed inkjet is perfect.” Falk explains the Elan produces full variable colour at around the same price as printing offset shells for variable imaging; while also reducing workflow issues by a factor of days. “This business is also big on testing,” he says, which is cost prohibitive when printing offset shells to reach segmentations of 1,000 households. The ability for Prime Data to leverage data expertise through responsive print helps mitigate the risk of being the world’s first Elan user for variable colour DM. “You should not be looking only at print quality, which is what people once cared about, but you should be focusing on the quality of the print message and how it is responding to [consumers],” Falk says. “The quality of responsiveness to the person you are talking with is what gets you better sales.”Handling dataPrime Data has developed proprietary tables and subroutines for cleaning up client data, sweeping vast fields to find potential VDP campaign disasters. “Data can be a nightmare and it can be a relationship killer if you do it wrong.” Falk estimates Prime Data might spend as much as four times the effort relative to competitors when working with customer information – and charges accordingly.  The data-sensitive marketplace led Falk to make large investments in securing Prime Data’s processes over the past two years. This involves measures like building and testing firewall security, entrance swipe cards, non-disclosure agreements, destroying computer and printer hard drives, and chain-of-custody procedures for overprint and setup sheets. The growth in marketing automation also relies on securing data transfers with tech-savvy clientele.“What you want to do if you are a [printer] is think about how you can interact with how your clients are saving their data,” says Falk, “so communications back and forth, grabbing data at certain milestones in its lifetime.” This environment also pushed Prime Data to establish a CSR-driven customer tracking system to respond to issues immediately, which also helps to drive the company’s always-in-beta mentality. Employees are always improving their internal systems.Falk feels the new emphasis on online data collection has hurt print, as agencies try to hold on to as much marketing budget as possible, running email and social media campaigns. “Even though this sector has been active for over a decade online, and tried all kinds of things, they can only close 10 percent of their deals online.” He is seeing more interplay of print and online marketing automation.“For the first time, I had a couple of people come to us and say, ‘We are missing part of the puzzle and it looks like you guys can help us. You can talk our language, take our digital world and add a print piece to it,’” says Falk, stressing the fit of the Elan press. “We are going to grow with this new piece of equipment. We would like to see two of these in here. With the trajectory we are on right now, we will probably make that happen pretty fast.”
Alain Paquette, together with a silent partner, purchased Artcraft Label three years ago and set out to modernize the Burlington operation, leveraging its experienced team and position as a producer of high-quality pressure-sensitive labels. Founded in 1977, Paquette took over the operation from John and Edna Robinson, who grew Artcraft from a sticker business to an award-winning prime-label manufacturer.Stepping away from his established career with technology suppliers, Paquette saw huge potential in Artcraft’s strong market position to institute significant operational changes to drive out costs. With his own background in lean manufacturing, investments were made to improve all aspects of the business, from the shop floor to the entire IT system. Paquette focused heavily in establishing Artcraft’s prepress department, through Esko’s HD Flexo system, including a CDI imager and powerful new imaging software. The move adds more control over Artcraft’s high-quality printing platform housed within a 20,000-square-foot facility. The plant is meticulous in its cleanliness and order and primed for the future, which is likely to include contracting out prepress work, which currently accounts for a very small percentage of Artcraft’s revenue.What potential did you see in Artcraft?AP: I realized the market was changing so we came up with a plan to really optimize it… everything top to bottom… all of the software, computers, everything was all redone. We reinvented the whole ERP system. All of our stock is barcoded, for example.How much cost have you driven out of Artcraft?AP: We have managed to drop our operating costs substantially by optimizing. Of course, we now have a little less staff... and as a result, we crossed trained a lot of staff to be interchangeable.How was Artcraft’s print work when you bought it?AP: The knowledge, the quality, everything was already in top shape. There was really not much work to do there. Those improvements come with time.What has surprised you most getting into this market?AP: I saw quality from a manufacturing eye, not from a printer’s eye... there is a lot more that goes into this. [It] was a big eye opener.Are prime label clients overly demanding?AP: We search for the ones who are the most particular. It is not just for the margins, but you protect your space a lot better… where not many others can follow.What is the shape of Canadian flexo?AP: The funnel comes down very, very fast and we are all sitting at that same size. I call them the single-owner type. There is going to have to be some consolidation at some point, if you want to get efficiencies up. We are at the point where we are starting to eye the market to see who can we work with to create growth.What are your plans in terms of M&A?AP: We are looking to acquire… We have set up Artcraft so you can take our installation, especially with what we have done in prepress, and easily double or triple it without that much strain.  How did you revamp prepress?AP: We installed Esko Flexo HD. We are noticing with recent demands and SKUs that you really have to push the quality. We do not have offset presses, but you have to get yourself there and basically we are now.Do you plan on offering prepress services?AP: We actually do plates for a few other label printers, primarily out of province. With the locals, there is always [a] trust issue, but we are not out to take business.What applications are you focused on?AP: We are a good player in specialized high-quality segments. Our focus is local and regional – a 200-kilometer radius.Beyond prepress, where else have you invested in technology?AP: In finishing – our flexo can run silk-screen inline, which not many can do in the area. We are present in health and beauty where there are a lot of the requirements to have more than one screen… We found with HD Flexo that we are eliminating some screens now.Are you planning to invest in digital print?AP: We have small digital capabilities right now. We call them our helpers. For us, we just really haven’t seen the value. I know there is payback, but the volumes needed to sustain a million-dollar investment is no walk in the park. There are still a lot of limitations in digital technology. What future goals do you have for Artcraft?AP: We want to see growth as a good mid-level shop and we are going to get there. It does take time and we are probalby looking at anywhere between a 5- and 10-year window, but right now the architecture is done. We have a team in place that can transfer knowledge and we will start growing from there.
The Canon PRISMAsync Color Print Server for imagePRESS presses has received the G7 Certified System designation from the International Digital Enterprise Alliance (Idealliance). The organization’s G7 System Certification program evaluates the ability of a software system to calibrate a printing device to meet the G7 greyscale definition.   With this certification, Canon explains the PRISMAsync Color Print Server is recognized as the first embedded complete closed loop G7 system for electrophotography and the first colour print server that provides an integrated colour profiler and G7 calibration method. Canon continues to explain it is the first digital press provider to implement this calibration directly at the digital front end.   One of the key concepts of G7 is the idea of having a calibration target to achieve predictable print results, explains Canon, which allows for a much easier match from proof to print and across disparate technologies and substrates. Canon continues to explain that print shops seeking G7 calibration on their digital engines historically had to perform a range of steps in order to achieve a G7 state, which often required creating output profiles, specialized knowledge of the DFE and external software to achieve G7 greyscale conformance.   With the G7 Calibration feature of the PRISMAsync Color Print Server Canon explains users can calibrate within minutes using a wizard-driven procedure directly at the Canon imagePRESS console. The company explains these DFE-based tools require no additional investment in software, hardware or training for the average end user.
GMG of Tuebingen, Germany, has released its GMG ProofMedia studio OBA matte 150, which is the company’s first matte surface proofing media containing high Optical Brightening Agents (OBAs). GMG explains it has been developed for highly accurate proofing and the closest visual match of commonly used uncoated production papers. In the past, explains GMG, it was problematic for design agencies, prepress and print companies to deliver a visual match between proofs and prints, even with good colorimetric measurement, as matte proofing media contains no or too little fluorescence. GMG’s new OBA matte 150 media features fluorescent levels, according to the company, comparable to popular production papers, for visual matches to final production. This includes the FOGRA52 printing condition.GMG studio OBA matte 150 not only contains high OBA, but also has a higher brightness level. As a result, the company explains OBA matte 150 provides a larger colour gamut in highlight areas compared to many other proof media. More specifically, it holds a paper tint of L* 97; a* 2,5; b* -10. The recyclable production is available in 17, 24, 42 and 44-inch widths.
Propago has introduced Version 6 of its cloud-based Web-to-print platform designed specifically for the printing industry. Headquartered in Austin, Texas, Propago was started within a large commercial printing conglomerate as an internal application to serve clients and support backend operations for those clients. In 2015, the team responsible for building and maintaining the Propago platform was given the opportunity to spin the technology away from the parent company and form a completely standalone organization.“We take great pride in listening to the industry and our customers to help them continue their growth and increase their profitability,” said Rick Aberle, CEO of Propago. “With the introduction of version 6, we have rebuilt and modernized our front-end portal so that is more intuitive, faster and powerful.”“We continue our push to lead the market with a flagship product that stands alone and above the rest of the web-to-print solutions on the market. With over 16 years of experience in the industry, we have developed an easier and more efficient system that allows producers to offer a comprehensive platform to manage, distribute, and produce the marketing assets of their clients.”Propago version 6, supported by more than 16 years of experience in the industry, is based on a completely new architecture, including new features like a redesigned user interface and additional methods to personalize print materials.The company points to other new features of version 6 like reinforced compliance enforcement for end marketers, enhanced relevance-based searching capabilities, flexible themes and landing pages for a personalized experience, responsive design to support any device, and expanded support for Propago First-Render technology to streamline end-users’ orders.Propago explains its Marketing Asset Management Platform allows a printer to offer customers a platform to have complete control over their brands, budgets, and inventory, while sharing and distributing marketing assets to sales teams, affiliates, franchisees, channel partners or any authorized users. Users can access branded marketing assets and order what they need through intuitive cloud-based marketing portals. It includes a set of Web-to-print, production, procurement, warehousing and fulfillment tools. Propago’s portals handle a variety of assets from printable assets, digital files, promotional products, and apparel to more complex personalized brochures and kits. Granular settings, explains the company, allow administrators to configure branding controls, spending limits, user rights, and reporting, enabling end users easy access to all branded materials from anywhere in the world.
Mimaki, a manufacturer of wide-format inkjet printers and cutters, has released its Mimaki Profile Master 3 (MPM3) software for colour profile creation and editing. MPM3 works with Mimaki RasterLink6 RIP software to deliver what the company describes as consistent colour reproduction without the need for special knowledge.MPM3 software includes a new user interface with a step-by-step guide for profile creation. The workflow, explains the company, is always displayed for easy navigation and operation. Knowledgeable users can take advantage of advanced features such as GCR and Black generation in version 3 of Mimaki Profile Master.Also new in MPM3, there are three colour replication methods available for different colour workflows. Calibration achieves consistency on a single Mimaki printer, explains Mimaki, regardless of environmental or media variances. Equalization enables colour consistency across multiple Mimaki devices in the same series. The company explains this feature allows for large jobs to be load-balanced across multiple Mimaki printers with assured colour fidelity. With emulation, various brands, models, ink sets, media and resolutions can be simulated on a Mimaki printer, which reduces colour differences that can occur within a mixed printer environment.MPM3 software, explains Mimaki, can automatically calculate and adjust for colour differences through simple colour charts measurement without requiring a high level of colour management knowledge. It is available bundled with an X-Rite i1Pro2 spectrophotometer, or as standalone software.
Appvion Inc. has introduced additional sheeted versions of its Triumph High-Speed Inkjet Paper line, which includes products specifically designed for the latest generation of sheetfed, high-speed inkjet presses and the use of pigment- and dye-based inks. The new products include both treated and coated high-speed inkjet papers.Appvion explains it employs a precision-cut converting process to produce Triumph sheets to ensure sizes and sheet edges are precise and consistent for printing runnability. “Our latest line extension give printers more opportunities to choose the high performance, consistency, colour vibrancy, reliability, and availability of our Triumph brand for all the ways they print high-speed inkjet paper,” said Ethan Haas, Appvion’s VP and GM, who oversees the company’s carbonless and specialty papers.  Triumph High-Speed Inkjet Papers have been qualified on major OEM (original equipment manufacturer) sheet-fed presses including Canon Océ VarioPrint i300, Delpax Elan, and Riso ComColor. Appvion explains its 9-point coated ultra brite-matte product has been chosen as a designated “house sheet” for its Canon Océ VarioPrint i300. All Triumph High-Speed Inkjet Papers are made in the United States, with manufacturing operations in Wisconsin, Ohio and Pennsylvania. The company employs approximately 1,400 people and is 100 percent employee-owned. The paper is acid free, elemental chlorine free (ECF), and manufactured under ISO 14001:2004-certified environmental management systems. An FSC® Certified (FSC-C003368) version is available.
MarcomCentral, which develops cloud-based Marketing Asset Management and Variable Data Publishing technologies, today released of FusionPro 10. The company states FusionPro, which launched in 1998, now has more than 52,000 installations worldwide, helping to produce more than 20 million print jobs produced in the past year. FusionPro 10 includes what MarcomCentral describes as major enhancements to design capabilities, data integration, and workflow efficiencies. “We’ve enhanced FusionPro to reflect the use cases our customers encounter on a daily basis,” said Coleman Kane, President and CEO of MarcomCentral. “The need for a highly functional VDP tool that offers speed, scalability, and solves more production challenges drove the improvements to FusionPro 10.”For Adobe Creative Cloud users, FusionPro 10 brings what the company describes as a better appearance and streamlined support for Acrobat DC and improved InDesign support. FusionPro, with an ability to turn most any PDF into a live variable document through the Acrobat plug-in, now includes a Custom Clipping Path feature for more flexibility with image creation. This allows users to manipulate and overlap images and add or move control points to make nearly any shape.  FusionPro 10 includes new ad-resizing capabilities that provide more versatility in creating multiple ads or documents from a single design source. Users can specify dimensions and FusionPro automatically rearranges elements on the pages to accommodate the differences, reducing the amount of design time it would take to create individual ads for each channels’ specifications.  New Multi-page Layout Management capabilities allow users to quickly adapt documents to fit any page range for production specifications with the ability to add filler pages and control the total length of the document.
In July, Konica Minolta Business Solutions released of its automated document workflow solution, Dispatcher Phoenix Version 6.0. Available in different vertical editions to address specific business needs, Dispatcher Phoenix streamlines and automates common document processing tasks, maximizing productivity while increasing efficiency. This new release introduces added support for enterprise-level deployments, enhanced security, and a new Web user interface. “Konica Minolta understands the needs of our enterprise customers,” said Kevin Kern, Senior VP, Business Intelligence Solutions and Product Planning. “This powerful new release provides enterprise-level companies with the solution they need to best manage and control their documents, ultimately providing an improved level of customer service to their clients in less time.”New features include Dispatcher PhoenixFailover for automated failover capabilities. If one server unexpectedly goes down, all workflow functions are automatically moved to the Dispatcher Phoenix Failover server, eliminating downtime. Also, ‘heartbeat monitoring’ between Dispatcher Phoenix servers ensures continuous operation. Load Balancing is a document processing tasks can be automatically spread across multiple servers, preventing bottlenecks and speeding processing time. Automated redundancy, synchronizing and replicating workflows between all Dispatcher Phoenix servers are supported, thus eliminating the need for any human intervention. Dispatcher Phoenix Web Dispatcher is a Web user interface that provides centralized access to important enterprise tools as well as workflow sharing and control capabilities.
Ten years after first launching its PDF Print Engine, to move beyond Postscript and better handle new design effects in print output, such as transparency, Adobe at the start of June unveiled the fourth version of modern PDF rendering technology.The Adobe PDF Print Engine (APPE) platform, integrated by dozens of print equipment manufacturers over the past decade, is already running in more than 150,000 print operations around the world. APPE is integrated in a range of systems like toner production presses and label presses, wide format inkjet printers, and platesetters for traditional printing processes (offset/flexo/gravure).“As the print industry’s predominant imaging platform for the last decade, PDF Print Engine renders more print jobs, day in and day out, and also more types of jobs, than any other technology,” said Adil Munshi, VP and GM, Print and Publishing, Adobe. “Adobe PDF Print Engine 4 will take customers to the next level – improving workflow efficiency, increasing job throughput and reinforcing printer competitiveness.”APPE 4 includes key new features like Tile Parallel Processing (TPP), which brings the platform’s branded Mercury RIP Architecture to wide-format printing. Adobe explains TPP is designed to accelerate system performance by breaking up large assets, like a poster, retail sign or architectural drawing, into smaller sections, each of which is assigned to a separate instance of APPE, running on a separate CPU core. By processing multiple tiles in parallel, then seamlessly re-assembling them, Adobe explains TPP significantly reduces overall rendering time.With APPE 4, Adobe also explains performance is now 10 times faster for graphics consisting of a pattern, which repeats over an extended area. As well, the copany explains continuous shading effects are more fluid than ever, as new algorithms developed by Adobe colour scientists smooth out long gradient blends, particularly at inflection points where hue can shift abruptly.Spot-colour handling has also been expanded in APPE 4, where as up to 127 colour channels can now be specified and used in any given region. PDF Print Engine 4 will become available to printers throughout 2016, as equipment manufacturers integrate the technology into their next-generation technologies.
Huge Paper Inc. has launched what it describes as a first-of-its-kind magnetic substrates swatch book featuring the product line of Magnum Magnetics. Led by President Jeff Tapping, Huge Paper has long served Canada’s printing industry as an independent source of unique paper, magnetics and synthetics for digital printing applications, in addition to more standard commerical work.The company’s new swatch-book collection of printable magnetics features samples of Magnum’s most-popular substrates, including pre-magnetized DigiMag in a range of weights, RubberSteel regular black and write-on white, and MessageMag magnetic adhesive substrate.Huge Paper provides a range of magnetic substrates in the Greater Toronto Area, which can be applied in both digital and litho printing processes. Magnum Magnetics substrates are describes as meeting all North American safety standards including those for toys. Magnum Magnetics is the largest manufacturer of flexible magnetic products in the United States including printable magnetic sheets and rolls used in a variety of industries and applications.
Ultimate TechnoGraphics Inc. of Montreal, QC, has introduced its new Nesting Optimization Engine, an addition to its Impostrip suite of automated imposition software, aimed at the wide-format, commercial print packaging and label markets.Impostrip’s Nesting Optimization Engine enables a printing company to nest labels, foldable boxes for marketing campaigns, in-store displays, stickers of all shapes and sizes, banners, among other applications. The nested files can run on a wide-format device, toner press and flatbed or roll inkjet systems.“Impostrip’s Nesting Optimization Engine is made to eliminate manual job planning and automatically produce smart, print ready layouts, rapidly and effectively,” said Julie Watson, Executive VP of Ultimate TechnoGraphics.The new Nesting Optimization Engine connects to an upstream and downstream system and receives orders systematically, analyses them and automatically places the irregular shapes in the most optimal way and delivers print-ready files. The automation of nesting is offered as a PDF workflow.The technology will be officially launched at drupa 2016.
How to leverage the growth in powerful collaboration tools, including the always evolving, free Google ecosystem (from PrintAction May 2016)Scanning a 70-page PDF of the official WWI military record of Lieutenant Collins, veteran of the Canadian Expeditionary Forces, had me thinking about the army of paper pushers it took to coordinate a battalion of troops in the days before computers.This all started a few years back when a family trip to Victoria, BC, my mother-in-law’s birthplace, led us to the provincial archives in search of family documents. Since then, the military records, which were only partially available to the public, have been scanned and organized and are available online. A few searches through the military site today and my wife and I were staring in amazement at the 100-year-old scanned outer envelope, forms, medical and dental records, pay stubs and injury reports of her grandfather.In 100 years, the look of record-keeping has not changed that much. Spreadsheets have replaced columns in pre-printed forms. Bank statements still look the same, although they were once hand-written. Schedules still appear as rows and columns of time, date, place, activity – much like a production schedule looks today.I started to imagine the huge effort it took to pre-print the forms, store them, keep them dry while on duty, complete them accurately, stamp and date them over the course of the soldier’s service. More than 600,000 Canadians enlisted during WWI. If each had 70 pages of documents, it means that 42 million pieces of paper were pushed around just for troop records. These records kept a record of their location, health status, financial standing, vacation history, means of transport, the names of superiors and mentions in dispatches (testimonials).  Sounds a bit like a LinkedIn profile of today.Real-time, real valueTechnology has put a lot of those paper pushers out of work over the years. But keeping and sharing vast amounts of information has only become more important. Working in the printing sector, we are faced with logistical challenges every day. There are a lot of tools we can put to the test in our environment – and they will be a lot more effective than pre-printed forms, hand-written scribbles and rubber-stamped itineraries.In my last article, I wrote about SmartSheet.com. This online shareable spreadsheet on steroids is great for collaboration in a team. If that tool had existed in 1914, those 70 pages of documents would have been available for review anywhere in the world, at any time, and updates would have been relayed to superiors, and family if necessary. Some 42 million pages of records would be in the cloud: Searchable, shareable and secure. (Refer back to last month’s PrintAction if you are curious about my thoughts on SmartSheet’s use in print production.)There are other tools that are also worth considering for your print production environment. Sometimes these make the internal workflow more effective. Other times they can bring a client into a more active and collaborative role, which they usually appreciate, and help to lock you into a great relationship.The mother of all of these collaborative toolkits is Google for Work. You may have a free Gmail account, but this is more substantial. You pay for each user and you are not bothered by the advertising that clutters your free Gmail account. There are over five million organizations using Google for Work (including PrintAction) and 60 percent of Fortune 500 companies subscribe. It knits all your contacts, calendars, email, documents, spreadsheets, intranets and presentations together. You get a chat network and an online meeting place where screens, cameras, microphones, etc. can be shared so members of your team can choose one of many ways to share information. Oh, and it’s mobile too, so it works well with your phones and tablets. One of the best parts –  You do not have to host this on your own servers and Google is almost never down. Handy tip: Buy a backup package from another company like Backupify. It only costs a few dollars per user, but you can backup all of your information and retrieve it quickly if anyone deletes files, emails, etc. that you need to get back. Once again, it’s not hosted at your facility, so there’s no need for storage, servers or technicians.When I started using Google for Work (it had a different name then), Microsoft had not yet launched a cloud-based office suite, but it should be mentioned here that Microsoft Office 365 Productivity Tools is now a very comparable tool. If you do not want to learn a new platform and your team is already very familiar with Office, your time might be best served looking at Microsoft. You can find comparison articles and charts online by searching “Google at Work and Office 365 Comparison”. The details there will help you decide which is best suited to your work situation.Having these tools should change the way you work. You have more choice but you still need to work smart. You have many channels to choose from to communicate with colleagues and clients -- email, chat, a net meeting, a shared document, a shared spreadsheet, voice over Google Hangouts, VOIP phones on the desk, an SMS text to a cell phone or walking over to someone’s desk and asking in person.  Team exercises One exercise we conduct with teams is asking each person to describe how they prefer to be reached under differing circumstances. It’s best to know if someone does not mind being texted on their cell phone in an emergency, but prefers not to conduct day-to-day affairs that way. When do you escalate the level of communication to a phone call, or does that person even keep a cell phone handy all day? It’s something we did not have to think about, but the context of the communication can determine which channel you use to reach out. Botching it can send the wrong message, erode collaborative efforts and cause friction. One person feels slighted when an email is left unanswered for 30 minutes and another has a tolerance of two days. One hates a voice message and another does not know how to use call history to see what they’ve missed and get back quickly. The changes in your work do not come without some preparation, but with the increased options, you can reduce the amount of back and forth, shrink your inbox and keep more people in the loop with fewer back and forth.Shared calendars also mean you can cut down on the ping-pong of email and phone calls. You’ll easily find openings in your team members’ schedules so you can plan a meeting, invite attendees and be pretty certain they will all be free. This was always available to the larger users of Microsoft Office, but now even two-employee firms can have this affordable option, and share it with colleagues, freelancers and clients, so that they can all have visibility to plan meetings and projects.   Shared docs are another simple time saver. I’m writing this article on a shared doc and I’ll have an offsite editor look it over. We can work together on it from distant points, leave each other comments and save it in an easily searchable form for future reference. I’ll just search PrintAction 2016 in my Google Drive and up will pop articles with that content or title. As easy as searching the Web for an article, the power of Google now searches your files and helps you find what you need.Collaboration software also has a whole category that is filled with virtual workspaces. It’s the software equivalent of pushing all of your team members’ desks together in a room instead of having them all on different floors. Virtual workspaces are great for teams who work at a distance. They can help with client/vendor planning, project management and internal collaboration. During the planning of a recent direct mail campaign that had a designer, client and ourselves in three distant cities, we worked with Trello.com, on the suggestion of our client. It seemed to keep all parties abreast of the three weeks of production. Re-writes, edits and art files could be dragged and dropped into Trello and status updates posted as each user progressed. There are other options such as Slack and Sharepoint that have similar capabilities. Once again I recommend searching for comparison articles to find the one best suited for your situation. Then, read about how to best use the tool, practice with it, explain to the other users what you expect to see communicated through the virtual workspace, how frequently and with what level of detail. There is a whole new etiquette and set of expectations that comes with each of these new work environments.This tech collaboration thing can seem daunting. The new options just keep rolling out at a fearsome rate, but take some comfort in it. We never want to return to the manual paperwork, manila folders and file cabinets of the past. These new tools will make information more accessible, shareable and just could make you a more profitable printer in the process.
Agfa Graphics has launched version 10 of its Apogee print hub with extra features, quality improvements, and performance enhancements.Apogee 10’s new user interface enables printers to make optimum use of press sheets and press time, for both regularly and irregularly shaped print products and takes into account the required run length. In addition, the latest Apogee software version supports new digital print engines (Canon B4000 and Canon B5000) and the new Agfa Graphics Avalon N8-90 CP system. “One of the most important features of Apogee 10, however, is its rejuvenated Digital Quick Strip (DQS) mechanism,” said Andy Grant, Head of Software, Agfa Graphics. “By processing pages separately before integrating them into a placeholder, Apogee and DQS turn page revision into a swift and simple task. And the same goes for updating the press sheet layout due to last-minute job rescheduling. Thanks to DQS, printers’ throughput is higher and output resources are utilized in the best way possible.” Among the improvements in Apogee 10 are enhanced versioning support and the integration of Agfa Graphics’ IntelliTune technology for automatic image correction and image quality improvement. “Apogee 10 allows printers to set up a versioning job based on spot colour input files”, Grant explained. “They can also merge different parts of a versioning job onto one single plate to optimize press efficiency. All Apogee improvements aim to meet the ever-growing automation and performance needs of professional printers.” The wWb-based file upload and page approval portal that is integrated in Apogee 10 now shows preflight notifications, page bleed and trim sizes to the connected print buyers, so that potential issues are discovered early in the production process and costly mistakes can be avoided. Users can preview separations online, explains Agfa, to check if black text is set to overprint or a logo appears on the correct spot colour plate. They can even validate complex versioning jobs from within their browser. It all contributes to WebApproval as a powerful online collaboration tool, which strengthens the relationship between the printer and their customers.Apogee 10 is also available as a cloud-based solution. “With Apogee Cloud, we offer printers the same Apogee products and features, only they are hosted by Agfa’s private and secure cloud," said Grant. “That is a unique service and it comes with many more advantages. There is no need, for example, to provide any local configuration, software installations or hardware expertise. Printers can just leave that up to our Apogee experts and ICT specialists.”
International Data Corporation (IDC) released a new report, called The Worldwide Semiannual 3D Printing Spending Guide, which forecasts global revenues for the 3D printing market to reach US$35.4 billion in 2020. This is more than double the US$15.9 billion in revenues forecast for 2016 and represents a compound annual growth of 24.1 percent over the 2015-2020 forecast period.3D printers and materials will represent nearly half the total worldwide revenues throughout the forecast, according to IDC, with software and related services also expected to experience significant growth. Revenues for computer-aided design (CAD) software are forecast to triple over the five-year forecast period while the market for on-demand parts services will nearly match this growth. IDC explains the gains in both software and on-demand parts printing are being driven by the rapidly expanding use of 3D printing for design prototyping and products that require a high degree of customization in non-traditional environments.The use cases that will generate the largest revenues for 3D printing in 2016, according to IDC, are Automotive Design, Rapid Prototype Printing (more than US$4.0 billion) and Aerospace and Defense Parts Printing (nearly US$2.4 billion). IDC explains Dental Printing has also emerged as a strong opportunity in 2016.“Customer spending on 3D printing capabilities is following the market away from mass market consumer printers towards holistic solutions that enable higher-end – and more profitable – use cases,” said Christopher Chute, VP, Customer Insights and Analysis, IDC. “As the market for printers, materials and services matures, IDC expects new 3D printing capabilities to enable a next-wave of customer innovation in discrete manufacturing, product design, and life sciences.”IDC continues to explain that given the increased use of 3D printing for prototyping and parts production, it comes as no surprise that discrete manufacturing will continue to be the leading industry, generating 56 percent of worldwide 3D printing revenues in 2016. “IDC expects the worldwide 3D printing market to continue its rapid expansion over the next several years, driven by the need to reduce manufacturing cycle times and to reduce prototyping costs,” said Keith Kmetz, VP of IDC's Imaging, Printing and Document Solutions research. “This growth will be fueled by an explosion of 3D printer manufacturers from around the world, seeking to capitalize on the anticipated growth in this market with faster printers that offer better quality output at lower prices.”Healthcare and professional services will remain the second and third largest industries, according to the new report released on August 12, in terms revenues over the 2015-2020 forecast period, while retail will experience the greatest revenue growth, vaulting into the fourth position by 2020. Meanwhile, IDC predicts revenues from consumer 3D printing will grow modestly as this market has already matured.The Worldwide Semiannual 3D Printing Spending Guide by includes revenue data available for more than 20 use cases across 20 industries in eight regions. Data is also available for 3D printing hardware, materials, software, and services.
Flint Group is introducing a new UV lamp retrofit conversion program called VANTAGE LED aimed at sheetfed printers. The full suite of products and services included in the retrofit program consists of pre-conversion consulting and training, LED inks and coatings, matching pressroom chemicals and blankets, as well as service support during and after conversion.At the heart of the VANTAGE LED program, according to Flint, are EcoLUX LED lamps supplied by Air Motion Systems, which develops LED UV technology often applied in the sheetfed offset industry. Flint explains VANTAGE LED is geared toward users of legacy UV methods and for those printers who have had no exposure to UV curing methods but are now investigating LED technologies. “LED curing technology will change sheetfed offset printing forever – there is no doubt,” said Jim Buchanan, Global UV Business Development Director for Flint Group Packaging & Narrow Web. “VANTAGE LED has been developed to ensure those wishing to convert to LED curing can do so with confidence in a very short space of time. Our expert print technicians will audit an operation in the first instance and a full cost-benefit analysis will follow – a press can be converted in as little as one day. “We have seen a staggering increase in factory-fitted LED presses, but the process of converting existing presses to LED, with retro-fitted lamp systems, allows printers a fast track to the benefits this technology brings.”
Fujifilm Dimatix unveiled the new Dimatix Material Printer DMP-2850 aimed at printed electronics, displays, and similar applications. The product, to be available from September 2016, with enhanced user applications coming in the first quarter of 2017, is an enhanced version of the company’s deposition research platform, the DMP-2831. Launched more than 10 years ago, the DMP-2831 is a laboratory tool for the development of inkjet deposition fluids and processes, with approximately 1,000 units placed worldwide in academic and industrial facilities. The DMP-2850 includes an embedded 64-bit PC preconfigured with Microsoft Windows 8.1 and updated Drop Manager software. Two high-speed cameras with finer resolution optics provide superior images for drop-watching and print inspection functions. To accompany the hardware changes, the DMP-2850 will build on user accessibility and flexibility with an enhanced software platform. Remote access API and open architecture enable remote monitoring of cameras and printer status. More options for complex printing will be available with feature recognition, auto registration functions, and support for multi-layer printing. Jetting evaluation and drop watching operations will also benefit from automated analysis.
Tech giants make relatively small but important gains in toner, inkjet and wide-format hardware to enable printing companies with a growing need to produce a larger range of print products with a single investment.Advances in automation and digital print technology are driving the innovations being showcased on the drupa 2016 exhibition floor. While conventional offset technology perseveres in most high-volume print environments, significant gains are being made in digital print, large-format inkjet and digital finishing technologies. giving printers the ability to produce a wider range of products for their customers.Xeikon’s missing linkSince acquiring Xeikon late in 2015, the Flint Group has put the company at the heart of its recently formed Digital Printing Solutions division to expand its corporate focus into this burgeoning market. With the acquisition, Flint expands its portfolio of digital printing solutions through a combined offering of hardware, consumables and services across its global markets. In its first major show since the acquisition, Xeikon has a major presence at drupa 2016 showcasing its first digital printing press using unique liquid toner technology.The Trillium liquid toner printing process, debuted by Xeikon at drupa 2012, has been integrated into the Trillium One digital four-colour web press being demonstrated at this year’s show. The Trillium One is the product of a joint venture between Xeikon and Miyakoshi, a leading Japanese press manufacturer. The new press is capable of running at 60 metres per minute at a resolution of 1,200 dpi across a 500-mm web. All print can be fully variable, and is dry to the touch and ready for post-press production as soon as it feeds onto the take-up spool.To achieve this, the Trillium One relies on Xeikon’s Tonnik, a liquid toner that combines the advantages of a dry toner (economical and efficient) with imaging quality that, according to the company, compares favourably to conventional offset technologies. Tonnik consists of very small toner particles (less than two microns) suspended in a high-viscosity carrier liquid derived from bio-materials. The press mechanically recycles the liquid while the toner particle accurately transfers from roller to substrate at very high speeds.Xeikon is positioning the Trillium One to compete with the economy of offset litho for longer runs while offering all the advantages of digital printing such as variable print. The first Trillium One presses will ship from Q2 2017.The company is also showing Fusion at drupa 2016 – another potentially game-changing digital imaging technology. First demonstrated at Labelexpo last September, Fusion is aimed at the high-end label and packaging market. Xeikon’s Fusion Technology will be implemented through a number of modules released over time that add digital embellishing capabilities to a Xeikon press. Fusion Technology will combine four-colour printing with a number of digitally rendered effects potentially including: hot or cold foiling; matte or gloss, spot or flood varnishes; and digital Braille. The advantages of producing these effects digitally through integrated embellishing modules include a high degree of automation and content variability – something unheard of with conventional finishing. While Fusion is initially targeting the label and packaging industry, it could really shake things up in the commercial print world.Esko on the cutting edgeEsko proclaimed its ‘Packaging Simplified’ mantra at a pre-drupa press conference held in Bruges, Belgium this past March (PrintAction, May 2016) as the company rolled out its latest software solutions. Now Esko is following through with some significant updates to its digital finishing workflow as well as Kongsberg cutting, creasing and milling table portfolio. By introducing the latest version of its i-Cut software suite for artwork preparation along with enhancements to Automation Engine and ArtiosCAD, Esko promises users greater throughput with significantly less operator intervention and a 50 percent reduction in training time.Meanwhile, the Kongsberg table collection has been simplified into two lines – Kongsberg X and Kongsberg C. The Kongsberg X product family is aimed at the prototyping market, and users requiring a great deal of creative control over the products they cut. The X tables come in a variety of configurations and offer the user an ability to add a range of creasing, cutting and milling tools to meet the needs of a growing business.While the Kongsberg C line of tables is well known to existing packaging shops, Esko has extended the family to include a smaller table sizes aimed serving short run packaging and signage production needs. Wisely, Esko has configured an entry-level table for each line with as an upgrade path to reduce the capex for new players in the hot packaging industry. A big problem with elaborate prototyping and production tables is the extensive amount of time needed to setup for a job. To address this, the new Kongsberg tables feature an Auto Adjust Tool with camera inspection that adjusts tools at the start of each project and memorizes the settings for individual substrates in a comprehensive materials database. When changing configurations, the Auto Adjust Tool recalls and automates the setting for the new substrate – saving operator time and reducing spoilage. And according to Esko, new operators benefit by getting expert ‘advice’ from the Kongsberg system on how to setup the job and which tools to use, enabling efficient setups and changeovers.Agfa automates VLFAgfa’s Jeti and Anapurna solutions are well known in the wide-format and very-large-format world of industrial inkjet printing. However, automation has always been a challenge, especially when dealing with printing on rigid substrates such as gator board. At drupa 2016, Agfa introduces the latest iteration of the VLF production workhorse – The Jeti Tauro, a six-colour UV inkjet printer sporting an elaborate ¾ automation package including a board feeder and unloading unit. Seeing the automated Jeti Tauro in action is like watching a mechanical chorus line. A single operator can feed multiple boards onto the 2.5-metre-wide table where they automatically align before going under the inking print heads and coming out dry on the other side. The unloading table is equipped with multiple suction arms that lift the finished boards and stack them neatly offline. Besides automating VLF, Agfa is moving online with the announcement of PrintSphere, its take on a cloud solution. In addition to standardizing data exchange, PrintSphere is being positioned as an answer for users needing secure back-ups of production databases for their Asanti, Arkitex and Apogee workflows – a necessity in this cloud-based world we live in!Agfa also introduced its ECO3 initiative at drupa, which stands for “Eco-friendly, Economic and Extremely convenient.” Agfa has gone to great lengths to expand and improve its chemistry-free printing-plate applications with some new clean-out units for its VCF plates, and brand new Azura TU VLF chem-free plates for very large offset presses. On the thermal CTP side of the fence, Agfa launched its new Energy Elite Eco no-bake positive thermal plates promising extended run lengths for both sheetfed and heatset web use.X-Rite marks the spotIn late May (just in time for drupa), X-Rite announced the next-generation of its non-contact, automated colour measurement solution – the IntelliTrax2. This new device still meets the demands of the sheetfed printer, but also has added capabilities to appeal to folding carton converters. The IntelliTrax2 now supports M1 measurement illumination conditions – in plain speak that means it can accurately measure colour on substrates containing optical brighteners, or printed with fluorescent inks. The system includes an integrated look-ahead sensor that automatically adjusts the scanning head to locate colour bars as small as two millimetres.In a nod to the burgeoning packaging printing and converting industry, the IntelliTrax2 can scan much thicker materials than its predecessor – up to one millimetre – and supports all the latest measurement standards in case your shop runs to G7 or FOGRA standards. According to X-Rite, the IntelliTrax2 can automatically scan a typical colour bar in less than 15 seconds while effectively measuring Pantone colours, PantoneLIVE colours, paper colour and, of course, process colours.Married to offsetThe potential to leverage Xeikon’s Fusion technology and print variable data in foil or varnishes in a commercial print environment will be too good to pass up for many still married to offset. And with the high-level of automation and ease of training promised under Esko’s Packaging Simplified mandate, the knowledge barrier is being lowered for adventurous commercial printers wanting to test the waters of the lucrative label and packaging industry.Although legacy sheetfed and web offset configurations continue to dominate the commercial printing world – especially in large-volume and high-quality print and finishing applications – economical digital print and custom digital finishing technologies are moving to the forefront of the label and packaging stage. It won’t be long before these technologies find their way into commercial print and start eroding offset’s dominance.
German press maker KBA has worked with Xerox to develop a new B1 sheetfed press, called the KBA VariJET 106, aimed at folding-carton printing. There are currently two such presses being developed at KBA’s German facilities and the company describes the program’s progress as being in the final stages of development.VariJET 106 combines offset printing and finishing technology with inkjet technologies, the latter developed by Xerox, in a highly modular system that can be tailored for customer requirements, including optimized inline processes. The press presentation via video at drupa included post inkjet options, double coating and drying, rotary die-cutting, pre-treatment and drying, corona treatment, offset units, opaque white and cold foil application.KBA explains the press is suitable for industrial production and can run a range of substrates. Described as “digital sheetfed for folding carton,” KBA expects the system to be complete in a few months for 2017.
Electronics For Imaging, presenting its largest drupa tradeshow exhibit to date, is showcasing its new Nozomi one-pass inkjet platform aimed at the corrugated, paper packaging and display printing sectors.On the drupa floor, EFI is displaying the 1.8-metre-wide, single-pass Nozomi C18000 press, targeting short-run, on-demand work. EFI describes the direct-to-corrugated board press as its biggest inkjet product development to date, with expected availability set for 2017.The Nozomi C18000 can reach speeds of up to 75 linear metres (246 linear feet) per minute, producing up to 9,000 80 x 60-cm boards per hour using what EFI describes as a double-lane printing feature. EFI explains it prints up to seven colours, including white, at a 360 x 720-dpi resolution, and can handle materials of up to 1.8 x 3 metres – and thicknesses up to triple-wall board – at full rated speeds. Its LED, continues EFI, can image on just about any board substrate, including traditional Kemi, model, bleach and kraft materials. Packaging produced with the press, according to the company, is certified for repulpability and recyclability. “The focus EFI has placed in R&D to improve every part of the digital production chain results in a unique, breakthrough and innovative offering that we are very excited to present at the world’s largest printing tradeshow,” said Guy Gecht, EFI’s CEO. “The breakthrough new platforms we are showing for the first time could be game changers for customers as the world moves from long runs to customized, on-demand manufacturing.”At drupa, EFI is also showcasing its new AquaEndure inkjet technology that the company explains will be used across many of its platforms and segments in the future. The water-based inkjet platform runs and cures inks which EFI describes as requiring much less heat, enabling a wider range of media. AquaEndure inks also have no odour, explains EFI, and are aimed at markets like wall coverings, wraps and flexible signage. The system is expected to launch in 2017 with expanded media types and capabilities suitable for food-contact packaging following after that.EFI is also exhibiting its new Fiery XB digital front end (DFE) platform, a scalable, high-volume blade server technology for high-speed inkjet presses, as well as Fiery Navigator, a cloud-based print management platform for Fiery-driven production presses. The company also introduced new software in the EFI Corrugated Packaging Suite and the EFI Publication Suite.
At drupa 2016, HP today unveiled the new PageWide C500 Press and an Indigo Combination Press, both of which are still under development.The HP PageWide C500 Press, designed for corrugated direct-to-board printing, leverages 30 years of HP thermal inkjet technology and the company’s newer PageWide Printing Technology. HP explains the press will integrate into a standard production environment, from large integrated packaging converters with centralized or distributed printing, to small, independent sheet plants. HP plans to start testing the HP PageWide C500 Press at customer sites in 2017, and the press is expected to be commercially available in 2018.At drupa, HP also previewed a new Indigo Digital Combination Press, for combination label production. The press concept will incorporate HP Indigo print and digital embellishments in one press, creating a single-pass solution for high-value labels and packaging production.As part of a dedicated line with an HP Indigo WS6800 Digital Press, this new digital combination concept, developed in alliance with JetFX, will enable the production of digital spot and tactile varnishes, digital foils, as well as embellishments of virtually unlimited designs made possible using HP SmartStream Mosaic.
3M has purchased Knifeless Tech Systems Inc. of Vernon, British Columbia, which manufacturers the Knifeless Tape installation tool for adhesive films used in the graphics, vehicle wraps, and other industries. Back in July 2012, 3M Commercial Graphics, which develops materials and systems for producing display graphics, and Knifeless Tech Systems entered into an exclusive partnership surrounding this technology.Knifeless Technology Systems explains it is the only holder of the patented method for trimming stretchable adhesive films using a filament, which includes all vinyl films used in the graphics business. The technology was designed to operate with these films when laid over contoured shapes with curved edges. It contains features that allow the tape to turn easily in both directions and allows user to create many of the works of printed art applied to vehicles.Knifeless Tech Systems has patents for this technology in the United States, Australia, Europe, South Africa, Japan and China, with more patents pending in Canada, China, Brazil, South Africa, Europe and Japan.
Electronics For Imaging introduced four printers at the 2016 ISA International Sign Expo, including the North American debut of a new VUTEk FabriVU aqueous-ink soft-signage printer series. The company also debuted new MIS software to expand its Productivity Suite technologies in the display graphics arena. The new 3.2-metre EFI VUTEk LX3 Pro hybrid roll/flatbed LED inkjet printer is rated for a throughput of up to 3,420 square feet (318 square metres) per hour. The printer also offers grayscale imaging and LED technology.The Quantum LXr LED printer, a dedicated roll-to-roll printer, described by EFI as an economical alternative to latex printers, features 7-picoliter imaging and print resolutions up to 1,200 dpi in four colours with optional white. The 65-inch H1625-SD is an entry-level UV hybrid production printer that uses EFI SuperDraw UV ink for near-photographic imaging direct to thermoformable substrates. The printer runs four colours plus white with grayscale imaging.  The EFI VUTEk FabriVU 340 is a 3.4-metre dispersed dye-sublimation ink printer developed by EFI Reggiani, which EFI acquired in 2015. The new FabriVU product line, which is also available in a 1.8-metre size, runs water-based inks and is aimed at soft signage and banner applications. At the ISA show, EFI also debuted what the company describes as a major release of the EFI Midmarket Print Suite MIS workflow, version 4.0. The new workflow software suite features tools aimed at the signage community. The suite features EFI’s Pace MIS software at its core and includes a range of out-of-the-box, integrated systems that are certified by EFI.
Canon Canada has launched the imagePRESS C10000VP Series to enter a new higher volume segment, engineered to run a range of media types and to support a monthly duty cycle of up to 1.5 million letter-size images. The imagePRESS Series reaches print speeds of up to 100 letter images per minute with the C10000VP model and 80 letter images per minute with the imagePRESS C8000VP, on all supported media weights up to 350 gsm. The imagePRESS C10000VP Series produces a resolution of up to 2,400 x 2,400 dpi with automatic colour control and adjustments, and more accurate calibration using new inline spectrophotometric sensors and Gloss Optimization technology to help match gloss levels of the printed image to the substrate it is printed on.The systems run medias from 60 gsm (uncoated) and 70 gsm (coated) up to 350 gsm, on textured media and supported specialties like vellum, film and synthetics based on the Series’ CV toner.Workflow support and integration is provided by the latest PRISMAsync Colour Print Server and Fiery-based imagePRESS Servers with new Fiery FS200 Pro System, which integrate with Océ PRISMAprepare.
Komori announced some of its technology plans for drupa 2016, which will mark the start of general availability of its Impremia IS29 press. The Impremia IS29’s UV inkjet architecture and ability to print on a range of stocks, explains Komori, allows the system to be used for commercial printing and package printing applications.Komori will also demonstrate its B1-size Impremia NS40 printing system based on the branded Nanography technology under license from Landa Corporation, which first introduced the process at drupa 2012. Komori explains the system will reach speeds of up to 6,500 sheets per hour.At drupa 2016, Komori will also showcase the Lithrone GX40RP as a one-pass, double-sided press that reaches print speeds of up to 18,000 sheets per hour. The GX40RP requires no flipping of the sheet, explains Komori, making it suitable for package printing with double-sided, multi-colour printing.Komori’s Lithrone GX40 with coater will also be at drupa demonstrating printing control and a print inspection system aimed at high-speed package printing and specialty printing. The machine exhibited will be shown with optional accessories that include PDF Comparator System, Sheet Numbering System and automatic mask creation software for inspection in packaging applications. All offset presses on the drupa floor will be equipped with Komori’s H-UV curing system and K-Supply H-UV ink.  In Düsseldorf, Komori, among other systems, will debut the new Lithrone G29 29-inch offset press with a renovated design. The press maker will also debut the new Lithrone G37 with a 25 x 37-inch maximum sheet size to produce A1-size products.
Agfa Graphics, during the ISA Sign Expo 2016 running from April 21 to 23, in Orlando, Florida, plans to demonstrate new automation and feature enhancements for its Canadian-made Jeti Tauro and Jeti Mira UV inkjet printing systems.The Jeti Mira UV inkjet printer will be demonstrated with a dockable RTR system that attaches to the front of the flatbed table, Agfa explains, reducing the distance the media needs to travel (less media waste) and further decreasing the chance of skewing while also improving accuracy.The 105.9-inch (2.69 metre) Jeti Mira flatbed printer features a moving gantry for industrial workloads and produces work in six colours plus white, with optional primer or varnish. With six vacuum zones, Agfa explains the Jeti Mira’s Print & Prepare mode reduces downtime and increases productivity by allowing operators to load one side of the table as the other side is printing.The hybrid Jeti Tauro printer, designed for high-end sign and display printers, features media tables, an integrated RTR system and can be upgraded with a semi-automated board feeder and stacker. The system’s Automatic Board Feeder, explains Agfa, can drive productivity gains in some cases by more than 30 percent. The 98-inch (2.5 metre) Jeti Tauro features six colours plus white and/or primer option and is designed for 24/7 printing on both rigid and flexible material with speeds up to 2,960 square feet per hour. It also features a vacuum-belt drive for motion control that, explains Agfa, results in high dot accuracy.
Hemlock Printers Ltd. has installed VeraCore technology to manage its fulfillment operations, which is becoming an increasingly important revenue stream for company, which offers a range of services like offset and digital printing, online solutions, prepress, digital photography, bindery, mailing and warehousing. From its warehouse in Burnaby, British Columbia, Hemlock manages a range of fulfillment programs for clients built around both print and non-print collateral materials. Hemlock also manages magazine subscription fulfillment programs for several of its publishing clients. As such, the printing company focused on installing a fulfillment system for managing warehouse operations and inventory accuracy.The VeraCore Warehouse Management System includes both barcode technology and rules-based processing for increasing fulfillment throughput. “Fulfillment is definitely a growth area for us, so investing in this technology made sense,” said Richard Kouwenhoven, President, Hemlock. “VeraCore provides our team with the tools to run a highly efficient warehouse operation which meets the expanding needs of our customers.”The VeraCore Fulfillment Solution has been integrated with several of the systems in use at Hemlock, including ecommerce, Web-to-print and shipping. VeraCore explains its API will also enable Hemlock’s development team to build its own integrations as needed.
MGI Digital Technology has debuted what the company describes as a major new addition to its JETvarnish 3D digital enhancement product portfolio. The JETvarnish 3D Evolution is also described by the company as the world’s first B1 scalable sheetfed Digital Enhancement Press.JETvarnish 3D Evolution features a modular architecture, digital foiling and an upgradeable inkjet expansion system with three available substrate size options: 52 x 120 cm (20 x 47 inches) 64 x 120 cm (25 x 47 inches) and 75 x 120 cm (29 x 47 inches).The B1+ size format option (75 x 120 cm, 29 x 47 inches), explains MGI, is designed to give printers and converters the ability to run fully personalized short, medium and long runs in a “die-less” manner for packaging applications. Every piece finished on all of MGI’s JETvarnish 3D systems can include a blend of digitally embellished images, text, data and brand designs using spot varnish, 3D raised varnish and digitally embossed foil in one pass.The JETvarnish 3D Evolution is a high-production technology that incorporates pallet stacking, automated inkjet head cleaning, a new automatic feeding system, as well as a new sheet registration system, all of which will be unveiled and launched at drupa 2016.
Scodix plans to demonstration nine different print enhancement applications at the 2016 Dscoop Conference of HP technology users, running from April 14 to 16 in San Antonio, Texas. This will include the global introduction of two new techniques called Scodix Crystals and Scodix Cast&Cure, as well as the option of producing Foil on Foil, through the Scodix Ultra Pro system.Scodix Crystals – with colourful and reflective sparkle – is designed to replace the manual placement of chaton, costume jewelry, or crystals on products such as greeting cards and brochures. Scodix explains it creates a true 3D dimensional effect by applying a multi-layer, receding pyramid-like build-up of polymer to printed projects. Scodix Cast&Cure, applied through the Scodix Foil Station, is designed to create a 3D holographic effect on print projects. Employing a variety of standard off-the-shelf holographic patterns, as well as customized designs, Scodix explains this new technique also adds security features to brochures, folding boxes and packaging, displays, book covers, and all types of bags.The remaining print enhancement applications including Scodix Sense, Foil, Spot, Metallic, Glitter, VDP/VDE, and Braille.
The JM55 Force is a new JetMounter model to be added to Drytac’s line up of wide-format roller laminators. Described as a heavy-duty, entry-level laminator, the JM55 Force is designed for users who require durability and functionality over the long-term.  The JM55 Force has a maximum laminating width of 55 inches (1,397 mm) and is described as being well suited for mounting, laminating and decaling pressure sensitive materials. It features large 4.7 inch (119.4 mm) diameter non-stick rollers; speed control up to 20 feet (six metres) per minute; a maximum nip opening of 1 inch (25 mm); top and bottom auto-grip supply shafts with brake tension control on the operator side; single mechanical height/pressure adjustment; and an interchangeable 110V or 220V electrical configuration.“The Force is an excellent option for shops that need the versatility of a heavy-duty machine but want one with a smaller price tag,” said Nate Goodman, Drytac Product Manager. “There is no doubt that the well-built Force will provide many years of service.”
Rotoflex, which manufacturers inspection, slitting, rewinding and die cutting equipment, has released the new HSI slitter rewinder designed for high volume label slitting, inspection and rewinding. It is built with, according to Rotoflex, the same architecture as the company’s flagship VSI vertical design series. Rotoflex explains features of the new HSI include 330 and 440mm web widths, 1,000 fpm running speed, extra-large inspection table, ergonomic 37 inch (940 mm) high editing area, easily accessible slitting module, a straightforward web path and conveniently located finished roll rewind location. With end-to-end servo control design, the HSI also features the Rotoflex URC 2.0 proprietary control system with simple menus and an intuitive interface, giving operators the ability to monitor all functions from a single screen. The small footprint HSI is configurable for a range of vision inspection solutions and offers options like the new biometric (fingerprint) authentication for operator access and the Rotoflex exclusive Report Management System (RMS). With the RMS tool, real-time production data is collected from multiple finishing machines to a single interface, which can be accessed remotely via computer or handheld device. RMS generates a variety of detailed, customizable reports on performance variables such as run time, defects, production volume and scrap generation, as well as compares outputs of multiple machines. “Designed with the proven robust construction of our successful VSI series, the HSI is an advantageous solution for converters preferring a horizontal slitting inspection configuration in their off-line finishing machines,” said Manohar Dhugga, Rotoflex director of engineering and service. “The HSI is one of many new Business Responsive Technologies to be unveiled in the next few months, supporting our commitment to deliver high quality, innovative solutions that drive customer profitability."
Goss is launching six new unwinder/splicers and rewinders for its Contiweb product lines to be used with inkjet web presses. Both the unwinder and rewinder series products are engineered to be entirely modular, providing customers the ability to add automation at either end of the press line.Developed at the Goss Contiweb facility in the Netherlands, which has been producing splicers and dryers for web offset printers for almost 40 years, Goss states the new product lines have been designed to equal its Contiweb splice performance of 99.7 percent but for digital webs.“After many years refining and perfecting product design to ensure efficiency and repeatable high quality for web offset printers, we’re now seeing a similar need within the digital web community,” said Bert Schoonderbeek, Managing Director at Goss Contiweb. “The increasing variety of installations and applications is creating a relentless demand from print service providers for technologies that advance their competitive edge. The ability to master web tension and to continually improve productivity is rapidly becoming critical to success.”Available in two web widths, 770 mm (30 inches) and 1100 mm (42 inches), the CD range of splicer/unwinders and the CR range of rewinders share features that facilitate set-up, integration and day-to-day operation. These include floor-level loading and unloading of paper reels; unwinding/rewinding in either direction; and motorized reel side-lay adjustment; all of which can be monitored throughout via an HMI screen on the unit.Each model is shaftless and uses pneumatically expanding core chucks driven by low-noise electric motors, which provides an added element of sustainability, explains Goss, since energy generated feeds back into the electrical circuit.The Goss Contiweb CD series of unwinder/splicers are availble with a range of options for additional levels of infeed control, web guidance, remote operation through the central control system, and remote diagnosis via VPN. The Goss Contiweb CR Series of rewinders allow for transfer between reels of different width and paper thickness, and repeated transfers from first to second position, and vice versa.
Sydney Stone is to begin distributing and servicing MOHR paper cutters, made in Germany by Adolf Mohr Maschinenfabrik GmbH, in Canada. The models carried by Sydney Stone include the MOHR 56, MOHR 66 and MOHR 80 cutters with all units available in the ECO and NET models. Sydney Stone will also be distributing the MOHR BC-330 three-side trimmer, as well as the new DigiCut laser cutter introduced by MOHR earlier this year.“We pride ourselves on being paper cutter experts for our segment, having supplied for decades the EBA and Challenge brands,” said Michael Steele Director with Sydney Stone, which also distributes Morgana and Duplo technology. “Adding the MOHR line ensures our customers can continue to use us as their businesses grow and evolve."Sydney Stone is also carrying MOHR parts and supporting the equipment through its technical services team. “We are looking forward working with Sydney Stone on the Canadian market,” said Peder Rejmers, Business Development Manager of Adolf Mohr Maschinenfabrik GmbH. “Their nationwide structure and experience within cutters will certainly benefit both new and old customers.”
Heidelberg’s Promatrix 106 CS die cutter will make its North American debut at Graph Expo in Chicago next month. The system will be showcased on Masterwork Machinery’s exhibit. In August 2014, Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG announced it was restructuring its postpress equipment manufacturing through a new OEM partnership with Masterwork Machinery Co. headquartered in Tianjin, China. The move excluded Heidelberg’s production of folding machines at its Ludwigsburg site, a city in Baden-Württemberg, Germany.“Heidelberg offers a value proposition that is unique in the industry,” said Joerg Daehnhardt, Vice President, Postpress, Heidelberg USA. “Our strategic partnership with Masterwork enables Heidelberg to offer a broader portfolio than ever before to the converting market.”The Promatrix 106 CS is designed to handle substrates from 65-pound text to 48-point board. It outputs 8,000 sheets per hour, and has a maximum sheet size of 29.92 x 41.7 inches, matching the format of Heidelberg’s flagship Speedmaster XL 106 press. The Promatrix 106 CS is the first Heidelberg product manufactured by Masterwork, while the German company retains sales and support responsibilities for its postpress lines. The Promatrix CS 106 is a further development of an existing Masterwork platform, along with additional improvements and certifications (such as “GS,” a German seal denoting safe operation). 
Duplo introduced the 600i system as its new high-end collating and booklet-making equipment. The 600i integrates the fully automatic DBM-600 Bookletmaker with high-speed DSC-10/60i suction collators, producing saddle, side, or corner-stitched booklets, as well as letter landscape applications.The 600i Booklet System can produce up to 5,200 booklets per hour or collate up to 10,000 sets per hour into a stacker. It features PC Controller software, which enables users to operate the entire system from a PC as well as create and save a large number of jobs onto the hard drive for faster changeovers.“The new 600i Booklet System is our best flat sheet booklet system to date,” said Si Nguyen, VP of Sales at Duplo USA. “Our Duplo engineers went above and beyond to make our flagship booklet system even more reliable while equipped with several new features and technology.”Duplo explains, by using the standard Intelligent Multi-Bin Feeding (IMBF) feature in the PC Controller software, custom feed applications can be performed and a variety of unique job requirements can be fulfilled. Users can also customize the 600i system with a variety of options like the DKT-200 two-knife trimmer and gutter cutter for three-side trimming capabilities and 2-up processing.
Duplo released the 600i Booklet System, described by the company as its high-end collating and booklet-making equipment. The 600i integrates the fully automatic DBM-600 Bookletmaker with high-speed DSC-10/60i suction collators, producing saddle, side, or corner-stitched booklets, as well as letter landscape applications.The 600i can produce up to 5,200 booklets per hour or collate up to 10,000 sets per hour into a stacker. It features PC Controller software, which enables users to operate the entire system from a PC, as well as create and save a large number of jobs onto the hard drive for faster changeovers.“The new 600i Booklet System is our best flat sheet booklet system to date,” said Si Nguyen, VP of Sales at Duplo USA. “Our Duplo engineers went above and beyond to make our flagship booklet system even more reliable while equipped with several new features and technology.”Duplo explains, by using the standard Intelligent Multi-Bin Feeding (IMBF) feature in the PC Controller software, custom feed applications can be performed. Users can also customize the 600i system with a variety of options like the DKT-200 two-knife trimmer and gutter cutter for three-side trimming capabilities and 2-up processing.
Esko has unveiled a new range of Kongsberg tools, on top of the more than 100 existing cutting blades, router bits and accessories. Some of the newest tools include a psaligraphy (paper cutting) knife tool, perforation wheel and braille tool. All three tools are available for usage on the Kongsberg XN, Kongsberg V and Kongsberg XL Series of digital finishing systems. The tables are suitable for packaging, display and signage using a range of substrates like foam, plastics and vinyl to paper, corrugated boards and folding carton.The new Psaligraphy knife tool is designed to cut out fine details in paper and folding carton. The 60 mm Perforation wheel enables users to create tear and crease-assist perforations in corrugated board up to 4-mm thick at a much higher speed than before. This tool is suited for producing POP-materials and a range of packaging. Prior to this wheel becoming available, Esko explains, it took about 40 seconds to do one metre of a 3x3 perforation pattern (3 mm cut and 3 mm space). The Braille tool is loaded with clear acrylic Braille spheres that are inserted into small holes. These holes are milled with a special spindle to create raised dots that are readable with fingertips.
Drytac has introduced the newest model in its line of second generation JetMounter roller laminators. The JM63 Pro XD is a freestanding roller laminator with a 63-inch (1,600 mm) laminating width. It can be used with thermal overlaminates, as well as pressure sensitive overlaminates and adhesives. The system has a top roller with adjustable temperature to 248° F (120° C); large diameter non-stick silicone rollers; adjustable speed control up to 20 feet (6 metres) per minute; a maximum nip opening of 2 inches (50.8 mm); and five auto-grip supply and take-up shafts with brake tension control on the operator side.
A revolution in paper production driven by agricultural-residue pulp mills is on Canada’s horizon (originally published in PrintAction June 2016 magazine).The potential impact of papers made from agricultural residue is becoming an exciting new sector to watch in Canada. Canopy has just launched its “Say Yes!” project across the North American wheat, rye and sorghum belt. Dubbed YIMBY! – Yes In My Back Yard! – This innovative enterprise is reaching out to agricultural communities asking if they have the straw supply, town infrastructure and other qualities necessary to become a candidate site for a new, green-job-creating straw pulp mills.The Canadian prairies are being hit hard right now, with economic downturns in Saskatchewan and Alberta taking a toll on jobs and regional stability. New opportunities for rural communities across the Prairies, adding value to agricultural residues typically treated as ‘waste’ products could bring new hope and green jobs to a hard hit part of the country.The Federal government made bold commitments in at the 2015 UN Conference in Paris to seriously tackle climate change. Intact forest landscapes and their significant contribution to carbon storage are bound to come to the forefront as a means to reduce Canadian greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and contribute to climate stabilization. Canopy expects this to inevitably lead to greater protection of the boreal forest and a concurrent push to develop alternative fibre sources. The future of straw paper just keeps getting brighter.Some Canadian printers are early adopters of wheat straw-based papers. The Printing House, Hemlock Printers and MET Fine Printers, for example, offer uncoated free sheet wheat straw-based paper and more printers are bound to join the ranks of these forward-thinking businesses.Since before Canadian Geographic and Dollco (purchased by Lowe-Martin in 2012) worked with Canopy in 2008 to print a magazine issue on wheat straw-based paper, Canopy has been growing the market for straw-based papers to facilitate the development of agricultural residue pulping capacity. To date we have identified 1.3 million tons of unmet annual demand for printing and writing grade papers made with straw. That market keeps growing as more print users look to improve their standing on sustainability issues. Now we just need the supply – and it’s looking promising.Following the launch of YIMBY!, the response from farming communities has been immediate and enthusiastic. Within 24 hours of launching the campaign, Canopy was receiving applications from interested districts. Our detailed questionnaire will delve into the viability of each of these applicants. Do they have a high enough volume of straw available within a set radius? Do they have the water, road and power infrastructure needed to support a pulp mill? Is the work force available? We’ve done the research, established the criteria with the advice and assistance of experts in the field, and we know the potential exists for many straw pulp mills to be built.At the same time, we are liaising with entrepreneurs and investors, filling them in on the immense market demand for straw-based papers we have already quantified, the viable community opportunities for mill construction and the green-tech revolution that is ready to launch.Through our ongoing Second Harvest work, we’ve been privileged to be given confidential access to some of the latest developments and innovations. The revolution is truly gaining momentum.As new scientific research highlights the critical importance of forests in stabilizing the global climate and mitigating the impacts of climate change, more and more governments will be forced to take action to protect high carbon value ancient forests. And more and more print customers will be looking to avoid contentious forest fibre and seeking viable alternatives to tree paper.Straw papers will be a game-changer for the availability of publication grade eco-papers and lighten the footprint of print materials. The future of straw can revolutionize the printing industry. Are you ready?
Leveraging Customer Relationship Management and Voice Over Protocol tools to bind your print sales and production teams (Originally published in PrintAction June 2016 magazine).What can Buddy Guy’s blues band teach us about collaboration? Buddy Guy, the Chicago blues guitarist whom Eric Clapton once called “the best guitarist alive”, is still touring with his Damn Right Blues Band at 79 years of age. I’m a fan and play a bit of music each week because it feels so good to get together with friends and jam. A live blues band is an improvisational exercise in collaboration and innovation. Could that be an analogy for the printing business these days?I drove down to Buffalo with a fellow blues/jazz fan to see Buddy last month. We both love live music. Buddy opened by telling the adoring crowd, “I’m not sure what’s going to happen tonight. It keeps my band on their toes. There will be some surprises.”  And that, in a nutshell, is why I love live blues and jazz music. It is spontaneous and, to do it well, all the players must effectively communicate what’s going on in the moment, where the tune is going and who’s going to take the lead and when. The skill with which a great band navigates this tricky live improvisational experience is what I admire most.The key is clear communications and exchange of information among the players. The drummer gets a cue to end a song from the subtle lifting of the guitar neck, a slight nod signals a soloist to begin, a hand in the air telegraphs the bridge and a tap on the head means take it to the top. Hold up three fingers at the start of a song and you signal the three flats in the key of E.Enough riffing on the music, this brings me to how we manage internal business communications, which is increasingly becoming an experience of working in the moment. Sharing, collaborating and being prepared for improvising in new business situations has never been easier. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools are the foundation of great customer experiences, because they allow for the easy sharing of information among your team about the customer’s contact information, the stage in the sales pipeline and recent communications with them. Most high-end Management Information Systems today have integrated dashboards for sales reps to help manage clients, but CRM is well supported by tools such as VOIP phones, chat tools and video conferencing. There are so many channels to engage with a customer and also to exchange information amongst your employees to make great music together. I have worked with several of these CRM and VOIP tools  that have proved beneficial in the fast-paced printing business.CRM toolsLet’s start with the CRM tools. These are basically the recent digital take on the paper Rolodex or address book. When all of your company can share addresses and contact information, you will be a stronger organization for it. Best of all, most are in the cloud, so they are scalable, mobile friendly and available wherever your team works. There will be no more time wasted searching out the right contact name for a customer or wondering who is the main contact, who pays the invoices or who has left the operation. Our CRM also keeps a log of all email back and forth between clients and the company. It simplifies understanding the state of a project and acts as a record of past exchanges.CRM is often associated with tracking the sales pipeline. This simply means that “opportunities” are logged in this central repository and this makes it possible to see how sales targets are being met, where leads are coming from and who is cultivating them at what stage – all great information to help you understand how your sales efforts are progressing. You can even automate some steps. For instance, when a new client is added or a sale completed, the sales manager can receive an email notification alert (the CRM equivalent of a guitar neck lift to signal the end of a song). The latest twist on this is the link between online forms, social media follows and your CRM. In other words, every point where a customer interacts with your company can be tracked and managed from the best CRM tools. It is now easy to compare different CRM tools functionality and an extra hour of research will find the best tool (at the right cost) for your employees. It’s like the whole band is facing each other, has eye contact and can see where the improvised tune is headed. Companies just perform better when they can collaborate easily.Even vendor information can be kept on the CRM, so nobody at your firm is scrambling trying to find the name of that special source for cartons, blade sharpening or specialty ink. Once you add a vendor name, the best practice is to add a few searchable keywords to make finding them easy. We add “plumber”, “electrician” and so on to our vendor names. You can even decide to rate your vendors so that others at the firm know if your electrician arrived late, charged too much or was the friendliest one you’d ever met. This just makes it easier to manage vendors of services, ink, paper, whatever else you purchase in the course of business.But the communication exchange can also benefit from new channels available at low cost. Some we are familiar with, and some we do not associate with business. Nearly all of us send SMS text messages these days. Our mobile devices help us connect with family and friends and increasingly with work. Having an internal chat tool (Google for Work has one built in) can mean time savings when quick answers are required. Messenger, now part of Facebook, is a growing tool for chat and even has a phone/video feature. You may be wondering why you’d use a Facebook tool in your print business, but you only have to ask the 900 million users (up 700 million in two years) about the benefits, or listen to Mark Zuckerberg’s latest 10-year plan to use Messenger in new ways in our business life.VOIP toolsI’m also a fan of VOIP phones as they help make collaboration easier. We once thought it was good enough to have a toll-free number, but nowadays you want to be able to have your calls follow your employees to their mobile devices, and offer easy conferencing and transferring, even if they are working from home or from a mobile device. VOIP seems to offer the widest number of options for making phone communications more effective at work.But don’t think that just having tools will make the whole thing gel. Your band of employees have to rehearse. By this I mean that they need to be trained and work out the new etiquette for these channels of communication. When should they choose Chat over an email and when should I invite a colleague to join me on a call or share a video of a bindery process with a repairman so they can see what is acting up in the plant?  Without having some policies and sharing best practices among your team, however, you’ll have a train wreck (that’s band talk for a song gone off the rails).These channels are constantly evolving. You cannot wait for it to all settle and then make your move. Start tuning up your internal and customer communications today and you’ll all make pretty music together, and maybe a bit more money too, as the experience improves and your costs to manage collaboration reduce.
Tips on preparing your business for loss before having to turn unprepared to an insurance claim (originally published in PrintAction June 2016 magazine).Think taking a terror-filled ride on Zumanjaro is the ultimate scariest you could possibly feel? Then you probably have not been through the life-changing horror of a major insurance claim. No doubt about it, the Six Flags Great Adventure ride in New Jersey is sure to suck the life out of you with its 415-foot drop reaching 90 miles per hour in just 10 seconds. Getting a phone call explaining that your building is on fire or the roof collapsed, however, will overcome any fears of Zumanjaro.There are so many angles to an insurance claim that it is virtually impossible to write a guidance manual on what to do, how to do it, or – even more importantly – how to avoid the possibility of seeing your hard-earned work collapse in rubble.  But there are ways and means to help prevent insurance catastrophes and I’d like to share some with you.Protecting your investmentEvery establishment has some type of insurance policy, but coverage is such a boring and mundane topic most of us do not dwell on it and quickly file documents away once established. Business interruption coverage is very common, but if a claim is made there is plenty of work the insured must do to prove the loss and this may come as a surprise to some. First suggestion: Keep good records and keep those records updated and in a safe place.Over the years, I have worked on both sides of an insurance claim. I’ve been hired by insurance firms, adjusters, forensic investigators, public adjusters, as well as the insured themselves. Having seen both sides of the equation, it becomes quite clear how much knowledge and communication is lacking.A good example is a file on which I was engaged by the insured. This company runs a profitable and well-organized business. A major weather-related structural failure in part of the company’s plant caused half of its machinery to become involved in a serious claim due to water and falling infrastructure. Months later, I was called to come and access some of the damaged machinery. The claim had gone nowhere and, as is quite typical, the insured called in a public adjuster. Public adjusters are firms that work specifically for the insured and not the insurance company. This happens quite often when things get testy between parties. They are well versed on the protocols of a claim and the mechanics required to settle one. Public adjusters typically work for a percentage of the claim and this comes out of the insured’s settlement. In this case, the machinery sat exposed and rusting in the elements. To make matters worse, the surrounding areas were dangerous and essentially off limits. At the on-site meeting about the accident, you could cut the tension and anger with a knife. Adjusters are firms that are hired by insurance companies to access and recommend needed steps to get the insured back up and running. Although the majority of adjusters are competent, as with any industry, there are also some disappointments and blow-hards that work to grind the claim process to a virtual halt. Obviously, insurance companies know they have responsibilities but they also want to mitigate the claims and pay out as little as they can. The word mitigate is important here, because it is not as well discussed that the insured must also try to mitigate their claim too, taking any steps to preserve or reduce damage to equipment and furnishings.In this case, we had a disturbing adjuster who seemed to relish his role and enjoy the fact he was being paid handsomely to travel across the country, write reports, argue the merits of visible damage and drive just about everyone – especially the insured – to look for sharp objects. Dealing with claimsAfter months of deadlock, thousands of dollars spent to argue the claim, total disruption of their scheduling, lack of key machinery. which in this case was very specific and hard to replace, it came down to total anger. Usually a competent adjuster can come up with a good plan. He or she knows, that when it comes to machinery, the best the manufacturer can do is provide a ballpark repair quote and a new replacement price. But what happens when the repair comes without a firm warranty? In almost all cases, it does not. And so the claim discussion moves forward around getting new replacement machinery, which is a significant discussion point to understand.Talk to your agent and tell them you wish to be covered for full new replacement. If not, the claim continues down a rabbit hole: “The press is 12 years old? Then we need to value such an asset prior to the claim.” This is the essential problem and an active files quickly becomes a bickering and depressing period that can take years to settle and will in the end, probably – surely – mean you will come out of the whole ordeal worse off than you were before. Even with various opinions and quotations (for repairs), if the adjuster is lacking in specific knowledge and does not go out and seek someone who can provide this, then it may be impossible for both the insurer and the insured to agree on a fair settlement.There is, of course, another side to the insurance business in faulty claims or at the very least a case of very suspicious origins. We were called in by an insurance company over a claim to do with one machine – almost brand new. The story was an apparent break-in and vandalism on the press. Rags and paper were set alight placed on various parts of the press and a few control cabinets were tipped over. The heat activated the sprinklers which then put out the fire but drenched everything in the plant including offices. There was something wrong here. I felt it and was rather surprised when I discussed my thoughts with the insurance rep. He didn’t much care really. He told me that the integrity of the insured really didn’t matter much. Insurance had to quantify the claim and close the file. But this was an exception and it should be noted, having worked many times on the insurance side, very little is left unknown when investigators get to work. They will know where the “oven” is, which is the term used by insurers in reference to the initial location of a fire. They will also be able to track the damage and spot oddities like accelerants. Forensic work like finding out about the financial wellbeing of a claimant is the norm not the exception. In the end, this printer was forced to close.When there was still a very healthy business climate for printing machinery, we regularly bought and rebuilt countless machines. I remember one purchase vividly from in 1994, shortly after southern California had a major earthquake. Bridges collapsed, buildings were damaged, and all sorts of businesses had claims. One damaged printer had two 40-inch presses – a 6-colour and a 5-colour. The claim was settled before we were involved and I went to look at the machinery, which was now dismantled and sitting outside in a temporary tent.  The manufacturer’s service manager was there and he tried to explain to me that the earthquake had uplifted the machine from its leveling feet and somehow twisted the frames. His evidence was one elongated hole which was part of six holes on each unit that were bolt holes for assembly. One hole? Clearly whoever had taken apart the press had a whole lot of trouble getting one bolt out! There was obviously no damage to the frames – it was all nonsense. But the printer did get new machines and we did bring both machines back to life and eventually resold them. Some common sense could have saved somebody a lot of money.Many damaged machines came through our plant: Lightning strikes, floods, transit (by water or road), but the most damage by far was caused by fire. Delivery fires are common – caused by filthy deliveries with lots of spray powder. Dropped sheets mixed with very hot infrared or UV lamps can cause tremendous damage. Overheated motors such as ring blowers near the delivery, are another common reason. An obvious remedy is to keep machinery clean and free of debris. Another suggestion few think about is to have plenty of fire extinguishers around and know how to use them. This last one would have helped a UK company after its 6-colour double coater and double dryer (LYYLX) was set alight via a dropped sheet and interdeck UV lamp. That press took us over 6,000 man-hours to restore.Insurance common senseOver the years, we must have been involved in over 30 substantial rebuilding projects. Almost all were equipment that we purchased when a claim was settled. I learned to quantify costs of repairs using some basic grade-nine chemistry, calculating what temperatures were reached, how it affected the guts and understanding how cast iron has a memory. Heat-twisted cast iron will return to its original position with re-heating. Fires that occur near melted polyethylene and polypropylene (plastic skids for example), produce toxic gases and when mixed with water become an acid that will attack bare steel and cast iron. I still see a great deal of waste within the insurance claim process when the wrong so-called experts are in a position to determine repairs. A good talker can needlessly cost both sides a lot of money.So far I’ve yet to meet any insured who felt that they came out ahead after a claim. This should be a warning to everyone, that even though we have insurance, in the end, after all the pain and disruption, you will often wish you did not file a claim. Insurance is important and can save a business, but do not assume you’ll finally get rid of that old machine or upgrade your whole plant simply because you have business disruption coverage and replacement coverage. Take steps to protect your investments now. Do simple things like buy more fire extinguishers, improve your housekeeping, and update your records.If a disaster happens, take steps to reduce your claim and get solid advice from a professional. Be completely honest and upfront. Do not try and pile-on things that will be spotted as marginal by a good adjuster. One final suggestion: consider increasing your deductible. You should be trying to prevent a life changing moment not small repairs like as a bolt going through a press. Raising your deductible can lower your premiums and even afford you the budget to increase your protection if and when the big claim hits.That’s about all you can do and it’s really important that you do it now before something horrible happens. Zumanjaro is nicknamed the Drop of Doom. But you know that when you buckle in. Insurance claims can have the same moniker but be even more terrifying and without warning.
During the premier event for research in North American print, five keynotes address industry progress (originally published in PrintAction's May 2016 issue). The middle of March is a time of year when researchers and technology evangelists from the printing world gather at the annual Technical Association of the Graphic Arts  (TAGA) conference, held this year in Memphis, Tennessee. An unusual aspect of this year’s TAGA conference was that there were five keynote addresses, instead of the traditional four, addressing the future of technology. The first keynote presented by Mike D’Angelo, Managing Director Americas for Goss International, focused on why offset printing remains today’s dominant printing process around the world. D’Angelo pointed to a key trends affecting the current print market, including: Many magazines are still being printed, the book market is stable, the newspaper decline has stopped, and packaging is a growth business. Commercial printing seems to have turned a corner, according to D’Angelo, but there is no doubt the run lengths are shorter, less pages per job are printed, more localized versions are produced, and the use of automation has increased. Newspaper printing needs a new business model, according to D’Angelo, with smaller, more agile presses. This in turn will translate into printing localized content to help stabilize newspaper sectors. The packaging market sees increased competition and more versions of the same product are being printed. Web offset printing also offers some price and speed advantages in comparison to sheetfed offset. Offset plates are cheaper to make than flexo plates and web offset printing offers a unique speed advantage, not only in press terms, but also in the number of times materials need to be handled and stored.The second keynote was given by Liz Logue, Senior Director Corporate Business Development with EFI, speaking about printing on textiles and ceramics with inkjet technology. Logue stressed a little-known fact that 50 percent of ceramic tiles and 40 percent of display graphics are digitally printed. Digital textile printing is gaining traction and currently only five percent of all textiles are digitally printed.Rotary screen printing is still the dominant print technology for textile printing. Inkjet inks are adapted for textile printing and fast fashion turnover provides digital-printing textile opportunities. New digital designs enable new profits. Increases in print speed and resolution for digital textile printing helps with the transition from conventional to digital print technologies. From an environmental standpoint, Logue explains digital printing is also less water polluting than conventional print methods.The next keynote speaker was Kevin Berisso from the University of Memphis, who talked about The Internet of Things (IoT) and posed an intriguing question to the crowd by referencing The Terminator movie series: Are we building Skynet? In truth, Berisso was really asking what exactly is IoT, because there are now so many definitions out there about this critical movement in business processes.Berisso explains IoT is based on physical devices that are networked, collect data and make automatic decisions. An IoT solution needs to combine hardware and software, has to interconnected, and must interact with its environment.  The fourth keynote was given by Janos Verres, Program Manager at Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), speaking about the next generation of Printed Electronics. First, Verres give a brief historical overview of PARC and some of the many innovations made there that are now part of everyday live, such as the Graphical User Interface, ethernet connection and laser printing. Verres also talked about how energy will be democratized and why the future will be personalized. He explained how this future will be driven by smart devices, smart analytics and smart infrastructure. In the future, electronics will have any form, any shape and will reach new levels of complexity. Yet, they still need to be easy to fabricate using flexible printed and hybrid electronics. IoT will change from Internet of Things to Internet of Everything. This will lead to ubiquitous intelligence and computing. Printing technologies will help shape the Internet of Everything, with integrated printing platforms that will be part of multi-process printing workflows. Simple electronics will be printed with very small memory capacity, which will be printed.The fifth keynote was given by Don Schroeder, Director of Solutions Development at Fujifilm North America, speaking about key trends in inkjet printing. The use of inkjet technology is growing fast based on new print heads even as more paper products must be adapted to work well with inkjet inks. Although the use of inkjet printing is growing, Schroeder explains it still is only 0.5 percent of global print production volume.High-speed inkjet printing is gaining traction beyond its current primary use for transactional printing. Its main challenges remain paper quality, costs and availability, in addition to capital costs and printing speed. Inkjet presses have become more expensive and people shy away from the risk of buying a new, expensive inkjet press that might become superseded in two years time. The amortization period is too short.Schroeder also pointed to inkjet printing benefits: Less set up time, less waste, quick turnaround, variable data printing, low volume reprints, less consumables and less maintenance. Inkjet printing also offers a larger gamut than offset printing, as it makes inroads into the packaging and label markets. Looking at folding cartons, for example, the new Heidelberg Primefire 106 will be shown at drupa 2016 running with Fujifilm’s inkjet technology, reaching speeds of 2,000 sheets per hour.The remaining TAGA program outlined critical technology progress, including a presentation on expanded gamut printing and, importantly, asking what is the correct colour sequence of CMYK plus OGV (seven colours) to find the best combination to achieve maximum gamut.Another presentation showed how the FOGRA 51 dataset and resulting ICC profile was put together before its public release. Other key topics printers should investigate included: Cross-media communications, PDF X/4, the influence of optical brighteners, new colour management tools for digital printing, shorter product cycles for packaging, print quality of 3D objects, printable films based on hemicellulose, inline direct-mail automation, on-press control of metallic inks using M3 measurement condition, CxF/X4, lamination for consumer packaging, spectral colour control, resistive gravure inks made with soy protein, print gloss, and how to extract capacitors out of recycled printed electronics.TAGA once again delivered the message that innovation remains a key driver of the printing industry and that its proprietors must embrace change.
From PrintAction's April 2016 print issue, Wendy Weiss, The Queen of Cold Calling, combines sales insight and print experience to describe how to leverage one of the most important, yet vanishing, skills of lead generation.What do ballet dancing and print sales have in common: Wendy Weiss, a.k.a. The Queen of Cold Calling, a widely quoted New-York-City-based sales training and coaching consultant specializing in lead generation and business development.“I cut my teeth doing new business development in the print and graphic arts industry. Many of my clients are still printers and graphic artists,” says Weiss, who was preparing to present four sales seminars at the National Print Owners Association’s April conference in Texas. “I was never supposed to be The Queen of Cold Calling. I was supposed to be a ballerina,” Weiss laughs.  As a teenager, she moved from Pennsylvania to New York City to dance. She needed a day job and, tired of waiting on tables, landed a telemarketing position setting up B2B appointments. The telemarketing company did not have enough work for her, but, after discovered she was good at prospecting, print broker friend soon hired Weiss to set appointments. She then worked in sales for a number of New York printers, one of whom nicknamed her The Queen of Cold Calling.“A big mistake people make when prospecting by phone is talking too much about what they do. Typically printers talk too much about their equipment,” she says. “But I didn’t know any of that stuff back then. I just got on the phone and talked about what a great printer I was setting appointments for... That’s how my sales career started – totally by accident.” Weiss continued to dance and prospect for businesses for a while, but ultimately turned toward training salespeople, sales managers, and business owners.Cold calling is indispensableWeiss believes cold calling is more critical than ever in today’s marketplace. In an interview on the BizTalk Radio Show (one of many free resources archived on her Website), she explains ultimately you can only generate a sales lead four ways: Through marketing; referrals; networking; and cold calling (targeting and telephoning a prospect with whom you have had little or no previous contact).Weiss explains the first three methods are all essentially passive, because you have to wait for somebody else to act. With marketing, you have to wait for prospects to contact you. With referrals, you have to wait for others to facilitate introductions. With networking, you rarely meet the prospect, only the person who knows them.“[Cold calling] is actually the only appointment-generating or opportunity-generating activity that is directly under your control, and it’s the only way to make up the difference between the number of leads or opportunities that you are finding through marketing, referrals, and networking, and the number of leads or opportunities that you actually need to hit whatever revenue number you’re looking to hit,” she says. “So the issue today is not that cold calling is outmoded... it has changed and most people do it really badly.”Weiss says email and social media channels lead some sales professionals to conclude incorrectly that they do not need telephone skills: “What if somebody calls you and you blow the conversation? You’re not going to get the customer. It’s also a fallacy that you can use social media as the main driver and not have to talk to people. For our clients to be effective in today’s environment, we teach them to reach out to prospects strategically and consistently over time, using the phone along with other types of communication and software to track their progress.”Weiss emphasizes that cold calling is a communications skill that can be improved on, but also, “This is not something that you can just wing. There is a certain progression of what needs to be done to get where you want to be.” To teach clients the nuts and bolts of cold calling, Weiss uses a performance model based on her former career as a dancer. The first step in her model is warming up: “When you’re a dancer, warming up is the first thing you do so you don’t hurt yourself,” she explains. “And as a second step, you always rehearse, because that’s how you create the muscle memory that makes your performance automatic. After you have warmed up and rehearsed, then and only then do you pick up the phone.”In Weiss’s model, warming up means compiling a highly targeted list of the people who are most likely to need what you’re selling: “In the old days we didn’t have a lot of information about prospects, but today a wealth of information about them is available to help you decide who might possibly buy something from you, who are most likely to buy from you, and who are most likely to come back and buy a whole lot more.” Her warm up also requires determining what messaging to use when you get prospects on the phone, as well as in your email and voice-mail messages. “The rule of thumb is that nobody cares what you do, so the words matter.“Do you have an attention-grabbing introduction, do your voice-mail messages get people to call back, do your emails get people to respond? If someone you talk to says, ‘I’m not interested,’ it means you’re not saying anything interesting. So you need to do some up-front work to figure out what words will be compelling to the market that you’re talking to and make people want to engage with you.”Changing thoughts and processesBesides instilling skills, Weiss also helps people who dread cold calling change the way they think about it. She says these clients are prone to counterproductive mindreading or fortunetelling.“Cold calling isn’t an emotional experience. It’s marketing,” she insists. “The opposite of hating cold calling is not that you love it. It’s that you’re neutral, which is the mindset you want to maintain. You can’t function if you’re hysterical.” Weiss diffuses fear by pointing out that telephone prospecting, especially appointment setting, is highly predictable – most prospects will respond in only a few different ways.One typical response is, “Send me information.” Weiss explains this usually means a prospect has not read the information sent, because either you have not said anything compelling or the prospect is too busy. If it is the latter, and since your goal is to set up a meeting, Weiss suggests focusing on the fact that they have not said no. “Find a way to make the prospects right or agree with them by countering with something like, ‘I understand you are very busy, but I only need 10 or 15 minutes.  When would work for you?’ Many times prospects’ responses are not a stumbling block but a negotiation.”If a prospect responds with, “I already have a vendor I’m happy with,” Weiss suggests focusing on the fact that this automatically places them in the desirable qualified-prospect category.Weiss describes another scenario in which a printer asked her to help hire a salesperson. When she asked him what procedures were in place for the salesperson, he lapsed into an uncomfortable silence. “A big mistake printers make is to hire someone, teach him or her everything about printing, and then tell them to go and sell with no source of qualified leads and no process to follow. Generally speaking, companies seem to have processes in place for everything except prospecting.“Yet as managers or business owners, if we lay out a process with steps for our sales reps to follow, it makes things so much easier, and they are so much more likely to succeed, especially inexperienced new hires or somebody who is struggling.”Although the attrition rate for new hires can be as high as 50 percent, Weiss explains companies usually pay new sales hires up to two-and-a-half years’ salary before deciding to replace them via a corporate hiring cycle that typically costs another two times the salesperson’s annual salary.“To avoid these mistakes, the advice I would give the head of a company is to put in place a comprehensive process, including things like a targeted list, messaging, skills training for your people, and software that tracks and measures what they are doing so you know what is actually working. If any of these essential elements are missing from your process, your telephone-prospecting campaigns are not going to work well,” she says.Weiss explains setting appointments should be the first step of staff training: “They don’t have to know every single thing about printing. You can easily teach them how to make appointments, then use software to track what they’re doing, so you know how to coach them appropriately and have some measure of their progress... If they can’t set appointments, they’re probably not going to sell a lot, so you don’t need to wait a full two years before deciding whether or not to keep them.”Weiss says many printers experience a boom-bust cycle (a busy month followed by an insufficient number of orders the next month) and the bust is frequently the result of not having enough prospects. Her antidote is to prospect every day. “It’s a very common scenario that owners don’t prospect regularly because they get busy doing other stuff. Lots of entrepreneurs also have only one or two really big clients, and if they lose their business, they’re screwed. While it’s a myth in cold calling that you have to do hundreds of dials every day, you still have to do some. You need to take action every day and keep looking for opportunities to move your business forward.”
Breaking down one of the most-significant operational issues Canadian printers will face for the next several months.Back in the spring of 2011 Canada’s dollar was flying high. It hit a level of almost five cents above the American greenback. As experts pointed to the advantages of Canada’s banking regulations, the Great White North was outpacing the United States coming out of the 2008 worldwide recession.  The purchasing power of Canada’s printing industry was fantastic. Machinery was at an all-time low – as much as 40 percent less than 2003 levels. It was never going to last, however, and today we face US$30-per-barrel oil, metal prices spiraling to near historic lows and our dollar is trading in the 70-cent range relative to the once again mighty U.S. buck (USD).There are serious implications for domestic manufacturers facing a low Canadian dollar. First and foremost are the wild swings occurring as the Loonie bobs about finding its true value. This is our most difficult issue. If the Loonie would just park itself somewhere we might be able to cope, adjust. But fast moving exchange rates bring chaos to budgets and quotations. Very few businesses can benefit like billionaire George Soros has amid these FX swings. Besides machinery, a great deal of materials and consumables are priced in USD. Printers quoting work – even a few weeks ahead are now finding it difficult to hold firm prices. The Bank of Canada’s Stephen Poloz opined that it could be two years before we see the fallout (both good and bad) from the recent and drastic decline in our currency. It is not a simple remedy to buy Canadian products or to create an artificially lower exchange rate in-house. Behind the scenes, financial markets and a global community are going to close the door. Products made in Canada will always be valued not so much on their cost but on their value in USD. Almost everything made here has some element of American content. If by chance they do not have U.S. content, it still will not matter and prices will rise just because they can! This effect will be best exemplified by paper, an everyday ingredient of printing, regardless of whether it is produced in Canada, Asia, Europe or the United States. Paper is a worldwide commodity and even if it left the factory in Indonesia it will be priced in USD. Canadian paper, with whatever portion of American value added, will rise to reflect a world value and not a Canadian value. You cannot escape the future higher costs of anything you purchase.Machinery, the most expensive product printer’s purchase, will see prices rise dramatically in the next few months. Whether these machines come from Germany, Japan, China or the U.S., they are usually imported by American companies first and converted into USD. With machine inventories mostly American held, you will pay accordingly. Meanwhile, China’s Yuan currency rides the USD and Chinese manufacturers price their products in USD.It is not just our Loonie that has been seeing declines. The Euro has dropped substantially in 2015 versus the USD. Companies like Heidelberg have the ability to play the FX markets and it’s possible they are able to sell their machinery in Canadian dollars exchanged against the Euro. Japan’s manufacturers work through their American subsidiaries or dealers and while the machinery may leave Japan in Yen it’s bought with USD in a sometimes forward contract. Realities of the negative exchange facing Canadian printers can hit home hardest when it comes to obtaining needed parts for their machines. This revenue stream becomes particularly important for Canadian dealers if the sale of large machinery declines. There is a general assumption around the world that if a country’s currency tumbles then it becomes a great place to shop. This is largely untrue, especially with equipment. Everyone wants and expects a world price. Press makers will not sell any cheaper in Canada than they do anywhere else. If this were the case then we could assume all of us Canadians would be paying even less to for oil and gas, which is unlikely to ever happen.Besides labour, occupancy costs and taxes are safe from a falling dollar. Little else is and Canada continually faces another major issue, competitiveness. In 1998, when our dollar started to fall, Canadian printers like most other manufacturers used it like a golf handicap. Great – we just got some free strokes! The lower dollar maintained our historical position as faux Americans. The appetite to compete has been at the centre of Canadiana since confederation and why, even in 2016, we find ourselves not able to keep up with U.S. entrepreneurship.  The immense size of the U.S. absorbs much of what it produces. Canada is a nation with risk adverse businesses, conservative banking and a labour pool that demands a social net.Inflation is a by-product of a low dollar, which may not be as negative as it sounds. Large printers who do business in the U.S. can shield themselves from some of the risk by offsetting their materials purchases against sales made, both in USD. This leaves truly Canadian costs (labour) to be more profitable. The dwindling middle class of print – companies with limited sales reach – will face more systemic challenges.As printers wait for calmness in the big-ticket market, the best thing they can do is sell products in the U.S. This alone will not only dampen the effect of bad rates but help us all in Canada to be more competitive as we go head to head with some of the best businesses in the world.The low Loonie may not be forever. Oil will shoot back up eventually and China will hopefully resume its bullishness for Canadian raw materials. When this happens our dollar will strengthen. Not because of our small manufacturing base, but because of what we draw out of the ground.
APP of Jakarta, on the three-year anniversary of its Forest Conservation Policy, provided an update of its progress and also launched its Belantara Foundation, an initiative to fund conservation projects in Indonesia. The paper maker also noted progress with its Peatland Best Practice Management Project and a new Integrated Fire Management program involving training from Canadians.“On the third anniversary of our Forest Conservation Policy launch we are pleased to report that our continued work to implement the policy, together with efforts to align our ambitions with those of other actors in Indonesia’s forests have resulted in tangible progress,” said Aida Greenbury, Managing Director of Sustainability and Stakeholder Engagement at APP. “We now have the building blocks for a sustainable model of forest and pulp and paper operations whereby forests are protected, communities empowered and our supply chains strengthened.”The APP Forest Conservation Policy (FCP), launched in February 2013, is what APP describes as its commitment to immediately end deforestation in its supply chain and bring sustainability to the forefront of the company’s operations. Policy commitments by the company include the ending of natural forest conversion throughout its supply chain, best practice in peatland management, and adopting a collaborative approach to resolving social issues.The company’s previously announced work to block over 3,500 perimeter canals to increase water levels in APP suppliers’ concessions located on peatland has recently been completed, with a total target of 7,000 dams to be built by the end of the first quarter of 2016. This is in addition to the retirement of 7,000 hectares of commercial plantation areas in Riau and South Sumatra, announced by APP in August 2015. In total, APP and its suppliers have allocated approximately 600,000 hectares for forest conservation and ecosystem restoration within its suppliers' concessions. Peatland areas are particularly vulnerable to forest fires, explains the company, and these initiatives to manage and protect them are part of APP’s new Integrated Fire Management (IFM) strategy. Fire management experts TREK Wildland Services from Canada and Working on Fire (WOF) from South Africa will provide 400 APP staff members and their suppliers with Incident Command System (ICS) fire training. Two new aircraft with state-of-the-art thermal imaging cameras will help gather hotspot data with far greater accuracy than satellite imaging, explains APP. Information will be distributed in near real time to APP’s in-house Geographic Information System (GIS) and distributed to field staff within 15 minutes, allowing rapid response to emerging fire threats.Another forest protection initiative is the Integrated Forestry and Farming System Program launched by APP during COP21 in Paris. The program aims to help local communities develop alternative livelihoods to achieve economic development while also keeping Indonesia’s forests intact.As a first step in its implementation, community members will be given equipment and support in the form of microfinance or revolving funds to help kick start local businesses. Horticultural training will also be given to help improve community capacity in managing fruit and vegetable crops using the agroforestry system. The program will include 500 villages across the APP supply chain with up to $10 million invested over the next five years.Since committing to a landscape approach in 2015, the company has worked to establish a platform to help manage and fund landscape conservation programs in Indonesia. As a result of these efforts, APP has initiated the Belantara Foundation. Today we announce the newly appointed Advisory Board, consisting of widely respected individuals drawn from the government, non-profit and corporate sectors. With the Foundation’s personnel, full working remit and due diligence processes in place, Belantara is now ready to work together with other key stakeholders in the landscape to help support the protection and restoration of Indonesia’s forests.Belantara Foundation will work with communities, civil society, government and businesses to help ensure a careful balance is found between economic development, the livelihoods of people in local communities and environmental conservation. This involves overseeing natural forest restoration and endangered species protection and conducting studies to strengthen sustainable landscape management.
Asia Pulp & Paper Group announced a new commitment to support the economic development of 500 villages in what the company describes as the landscapes surrounding APP’s supply chain. The aim of the program, explains APP, is to demonstrate that economic development can be pursued in a sustainable way that supports rather than undermines the protection of Indonesia’s forests. APP’s announced this sustainable development commitment at the recent UN Climate Conference in Paris, COP21. The announcement was made after APP presented details of its forest and peatland protection initiatives, which support Indonesia’s ambitions to achieve a 29 percent reduction in GHG emissions by 2030. Since the launch of its Forest Conservation Policy in February 2013, APP explains it has implemented initiatives to help communities develop alternative livelihoods, to reduce the risk of fires and achieve economic development while keeping Indonesia’s forests intact. This new commitment to Indonesia’s communities is in addition to APP’s existing pledge to support the protection and restoration of 1 million hectares of forest landscapes and to channel and coordinate US$10 million per year of in-kind and financial support into forest conservation across Indonesia, announced in 2014. APP’s commitment will be delivered through what the company describes as a series of pilot community agroforestry programs, which might include the sharing of: rearing initiatives for livestock; sustainable fruit and vegetable farming techniques; and forestry and business skills to enable alternative livelihoods that do not require the clearance of natural forest for further economic development.“A key theme of COP21 is to ensure that economic development goes hand-in-hand with environmental protection,” said Aida Greenbury, Managing Director, Sustainability, APP. “We believe that this new agroforestry program will help communities to achieve economic development while protecting Indonesia’s forests. The issues facing Indonesia’s forests need to be managed at the landscape level, and local communities have a very important stake in the forest. Whilst these program are at an early pilot stage, we will be working to help introduce and spread sustainable farming techniques that are compatible with forest protection.”APP explains the programs will be designed to help reduce instances of conflict over land by providing less land-intensive development options and will help to reduce instances of land encroachment and slash and burn activities.
Printing Industries of America (PIA) released the election results to name its 2016 Officers and Board of Directors, which took place on November 15, 2015, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.Canadians joining the 2016 Board of Directors include Richard Kouwenhoven of Hemlock Printers, who is representing the British Columbia Printing Industries Association, and David Potje of Twin City Dwyer Printing Co. Ltd., who is representing the Ontario Printing Industries Association.Bradley Thompson of Inland Press in Detroit, Michigan, becomes Chairman of the Board. He is the immediate past Chairman of the Government Affairs and Labor Policy Committee of PIA and a former Chairman of Printing Industries of Michigan. Thompson, a fifth-generation printer, is a member of the Board of Directors of the Michigan Press Association and serves as Government Affairs Chair of the American Court and Commercial Newspaper Association. He also serves as Vice Chair of the Clements Library at the University of Michigan.  Curt Kreisler of Gold Star Printers in Miami Beach, Florida, becomes First Vice Chairman for the PIA. He has served on PIA’s Board of Directors since 2009. He is currently the Association Relations Committee Chairman and a member of its Finance and Investment Committees. Bryan Hall of Graphic Visual Solutions in Greensboro, North Carolina, becomes Second Vice Chairman. He served on Printing Industries of America’s Board of Directors for a number of years as Chairman of the Education Committee and as a member of the Finance Committee. Hall also served on the Board of Directors of his local affiliate – Printing Industry of the Carolinas – for nearly 10 years. Michael Wurst of Henry Wurst in Kansas City, MO, becomes Secretary to the Board/Treasurer. He has served many years as a PIA Association Relations Committee member. Wurst is also actively involved in his local affiliate, Printing & Imaging Association of MidAmerica, serving on the Executive Committee for four years, including one year as Chair. He is the CEO of Henry Wurst, Inc., a 75-year-old family-owned commercial printing company. David Olberding of Phototype in Columbus, Ohio, becomes Immediate Past Chair.He was appointed as the association representative to PIA in 2006. He has served PIA as Chairman of the Board, First Vice Chairman, Second Vice Chairman, Executive Finance Committee member, Secretary to the Board, and as Marketing Committee Chairman. Olberding served as Chairman of the Board, Treasurer, and Chair of the Education Committee of Printing Industries of Ohio and Northern Kentucky.Also joining the Board of Directors in 2016 are: Peter Jacobson, Daily Printing, representing Printing Industry Midwest; Timothy R. Suraud, Print Media Association, representing the affiliate managers; Adam G. Avrick, Design Distributors, Inc., representing Printing Industries Alliance; David Wigfield, Xerox, representing the vendor community; Richard Kouwenhoven, Hemlock Printers, representing BCPIA; Norm Pegram, representing Printing Industries of the Gulf Coast; Justin Pallis, DS Graphics, representing PINE; and Dave Potje, Twin City Dwyer Printing Co. Ltd., representing OPIA.
Rolland Enterprises Inc. of St-Jérôme, Quebec, has created a new policy, developed in cooperation with Vancouver not-for-profit Canopy, to advance the protection of endangered forests, engage in the research and development of alternatives to tree fibre, and to avoid all controversial forest fibre sources. “Rolland has a track record of setting the pace for eco-paper development and post-consumer recycling,” said Nicole Rycroft, Canopy's Executive Director. “By expanding their vision to avoid controversial fibre and sourcing from endangered forests such as the Boreal, Rolland stands out as a sustainability leader at the vanguard of change in the North American pulp and paper industry.” Rolland Enterprises, which has been providing recycled fibres for decades, advanced its existing policy with the following new specific commitments:- End the use of wood fibre sourced from endangered forests and controversial suppliers;-  Avoid fibre sourced from Intact Forest Landscapes, such as the intact forests of the Boreal; - Play an active role in the research, development and commercial scale production of pulp and paper from alternative fibre sources such as straw;- Support visionary solutions that protect endangered forests in the Coastal Temperate Rainforests of Vancouver Island and North America's Great Bear Rainforest, Canada's Boreal Forests, and Indonesia's Rainforests; and- Continue producing papers with 30 to 100 percent post-consumer waste recycled content.  “These commitments are an integral part of Rolland's plans to remain a competitive player in the challenging North American paper industry,” said Rolland CEO, Philip Rundle. "Rolland is excited to remain at the forefront of meeting customers' growing needs for sustainable products into the future.” Canopy has worked closely with Rolland's St-Jérôme mill over the past 13 years to advance solutions, including the development of the paper company’s partipcation in the initiative to use 100 percent post-consumer recycled paper in the printing of the Canadian edition of Harry Potter in 2003 and 2005. In 2011, Canopy and Rolland again collaborated in another groundbreaking initiative – a North American first – with the production of straw paper made from agricultural residues. This limited edition paper was used to print a special edition of Margaret Atwood's book, In Other Worlds, and Alice Munro's, Dear Life.
The following article by UK journalist Sean Smyth is part of the drupa Expert Article series to provide industry insight leading up to the drupa tradeshow running from May 31 to June 10, 2016, in Germany.Parents know this refrain well “Are we there yet?” – just as they know the answer, “In a little while.” I spend my working life with printing technology and have heard this for many years. In the case of inkjet, it is a recurring theme. And while we are not there yet, we are getting much closer. Approaching the destinationSome print providers have arrived. A great example is REAL Digital International based in South London. In 2004, the company was founded based on the belief that transactional and direct mail production could be improved using a flexible inkjet solution. They invested heavily in secure premises and powerful workflow with finishing systems to cut, fold, collate and insert almost anything. REAL Digital invented 650-mm-wide high-quality colour duplex web inkjet printing by mounting a pair of single pass inkjet presses on a flexible transport system. Further, the company developed new paper coatings to reach acceptable quality for leading brands, printing personalized carriers, mailers and magazines. The business proved out the belief, winning multiple awards, including the PrintWeek Company of the Year, while inventing new business models as the marketplace matured. They identified inkjet’s potential and went for it, making good money in the process.  REAL Digital’s journey continues by upgrading to a pair of Screen Jet520 duplex lines in 2014, but is not stopping there. They continue to monitor the technology to see what the future holds. “Inkjet technology provided the flexibility enabling us to deliver solutions that address latent customer demand and to drive new demand in areas where we have seen further opportunities,” David Laybourne, REAL Digital’s Managing Director, explains. “The technology continues to evolve, and inks are more flexible with increased colour gamut, reducing the need for special substrates whilst increasing productivity. As the ink manufacturers accept more viable pricing models, the proportion of the marketplace that inkjet solutions are able to address will only increase.”Viable ink costs are keyLaybourne’s opinion about viable ink pricing models is informative. Ink cost makes medium to long runs with high ink coverage uneconomical in inkjet, as compared to analogue print. Suppliers want to maximize profit and this disconnect is holding back adoption of inkjet in commercial print, publishing and packaging applications.Printers using analogue presses think the ink is too expensive. There are several supply models for equipment, service and consumables (mostly ink, but cleaning fluids and replacement heads must be considered). High value recurring consumable revenue is attractive to suppliers, but print service providers are not used to this. They buy a litho press and negotiate for plates, inks and support from the established supply base – although some press manufacturers are competing there. Costly ink is turning some potential customers away from inkjet.Substrates also importantAnother historical barrier to wider adoption of inkjet, especially for commercial printing applications, was the need to use specially treated papers and the inability to effectively print on glossy coated stocks. The latest generation of production inkjet presses is rapidly eroding those barriers. “With the latest system introductions of the ImageStream, the reachable range of applications extends even further, due to the printability of offset coated material for matte, silk and glossy applications,” says Peter Wolff, Director of Commercial Printing Group Canon EMEA “With these new capabilities, additional applications like magazine printing, catalogue printing and others are now doable on inkjet with all the benefits in regards of individualization and customer targeted content without additional cost related to special inkjet treated papers. “This offers commercial printers the opportunity to combine a broad range of applications on one digital press with productivity and quality equivalent to offset.”Books leading the wayIt is important to note that the costing of inkjet production is different from that of analogue print. It has lower prepress and set-up cost, but ink – and until recently, paper – is more expensive, often much more expensive. This means long run, high ink coverage inkjet is not cost effective, so there is little appetite for printers to change. In book production, however, there are advantages in combining inkjet with in-line finishing, delivering finished blocks ready for cover application and final trimming. This is particularly true for monochrome books. Publishers and book printers have gone beyond just comparing print costs to considering the total cost of manufacturing, since inkjet can deliver folded, collated and glued blocks for a simple cover application and final trim for books in any format or pagination with minimal waste. The flexibility of inkjet allows book production to be re-engineered with overall cost and service advantages, enabling book publishers to reduce their stocks and their publishing risk. Colour books are quickly following the mono lead.For other products, the benefits of changing manufacturing processes to inkjet are not so clear yet. Well-established analogue methods are meticulously honed to minimize cost while delivering high quality. This will change as more companies install inkjet equipment, learn the capabilities and exploit new opportunities. New inkjet equipment will provide higher return on investment for many print products.  Production inkjet: a growth opportunityIn 2015, there are many inkjet early adopters and profitable users. Ricoh is at the forefront of quality with the high speed Pro VC60000 press launched in 2014. It has several early adopters, including HansaPrint in Finland, a €70m turnover firm specializing in retail and publishing. “Prior to experiencing the Ricoh Pro VC60000, I did not believe that there would be a major shift from offset printing to inkjet. But the new press has changed my mind,” says Jukka Saariluoma, HansaPrint Business Unit Director. “Our clients are very excited by the new level in quality and the increased flexibility offered and are moving significant amounts of their work from offset to inkjet.”The print world is certainly changing. All the key analyst organizations predict very high growth continuing for inkjet print volumes and values. Smithers Pira forecasts that the value of inkjet printing output for graphics and packaging more than trebles over 10 years, from €23 billion in 2010 to more than €70 billion in 2020 (in current values), with CAGR forecast of 12.7 percent between 2015 to 2020. HP alone reports that its customers have produced more than 100-billion inkjet pages since its first installation of a production inkjet press in 2009, a clear indicator of overall market trends, with other inkjet press manufacturers reporting rapidly growing volumes as well.Beyond traditional printThe applications for inkjet are many. There is coding and marking, addressing, security numbering and coding, photo-printing, wide-format (sheet, roll-fed and hybrid), flatbed imprinting systems, narrow web, tube and irregular shapes, high-speed wide web and sheetfed, to name a few. Outside of traditional printing and graphics, inkjet has revolutionized ceramic tile printing and it is growing very strongly in textiles and other industrial decoration applications – from pens and memory sticks to architectural glass and laminated decor.“Inkjet has become the preferred decoration process for ceramics and other decorative materials,” explains Jon Harper Smith, Fujifilm Specialty Ink Systems Business Development Manager.Thus, inkjet offers opportunities for expansion into related areas that may not normally be considered by traditional print providers. “Not too long ago, inkjet was praised as an alternative to conventional systems for its ability to offer single-off sheets, short runs and personalized prints. In the meanwhile, the technology is challenged to offer higher speeds and higher volumes to replace some of the conventional systems,” says Paul Adriaensen, Agfa Graphics PR Manager. “But the technology is also introduced in new areas never related to the printing industry before. This creates interesting dynamics in the industry.”Mimaki and other manufacturers are bringing innovative digital inkjet solutions on the market delivering higher speed and productivity to meet demands of the booming textile market.From a technical perspective, inkjet has a major advantage over all other print processes because it is the only non-contact, high quality, high performance process. The advances are primarily in new and better control of print heads, better inks and a much wider selection of readily available and more affordable inkjet treated papers.  New applications are developing almost daily. For example, Canon has installed lines in Nigeria to print election ballot papers.  Think inkInk manufacturers spend lots of money on developing new inks that perform well in the heads and provide excellent print quality. Such research is not cheap. But the result is that ink properties have improved, with higher density levels that result in more offset-like quality with lower coverage. There are also now more substrates that perform well with inkjet, aided by colour management improvements. There are many routes to market for inkjet inks. Some equipment manufacturers formulate and manufacture their inks; others sell ink that is made under license by ink specialists. In low-end wide-format inkjet, there are independent third-party ink suppliers competing with the OEM. That is probably the healthiest part of the market for end users, with thousands of machines sold each year consuming millions of litres of inks. This is not the case for high performance systems, where the equipment supplier typically provides the ink tailored to optimize performance within the overall system. There are indications, however, that this is changing. Collins Inkjet is an independent inkjet ink manufacturer who sells a range of inkjet inks, innovating in many applications including new electron beam curing. It makes water-based inks for many of the high speed single pass presses. It remains to be seen how effective this company and others will be in establishing itself as a third-party ink provider, in competition – or partnership – with OEMs.“Low consumables costs promote growth and easier adoption. When customers see competitive pricing for the more efficient inkjet technology, it is easier to switch, and they are more willing to change,” says Chris Rogers, Collins’ VP of Sales & Marketing. “Our business model is a traditional ink company; our manufacturing scale allows us to price inks at lower profit margins. This long-term strategy has proven successful over 25 years and it seems that OEMs are now starting to agree. They realize the easiest way to grow market share is to price their consumables fairly and we can help them with that."Driving new market opportunitiesInkjet has been around for some time. Today, a huge amount of money is being spent developing print heads, inks, substrates, control software, transport, drying and turnkey print systems. While these investments have forced changes on the world of print, it is nothing compared to what we expect to occur over the next few years. The inkjet markets today are largely new. As productivity grows, inkjet is becoming greedy, with suppliers now turning toward siphoning volume from analogue print markets for additional growth and offering directly competing solutions. The productivity, quality and economics are pushing inkjet firmly against sheetfed litho and narrow web flexo, and it has larger format flexo and web offset in its sights. While a few inkjet suppliers may be guilty of hyperbole (sorry, they are very guilty of it in some instances!), it is good to see users and customers voting with their feet and their wallets. That being said, we will continue to see enhancements to productivity and boosts to the cost performance of inkjet. Some totally new formats and systems are coming to market. At least a couple of these will be on show at drupa, in new formats and markets. What is also new is that these will be firmly aimed at the heartland of offset and flexo printing. Choice of printing methods changes because of one or more reasons: to reduce cost, to improve quality, to achieve greater levels of service, or to do new things. Inkjet allows printers to do all four – and no doubt there will be other new reasons going forward. Flexibility. Agility. Power.  In addition to graphics and packaging, inkjet is making rapid progress in textile printing, ceramics and industrial/architectural decoration. Then there is the new arena of 3D printing, where inkjet is an important enabler. These have the potential of opening huge new opportunities for companies that are smart enough and brave enough to explore the potential and exploit new markets. In technology terms, inkjet is state of the art. In business terms, inkjet is being used to re-engineer supply chains, making money. That certainly is not fiction.
Alliance Printing of Coquitlam, British Columbia, is being highlighted for driving its operation into environmentally progressive printing practices, spearheaded by its 6-year participation in Agfa Graphics’ GreenWorks program.In 2009, Alliance Printing replaced its chemistry-based computer-to-plate system and moved to thermal imaging technology focused around Agfa’s Azura plate, using ThermoFuse graining technology. Today, the BC printer is employing Agfa’s chemistry-free Azura TS plate. Azura TS is a thermal, negative-working plate designed for low- to medium-run volumes. “Our waste was cut significantly and there’s no more chemistry to treat before disposal,” said said Shawn Taghvaei, President and owner of Alliance Printing. “What used to take hours cleaning the processor now only takes minutes, and dumping chemistry every month due to oxidation has become a thing of the past.” Taghvaei continues to explain that the patented graining on the Azura plate allows Alliance Printing to run with much less water, resulting in less ink on the sheets and faster make readies. Alliance Printing, explains Taghvaei, also recycles all of its off-cut papers, cardboard and plates, in addition to using vegetable-based inks for printing and recycling of the company’s toner cartridges.“Commercial printers like Shawn at Alliance Printing are not only doing a service to their customer, but to the planet,” said Deborah Hutcheson, Director of Marketing at Agfa Graphics, North America. “We are fully supportive of endeavors that are eco-friendly, but also improve commercial printers’ end products and relationship with their customers for increased profits and greater success.”
With the introduction of the M measurement modes, the past couple of years have brought a range of incredible new measurement devices that can change the way any commercial printer approaches their pressroom (originally publshed in PrintAction's October 2015 issue).(EDITOR'S NOTE: This is a relatively long, highly important technical article produced from original research by Ryerson University's Dr. Martin Habekost and Dr. Abhay Sharma, with contributions from fourth-year student Alyssa Andino. If preferred, a PDF version of the article is available for printing in PrintAction's archives.)   View the embedded image gallery online at: http://www.printaction.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=latest&layout=latest&Itemid=1#sigProGalleria0703a5b166 There are some exciting new developments in the world of measuring instruments that tackle the perennial issues of measuring wet and dry press sheets, measurement of papers with optical brighteners, doing a press check with metallic inks or trying to match a press sheet to a proof – new standards and new instruments are now available that eradicate many of these practical colour issues. The Barbieri SpectroPad2, the Techkon SpectroDens and the X-Rite eXact have been tested and evaluated in Ryerson University’s pressroom in different applications from inkjet photo papers to metallic PANTONE inks on press. Spectrophotometers are routinely used for colour measurement and colour management in many commercial printing and proofing workflows. In the case of media containing optical brightening agents, UV-induced fluorescence has lead to poor levels of agreement between models from different manufacturers, or different models from the same manufacturer. If instruments produce different readings, then problems with colour matching can occur when colour management is done in prepress with one instrument, but a different instrument is used to do spot checks at press-side. A major contributor to inter-model differences is the amount of ultraviolet (UV) energy in the instrument. When a paper contains brightening agents, instruments have reported different measurements for the same sample. The new standard ISO 13655 now clearly defines four measurement modes: M0, M1, M2 and M3. In broad terms, M0 is a legacy mode for all devices prior to the implementation of the new measurement modes, while M1 and M2 are UV-included and UV-excluded modes, respectively. The M3 mode is a polarizing mode for use in ink dry-back on press or for measuring metallic inks and other special effect inks. New ISO 13655 measurementThe problem to date has been that there was no clear specification for handheld spectrophotometers for prepress and pressroom use. The new ISO 13655 standard provides much more clarity for the instrument measuring conditions, which has brought instruments from different suppliers into closer agreement. The instruments evaluated here are new instruments that meet this standard. We provide an explanation for ISO 13655 and its implementation for the general user. The legacy mode M0 represents the majority of measuring instruments used in the field today. The X-Rite 530, i1Pro and iSis are all M0 instruments. M0 is directed to instruments that use a tungsten lamp to illuminate the specimen being measured. The tungsten bulb based device used to be the primary type of device on the market. It should be noted that the UV component can be very weak in these instruments as they have very low energy in the 300-400 nm range.An M0 instrument can safely be used for process control applications where it is adequate to make repeatable measurements, it can be used in situations where it is not necessary to know the “absolute” measurement value and there is no exchange of information or correlation with other measurement scenarios. In general, the M0 mode exists as a catch-all mode so that we have within the new ISO standard a category for legacy devices. The M0 mode enables older devices to have a place within the new standard.M1 is known as the “D50 mode” or “UV included mode”  – devices can use two different methods to achieve this mode. The light source in the instrument must create the effect of CIE Illuminant, D50. A major difference (and improvement) over earlier specifications is that in this mode the spectral power distribution of the illuminant should approximate D50, thus the relative amount  of UV and visible wavelengths is now clearly and unambiguously specified.The clarification for spectral power distribution in measuring instruments, ISO 13655, is accompanied by a similar clarification in the standard for viewing booths ISO 3664. Via updated standard ISO 3664, emphasis has turned to requiring a closer simulation of Illuminant D50 thus clarifying the amount of UV illumination in the viewing booth. In the current context, ISO 3664 has called for tighter tolerances on the quality of the light source to ensure that it closely matches the D50 (M1) curve especially in the UV part of the spectrum. We may say that M1 is, in fact, nothing more than an ISO 3664 source in the instrument. By implementation of these two ISO standards, we arrive for the first time at a situation where instrument reported values are in agreement with what is observed visually in a viewing booth. D50, one of the standard viewing booth modes, is the basis for the Profile Connection Space in the ICC architecture. M1 mode within instruments corresponds to ISO 3664 for viewing booths, all of which make M1 the most desirable mode for today’s colour measurement and colour management systems. Instruments that offer M1 mode are devices such as X-Rite’s i1Pro2 and iSis2 – note the “2” in the model name, indicating they are second generation instruments for the new ISO standard.M2, defined as a “UV-cut” mode, removes all UV light from the measurement system, below 400 nm. ISO 13655 states, “The spectral power distribution of the measurement source… shall only contain substantial radiation power in the wavelength range above 400 nm...” M2 is thus a UV-cut mode, filtering out any UV component below 400 nm, in the instrument’s light source. How is this mode used in practice? There will be times when a customer will request a print to be measured using M2 because the lighting used to display the job is expected to be free of UV content. A museum is an example of one such place that may use UV-free lighting. In colour management circles there may be instances that require removing UV light from the measurement system. With the new standard there is a specific definition for “UV-cut” and the wavelength at which it occurs.M3 is a polarizing mode (for measurement of wet offset press sheets) and consists of UV-cut, up until 400 nm and then a polarizing filter is applied to the remaining wavelengths. The main use of M3 is to limit or completely remove surface reflections. In the offset printing sector, the customer pays for the final dry product. One of the main concerns is that the press sheets come off the press wet and as they dry the density of the ink drops. The M3 mode can aid printers in cutting the surface gloss from wet inks, and if drying is primarily represented by a change in surface gloss, then by removing the gloss, we may have a better prediction of the final expected dry density. It is generally agreed that a polarization filter can give less difference in density readings between a wet and a dried-back press sheet, so the use of a polarizing filter can provide a better predictor of dry density from wet density readings.There is considerable debate around the use of polarization filters for density measurements and for use in metallic inks. The use of polarization filters is somewhat controversial since the effect is not controllable and each situation will produce different results, until now there have been no published standards for the use of polarization filters. The situation was akin to the use of UV light in the instrument, it was not stipulated or clearly defined. ISO 13655 now clarifies the situation for the response of the polarizing filter. The M3 mode is examined in the present study for use in measurement of metallic inks – an area that has been a thorny issue for measurement and control of metallic inks on press. Practical testing using the Techkon SpectroDens and X-Rite eXact show that the M3 mode provides huge improvements when controlling metallic inks on press.Barbieri SpectroPad2New in the market today, from different companies, are instruments that meet the ISO 13655 standard. The Barbieri SpectroPad2 spectrophotometer was evaluated at Ryerson GCM for use in photo papers containing high amounts of optical brighteners. The SpectroPad2 has a novel upright design with a large, clear panel. To measure, the head moves along for a small distance until a small beep reports the measurement in the touch-screen LCD panel. The device connects directly to a laptop or other computer via Barbieri Gateway software using USB or WiFi, or at press-side the LCD panel can be set to immediately report a pass or fail colour test. Importantly, the SpectroPad2 is compliant with the M0, M1 and M2 measurement modes – it is highly recommended that a press shop should only buy a device that complies with these standards. The white calibration tile is neatly hidden and is unlocked when white calibration is done by the user. The device is clean, simple, elegant and a charm to use, and has applications in offset printing as well as all digital applications such as large-format inkjet. Barbieri is an Italian company, run by brothers Stefan and Markus Barbieri, supplying a range of spectrophotometers with a wide European user base, and support here in Toronto.Techkon SpectroDensThe Techkon SpectroDens is a sophisticated German instrument in which we focused on the use of the M3 measurement mode. The SpectroDens also has a neatly hidden calibration tile in the charging base for the instrument. The SpectroDens can also be used to see if a press sheet is in compliance with the G7 process. The latest model even offers a hand-scanning mode for the measurement of the G7 target. In the current evaluation we focused on the M3 mode, which can be used for measuring metallic inks and other special effect inks. The M3 measurement mode describes the use of two polarizing filters before the reflected light from the sample hits the sensor.In the test, we measured wet and dry metallic inks to see how well the new M3 measurement mode works when it comes to measuring such inks. Ten metallic inks with PANTONE P877 silver or P874 gold as base metallic ink were printed on a Prüfbau printability tester and measured. The reference point was the printed metallic ink in the PANTONE metallic book. A range of samples with declining ink amounts were printed. The Techkon SpectroDens was used to measure L*a*b* values and the density of the samples.The colour data and the density were recorded using the SpectroDrive software from Techkon, which can be downloaded for free. The software can connect to the instrument over WiFi, if both devices are on the same wireless network. The other option is to connect the instrument with the supplied USB cable to a USB port of your computer. With help of the software a colour standard can be set and then measurements can be taken of the samples and compared to the standard. The colour difference between standard and sample can be calculated in various colour differencing equations. For the evaluation of the M3 measurement mode, we used the DE2000 equation because the calculated DE2000 values correspond quite well with how we, as human observers, perceive colour differences.Since the SpectroDens, and all other modern spectrophotometers measure the light spectrum that is reflected back from the sample, they do not calculate density in the same way as traditional filter-based densitometers. In spectral-based densitometers, the reflected light spectrum is used from which to calculate density. This is the reason why the measuring device is capable of giving L*a*b* values and printed ink density at the same time.Press run with silver and gold metallic inksAfter printing 10 different metallic inks on the Prüfbau printability tester, six colours were chosen for a pressrun on our 2-colour Heidelberg Quickmaster QM46. Again, we used the printed ink density from the PANTONE metallic book as a yardstick. After a proper set up and achieving the target ink density, we turned the ink ductor off and ran 200 consecutive prints. For the analysis, a press sheet was measured every 10 sheets and the results collected with the SpectroDrive software and recorded in Excel. The results from the prints on the Prüfbau printability tester and the QM46 press run aligned quite well in regards to which metric can be used for controlling metallic inks on press.For the metallic ink project we also used an X-Rite eXact which has been switched into M3 measurement mode. The same samples (Prüfbau and QM46) that were measured with the SpectroDens were also measured with the eXact. X-Rite offers the DataCatcher software which can connect via Bluetooth or USB-cable with instrument. The data can also be stored directly into an Excel spreadsheet.Very important and relevant findings show that the M3 mode can be used to measure spectral density and the density relates well to ink film thickness of metallic ink. When we increase or decrease the amount of metallic ink, the density reading increases or decreases accordingly, thus we have an instrument and metric to control metallic ink on press. The other critical result here is that two different instruments – the Techkon SpectroDens and the X-Rite eXact agree in their measurements of the same sample. A main result from this project is that there is close agreement in terms of density between the Techkon SpectroDens and the X-Rite eXact for the metallic colours. The density function on both measurement devices allows to easily track the printed ink density on press. Differences start to show up when thick ink films are being printed, when one tries to print a real intense or dense colour. At this point, the measurement values start to drift, but you have to keep in mind that at a heavy ink film and high ink densities very little light reaches the light sensor and, therefore, the calculated L*a*b* values and ink densities can start to be slightly different. Another option would be to track the L*-value of the printed ink. L* is a lightness measurement. So, if the L* value is below the target L*-value than the ink is too dark and too much ink is applied on press. If the L* value is above the target value then the ink is too light and a little bit more ink has to be printed. Our results clearly show that the recorded density values decrease as the printed ink film thickness decrease. A decreasing ink film thickness means that the print gets lighter, which in return, in shown in the increasing L*-values. A higher L*-value means, that the colour is less intense than the desired colour and a thicker ink film has to be printed on press by either opening the ink keys more, or by increasing the ink dwell in the ink fountain.More than hypeIn many print shops there are different devices used in prepress and press, or a printer may have a Toronto and Ottawa location with an instrument in each facility. The new ISO 13655 standard brings all these different instruments into close alignment. Further, the ISO 13655 enables different measurement modes for UV-included and UV-excluded measurements and also the M3 mode for measurement of metallic inks. Together these changes provide huge advantages to practical colour measurement and colour matching at press-side.It is not marketing hype, press shops should genuinely seek to upgrade their instrumentation and in this work we evaluated the Barbieri SpectroPad2, Techkon SpectroDens and X-Rite eXact – these all meet the new ISO standards and are all easy to use, software-driven devices. Specifically in this testing, the Techkon SpectroDens and the X-Rite eXact can both be used to measure metallic inks on press, using the M3 measurement mode. A relatively easy to understand metric for on press control is the printed ink density that both instruments can show in their LCD displays. Using the printed ink density allows press operators to measure and control metallic inks like they are controlling four process colours!
An in-depth test review of Affinity Photo v1.3.5 (available from the Mac Store for $57.99 or as a free trial) to better understand if Serif Software can continue to shake up the graphics software market with its inexpensive applications.Within a span of 12 short months, UK-based Serif Software has turned the Mac graphics software market on its ear! Its first salvo – Affinity Designer – was released in October 2014 (reviewed in PrintAction February 2015) and cut a broad swath into the design, pre-media and prepress software market with powerful and useful features aimed squarely at graphic arts professionals. And instead of exacting a monthly toll from its users, Serif chose to sell perpetual licenses of Affinity Designer through Apple’s online store for a fraction the cost of competing applications.Now Serif is poised to disrupt the image-editing and photography market with its next product for graphics professionals and amateurs alike – Affinity Photo. As with Designer, Serif has engineered Affinity Photo as a Mac application from the first line of code instead of porting their popular PhotoPlus application from the Windows side of its business. And based on my initial impressions and early industry buzz, Affinity Photo is a strong sophomore effort for the company as it courts the Mac design, photo and graphics pro.Personas for the peopleWhen first launching Affinity Photo (AP) the default user interface opens in an application window and presents a familiar looking array of image-editing tools and panels that are relatively easy to navigate for both experienced image pros and amateurs. As with Designer, Affinity Photo groups tools and functions into task specific workspaces called Personas – good for those keen to organize their workflow. Initially, Photo opens with the Photo Persona active, presenting a familiar looking Tool Dock on the left chock full of the usual (image-editing) suspects including: Move Tool; Selection Brush; Cropping; various paint brush and fill tools; dodging and cloning tools; as well as a few mystery tools. Mystery tool #1: The AP Flood Select tool enables users to select pixels by colour similarity. As you drag the tool across a range of pixels, the selection size grows to encompass a wider range of colour. Flood Select is especially useful in isolating shadow areas in high contrast images. Mystery tool #2 is the Inpainting Brush, another tool unique to AP that can be used to identify damaged areas within an image, and then used to paint over the missing data with new pixels reconstructed based on image information from the surrounding pixels. It sounds complex, but is really just a new and innovative approach to content-aware restoration.The toolbar running horizontally along top of the Photo Persona application window houses auto levels, contrast, colour and white balance buttons in addition to selection and quick mask tools. In particular, AP’s Quick Mask feature enables users to easily build masks to isolate key elements within their images, then toggle how the selection is displayed. Other toolbar inhabitants include a nifty Force Pixel Alignment tool that will snap vector objects or pixel selections to full pixels – very useful for Web graphics – as well as a full range of arrange, insert and alignment functions. A full range of filters can be found in the Photo Persona menubar, including the varied flavours of Blur; Sharpen; Distort; Noise; Edge Detection; Shadows/Highlights and so on. When launched each Filter pops up in its own window with all the appropriate controls and parameters for the user to adjust. Split Screen, a feature borrowed from Designer, is built into the filter window and enables users to view images in full screen, split screen or mirrored screen to preview the effect alongside the original image in real-time.As you might expect, the right side of the default AP workspace contains a familiar set of panels relevant to the Persona that the user is working in. For example, the Photo Persona includes essential panels such as Layers; Effects; Swatches; Brushes; Histogram; Navigator; and so on. All panels can be rearranged to suit individual preferences within the application window to create a customized workspace. The chaotically minded can opt to do away with the window altogether by choosing to work in Separated Mode, which breaks all the aforementioned toolbars and panels into free-floating elements that can be placed anywhere on your screen.Using Layers, AP provides a comprehensive non-destructive editing workflow allowing users to apply any adjustment or effect to underlying Layers. Colour images can be converted to greyscale using a B+W adjustment layer similar to a channel mixer you might find in other photo-editing applications. Unique to Affinity Photo, Live Filter Layers can be applied to any layer and modified in real-time. Portrait photographers and prepress techs dealing with a lot of headshots will appreciate AP’s Frequency Separation filter which enables users to correct texture and colour independently – great for blemish removal and smoothing coarse skin textures without affecting skin tone.Liquify & DevelopAffinity Photo includes three additional Personas for users: Liquify; Develop; and Export. As the name implies, Liquify Persona is the workspace for distorting pixels in images. When switching to the Liquify workspace, a grid is immediately applied to your image showing brush size and distortion effect. The Toolbar displays a selection of distortion tools, such as Twirl; Pinch; Liquify Turbulence Tool; as well as a Freeze Tool that creates a mask to protect an area in your image from distortion, and a Thaw Tool to remove it.Opening a Camera RAW file in Affinity Photo automatically defaults to the Develop Persona – AP’s robust RAW editing workspace. In addition to RAW, the Develop Persona works with other standard image formats and Photo’s tabbed UI means that users can work with RAW images alongside other files. Develop enables users to apply multiple adjustments to images encompassing exposure; white balance; and black point along with a variety of other professional-grade adjustments. The AP Scope panel shows users the distribution of chrominance and luminance within their image – a capability I have not previously seen in an image-editing application.I was particularly impressed with the powerful lens correction features in the AP Develop Persona, including notable noise reduction for high ISO images. That said: Affinity Photo has the ability to create and save presets for rectifying lens distortion, but this version does not appear to include profiles for specific lenses. Hopefully, some popular lens profiles will show up in a future version. When finished perfecting your RAW image, Affinity Photo prompts you to ‘Develop’ before changing Personas in a nod to the analog roots of darkroom wizardry. The Export Persona affords users very precise control over getting an image out of Affinity Photo in a variety of formats. At this point, I should mention that AP has its own propriety file structure for saving files you are actively working with. The .afphoto file type contains all layer, filter, mask and effect information in addition to the pixels in your image. Although this format is both efficient and convenient, users will still need to export more common image formats for prepress use. Fortunately, the Export Persona makes short work of this task with all the options necessary to export SVG, JPEG, TIFF, PNG, GIF, EPS and PDF available in one convenient workspace. Interestingly, I saved the same test image in Photoshop and Affinity Photo –  the Affinity Photo file was about 70 percent smaller while maintaining the same pixel density.Under the hoodIt is easy to get wrapped up in all the bells and whistles Affinity Photo provides for image-editing pros and overlook a few other pretty remarkable attributes. Under the hood, AP uses a 64-bit architecture and harnesses every graphics advantage the Mac ecosystem has to offer, such as: Support for Open GL; Grand Central Dispatch; Core Graphics; and the Retina display UI. In plain English this translates to fast, live processing and instantaneous previews of a huge range of high-end filters and effects; masking effects and advanced adjustment layers as well as live blending modes. Affinity Photo is very fast, even on modestly configured equipment such as my aging 2012 Macbook Air.Prepress pros will be glad to hear that in addition to support for RGB, Greyscale and LAB colour spaces (both 8- and 16-bit), AP provides users with a start-to-finish CMYK workflow, something of a rarity in image-editing applications within this price range. Add to that a multi-document tabbed interface, support for unlimited layers and impressive live preview performance even when applying effects to massive layered images and its pretty tough to see a downside to working in Affinity Photo!That’s not to suggest Affinity Photo provides everything a photographer, designer or prepress pro wants or needs. A few useful production capabilities are missing in action with this version, including support for scripts, HDR image compositing and panorama stitching. Also, minor conveniences such as the application recognizing the pixel dimensions of an image in the clipboard when creating a new file have been overlooked – in this version at least. The good in Affinity Photo’s imperfections is that Serif has fodder for future updates – something they have established a good reputation for with Affinity Designer.Elephant in the prepress department“Gee, Affinity Photo sounds an awful lot like Photoshop! How does it compare?” Google “Affinity Photo” and you will see “Photoshop Alternative” or “Photoshop Challenger” as the headline or opening stanza in dozens of articles. When assessing Affinity Photo, I tried to put more than two decades of Photoshop experience on the back burner and take an unbiased look at this new application instead comparing the two programs feature-by-feature. As a result, I have concluded that Affinity Photo is the first image-editing application I’ve worked with that can meet the day-to-day production needs of most designers, photographers and image-editing specialists that didn’t have an Adobe logo on its welcome screen. This application provides all tools needed to work with CMYK images with full Photoshop import (.PSD and .PSB) and export capability (.PSD) while maintaining layers and effects.Does Affinity Photo do everything Photoshop does? Of course not! Photoshop benefits from more than 25 years of development and includes arcane features such ad-hoc video editing and 3D model rendering and printing – neither which might be relevant to many designers, premedia and prepress specialists.And if, like myself, you have been working with Photoshop on a professional level for more than 20 years you have also likely memorized plenty of key commands and know where to access every single function with a flick of the wrist. With that level of muscle memory dedicated to working in Photoshop, you will have some re-learning to do before becoming as effective in Affinity Photo. The key takeaway here is that in most cases you can eventually be as effective once you are on the downhill side of the Affinity Photo learning curve… a pretty big accomplishment for Serif’s new kid on the image-editing block.Zac Bolan can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
Earn more business by reducing your prospect’s marketing cost by up to 75% while maintaining maximum marginsMost account executives are facing the same two print sales challenges: How do I differentiate my services when my competitors are capable of supplying the same job and how can I be competitive when there is always someone willing to print the same job for less? Although co-op marketing does not apply to every print sales situation, if your prospect is a neighborhood business that is print marketing collateral then co-op marketing offers a unique solution to this print sales challenge. What is co-op marketing?With summer now in swing, businesses that offer home services like lawn care, carpet cleaning, door and window sales, heating and air conditioning sales, eaves trough installers, roofers, driveway paving, kitchen and bathroom renovators, home improvement contractors and landscapers are getting ready for their summer marketing drive, which usually entails distributing fliers, brochures and door hangers throughout the local neighborhood. This need for marketing collateral presents an excellent opportunity for anyone in the printing industry to grow their sales and earnings.But landing these accounts is not that easy, after all, most of them are already dealing with a printer and the vast majority – a whopping 80 percent – are happy with their existing supplier. So why should any of these companies endure the risk and inconvenience of changing suppliers?  Well the fact is that in most cases they won’t, unless:You have something to offer that they can’t get from their existing supplier, You can show them how to get a better ROI, and Your quote is very competitive.Co-op marketing allows you to meet all three of these criteria. Co-op marketing simply means sharing the printing and distribution costs between two or more noncompetitive businesses. CO-OP Marketing advantages 1. It lowers your prospect’s cost   For example, the lawn care service provider is ready to invest $3,000 to print and distribute a promotional flier; the roofing company is also planning to send promotional fliers to the same target market; and so is the driveway paving service and the eaves trough installers. If only two of these businesses got together to share the cost of the flier and distribution, they could reduce their marketing costs by up to 50 percent; and if all four got together their savings could be as high as 75 percent. From a print sales perspective creating a co-op marketing program allows you to differentiate your service by telling the prospect that you can reduce their marketing costs by up to 75 percent!  2. It will increase sales    For your prospect a reduction in marketing costs means much more than just saving money; it also means an increase in sales and higher profits. For example, take any business person; a real estate agent; the owner of a lawn care service or the owner of the local pizzeria, their success requires marketing. They need to tell everyone in their neighborhood about the service or product and the more often they get their message out, the higher their sales. But small business owners have a limited marketing budget, so although they’d like to advertise more, they cannot afford it. Small business owners will welcome an idea that allows them to promote their services more often for the same cost and co-op marketing provides this opportunity. From a print sales perspective, creating a co-op marketing program allows you to differentiate your service by telling the prospect that you can share an idea that will increase their sales and gain market share.3. It makes your prospect’s marketing material more effective  Diversity increases readership. For example, a Healthcare Newsletter that included an article and ad from a dentist, a dermatologist, a chiropractor and a nutritionist would have a much higher readership then a newsletter that only focused on one of these topics. So while sharing the cost of printing and distributing a brochure, flier or door hanger will greatly reduce your prospect’s marketing cost, co-op marketing will also increase readership and, for the prospect, that means generating a higher response. From a print sales perspective, creating a co-op marketing program means that you differentiate your service by telling the prospect that you can share an idea that will increase response and make their marketing collateral more effective.While offering your prospects a co-op marketing opportunity is an extremely effective way to differentiate your services and eliminate price competition, you can maximize your sales and earnings by offering the prospect a marketing campaign instead of a single co-op distribution. For example, if you created a co-op Home Services Newsletter or Door Hanger your promotional package could include printing and distribution to 5-million homes once a month for six months. How to create a co-op marketing package 1. Select the productAny printed material can be turned into a co-op marketing program, a note pad, flier, postcard, calendar, oversized door hangers, or an 11 x 17 sheet can be turned into 4-page newsletter.      2. Select an area for distribution5,000 homes along specified postal routes, all the businesses within a target area3. Pick a theme Again, there are lots of themes to choose from, primarily depending on time of year: Home improvements, real estate, food and entertainment, health and fitness, business services, etc.4. List the different types of business that fit under your themeHome improvements: Carpet cleaning, door and window sale, heating and air conditioning sale, eaves trough installers, roofers, driveway paving, kitchen and bathroom renovators, home improvements contractors, landscapers, lawn care, plumbers and electricians. Food and entertainment: Restaurants, theatres, pubs, country clubs, caterers, wine making outlets, butchers, home delivery, bakers and even farms that sell to the public.Business services: Office cleaning, office supplies, office equipment, business insurance, car leasing, temp services, accounting, bookkeeping and computer services, courier, shipping.5. Create a prospecting listUse the phone directory and Internet to identify all the local businesses on your list. 6. Contact everyone on your listTell them about the benefits. Offer everyone exclusivity by only including one company for each service. For example if your theme was dinning you could make it exclusive by including only one Italian, one Chinese and one Mexican restaurant.
For three days in March, some of  the brightest technological minds in print gathered in New Mexico to discuss RFID, Ultra Violet, omni-marketing and colour management The Technical Association of the Graphic Arts held its annual conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in late March. As is tradition, the conference, focusing on the newest technological developments in printing systems kicked off with four high-profile keynote speakers.The first keynote came from Chris Travis of KBA North America. He talked about many advances still being made in press technology, with more sales of complex machines, combining different   printing features and more automation. Presses are being ordered with double coaters for spot UV, spot matte and special effect coatings. Sometimes the coating units are before the printing units for laying white down first, to print on foils and for the application of sizing. The goal of all these various press configurations is to get everything done in  one pass. Travis also points out that the decision to print a job digitally or offset starts at a relatively low good-copy count. He says any job with more than 191 good print copies is more cost effective when the job is printed offset. UV technology is also changing, as the light tubes change from the standard mercury vapour to iron-doped mercury vapour light tubes. This little change results in higher gloss levels for UV coatings. The coating manufacturers have to adjust the phot0-initiator mix so it will work with the iron-doped UV light tubes and UV LED technology is gaining more of a foothold in the print industry. Travis also points out that flexographic printing is growing and holds the most potential in the print industry. The industry overall is finally growing again even as a lot of mergers and acquisitions take place.The second keynote was given by Patrick Younk from Los Alamos National Lab, introducing conference attendees to some of their incredible work. Many fundamental research projects are carried out by this research institute. Younk talked about the High Altitude Water Cherenkov observatory for the detection of gamma rays originating from the sun. He also talked about an ultra-fast optical ranging measurement system. It is a non-contact position measurement system that works with a 1-micron accuracy and it could be used to measure ink film thickness or colour registration.Michael Van Haren from Quad/Graphics presented the third keynote on omni-channel marketing. He began by describing the differences between multi-channel and omni-channel marketing. Omni-channel marketing is the same message on all media. Print of course is still the main driver of this. Why – because it works. It delivers the right message in the right place at the  right time. With the emergence of high-speed inkjet printing it is possible to personalize the message and with full colour inkjet the message to the consumer becomes very personalized. A highly targeted variable data print uses personalized URLs or PURLs. Through QR codes and image recognition apps, the printed piece has some augmented reality to it. For all this technology to work well, data is needed to drive the campaign. The contact strategy needs to be build with print being in sync with digital channels. Any digital tools that interact with the customer need to be tested over and over again to make sure they all work as intended.The fourth keynote was given by Bruce Khan from Clemson University and his topic was printed electronics. He said that print is and will be the manufacturing method of choice in this area, because it is fast and produces the electronic components at a relatively low cost. Khan also says that false hopes had been given by nanotechnology and RFID technology. The most successful printed electronic component is the glucose sensor strip for diabetics. Many obstacles still need to be overcome to successfully print something like flexible hybrid electronics.Colour and optical brightenersOn the second day of the TAGA conference, the series of presentations started with a diverse range of topics. John Anderson from Kodak talked about the  Flexcel NX flexographic printing plate that allows the manufacturing of plates with flat top dots. The Flexcel NX plate is coupled with DigiCapNX technology to achieve higher solid ink densities than with conventional plate technology. This technology allows for creating halftones from a 0.4 to a 99.6 percent tint. Through Hyperflex NX technology, the floor of the flexographic printing plate gets extended to support low tint value halftone dots. This presentation was an example of the advances that are currently made in flexography that allow the printing of finer details and more vibrant solids.Don Schroeder from Fujifilm was one of the first speakers to talk about the influence of optical brighteners in papers and that proofing papers have no or very little optical brighteners in them. This discrepancy causes colour differences between press sheet and proof, especially if the paper has a very blueish white colour. The new measurement conditions M1 as outlined in ISO 13655 requires a light source with UV component, so the optical brighteners in the paper get excited and influence the measurement of the printed colours. The standard datasets that many colour management solutions are built upon were created in 2006 and they have been measured under the M0 measurement conditions, which are without a UV component in the light source. The new dataset created in 2013 use measurements taken under the M1 conditions.Many other presenters talked about the new M1 measurement conditions and how they will influence the printing industry, but there is a drawback to this new measurement condition. An extreme example is that two M1 compliant light sources can have 50 and 150 percent of UV component in them and this results in a b* difference of 7. This can be quite significant for the overall colour difference and can result in a pass or fail of a colour. In conjunction with ISO 13655, for the measurement conditions of light booths, ISO 3664 has also been updated, so that the light source in the viewing booths also has a UV component in them. The compliance of a viewing booth with this updated ISO standard can be verified with a measurement device from GL Optics. Overall there were six presentations about the new M1 measurement condition and how it influences measured colours, the proofing stage and also the colour management part of any print job.Although the DE2000 colour difference equation is not (yet) part of an ISO standard, work is being done to develop a colour space that is based on DE2000. John Seymour from QuadTech presented his advances in this project. His goal is to create a colour space with modified L*a*b*-axis that allow for the use the DeltaLab colour difference formula.A presentation was given on the strategies of managing spot colours using traditional metrics and how to predict the colour outcome using simulated colours on screen. Research is also being done regarding working with expanded gamut printing using 7 colours (CMYK plus orange, green and violet). The use GCR and optimized colour sequence (KOVCGMY) are instrumental to more stable and predictable print results.Raia Slivniak-Zorin from HP in Israel talked about the work she and her team did with regard to digitally printed flexible packaging. The work was done on an HP Indigo and the prints were also laminated. One of her main findings is that a primer needs to applied to the flexible substrate first, so the ElectroInk will adhere properly. Also an adhesive has to be applied first, before the printed material can be laminated. A corona treatment of the substrate greatly enhances the bonding of primer and ink.The 2015 TAGA conference was a very high profile conference with many cutting-edge research  presentations that will have an  influence on the print industry in the coming years. The fact that the M1 measurement condition  received so much attention during the conference shows that the new ISO standard requires more  investigation.
Makers of electrophoretic ink discuss how technology that began life as an MIT Media Lab research project is transforming information consumptionSimple demographics are one of the biggest threats to the viability of print. Younger generations consume more and more media with little need for the printed page. Digital display companies are keenly focused on the functionality of their user interfaces, but readability remains an allusive metric for most. From consumer reports it seems the tablet reading experience on devices such as Apple’s iPad or Samsung’s Galaxy leaves something to be desired. The tablet’s glossy backlit LCD screen is great for watching videos, but reflections tire the reader’s eye and the words are difficult to read outdoors. Emissive displays also draw a lot of power causing tablet batteries to fade after only a few hours in many cases.On the other hand many avid e-book fans will tell you that a Kindle or Kobo with crisp black type on a paper-white background provides a much better reading experience. Though by no means a replacement for the multi-media friendly tablet, former consumers of the printed page have been increasingly adopting this style of e-reader for ease of reading both indoors and out while enjoying longer battery life. But what makes these e-readers so different from tablets? The answer is E InkE Ink takes its name from its technology – electrophoretic ink – and is the visible component used in Electronic Paper Displays (EPDs). This promising technology began life in 1996 as a research project in the MIT Media Lab before becoming the foundation of E Ink Corporation, which sought to commercialize the digital paper concept as the preferred display for e-readers. E Ink is made of microcapsules about the diameter of a human hair sandwiched between two thin layers of film containing a transparent top electrode, and a bottom electrode. Each microcapsule contains negatively charged black pigment and positively charged white pigment suspended in a clear fluid. When the top electrode charges positive, the black pigment rises to the surface, morphing the microcapsule from white to black. The microcapsules are bi-stable and reflective – meaning the image will remain on the digital page without electricity and requires only ambient light to be visible. That’s why E Ink displays draw very little power.E Ink displays are well suited for viewing static images that change sporadically – simulating book, newspaper or magazine pages for example. Because the display reflects natural light, it much more closely resembles the printed page with readability improving as the light gets brighter – working especially well in full sunlight. E Ink Corporation announced new concepts at CES 2015 and demonstrated E Ink products developed by licensees that evolve the digital paper paradigm beyond the e-reader.New E Ink models“One of the more interesting products we are showing at CES is the Sony DPT S1 business e-reader,” reveals Giovanni Mancini, head of global marketing for E Ink. “Designed for the business user, this device is the size of an A4 sheet of paper, extremely rugged and weighs only about six ounces.“The DPT S1 has touch capability, but it also has an extremely responsive digitizer. This is intended for business users who want to take a large number of documents with them, but don’t want the bulk of the paper,” he continues. “Users can annotate documents with their fingertip while in the field, then have the information captured into the document control system back in the office.”The Sony DPT S1 comes with 4gb storage, capable of carrying thousands of monochrome pages and has a micro SD slot for expansion.Mancini then demonstrates another innovative use for E Ink in the form of a mobile phone display. The Russian-made YotaPhone is an Android mobile phone featuring a standard high-resolution colour display on the front, and a monochrome E Ink display on the back of the handset.“The idea is to attach different information feeds, such as email or text messages, that you want to keep monitoring to the E Ink display on the back,” Mancini explains. “This way you don’t have to constantly turn on the screen on the front of your phone and cycle through the various apps to get the information. This really extends the battery life of the YotaPhone because of the very low power consumption of E Ink displays.“To really conserve power, the user can completely disable the front colour display and get the full Android interface on the E Ink display. You can even use the Kindle App to read books on the back of the YotaPhone! “Another innovative use of an E ink display can be seen on the Sony Smartband Talk – a sports watch and fitness device that pairs up with an Android phone. The Smartband Talk enables you to track your fitness during the day and get information from your smartphone, all displayed on a controllable E Ink display,” explains Mancini.While EPDs are already well established in the retail display category, E Ink Corporation announced and demonstrated innovative new solutions at CES 2015 targeting both the indoor and outdoor signage markets.“These E Ink 32-inch digital displays are great for small businesses such as coffee shops or restaurants, for example, that might want to use them as menu boards,” says Mancini. “They are also well-suited for information displays in public spaces such as bus shelters. Because of low energy requirements, batteries or even solar power can power these E Ink displays without the need to run cables.“Another thing that we announced at CES this year is our E ink Prism product,” Mancini continues. “We’ve taken our E ink technology and encapsulated many different colours of pigments within the same microsphere and laminated them into a colour changing film to incorporate into architectural products.”E Ink Corporation demonstrated a 20-foot wall of colour-shifting Prism tiles at CES. Controlled by a PC, these tiles are designed to change colours, providing a different aesthetic and changing the mood of a hotel lobby or an airport terminal.“Right now this is a concept product for us,” Mancini continues, “created through collaboration with architects and design firms over the past year. We hope to have a public installation of Prism by the end of 2015. We also plan to use Prism in horizontal surfaces such as glass counters or coffee tables.”Nemesis of printFrom the products on display at CES 2015 it’s logical to conclude that E Ink has already done most of the damage it’s going to do to the conventional printed page. After all, e-readers already represent an established market for publishers, and the line has been drawn between those who prefer to read the printed page, and those who choose digital. Instead, the future of E Ink and Electronic Page Displays lies in enabling the next generation of signage, personal document readers, smart devices and wearable technology – where low-power displays and control surfaces are essential to ensure functionality and energy efficiency.
With drupa 2016 a year away, I began thinking about the last time the giant German tradeshow in Düsseldorf took place in 2012 and the crowds at Landa Digital Printing’s exhibition space. Mostly, I remember the blue-and-black futuristic design of Landa’s new Nanographic Printing Presses, including the unique control panel mounted to the side of each press like a giant iPhone. I wondered aloud, “Shouldn’t there be a few presses already installed in print shops by this time?”Providing as much function as form, the control screen GUI appeared to be well designed to meet the needs of a busy operator. There was even a digital microscope that came with each press, which I was immediately impressed with because it allows both operators and customers to look at the details of a printed sheet. Over the first days of the 14-day trade show, heavy iron manufacturers like Heidelberg, manroland and Komori joined Landa’s marketing buzz by announcing Nanographic technology partnerships, albeit a little vague. Benny Landa, who founded the company in 2002, told drupa 2012 visitors the Nanographic presses could reach first adopters by the end of 2013 at the earliest, with initial machines hitting the market during the first months of 2014. I thought to myself: Let’s see if he can keep this deadline.Nanography nutshell The year 2013 came and went without any Landa Digital presses going into potential customers, although there may have well been quiet alpha testing going on inside an eager print shop. In March 2013, I attended the annual TAGA conference in Portland, Oregon, where Gilad Tzori, VP of Product Strategy of Landa Digital Printing gave the event’s third keynote presentation.Tzori provided conference attendees, who primarily serve on the technical side of printing, an overview of how Landa Nanography works and differs from existing printing presses. Emphasis was put on Landa’s jetting of water-based inks which do not soak the paper, so the sheet does not come out wavy at the end of the press run.Many people will have experienced this water-soaking problem when they print a sheet of paper with heavy coverage on their home or office inkjet printer. Tzori explained how the Nanographic printing process first inkjets the image onto a heated transfer belt, and secondly how the ink turns into a semi-solid type material on the transfer belt, which is then transferred onto the paper. Unique properties of Landa’s belt, explained Tzori, ensures a 100 percent transfer of the image onto the paper. He then showed images of a printed dot produced with Nanography and compared it to the same magenta dot printed with different technologies currently on the market. The superior quality of the Nanographic process, in regards to the roundness and sharpness of the printed dot, was then described in Tzori’s marketing presentation. A clear advantage of Nanography indicates the process allows for printing on almost any substrate.Nano pigments deliver a broader colour gamut than standard offset inks. The Landa black has L*a*b*-values of 5.4, 0.7 and 0.05 compared to the ISO standard of 16, -0.1, 0.1. The ink film is 500-nano-meters thick, which is a lot less than that of any other conventional printing process. The printed density for coated and uncoated paper is the same, since the ink does not sink into the uncoated paper but rather sits on top of the paper. De-inkability studies, explained Tzori, have also shown good results. De-inkability is a significant problem with regular inkjet printed sheets.Nanography nicheAfter describing the technical architecture of Nanography, Tzori explained where Landa Digital sees its market niche and how it plans to bridge a gap between short-run digital and longer-run offset jobs. This includes targeting offset sheetfed work with a 40-inch or B1-format press model. Tzori stressed that Landa is not reinventing existing machine technology like paper feeding and delivery, which is why the company is working with traditional press makers, most notably Komori.A key question to come from the conference crowd that day asked about the future availability of these new Nanographic printing presses. A careful answer was given, which I interrupted to mean it would be at the beginning of 2014, while the company’s main challenge was to achieve the desired print quality at the necessary resolution.Year 2014 came and went and, without hearing much more from Landa in terms of press installations, I naturally started wondering if the past two years of Nanographic marketing had been all smoke and mirrors? In February of 2014, Landa Digital and EFI announced a strategic alliance and in June 2014 Altana invested €100 million into Landa Digital, which had also received a number of press down payments from printers wanting to be first in line. It is my guess that Altana will manufacture the Landa inks and EFI will deliver the digital front-end to the presses. On December 9, 2014, Landa Digital made a public statement about its technology development, including its intent to focus on the 40-inch folding-carton market with its S10 press. The press has undergone some radical design changes, including the addition of a coating unit. The operator’s side-mounted touchscreen, as it was seen at drupa 2012, had to be moved to the delivery end – transforming its look more toward a traditional press design. The weight of the press has increased also from 10 tons to 30 tons.Landa Digital explained the S10 operator now has a more ergonomic workplace showing all the required information for running jobs. Personally, I like the video feeds from inside the press to the operator cockpit. The press operator can see if any sheets have been dropped or if they are causing a jam. The presses also have an inline inspection unit from Advanced Vision Technology. Within its online marketing material, Landa Digital writes: “The quality control solution will combine innovative nozzle performance and colour control techniques to maintain print quality and increase press productivity. The quality control system will also control colour-to-colour registration, image placement and front-to-back registration.”  The print resolution of the S10 press is now at 1,200 dpi and the press also makes it possible to print on both sides of the carton sheet before entering the coating unit.Nanography 2015In early 2015, I spoke with Tzori on the phone to discuss recent developments at Landa Digital Printing. He indicated the first presses are scheduled to be commercially available in the second half of 2015. Beta machine are currently set up at Landa’s facilities in Israel, where potential customers can see the presses in action. During our phone conversation, Tzori also discussed what kind of drying technology is installed between the coating unit and the delivery end of the press. Depending on what kind of coating the customer wants to use, there will be IR drying lamps installed for water-based coatings and UV-curing lamps for UV coatings. The UV-curing technology can either be UV-mercury vapour lamps or UV-LED.Tzori points out that the IR or UV technology is only necessary for the coatings that are applied to the printed sheets. The sheets printed with the Nanography ink come dry out of the press.Thinking ahead to drupa 2016, which surely will be another important exhibition for Landa Digital technology, I asked Tzori what is to come with regard to the company’s web-fed printing machines. The first web-fed printing machine will be geared towards the flexible packaging market. Landa Digital expects this to make a huge impact on the flexible packaging sector, especially with many of the other digital press manufacturers also developing printing solutions for the short-run flexible packaging market. I have every intention of attending drupa 2016 for a firsthand view of Landa’s developments and I expect they will be as interesting as Nanography’s unveiling three years ago.
THE FOLLOWING ARTICLE IS FEATURED IN PRINTACTION'S FEBRUARY 2015 ISSUEAs in nature, the software ecosystem abhors a vacuum! Introduced for the Mac in 1987, Adobe Illustrator evolved from Adobe’s in-house font development software to become the industry standard line-work editor and has all but dominated the desktop vector graphics market.Twenty-eight years later, Illustrator is so pervasive in the graphic arts few prepress pros would even consider an alternative were one available. While a few innovative Mac applications such as iDraw and Sketch have nipped at Adobe’s heels, to date no application has presented a credible challenge to Illustrator’s dominance on the Mac platform, creating a competitive vacuum. That might be about to change.Though unknown to many Mac users, Serif Software is a dominant player in the lucrative Windows desktop publishing software world. Founded in 1987, Serif’s original mandate was to produce powerful yet cost-effective alternatives to expensive desktop publishing and graphic design applications for the PC. Its critically acclaimed PagePlus, DrawPlus and PhotoPlus applications have garnered a large and loyal following in the Windows world – extending from casual creatives to business and education users. After years of planning and development, Serif stepped across the OS barrier in June 2014 with its first Mac App, Affinity Designer. While still in public beta, Affinity Designer turned heads while generating a great deal of online buzz before the October 2014 launch of version 1.0 on the Mac App Store. Since release, Affinity Designer has raced up the App Store charts and finished the year as Editor’s Choice Best of 2014! But does all that hype make any difference in the prepress and print world? Can a PC software developer give Adobe a run for its money on Adobe’s home turf?Vector contender or pretenderWell, for starters it is pretty clear that Affinity Designer was engineered from the ground up as a production environment for professional-grade vector drawing destined for a variety of output intents, including both print and Web.Where Designer differs from other line-work editors is in its ability to work with raster images and create pixel-based effects and textures within the same file as vector layers. And while Designer has its own file format, the App can import a wide variety of file types including: Adobe Illustrator, Freehand, Photoshop, EPS, JPEG, PDF and SVG. Additionally Designer can export: Photoshop, EPS, GIF, JPEG, PNG, SVG and PDF – although direct export of AI format is not supported. Users wanting to bring their Designer files into Illustrator will have to pass through PDF-land first.When launching Designer for the first time users are presented with a clean, uncluttered user interface that is unique yet somewhat reminiscent of an Adobe Creative Cloud application. As a result, anyone with Illustrator chops should be able to find their way around Affinity Designer in fairly short order. The default application window follows the familiar axiom of toolbar on the left, functions along the top and tabbed palettes on the right hand side of the workspace.  Users can also choose to work in Separated Mode meaning the Designer toolbars, workspace and palettes are free floating and can be reconfigured to individual tastes. Designer diverges from other editors by breaking down the workflow into Personas (Draw, Pixel and Export) represented by icons on the upper left side of the workspace. The icon for the active Persona appears in colour and each features tools, functions and palettes specifically configured for the appropriate tasks. The Draw Persona toolbar contains recognizable drawing tools you would expect to find, such as a Move Tool, Vector Brush Tool for creating painted effects and a Pencil Tool for free drawing vector lines, as well as Gradient and Transparency tools. Additionally, the toolbar houses a wide variety of shape tools ranging from standard rectangles and ellipses to diverse polygons, clouds and call-outs. Each shape can be quickly and radically altered either with the Node Tool, or the context-sensitive settings in the Draw Persona tool set. There is even a special hidden Easter Egg feature that enables users to make a cat shape – see if you can find it!The Pixel Persona enables a variety of marquee and selection tools along with essential raster editing tools in the toolbar, such as erase, fill, dodge, burn, blur and sharpen. It is important to remember that while Designer is equipped to create, alter and apply raster effects within a vector file, it is definitely not a replacement for a full image editor such as Photoshop or Pixelmator as there are no tools that I can find for adjusting the contrast, saturation or hue of photographic images.As the name implies, the Export Persona provides a straightforward workflow for getting your image online with several presets, support for ICC profiles as well as layers and image slices. Speaking of online, Designer has a number of features targeting the Web slinger, such as a powerful pixel preview of vector images for both standard and retina displays, as well as instant export of multiple objects – each with independent output settings.Designer also brings back one of my favourite old Illustrator features with a new twist. The Split View divides the image workspace vertically enabling the user to see any combination of Frame, Vector, Pixel or Retina previews and drag the dividing line back and forth across the image – changing the preview instantly.Of course, any mention of ‘instant preview’ inevitably brings up the topic of Designer performance. Whether opening a complex vector graphic or a massive layered Photoshop file, it is immediately apparent that Designer is blazingly fast. This 64-bit application is fully optimized for the latest Mac OS and Retina 5K displays, enabling users to pan and zoom across their images with little perceptible lag as well as apply and view effects in real-time. This is especially impressive when you consider that Designer offers a staggering 1,000,000 percent zoom, as well as super smooth gradients that can be edited in real time at any magnification. For such a young App, Designer offers some impressively mature workflow features like non-destructive editing and robust support for layers, including vector, pixel and adjustment layers. Ready for the big leagueWorking with Affinity Designer is comfortable once you get used to multiple Personas, however, the software is lacking in a few key areas of importance to design and production pros. For example, Designer currently only supports a single page per file, something designers who are used to building multiple art boards will find hard to live with. And what prepress pro has not used Illustrator’s Auto-Trace to quickly build a logo for a job they are working on? Designer will need to implement some sort of raster to vector workflow to really gain print market share.And while Designer seems to be able to import a wide variety of file formats, I have experienced mixed results when opening old EPS files containing complex vector gradients. Mind you, Designer has only been in the field for a few months and to Serif’s credit they’ve already built an active, lively and supportive user community that fuels its development team with bug reports and feature requests. Within just three months of launch, Serif has already revved Designer to v1.1.2 – not only with bug fixes but also significant new user-requested features like iCloud Drive support; critical stroke alignment options; and 5K-display support.The road aheadSerif recently published the first issue of Affinity Review – a quarterly ePUB magazine for their users – containing some very interesting product news in addition designer profiles, interviews and tutorials. According to Serif, the Affinity Designer roadmap includes several professional printing features such as: PDF/X support; PDF image compression; trim, bleed, overprint and mark control; spot, Pantone and registration colours; and advanced transparency features. Designers can look forward to: multiple pages; text on a path; mesh warp and distort tools; and improved text controls… all promised as free updates! Likely many of these new functions will be incorporated into its own Personas. Also in Serif’s 2015 playbook: Affinity Photo and Affinity Desktop (you can see where they are going with this).Is Affinity Designer the answer to all your high-end vector design, editing and production needs? Not yet. Is it worth fifty bucks? You bet! Besides, designers on a budget are already flocking to Designer so it’s only a matter of time before Affinity files start making their way into your prepress department.
“Those were the days my friend, we thought they’d never end…” The song popularized by Mary Hopkin in 1968 waxed over youth, lost opportunities, passions and a life now well past it’s prime. Cycles of every form have a beginning as well as an end. Technology breeds new revenues and fills scrapyards with redundancy. For the printing machinery industry there is a lot of reminiscing about good times back in the day.  The great period of litho printing press sales, what almost became an annuity business for press makers, is long over and will not return. Oh how painful it is to say that.   It seems like only a few years ago we were so excited to embrace a device that, either by violet or thermal laser, entirely eliminated a labourious step of the production cycle and make offset plates perfectly, without fit issues, and at incredibly fast speeds as lasers advanced by the month. Digital technology was our friend. Prior to CTP, the Macintosh computer also eliminated a huge chunk of the typesetting industry by letting us do it all ourselves.  Fantastic new devices were going to rid us of waxers, light tables, film, cameras, plate-makers and a great deal of expensive labour. Everybody knew that strippers and other prepress employees commanded large paychecks. Wasn’t this future fabulous? As I look back at some of the projects we were involved with at Howard Graphic Equipment, I find that no one really had any idea of where mobile computing, particularly the smartphone and tablet, would take communications. We once had a customer who had a rather simple contract to print a 10-point cover and then stitch it onto popular magazines. It was for a now-defunct airline, to be used on the aircraft. The airline wanted to ensure these magazines were returned and so had produced the magazine with its logo emblazoned on the false cover. In time, the costs proved too high and the airline asked instead for a sticker to be tipped onto the cover. Finally, the magazines as a cost were dropped altogether. Another customer produced a weekly sports betting card. These were perfected one over one and printed in the millions. Again costs and technology overtook print and now all the betting is online, no day-changing betting cards, just a receipt with the details. In the early 1980s, we did quite a lot of business with an accounting publisher. Every time there was a change in Canada’s revenue act new sections had to be printed. Even then hot metal Linotypes were used to make copy. It was proofed and then film and plates were made to run on a web.  The bindery was enormous to handle the accounting publisher’s work. It had separate lines for side stitching, hole punching and perfect binding. The annual tax-code book was almost two inches thick and expensive. Accountants, who were members, bought special binders for all of the inserts of changes that would occur each year. The Internet almost overnight eliminated all of this mechanical work and hundreds of jobs.Many printers found themselves in the same situation with legal books and court decisions. Changes in the law created a great deal of print and case-bound work. Think of the law offices up until recently, where  huge libraries stored the requisite purchases for dozens of sets of law books. If not annually mandatory, dozens of new thick books spoke to a law office’s prestige  Automotive manuals and parts books were a staple of a few of our customers, too. In the turn of just a few years, almost all are now out of print entirely. In the early 1990s, my company Howard Graphic Equipment purchased a Miller perfector from a printing company in the east of England. This firm had a long history. They were ensconced in what had been a carriage house, even had an 1800s workable water closet. The biggest piece of business for this printer was railway timetables. Almost all of it is now redundant. A smartphone can look-up the schedule and buy a ticket to ride without any paper being expended.Wondering where all of the presses have gone is an intriguing question. In a commendable open manner, KBA in its latest annual financial statements for 2013 approached this difficult subject. KBA commented that group sales had slumped 35 percent since 2006. Since KBA is heavily involved in both sheetfed, web and special presses (currency and metal decorating), it has an almost split revenue business  at €571.9 million for sheetfed and €527.8 million for web and special presses. KBA also acknowledges that since 2006 its Web sales have fallen 70 percent and sheetfed almost 50 percent. The statements also comment that the Web business will continue seeing retraction in the coming years. Should we assume KBA, although heavily diversified, is an example of what all major press makers are going through? The answer is yes.  Competitors to KBA may argue that the business of newspaper printing (long a staple of KBA) exacerbates the drop in sales. They may also suggest that perhaps KBA had a smaller commercial and publication customer base, or that what KBA produced was not as suitable?  But KBA is a major supplier in both fields. On the sheetfed side, KBA owns a major position in packaging and Very Large Format sheetfed printing. New in-roads in technology have been poured into the Rapida 106 and 145 platforms. One surmises with its packaging strength KBA’s only real rivals are Heidelberg when it comes to imaginative, multi-purpose machinery for the carton industry. Komori and Manroland also compete in this segment with Manroland running a close third to KBA and Heidelberg in press variants.We as a machinery segment are a reflection of you the printer just as you are a reflection of your clients. Therefore. we must assume printers cannot make the math work when calculating return costs for a large piece of machinery. Presses that cost a million dollars plus are no longer the prime piece of manufacturing gear in a printing business. They may never be again. There are exceptions of course. Trade printers who do it cheaper, not better, may consider new machines. Packaging printers will because the business is stable. Smaller commercial printers, however, will not. They may buy used, but its doubtful that a majority of shops can draw enough profitable work to pay for today’s engineered marvels.Data was once the exclusive domain of the printer and publisher. The only way any kind of data could be distributed was through a printing press. Google et al changed all that.David Carr, writer for The New York Times, does a masterful job explaining how the trend from a physical method (newspapers) to online is humbling. During a recent speech in Vancouver, Carr eluded to this fact when explaining the state of his employing newspaper. It was as much funny as it was sad for those of us in the business. He explained newspapers are offices where everyday information comes in and is collected. Then a bell goes off and everyone stops collecting news and starts to write down what came in that day. They send the copy to a giant press where it’s printed, rolled up and eventually thrown onto your front lawn. Carr accepts the inadequacies of news distribution via print while at the same time considering that large dailies like The New York Times seem to be weathering the storm and seeing growth via online pay-walls. Carr hastens to add that it’s the medium-size papers suffering the worst, while small local papers, for the most part, continue to do well in the communities they serve. News is data and so is almost every piece of information we need, which used to be mailed to us. First Gutenberg and now the colloquial Google has changed our world again. Despite the odd period of increased new machinery order intake that prevailed in late 2013, the industry at large will not go shopping for new litho machines again. While I have a vested interest, few press makers would argue the second-hand press business becomes more important to lessen a printer’s investment risk. It is not coincidence that used machines now are a much bigger piece of the machinery trading pie than ever before in the history of printing or that most press makers now have full-scale used press operations.The 50 percent machinery sales shrinkage in seven years, as reported by KBA, is reality for every litho press maker. Postal rates and other fixed costs are impediments that cannot be overridden with faster machinery costing millions of dollars. Where have all the presses gone? Nowhere it seems.
During the first week of November, Manroland Sheetfed proudly unveiled its new Roland 700 Evolution press to over 450 curious guests at its corporate headquarters in Offenbach, Germany.  The machine is Manroland’s first new press in four years and follows the company’s 2012 acquisition in insolvency and restructuring by Langley Holdings PLC, a UK-based engineering group and global provider of highly diverse capital equipment. The company reports that its new Evolution press is designed with a sleek, futuristic look and many new technological developments aimed to give printers unprecedented levels of efficiency, productivity, operation and quality. These improvements are consistent with the research-and-development targets Manroland Sheetfed CEO Rafael Penuela Torres outlined to PrintAction when describing his company’s restructuring (August 2014, The New Press Builder), including increased user-friendliness, maximum machine performance and maximum uptime for printers.  Specific new features highlighted through demonstrations at the Offenbach unveiling and in the company’s prospectus for the Evolution press include:• Completely redesigned cylinder-roller bearings with separate bearings for radial and axial rotation to provide better absorption of vibrations, fewer doubling effects, longer bearing life, and improved print quality;• A newly designed central console that replaces buttons with touchscreen panels, provides more detailed graphical information, and offers comfort adjustments for left- and right-handed users and operators of different body heights;• A mobile app that allows printers to see the press’ production while they are on the move;• A new feeder pile transport designed to provide a smooth upward motion of the pile-carrying plate and improved sheet travel from the feeder to delivery, resulting in fewer interruptions, less start-up waste, and reduced walking distances to the feeder;• Solid fixing of the suction head to reduce vibration and wear, while ensuring safer sheet separation and higher average printing speeds;• All-new dampening units for greater solidity and fewer roller vibrations during passing of the plate cylinder channel and fewer stripes;• Software for practice-oriented roller washing cycles that reduces downtime with more precise dosage of the dampening solution over the entire width, reducing the possibility of skewing the dampening dosage roller;• A new three-phase AC motor providing high power output with lower energy consumption;• A new chambered doctor blade system for producing gloss effects. With additional options, this system provides higher solidity over the entire width of the doctor blade and a more even varnish application. It also provides improved absorption of vibrations of the Anilox roller and doctor blade, caused by passing the coating form cylinder, and results in fewer stripes, especially in combination with pigmented varnish; and• Newly developed suction belt sheet brake technology provides higher printing speeds combined with improved sheet alignment and tail edge stabilization, resulting in a more even pile contour and reduced risk of misaligned sheets in the delivery pile.Practical demonstrations of the Evolution press were provided in the company’s Print Technology Center in German, with simultaneous translation available in half a dozen languages via ear sets for guests from all over Europe and Russia, as well as Canada. A further highlight was a tour of the company’s impressive press-building facilities, where the workers’ high skill levels were obvious. Hans Hassold, Head of Regional Sales, explained how Germany’s apprenticeship system helps ensure that Manroland Sheetfed’s foundry and factory workers are well qualified both in terms of their skill sets and their understanding of the practical requirements of industry. He said over half of German students aged about 16 to 18 opt into what is called a dual education system because it splits training between the classroom and the workplace. These students apply for training contracts with employers and, if accepted, spend two to four years training with a company while also receiving a taxpayer-subsidized education designed to meet industry needs.  In fact, most dual-system students are hired upon completion of their training, contributing to a youth unemployment rate in Germany of eight percent (versus 14 percent in Canada.) The dual system requires employers to work co-operatively rather than adversarially with government and unions and to effect a certain amount of compromise with these third parties in their operations.  In exchange, they receive a consistent supply of new workers who are equipped with precisely the skills and knowledge their companies need.Although the German apprenticeship system is not perfect and is under review, it is cited as a factor in the success of Germany’s economy being able to keep its manufacturing base, instead of relying on just providing services, and at retaining its manufacturing jobs for nationals instead of farming them out to workers in foreign countries with lower labour costs like China. Thus the apprenticeship system has also been credited with contributing to Germany’s unemployment rate of 5.2 percent, less than half that of Europe as a whole. By contrast, Canada’s unemployment rate is 7.2 percent, and studies indicate that only about half of the more than 400,000 registered Canadian apprentices actually complete their programs for reasons ranging from the high cost of classroom training for students who are not being paid to concerns about job prospects when they graduate.  And although it is becoming increasingly difficult for Canadian employers to find enough skilled workers, only about 20 percent of Canadian skilled-trade employers are actually hiring and training apprentices, while investment in employee training among Canadian companies has fallen nearly 40 percent since 1993. The Roland 700 Evolution unveiling also included a video testimonial from Samson Druck GmbH, a general commercial printer in Austria and the first Evolution press owner. Samson Druck has invested in Manroland press technology for 22 years and currently has four presses with a total of 34 printing units. Founded in 1978 by Erich Aichhorn, the family company is also one of the largest employers in the area with 100 staff members.Tony Langley, Chairman and CEO of Langley Holdings, was present to provide a closing summary to guests. Langley first established his engineering group in 1975. Today, Langley Holdings comprises five principal operating divisions located in Germany, France, and the UK; more than 70 subsidiaries in the Americas, Europe, The Far East, and Australasia; and over 4,000 employees worldwide.Langley Holdings’ products run an extremely wide gamut from food-packaging equipment to electrical systems for data centres, machinery for cement plants, automotive welding equipment, and house construction. The group operates free of debt with substantial cash reserves, typically grows by acquiring under-performing businesses, and takes pride in never having sold a company it acquired. In 2013 it posted a profit before tax of €91 million.The fact that Langley maintains a relatively low profile contrasts with his colourful presence. He is 6 feet 5 inches tall, largely self-taught in engineering, and pilots his own airplane, helicopter and racing yacht, Gladiator. (In this fall’s Les Voiles de St Tropez regatta, Gladiator came in second to the Enfant Terrible helmed by HRH Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark.)  Accompanying Langley to Offenbach was his eldest son, Bernard Langley, who joined Langley Holdings in 2012 to become the fifth generation of the family to come into the engineering business.The same week as the unveiling, Langley Holdings entered into an agreement to acquire the German print chemicals group DruckChemie, which had gone into administration for insolvency in September. DruckChemie is one of Europe’s leading producers of print chemicals, accessories, and waste reprocessing and recycling services, with sites throughout Europe, as well as in Brazil, Dubai and Mexico.Michael Mugavero, Managing Director and CEO of Manroland North America, commented in an e-mail, after the 700 Evolution unveiling: “Integral in what we hope visitors come to identify with while touring our home in Germany, is the competency Manroland has to develop and deliver tangible value for our customers.”
After switching to InDesign in 2002, Zac Bolan takes  QuarkXPress 10.4 for a test drive to see if you can go home again On Friday, November 8th, 2002, I made the switch to Adobe InDesign. After spending a week building a print flyer for a local drugstore chain in QuarkXPress 5, I sat down to export a press-ready PDF. Three frustrating hours later I still hadn’t managed to squeeze a PDF, or even a usable postscript file, out of the buggy XPress release. I threw up my hands in despair and at that moment decided to spend the weekend learning InDesign and rebuilding my job.That decision was not made lightly, as I had been a stalwart XPress user since 1988. With the release of XPress 5 in January 2002, however, Quark faced a barrage of criticism from its dedicated Mac users. After all, launched only days before XPress 5, InDesign 2 was OS X native – something Quark had failed to accomplish with its release. Like many in the design and prepress community, I resented being denied the benefits of Apple’s new operating system. At the time, Quark’s dominance of the Mac desktop publishing market was such that Apple Computer actually cited XPress 5 as a factor slowing adoption of OS X within the design community.It’s been more than a decade since I (and many others) made the switch. During that time InDesign matured into a leading desktop publishing solution while QuarkXPress quietly persevered – after a painful transition to OS X, XPress gradually improved. Following iterations empowered the faithful while adding features to entice users to return. But for many the draw of Adobe’s Creative Suite seemed to say ‘you can’t go home again’, that is, until the advent of Creative Cloud and Adobe’s software as a service (SaaS) business model. Now designers seeking to own their workflow are taking a second look at QuarkXPress, and with version 10.2 they will find a stable, capable and fully-featured page layout application.New XPress tricks and tipsI won’t try to summarize five full upgrade cycles in a few hundred words, but some key enhancements in recent XPress versions are worth mentioning. When I reviewed XPress 8 for PrintAction (August 2008) Quark had significantly overhauled its Graphical User Interface (GUI), vastly improving user efficiency while removing workspace clutter. Additionally, XPress 8 offered in-app image manipulation, built-in Flash authoring, as well as support for Asian fonts. In a nod to the changing publishing landscape, XPress 9 added: ePub and Kindle export; App Studio for tablet publishing; numerous new layout features like anchored callouts; a shape wizard; and enhanced bullets/numbering.Then in October 2013 Quark made an ambitious leap forward with the release of XPress 10 (recently updated to 10.2.1), the first version developed as a native Cocoa application. Cocoa is the Application Programming Interface (API) for Apple’s OS X operating system. In most cases, software produced with Cocoa development tools has a distinct and familiar feel to Mac users, as the application will automatically comply with Apple’s human interface guidelines. From the developer’s perspective, being Cocoa native ensures the ability to leverage the latest OS X features, maximize performance and fast-track support for new OS X versions. For example, while not officially supported on Apple’s recently launched OS X 10.10 Yosemite, based on my initial trials QuarkXPress 10.2.1 appears to run quite well. Quark will be releasing XPress 10.5 with full Yosemite support in early November.This formidable undertaking required Quark engineers to update more than 500,000 lines of code in addition to writing 350,000 new lines. To fully leverage Apple’s latest hardware enhancements, developers had to create more than 500 dialogues and palettes in multiple languages as well as incorporating 1,300 new icons enabling Retina Display resolutions. Besides going Cocoa, Quark engineered a completely new graphics engine for QuarkXPress 10 that will ultimately be implemented across a wide range of Quark products. The new Xenon Graphics Engine enables users to see stunning high-resolution renderings of imported raster and vector files on screen, including rich PDF, Photoshop and Illustrator files to name a few. Using Quark’s Adaptive Resolution technology, graphics can be rendered instantly to the resolution required for professional image zoom (up to 8,000 percent). Being able to zoom into high-resolution graphics onscreen while creating page layouts is a real advantage to visually oriented designers like myself. Additionally, the Xenon Graphics Engine seems to really improve overall screen re-drawing times.In addition to optimization for HiDPI and Retina Displays, XPress 10.2 features Advanced Image Control enabling users to control several aspects of embedded PDF, PSD and TIFF files, such as layers, channels and clipping paths without bouncing out to Photoshop. With advanced illustration tools XPress users can now accomplish quite a few basic image editing and vector drawing tasks without Adobe’s help – saving time and reducing reliance on the Creative Cloud. These features combined with multiple simultaneous document views, robust shortcut and palette management, make XPress 10 an attractive alternative to renting page layout software.Perhaps the most significant tool Quark brings to the publishing market is not actually a QuarkXPress feature at all. App Studio is a standalone cloud-based service for converting publications to digital editions for tablets and smartphones. While initially limited to producing Apps based on QuarkXPress documents, App Studio now creates rich and interactive HTML 5 publications from a variety of sources including InDesign and XML. Making the jumpWith the refined and polished GUI of QuarkXPress 10, anyone familiar with InDesign or other page-layout applications should be able start building pages in fairly short order. By default, the XPress toolbar displays the most commonly used tools but can be configured to access a variety of other functions such as Grid Styles and Advanced Image Control. The Measurements palette along the bottom of the default workspace provides access to content-specific functions in one convenient location. For example, when selecting a text frame, the user can tab between controls for text box, frame, runaround, space/align and drop shadow. As a former XPress jockey, I found I still recalled many of the old keyboard shortcuts and was zipping between XPress functions within a few minutes of starting a doc- ument. However, those used to InDesign keyboard shortcuts will have some relearning to do. Within InDesign, for example, Command D conjures the Place dialogue – while in XPress Command D duplicates any selected element. For many considering QuarkXPress, the next question will invariably be, ‘What about my legacy InDesign documents?’ While Quark does not offer direct access to .indd format files within XPress, a third-party plug-in is available enabling InDesign document import. Well known in the prepress world, Markzware made its name with the popular Flightcheck document preflight application. Additionally, Markzware produces a number of plug-ins for importing various file formats into both XPress and InDesign. While working with XPress 10.2 I tested ID2Q, the Markzware XTension for converting InDesign files to QuarkXPress file format. Once installed, ID2Q can be launched from the newly added Markzware submenu in the QuarkXPress menu bar. The process is quite simple: The user navigates to the InDesign document they wish to open in XPress, selects the appropriate conversion options and clicks OK. Depending on InDesign file size and complexity, conversion time can vary between seconds and minutes before the document opens in QuarkXPress. While ID2Q has little trouble getting your InDesign file into XPress, it is important to remember that the two page layout applications do not always handle things the same way. For this reason, your imported .indd file will need some work in QuarkXPress before going to print, ePub or tablet. Layout grids created with InDesign, for example, do not survive the transition to QuarkXPress. Similarly, InDesign offers a few page layout options not found in XPress, such as a maximum page dimension of 216 inches and support for multiple page sizes within a single document. Having said that, most users will likely be using this XTension to move legacy documents over to QuarkXPress as a template for new projects rather than starting from scratch. For that, ID2Q is the perfect solution. Listening to usersQuark recently unveiled QuarkXPress 2015, due for release in Q1 2015. According to Quark, this iteration will deliver increased performance from a new 64-bit architecture in addition to a bevy of enhancements based on user feedback. New features will include support for larger page sizes, a format painter, user definable shortcut keys and table styles. Also, several Designer-Controlled Automation improvements for long documents will debut including: automated footnotes and end notes; a new table tool with improved Excel integration; and text variables for automatically populating reoccurring fields such as running headers. And bucking the SaaS trend, QuarkXPress 2015 will continue to be sold as a perpetual license or as a paid upgrade. New retail users who purchased QuarkXPress 10 after October 1, 2014 will receive the 2015 release as a free upgrade. Going back homeIf you asked me a few years ago whether I felt Quark could stage a return to dominance in the desktop publishing space, I would have expressed serious doubts. Despite the fact that Quark has evolved to equal or best InDesign in many ways, Adobe has done a remarkable job of embracing the ecosystem approach with its wildly successful Creative Suite. And while reliable metrics of InDesign versus QuarkXPress usage do not exist, your prepress manager will likely tell you that the majority of client files these days are built with InDesign rather than QuarkXPress.With the arrival of Creative Cloud, however, that could easily change as not everyone will want to rent software from Adobe. Also, given the maturity of QuarkXPress in addition to Quark’s focus on dynamic publishing and the enterprise, many may see XPress as a preferred option, rather than just an alternative to InDesign. And for old Quark refugees like myself, it looks like you really can go home again!
In late-July, I had the opportunity to interview Rafael Peñuela Torres, Chief Executive Officer of Manroland Sheetfed GmbH in Offenbach, Germany. A polyglot born in Spain, educated in Economics in Germany, and employed in the printing industry since 1992, Peñuela took charge of Manroland’s Spanish organization in 1999. By 2003, he was managing the company’s Western European market and by 2006 Manroland Sheetfed sales worldwide. Following Manroland Sheetfed’s takeover by an British industrial conglomerate controlled by Tony Langley, Peñuela Torres temporarily shared the role of Managing Director of Service and Sales with a colleague until 2013, when he became Manroland Sheetfed’s sole CEO.In our interview, Peñuela Torres, 54, candidly discusses Manroland’s change of direction after its 2011 insolvency and 2012 acquisition by Langley Holdings PLC. He describes several aspects of the company’s restructuring efforts, working through Germany’s  tough labour laws.Peñuela Torres offers analyses of how dramatically the offset equipment and printing markets have changed since being hard hit by the global financial crisis of 2008. He also divulges how Manroland Sheetfed’s research-and-development division is currently adapting its printing machines to meet a whole new set of customer needs and expectations. Victoria Gaitskell: What do you consider to be the most important sheetfed-offset technology your company has introduced over the past five years or so – and why?Peñuela Torres: For decades, Manroland has been leading the development of new technologies for offset printing – although not all these developments have been commercially successful. For example, in 2000 we launched the DICOweb plateless press, enabling a digital changeover from job to job in less than 10 minutes. It was amazing technology for the time, but it was not a commercial success, because the cost was much too high.  In 2009, we developed the world’s largest perfector, the Roland 900 XXL, to serve the demand for high-volume book printing. It allowed offset printers to produce 64 A4 pages in one pass, enabling them to compete with web process productivity.  But after commercial and editorial printers took a hit in the 2008 financial crisis, the demand for this technology was greatly reduced. Press productivity is only important if customers have jobs for it. So some of our new developments did not succeed because of the wrong timing or costs.  But many others were successful because they were exactly what our customers wanted: In 2003, for example, we built the Roland 500, the first press to print 18,000 sheets per hour; and time has proven that this innovation in speed was the right trend for our market. We also launched an InlineFoiler that can print cold foil in one pass on a conventional press. Although at first it proved popular, it generated complaints that the process wasted too much very expensive foil; so later we developed an indexing function to reduce waste in the inline process by up to 50 percent. This is an example of how we are trying increasingly to generate value for our customers by our technology. Our innovations have not only taken the form of heavy metal, but also the integration of software processes into a single electronic workflow, as we achieved in our Printnet network management system.In 2006, we launched the Roland 700 DirectDrive. The DirectDrive technology allowed customers to change plates simultaneously while the press is washing the cylinders, allowing for zero plate-changing time.  Since then many of our competitors have introduced similar technology, and so far it forms the biggest step towards a significant reduction of make-ready time. Peñuela Torres continues to discuss R&D…PT: Among these successful technologies, I can’t identify one single development as the most important; but I can say that many of our recent developments have focused on increasing automation and reducing make-ready time, rather than on increasing press speed. One reason is that in today’s world we have discovered that speed is not the issue for our customers. The general trend is that run lengths are becoming shorter, so increasing press speed does not really help. A precondition for the improvements we introduce now is not just that they satisfy our R&D people but that they satisfy our customers.Since 2008, it has been increasingly difficult for Manroland and our competitors to sell the same amount of equipment we used to sell. The market has shrunk by 50 percent because print shops are disappearing or merging, so less demand for machinery exists.Customers are also running machinery for longer than planned. The average age of a press now is 13 years, and our customers’ requirements and business models are changing rapidly; so we are developing new technology like the InlineFoiler in a way that allows customers to add it on through upgrades or retrofits to get different or better value out of their existing press. In addition to shortening make-ready, another of our R&D goals is to make it easier to handle a press by creating an easier interface with the user. Our customers are finding it more and more difficult to obtain highly skilled operators to run presses, because fewer of these operators are available; so we are spending a lot of brainpower and resources to make it easier to operate our technology. Especially because runs are becoming shorter, automation plays a tremendous role. Since skilled labour is critical to the manufacture of high-performance presses: What was the size of the labour force in your three manufacturing plants before restructuring and what is it now in your single plant after restructuring?   PT: You are correct – Skilled labour is crucial for press manufacturers. Manroland decided years ago and confirmed under Langley its plan not to do any manufacturing outside of Germany. One reason is that, although we realize many skilled people work outside of Germany, in other countries we find it more difficult to find the right number of them with expertise in all the different disciplines we need to build a press.In the insolvency, we lost 50 percent of our workforce. Beforehand we had roughly 4,300 employees and we have 1,800 today. Of these, 900 work in the German factory and the other 900 take care of our markets and aftermarket services in various parts of the world. How did you select which workers to keep and which to downsize?PT: I don’t know if you are aware of it, but German labour laws require a company undergoing massive restructuring to apply for approval on who goes and stays via a so-called social plan.The government works with unions to establish criteria for this process. Workers are assigned points based on factors like seniority, age and family situation. Adding up the points results in a pre-selection of employees who have to leave the company. Because the point system gives preference to older workers with seniority and families, normally you have to ask younger people, sometimes with promising talent, to leave the company – which happened in our case.  Sometimes, if you have certain workers with critical expertise, you can offer a successful argument here and there to avoid the social plan and keep them on board. But we had only a short time to discuss the plan with the union and workers council during the last week of insolvency. I don’t know if the results were right or wrong, but we tried to do our best. With a reduced workforce, how are you ensuring your machinery continues to be of high quality?PT: We are still continuing to fine tune our human resources management strategy after restructuring. Langley was convinced that with our remaining capabilities we are still able to keep our whole production portfolio. Not one press was eliminated. This challenge has required us to cross-train people who were specialists before.  For example, experts on 700 perfectors have also become qualified to handle 500 perfectors.  It was quite a challenge, especially for the first six months of 2012; but now we have a more flexible workforce of people who can change from one model to another on the production line and still maintain high-quality standards. The employees say they are happy with the new system, because they have acquired more skills and are doing work that is more challenging and less routine. In 2012, I was concerned that we would not be able to manage the whole portfolio with a reduced workforce; but in fact the presses we ship out today are costing less overall after delivery. This fact proves that we have been able to manage with half our original workforce and achieve an even better result in terms of quality.     With restructuring behind you, what is the biggest challenge facing your company today?PT: After the Langley takeover, our immediate challenge was to serve customers as well as before, or even better, despite having reduced resources. Even before then, the company had experienced different phases of restructuring, but it was only because of the insolvency that we became aware that our old culture and huge-corporation mentality were responsible for the insolvency itself. We had become too heavy, too bureaucratic, too self-confident that we couldn’t fail, and too slow in managing, reacting to the market, and responding to our customers.  Our new shareholder Tony Langley knew we needed to change our attitude first. During the first year, he spent three days a week helping to transform us into a mittelstand [German for middle-sized] company with a hands-on attitude and quicker response times.Now the biggest challenge is to keep this new culture as part of our daily business and avoid falling back into the old ways. Especially in the last two years, when profits have been better than expected, it creates the expectation of going back to the good old days when salaries were higher and expenses less controlled. It’s an issue I need to keep an eye on. Why should new sheetfed-offset presses continue to interest commercial printers in North America, one of the world’s most mature printing markets?PT: Commercial printers in industrialized Western countries are in a different position than commercial printers in China, India, and Latin America, where other electronic media are still less widespread and print is still the main transmitter of commercial messages. In North America and other Western economies, the commercial sheetfed-offset print segment has suffered more since the 2008 financial crisis because it must defend its position against electronic media and digital print.But after 20 years, digital printing is still far from dominating the market. It still represents one single digit of total printed volume, although the marketing noise is very loud and gives the impression that digital is dominating. In reality it will take years for digital to achieve a bigger percentage than what they have today, because the cost per copy is high for digital and many enhancements, such as UV and foil coating, are not available in digital. I think for many, many years sheetfed offset will remain the dominating technology. It may be less loud and less sexy, but for sure it is the best way to print massive volumes of sheets of cardboard or paper for packaging or commercial print.When it comes to cost-per-copy for industrial volumes, no method is cheaper.  Today, we see Western commercial printers finding new business models to stay in the market or even grow by adding value to commercial print and escape from the commodity print market. We see more and more commercial sheetfed-offset printers who have managed to find their own niche by focusing on a specific application, or way of adding value, or way of servicing customers.For example, sheetfed offset is still the most used method to print business cards, and it also lets printers develop workflows to produce simple products for customers on 24-hours’ demand. So today’s successful business models include Web-to-print production of business cards and other simple products, printed with the highest efficiency at an unbeatable price.   What is the best advice you can share with the many small- to mid-sized commercial printers in Canada who continue to rely on sheetfed offset as their primary production process?PT: I’m not the guy to give advice to printers. They are professionals who know best what they have to do.But one thing I know from observation is that it is crucial for printers to identify and follow the right model for their business. They need know what they can do better than others.  Basically they have a choice between two ways of moving forward: One is to find a way to be different from their competitors with a different product or a different approach to customers through their services, response time, flexibility of workflow, or other factors. The second way is to achieve excellence by increasing productivity and reducing the cost per copy; for example, by using a large commercial press to produce large volumes with good or good-enough quality. The right business model can be either mass productivity or differentiation.
In the early 1980s, a local garden hose manufacturer called our small press-sales office because he had a printing problem. The round cardboard discs, used for product branding within the the hose-reel, were missing their Made in Canada. Somehow its inclusion overlooked by everyone involved in the printing process. The garden hose manufacturer now had thousands of printed and die-cut pieces of cardboard he could not use. “Any suggestions?” he asked.It took a split second to solve his problem: The Heidelberg platen! Certainly there were other possibilities. Machines from Kluge, Victoria or Chandler & Price (with feeder) could do it, but there was an easier, obvious solution with the Heidelberg – problem solved. The T platen, or Tiegel platen as the German’s called their brilliant little press, can feed and deliver virtually anything. From one-up business cards to folded signatures, thin stitched booklets, odd-shaped labels and – yes – even round Made in Canada cardboard wrappers for garden hoses. The platen quite literally came with everything; initially, there were no options one could buy. It came standard with two chases, small-size kit, two-up kit, odd-shape kit, die-cutting plate and ink knife.Since the creation of metal type there has never been such a successful printing machine as the Heidelberg T platen. Even today, you would have a tough time finding a commercial printer without one of these versatile, solid machines still working away in their pressroom.Birthing the TiegelSchnellpresse, as Heidelberg was called in the early days, truly began building its now massive business around the Tiegel platen when it was born in 1912. T platens were sold all over the world and by the time mass production stopped, in 1985, more than 165,000 had been sold. There was of course, competition. The British Thompson was a close facsimile of the Heidelberg machine, especially before WWII when Thompson used the same rotary gripper system. A few years after WWII, the Czechoslovak Grafopress appeared as an almost identical T platen clone. Many suggest this was the driving force behind why Heidelberg began to use the branding term Original Heidelberg, as the German press maker tried to separate its products from Iron Curtain machines impervious to litigation. I have doubts about this connection, however. German manufacturers regularly employed the word Original and Schnellpresse mostly likely used it well before the Czech clone arrived.We called the Grafopress the Scrap-o-Press, because it was such an inferior printing machine to the T platen. Grafopress, however, did have one key feature incorporated into the Heidelberg machine by Drupa 1967: The ability to lock out form rollers. Both the Soviet Union and China also made knock-offs of the Heidelberg T platen, but they were terrible machines.Over the years at Howard Graphic Equipment, which primarily sells and reconditions used printing machinery, we have hauled Heidelberg platens out of and into basements, garages, through windows, and often stripped down in order to fit through narrow doorways, as if the old building itself had been built around the press. It seems no place existed where a Heidelberg platen could not go. I lost track years ago of how many platens our company has overhauled and sold.When crash numbering reached its apex, it was not uncommon to see one operator in control of four presses. The operator could keep track of each machine’s progress by listening to its click-clack as they hurried the loading and unloading of feeders and deliveries. The Heidelberg platen faced many challenges as safety concerns increased when unionization returned to manufacturing plants. Some Ts were encapsulated by Plexiglas and wire mesh to keep the inspectors at bay. Eventually it became impossible to operate these presses in such situations. Greeting-card companies, with an ideal T platen application, might have had more than 10 machines and discarded them all for fear of injuring workers.This amazing and still relevant printing machine was born when Schnellpressenfabrik Heidelberg purchased the patents from a Köln print shop owner and tinkerer named Karl Gilke. Not much is known about Gilke, but his platen with the “propeller-gripper” changed the world. Previously, essentially all platen presses required intensive labour for both feeding and delivering each sheet by hand. It was incredibly slow production amid a new world of industrialization.Growing the TiegelGilke forever changed the efficiency of platens by using the favoured Boston Principle, which equates to a platen with a stationary bed, and incorporating both feeder and delivery into it.  Back in 1896, the Harris Brothers of Niles, Ohio, developed a similar game-changing machine in the EI rotary card press. It had a unique shuttle feeder and could run at an astounding 15,000 sheets per hour. Because the E1 was rotary, however, it required a stereo plate, which is a curved lead cast plate common on letterpress newspaper presses. This lead cast plate was its Achilles Heel and why the Harris E1 failed to make nearly as much impact as Heidelberg’s T. Small print shops used type and printers could not afford the cost of making stereos needed by the E1.In 1921, American Robert Miehle came out with his revolutionary Vertical Miehle. This press was later called the V-36 for its high running speeds of 3,600 sheets per hour. It employed a cylinder in a vertical incline – a very unique press design. The Vertical Miehle was well received and had a bigger sheet size of 14 x 20 inches, as compared to Schnellpress’ 10 x 15-inch size. But the Vertical was also a harder press to run, particularly when it came to make-ready. The Heidelberg platen was so quick to set up and feed that it ran circles around the Vertical. Only when run lengths were bigger, and the sheet size increased, did the Platen begin to lose some of its advantage. Before WWII, it was common to see both a Vertical and a Tiegel in the same shop. One’s weakness was the other’s strength and this environment remained throughout the letterpress era.  Schnellpressenfabrik Heidelberg has roots going back to 1850, before Andreas Hamm and Andreas Albert joined forces in 1863. Hamm owned an iron foundry specializing in bells. Albert was a foreman at C. Reichenbach’s Press Works in Augsburg (later to become MAN). But the two partners had a falling out and Hamm continued on with the company. Albert, on the other hand, formed a new company called Albert & Cie, which grew exponentially. After Hamm’s passing in 1894, his son sold the company to Wilhelm Müller. Not much happened at Schnellpress during the years 1873 to 1912, when press building gave rise to powerful players. VOMAG, Koenig & Bauer, MAN, Maschinenfabrik Johannisberg-Geisenheim (MJG), Dresdner Schnellpressenfabrik Coswig (Planeta) and Hamm’s former partner, Albert & Cie. all became major makers of mostly cylinder presses. Tiny Schnellpress made facsimiles of the standard German stop cylinder press, as well. Although Schnellpress released the Exquisit cylinder, in 1921, there was no magic in this press.Gilke’s design was the one and only watershed moment for Schnellpress. German platen presses were all mostly knock-offs of the American Gally parallel impression design. At least 20 companies were making very good versions of this press; Victoria being the best known. Any developments to automate feeding and delivery were all Band-Aid approaches with discombobulated devices affixed to an already mature handfed platen design. Schnellpress understood if they could make its little platen work, it would rip apart the whole industry. Even back in the early twentieth century, the majority of printers were small shops. Not everyone wanted or could afford large cylinder presses. Jobs were mostly handled 1- or 2-up on smaller handfed platens. If Heidelberg could make a press that would feed and deliver easily then the printing world would come calling.By the end of WWI Heidelberg had such a press. Although the company faced management issues and very difficult times, Schnellpress had one more vital ingredient. It had a foundry. Richard Kahn, the owner at the time, also owned Maschinenfabrik Geislingen (MAG) and this allowed Schnellpresse to work completely autonomously on its design. Heidelberg castings are unique. When I was a young kid I could see even then the quality differences between a Heidelberg and any other machine – German, English, or American. There was a special quality to a Heidelberg. Whatever notions one had prior to the Heidelberg platen, these were tossed aside because not only was the feed/delivery unique, so was the inker and adjustable bearers.  Having a windmill, as the platen was also often referred to, in your shop almost guaranteed success, because you could obliterate any competitors who were still hand-feeding work or trying to make the crude add-on feeders work.  Heidelberg’s innovation to build the T platen on Germany’s first mechanical assembly line brought the prices down so that every printer could afford one. The small jobbing printer was the key customer for Heidelberg and its new machine was priced accordingly. Along with its small footprint, the T platen required nothing more than a drive motor or belt driven from a driveshaft. Leveraging the TiegelWhy then was Heidelberg able to eclipse much larger companies in Germany, such as VOMAG, MAN and Koenig & Bauer, the latter of which is recognized as the founder of printing machinery manufacturing. Heidelberg also faced stiff competition from Albert Frankenthal and Faber & Schleicher. All of these firms, however, were focused on making innovative but complicated cylinder sheetfed machines, Web presses and even offset machines in the early 1920s. So much that they all failed to notice a big hole in jobbing presses which is exactly what Schnellpresse filled. Another major reason for Heidelberg’s meteoric rise was its unique sales approach. Instead of staying close to home, as many of the German builders did, Heidelberg sought out new markets and customers in America, Britain and around the entire globe. The early vision of globalization among Heidelberg’s leaders is a fundamental reason why its T platens, and the company itself, became so successful. At the Bugra trade fair of 1914, Heidelberg displayed the first prototype T platen to the world. This early press, known as the Express, would be altered several times before it finally became legend. 1914 was also the year The Great War began and very little development or production materialized on the T platen until 1921. By 1927, the press had another facelift. The gripper mechanism was vastly improved and remained remarkably similar to the last version of 1985. Impression throw-off and micro adjust was really easy. Changing packing was just as simple as on a Gordon. The use of a Geneva motion or Maltese cross allowed for better registration and more stable movement of the grippers. This feature alone was an incredible advancement for its time.World crisis in the first half of the twentieth century had an impact not just on Schnellpress but every manufacturer. The crash of 1929 was a worldwide financial epidemic and Germany faced hyperinflation and eventually the rise of the Nazi party in the 1930s. Loving the TiegelWhy then does this little press mean so much to so many? History shows there was ample press competition and, certainly, for work like heavy embossing one must give the Parallel machine or Kluge a leg up. Why then? Heidelberg was very clever. The company designed its press to be the easiest to run. Feeding was easy, clean up, running difficult materials – even printing on paper bags is possible. Watching a Heidelberg run is precision in motion, exact and measured in its movements. Even when compared to a high-end Gordon platen, it is actually frightening how much better the Tiegel was. It worked in harmony with the operator. I remember my father showing me how to run the press, never forcing its workings and making it sing. The better the pressman, the easier the work. My memories of the Heidelberg platen trump everything else. Its sound, its strength, the fact it was almost indestructible are fond recollections. Heidelberg built its company on the T platen, later followed by the GT (larger size) and the OHC (cylinder). What Heidelberg learned with the T platen can be seen still today. Its unique suction feeder was used on the cylinder S and K models, as well as the K, M and GTO offset presses. In fact, the unique hardware first used on the T can be seen on the Speedmaster as late as 1994. The wonderful T platen made it possible for Heidelberg to move past all of the German press makers and stay on an incredible roll right up to its flagship Speedmaster line. Heidelberg owes everything to the platen. It took the unique machine-building genius of Heidelberg to refine and build it in their personal style. Perhaps this affection has been lost on many of the greybeards in the industry, but to the new generation of letterpress artisans, the Tiegel is making them fall in love with printing all over again. Today, Heidelberg makes some of the finest printing machines in the world. Look at the XL 106 or XL 162 – amazing technology. The lithographic world is changing very fast. It’s fighting to keep digital devices away from their offset pages. I doubt there will ever be another printing machine that is truly loved like the Heidelberg platen. I remain in love my Heidelberg platens. We have a 1928 and 1985 in our collection.In 1975, a Dutch artist created a musical about his Heidelberg T, running it on stages across Holland. One of Japan’s largest printers has a T monument ensconced in glass. Loved by so many, the Tiegel transcends printing. It was Heidelberg’s gift to the printing world.

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