The evolution and rebranding of ICON Digital Productions positions a large-format-imaging pioneer as one of North America’s most unique and powerful visual communications companies View the embedded image gallery online at: https://www.printaction.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=latest&layout=latest&Itemid=1#sigProGalleria5a1572b993 On the top floor of ICON Digital Productions’ 90,000- square-foot manufacturing facility, tucked into a dimmed backroom, three technicians sit in front of a dozen screens grouped together on the wall like the Network Operations Centre of a cable news network. They are monitoring some of the highest profile static print and dynamic digital signs controlled by ICON’s newly minted Media division, including all the visuals hanging in Toronto’s Dundas Square and way-finding screens directing passengers at Pearson Airport. Responsible for thousands of digital signs across Canada for Blue Chip clients like Shoppers Drug Mart, ICON Media illustrates the reach behind one of the country’s most unique visual communications companies. Designed to deploy national signage networks by procuring all of the necessary hardware, developing business plans and ultimately managing ever-changing content for clients, ICON Media is well-positioned to take advantage of an evolving wireless world. It provides the company with an irresistible vehicle for C-suite strategy discussions with clients. The bedrock of the parent company, however, is formed by ICON Visual with one of Canada’s most powerful technological infrastructures for large-format imaging.ICON Visual dominates the company’s Markham, Ontario, facility, which any grizzled graphics pro would recognize by its curved-glass façade as the former home of Apple Canada. This division generates more than half of the parent company’s annual revenue, which in its most recent fiscal year amounted to just under $40 million, by pumping out static display graphics with print qualities demanded by the likes of Fortune 500 cosmetic and fragrance clients, Hudson’s Bay Company and Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment.ICON Print is the third pillar of the company’s All Things Visual strategy, developed through a divisional rebrand in December 2016. After years of outsourcing the production of offset-print jobs for its Blue Chip clients, ICON in January acquired Toronto Trade Printing, bringing decades of 40-inch-offset expertise in-house. The move creates a multifaceted communications manufacturing company powered by ICON Media, ICON Visual and ICON Print.Visual evolutionLast year alone, ICON oversaw the printing of more than 20-million direct-mail pieces in addition to a range of offset-produced marketing collateral. The company’s executive team has spent the past several months looking at both commercial and trade printing operations to purchase in the Greater Toronto Area. “We look at print not so much as old technology. We look at it as just another communications medium. In fact, our numbers tell us there is a lot of growth in print still,” says Juan Lau, President of ICON Digital, who co-founded the company in 1995 with Peter Evans and Peter Yeung. “The last three or four years we kept looking at our financial statements and, ironically, the fastest growing service sector was commercial printing – and we were not even trying.”Without a direct need to acquire book of business from a commercial shop, which is the primary M&A driver in today’s printing market, ICON’s executive team was focused on finding the best lithographic-manufacturing fit for its existing AAA client base. Lau explains his priority was to purchase a well-established printer to immediately provide the offset knowledge ICON lacks after two decades of building a roll-fed digital printing operation.Approximately 80 percent of what ICON Visual now prints is produced with Durst roll-fed machines. Lau describes this as a key differentiator for ICON because its production has been built around a square-metre pricing model, driven as much by finishing and fabrication as by print production. “From a pricing model we are able to get more yield [using] rolls – just a pricing thing. We can get that buttoned down pretty quick. Printers getting into our space still go off the rate-card mentality,” says Lau, describing what he sees as traditional offset pricing based on number of sheets produced. “We know a lot of commercial printers are trying to get into our space now,” says Lau. “To get into our line of work, they are going to blow their minds out on the finishing end… anyone can print, but it is the finishing that really makes or breaks a project.” Most commercial printers getting into large-format imaging also turn to flatbed machines, continuing to focus on cost-per-sheet pricing models. Lau explains he never set out to build ICON as a traditional printing operation when the partners founded the company. In 1995, the Internet had not yet penetrated the minds of most people, fax machines and phones were the dominate business tools of the day, and modems were limited to speeds of under 20k. Still, Lau wanted the company name to hold the word digital, as well as production, because he initially wanted to start a video-production company. The key word ICON came to him one day when a radio host referred to Madonna or Michael Jackson, he cannot recall which, as the Icon of Pop.Prior to opening ICON, Lau was running a photo-enlargement company producing monochrome engineering drawings and architectural blueprints, generating slim margins, pennies per sheet. Lau describes his large-format eureka moment arriving in the early 1990s after seeing new colour imaging technologies at a tradeshow: “The idea of taking a file and outputting larger-than-life graphics on just about any surface, whether it is vinyl or textiles, or what have you, nobody was really doing it.” ICON’s first large-format machine was a Xerox electrostatic printer and, Lau explains, he and Evans decided to put a stake in the ground as a new type of printing operation. “We printed on sheets alright, but we printed it to transfer media and that allowed us to, with lamination, transfer it directly onto any substrate.”The technology was slow, outputting two or three posters per hour, and not a realistic investment choice for offset-based commercial printers. Lau explains he was driven to own the market that ICON would serve, akin to McDonalds being synonymous with burgers, Coke with soda, and Rolex with watches. Advertising agencies were immediately drawn to the new output possibilities ICON could provide with one-off large-format printing, even if they would often turn to offset or screen technologies for longer runs. “We started to establish a name in the business to do mockups, ideas, innovative stuff,” says Lau, noting ICON initially produced a lot of tradeshow graphics ideal for one-offs.“What we were bringing on was really, by today’s standards, considered disruptive technology,” Lau says. “We didn’t know it at the time, but I think we were disruptors.” He explains it took about a decade after ICON’s founding for large-format imaging technologies, shifting from heavy solvents to UV, to evolve into a viable printing process for new entrants. “We went through a metamorphosis ourselves around 2005,” Lau says. “A key turning point in our company because it allowed me to do what I do best and that is go downstairs and take care of the operations, because our sales had never declined since 2005.” Lau was trained as a programmer and holds great affinity for taking a process-minded approach to business. He felt ICON’s challenge was not about topline sales and he began to search for more efficiencies in the facility. “Once I got my hands on the operations side, the process and all of that – [we previously had the] same level of sales, $10 million, for a while – our bottom line increased tremendously.” ICON brought on a new customized ERP system, internally branded as Cyrious, and a much-needed scheduling system for what had become a very busy large-format shop. ICON also brought in a new Chief Financial Officer, Alex Christopoulos, who Lau credits with greatly improving cash flow and the company’s overall financial health.Media evolutionLau describes the years from 2005 to 2008 as a “pivotal time” for ICON as he and Evans also decided to stop producing trade work for other printers and instead sell direct into the commercial market. “Part of the improvement on our bottom line was we made a conscious decision to shift and go after end-user markets,” explains Lau. “If we look back right now, we could have a few chuckles over that. It was one of the best decisions we could have made.” Around the same time, ICON’s future would be influenced by the arrival of significant developments in large-format digital imaging technologies with a new wave of UV-based inkjet systems. ICON threw out all of its older-generation, heavy-solvent inefficiencies and made significant investments in UV technology, which Lau also credits with improving the company’s bottom line. ICON’s attention to the bottom line through the latter half of the decade would soon prove critical as The Great Recession of 2008 fast approached, all but strangling print sales for months.A year before the printing industry plunged into the throes of frozen marketing budgets, Lau points to the significance of another technological marvel on ICON’s future. “2007 was a pivotal year from a technology standpoint, because when the iPhone came out [it] launched wireless technology in my opinion,” he says. “With all of the apps, [Apple] launched a whole slew of development in wireless technology.”The economic ecosystem that quickly developed around wireless technologies would serve as a catalyst for the growth in screen-based digital signage. Lau explains wireless technologies broke down barriers that had been fortified for years by the need to run so much cable and obtrusive hardware. Less than two years after the arrival of Apple’s iPhone, ICON purchased a two-person AV company called Gridcast in 2009, when digital signage was still very much in its infancy. ICON had previously worked with Gridcast on a project for the Bank of Montreal, which wanted to integrate a digital projection within a large banner with a cutout. “It went really well and that was another eureka moment with Gridcast,” recalls Lau, describing ICON’s first project to integrate both print and digital mediums.“Gridcast was very AV-oriented – hang-and-bang hardware. We saw very quickly in the first year that the model wasn’t really going to be a sustainable model,” says Lau. “Not only did we develop it by feeding it through ICON’s customer base, we actually changed [it] into a consulting model.”Multifaceted evolutionThe Gridcast division, rebranded in December 2016 as ICON Media, has been a significant driver for the company. “Our business in Media is an annuity. We will charge you a three-year management deal,” says Christopoulos, as an example of how the company can work with a client to finance a network of in-store screens, while ICON is truly interested in ongoing content management services.Christopoulos explains the company, to a much lesser extent, hopes to take the same approach with some of ICON Visual’s work, where they might provide a client with a free banner stand with a commitment to print work to cover it – ideally, changing out the print regularly – over the next several months. With The Bay, ICON Visual is also starting to print on magnetic sheets that can be applied to painted walls, speaking to the division’s growing attention on developing repeatable visual systems with clients. The continuing innovation in both ICON Visual and Media have developed a strong reputation south of the border, where the company now produces around seven percent of its work.“[It isn’t] so much because we are a better printer. They have local guys down there. It was actually our Media division because they are a lot more proactive when it comes to new innovations,” says Lau. “Because they want to do new things with digital, they are very open-minded to talk about the other print things we offer. So that is how we have been using digital media, more as a way to penetrate organizations from the top down, as opposed to starting with procurement and working our way up.” ICON Media has been using Virtual Reality for almost two years to show clients, like Sport Chek’s CMO for example, what their stores will look like with large-format print.As ICON Print is developed, the company plans to leverage strong C-Suite relationships to drive work onto litho presses. In fact, Lau envisions an emerging media procurement approach that will benefit the rebranded position of ICON’s three divisions: “I am hoping as more Millennials get into positions of power and decision-making, they are going to say, ‘Why do we need a separate print budget. This is a media budget. We need to line up all of our marketing together.’ I think those budgets are going to change. We are kind of placing a little bit of a bet that way.”Under ICON’s new multifaceted media vision, Lau explains it is important to hold a true offset-printing presence beyond outsourcing. “We have only touched the surface of the excitement the Media division is going bring,” says Lau. “It is huge. The ICON rebranding of All Things Visual is going to take us to the next level.”
In January, Ricoh acquired Toronto-based Avanti Computer Systems, which has been a leading developer of Management Information Systems dedicated to the printing industry for more than three decades. The software company was founded in 1984 by MIT graduate Dr. Richard Wallin, after a friend described the difficulties of putting an accurate job estimate together. In 2004, Patrick Bolan and Stephen McWilliam took an ownership position in the company and began to develop a business model that would sustain consistent growth to place Avanti MIS as a North American ERP printing power.In July 2013, Ricoh made an initial strategic investment in Avanti as the MIS developer was preparing to launch its new generation Avanti Slingshot solution, which was released in the fall of that year at Graph Expo. One of the most-advanced MIS products in today’s print market, Avanti’s new Slingshot platform was built around a completely new coding infrastructure and the MIS sector’s highest level of JDF certification for automation. With the full acquisition by a world-imaging giant in Ricoh, Avanti now holds the potential to become a true global power by leveraging Avanti Slingshot as an MIS newly built for today’s multifaceted business of print. PrintAction spoke with Bolan just days after the Ricoh purchase for his take on what the future holds for one of Canada’s most dynamic software developers for printing.What attracted Ricoh to acquire Avanti?PB: I think Avanti Slingshot is a big attraction. We have the best MIS system in North America, if not the world. From Ricoh’s standpoint, it acquired has MarcomCentral, which they bought just fully about two years ago... So they have the Web-to-print piece and now they have the MIS piece. They already have the production workflow piece, which is their TotalFlow product, so they have a complete workflow for a printer. I think it is a brilliant strategy on their part. Why is Slingshot an outstanding product?PB: The biggest thing is that the market has changed. Most MIS systems, including our legacy product Avanti Classic, were written 20-plus years ago. Back then offset was the primary focus. There was no or very little digital. The market has changed to where most of our customers are working in multiple lines of business. They offer digital, offset, large-format print, mail, fulfillment, data-management and even Web services for their customers.Most older systems do not handle those multiple lines of business. Meanwhile, Slingshot was written from the ground up to do just that. Number two is that Avanti Slingshot can be run on premise or in the cloud. And number three, Slingshot was written to be an open platform.How critical is Avanti Slingshot’s high level of JDF certification?PB: It opens a lot of doors. It is a key requirement for printers replacing an older MIS. They want connectivity. They want those islands of automation connected together and so absolutely it is definitely paying off.What allows Avanti to keep pushing MIS?PB: We have the experts on staff. You need an experienced team of product managers and implementation specialists, who are entrenched in MIS every day, to guide the product development process. We also have a strategic partners program of 10 or more customers who we bounce ideas off of. How much has your team grown since Slingshot launched?PB: Since Avanti Slingshot launched in 2013, we have more than doubled and maybe even a little closer to tripled – Definitely more than doubled. How much business has Slingshot generated for Avanti?PB: It drives a lot of the revenue for Avanti and, last year [ended August 31], we had a record year… We still have a really solid support base on Avanti Classic and continue to offer support and provide enhancements for Classic. We are up to around 100 Avanti Slingshot installs now.How will Avanti operate following Ricoh’s acquisition?PB: It’s really business as usual. There are no staff changes planned, so the great thing for customers is that they will still deal with the same people that they have grown to count on. I am staying. Stephen is staying, everyone is staying. I am sure that one of the reasons Ricoh acquired us is because of the subject-matter expertise of our team. Our team literally has hundreds of years of collective knowledge in MIS and it is impossible to replace. How will this Avanti’s global position?PB: This is one of the reasons we started discussions originally with Ricoh. They made it clear, from the initial investment three years ago, that they wanted our product to be a global product and that is exciting for us.
Frank Romano, Professor Emeritus of the Rochester Institute of Technology, in December travelled to Toronto to provide the keynote speech at the Digital Imaging Association’s annual holiday luncheon, held on the waterfront at The Boulevard Club. He has spent more than 40 years in the printing and publishing industries and is seen as one of the printing world’s leading technological pundits, producing hundreds of articles for publications from North America and Europe to the Middle East, Asia and Australia. Romano is the author of over 44 books, with a vast majority focusing on the arrival of digital printing. He continues to teach courses at RIT and other universities and works with students on unique research projects.The title of Romano’s DIA keynote, Digital Printing, From Good Enough to Nanography, describes one of the most pressing issues of technology investment on the minds of printers across North America. The following excerpts from Romano’s speech describe the potential disruption of inkjet printing on the offset world.Wrongly focused on page impressionsFrank Romano: The way they measure the output from these machines is page impressions. If you reduce everything to just a page, you have denigrated it – you have insulted it – because a page has no value. When the page is in a brochure it has value. When a page is in a book it has value… They are not pages, they are parts of a product and that product has value. And if we keep making that a page, we reduce the value in the product and that is an issue. Too many digital sheet sizes todayFR: Let’s get rid of all of these stupid sizes. We cannot deal with every different sheet size you can imagine. I’m sorry, the paper companies are not going to support you – they can’t anymore. They do not have the resources. They do not even have the warehouse space.Digital must move beyond CMYKFR: The problem is that the majority of these [inkjet and digital] machines are CMYK and yet we all know that we have to handle brand colours – Pantone colours… That is one of the reasons why Indigo sells so well. HP has done a very good job because of the fact that you can match almost every Pantone colour, every brand colour. That is why they are so dominant in the label market.It is just a matter of time, but the problem is without the brand colours they are not going to get into the packaging market… And, by the way, telling me you can do 80 percent of the Pantone colours with CMYK [is] not an argument.A future in water-based UV inkingFR: I think the next big movement has to be water-based UV. UV is really a key system because it can print on almost anything. It is impervious to the weather. That is going to be a key technology. Printing beyond paperFR: The next generation is going to print on new kinds of substrates. It is going to go way beyond paper... The home decor market, make the pattern of your sofa match your wall paper, if you so desire. Make your windows look like Tiffany glass. You can do that now very easily with wide-format inkjet. Offset and inkjet partnerships like Komori and LandaFR: What Komori is doing not only with Landa but with Konica and others… Mr. Komori is very shrewd and has created partnerships with other companies to build the mechanism as they build the digital printer… what Heidelberg is doing right now with Fuji. You are going to see a lot more of that as the offset companies try to figure out how to keep some of their business.By the way, when you buy a Landa machine, the base is shipped from Japan and the printing part is shipped from Israel and then they put it together in your plant. It is going to be very interesting to see how that works out. Importance of page-wide print headsFR: The other big change has been single-pass inkjet, instead of having the head move back and forth. Now that was pioneered by HP with a wide-format roll-fed machine... 40 inches wide by 500 feet a minute, CMYK, can’t beat it and it is selling very well worldwide.Oce is doing the same thing with their roll-fed machines and others. Impika has been down that road and then Xerox acquired it and has improved the product line significantly. Cost of new digital machinesFR: The thing that bothers me more than anything else is that we are a capital-intensive business and these machines are not cheap anymore. [Technology suppliers] figure we all have money and yet that is one of my issues – we don’t. If you could get the machine at a reasonable price, we could then build a business and buy more machines, and buy more consumables… But right now I think they have priced them a little bit too high.
Founded 35 years ago, MGI Digital Technology has made a major impact on the world of printing with innovative digital printing and finishing technologies for enhancing the power of print.MGI Digital Technology invests approximately 20 percent of its annual sales back into research and development.This astonishing number speaks to the company’s origins just outside of Paris, France, and why it has raised the bar amid what are now some of the industry’s mostpowerful technology suppliers driving the growth of digital printing. PrintAction spoke with Kevin Abergel, Vice President of Sales and Marketing at MGI USA, about the company’s mantra of innovation.How was MGI founded?Basically it was 1982 when my uncle was fresh out of the military where he had worked on anti-aircraft missile technology and he had learned a lot when it was still really early days for computers. When you look back further, actually, my grandfather was an offset pressman his whole life and on weekends in the summer his three sons all went into that environment to make some extra money. The three brothers who created MGI went into my grandfather’s shop and really learned the business from a traditional standpoint, which is why we have always had an affinity for commercial printers, because basically it is our bloodline – it is where we come from. Has invention always been in your family?My great grandfather, on my mother’s side, actually has the first patent for the first pneumatic feeder – 1925 or 1927 – for an offset press and it is up in our offices. We have a very strong and rich history in printing that runs through the Abergel veins. The first products MGI came out with were not necessarily in the print industry. They were some of the first computer programs for accounting, also for hospitals, big old floppy disks. That is really where we got started and then in 1991 we developed our first press – with a three-man team that developed a roll of basically Bristol paper that was being printed on digitally with a cutter just making business cards. It was called the Mastercard. And then the next generation of Mastercard all of a sudden it went from one colour to two colours to four colours, while also going from a business-card format width to 8 ½ x 11, then 12 x 18, and then we were doing plastics. We have really gone through 13 or 14 generations of engines in our history on the digital press side. That is really how we built up the business from nothing to a business today with a market-cap above 200 million Euros. And now we have partners like Konica Minolta, which really raised the profile higher.What is the Konica and MGI relationship?The Konica Minolta and MGI relationship goes back 20 years actually… The base MGI business model has been to use initial Konica technology, whether it is inkjet heads or toner-based print engines, and sup-up those engines. Two years ago we really started to get a closer relationship when Konica Minolta invested 10 percent into MGI – we are a publically listed company – and as a result of that we developed a smaller version of the varnish and iFOIL, called the JETvarnish 3DS, exclusively for their sales network. Because of the success that we had in that first year of bringing this product to market, Konica was now wanting to distribute the entire MGI portfolio and it was at that point in time that they went from 10 percent to 41 percent, which is a controlling interest in MGI where we have actually launched a new distribution agreement. Konica Minolta is now globally going to market and sell our entire lines of products. From a sales standpoint, it gives us much more visibility and from a service standpoint a much wider infrastructure.How much has MGI grown in 10 years? From 2008 to 2016, we grew something like 500 percent during some of the most difficult times in the printing industry. I think when times get tough people need to invest in something that brings a level of differentiation or innovation, so that they can actually compete on applications, not on price. That has really been our mantra this whole time. I do not care about how many pages you are printing per month. How much are you making on each one of those pages? If you are only making four or five percent that is not a good business model, but now if you can go to 60, 70 percent it is a different story.Why is MGI’s new Artificial Intelligence SmartScanner, AIS, significant?If I made a die or a screen, for example, I would never really be able to register any of what I am doing to a digital print for the simple reason that digital print moves page to page. The image registration maybe is going to be a little to the left or right, a couple of pixels up, a little skewed – every page is going to come out basically in a different position on the sheet. So the most important thing is being able to move up, down, left, right and custom fit every single page by comparing it to the original PDF of the print file and seeing where the moves are. The key point here is that AIS is going to be creating – using artificial intelligence – a topographical map of your print. By comparing that live with the actual PDF of the print file, it is going to be able to stretch out all those points where maybe there is high ink density that shrunk the paper or maybe you laminated it so you have a severe slip, stretch or a fan. In screen printing maybe it would take me 20 minutes to stretch my screens out manually to get my fit right and I have to spend a lot of sheets to get my fit correct to be able to make up for all of those deformations once it is out of the press.The scanner does away with all of that. Number one, your first sheet out is going to be perfect. Number two, you do not need that professional eye to understand where your stretch is in your sheet. It is all being done automatically as touch-less as possible. When you mix that in with the variable data barcode reading system… Not only will it varnish and foil the right image, but it is actually going to custom fit and custom register each one of those sheets as they are moving through. It has never been done before.How much data is being processed to leverage the AIS topographical maps?That was one of our biggest problems. If you look at the actual computer system that is just running the scanner alone it is basically doing five teraflops of information per second. It is a lot of information being crunched to be able to pull up the right file, trace the TIFF from the PDF, then be able to compare that file live to the actual print and be able to do all of the modifications automatically. For me it is the coolest technology we have ever done and we have done some pretty cool things. What MGI technologies excite you most?I also think that the fact that we have a B1 JETvarnish and a roll-to-roll JETvarnish or the fact that we are actually putting foil down with toner are all really fascinating products. I am most proud of the [AIS] scanner, because I know how much work went into it, almost four years of nonstop development and to see it actually work, knowing that it has been the unicorn. That was the codename for it, The Unicorn, because everybody was talking about it internally and hoping we would one day see it work.What MGI technology is having the most market penetration?Right now, the Meteor is having a large amount of success because, at the end of the day, it is still a digital press that can do all of the commodity stuff. But then you turn on the iFOIL and you start running envelopes or plastics or PVCs, or long formats, and put the foil down and it suddenly boosts your added value.On the JETvarnish side, I would say that 95 percent of the people who are buying this equipment are getting into varnish and foil for the first time in their history. So from a market penetration standpoint, we are having more placements with the Meteor, but the JETvarnish is significantly up compared to previous years because I think the market is finally starting to accept digital embellishment. Out of all the JETvarnish products, we are having an incredible amount of success with our B1 JETvarnish and iFOIL… it really allows us to go after a whole new customer segment which is the packaging converter. Is packaging ready for MGI’s digitization?Packaging wasn’t one of our priorities. For the past 35 years, we have focused on commercial printers, but the packaging guys are the ones who came to us and pulled us into that market. The more we did research, the more it made sense for us to develop a 29-inch JETvarnish to be able to do those XL sheets and today that is our number-one selling unit and that is for the packaging convertors. A lot of commercial printers are trying to find ways into digital packaging as well, because, according to Infotrends, there will be 41 percent growth over the next two years in digital folding cartons. I do not know if you could show me one other statistic in our industry that is as incredible as that 41 percent.How is MGI technology suited for labels?I read a stat from LPC that said by 2020 three out of four new label presses will be digital. Most importantly, [with MGI technology] it not going to cost you a lot of money to varnish and foil jobs. It is going to be a low-cost job which you can still charge a premium for. The brands are the ones who are pushing it that way, which is a big part of what we do to educate the brands on the advantages of digital and being able to do this kind of work.
A unique business trip to the Soviet Union, including a look inside the printing operation of the Red Army, at the height of the Cold War leaves a lasting impression.The world of print has been enriched by many folks from all walks of life who took many different roads to arrive at an industry with seemingly no beginning or end. On a busy mid-week day 36 years ago, a city inspector walked into Frank Herrington’s print shop. “Can you tell me where your designated smoking area is?” asked the inspector. “Wherever I’m standing,” uttered Frank. This story was often repeated and always with a chuckle. It was a different time. Frank, a lifelong smoker, seemed to have two butts going at the same time. It was never uncommon to see an ashtray with a forgotten cigarette burned to the end with a length of ash. I first met Frank around 1977. He was then a partner in a trade shop but already had a lifetime’s worth of print experience. Born in Hastings, Ontario, to a family with a lot of siblings, Frank had a rough early childhood and found himself and his younger brother, Murray, in an orphanage. Unlike today, there were few family roots in the printing industry and it was a chance opportunity that Frank found a job at Toronto’s Parr’s Print & Litho in the mid-1960s. Starting with a broom, Frank did all sorts of odd jobs until one day a pressman called in sick and he had the chance to run a varnish job on a Consolidated Jewel. The Jewel was a hefty 30-inch single colour offset press made by ColorMetal in Zurich, Switzerland, but rebranded (as was common in those days), from its Swiss name Juwel to an Americanization Jewel.Frank was hooked. Especially with offset as he had no interest in letterpress. Like many of his generation, trade schools carried printing courses and taught various disciplines such as typesetting, page assembly, platen press operation, and so on. But for Frank, learning the California job case and composing with type was dumb and tedious when offset offered a better future in printing.Canadian connectionsThe ATF Chief 20 was a popular smaller press at the time and soon Frank was running one of these 14 x 20-inch single colours, too. He would run split plates for the record jacket business. This was difficult work, making ready two plates on one cylinder. Next he had the chance to run a Harris LUP two colour. This was a 49-inch press and the big leagues. Over his entire life, Frank preached about the simple intelligent concepts of the Harris press.Frank also had a short stint working in St. Paul, Minnesota, with Ternes Pin Register. Norm Ternes was instrumental in developing a simple method of installing register pins in plate clamps and also made plate register punches. On his return to Toronto, along with two partners, Frank began manufacturing plate punches and installing systems on all sorts of presses. It’s important to know that even in the early 1970s few offset presses had any kind of pin register.I once saw him completely re-strip a four-colour cover and print the job on a very old Solna 124 single colour. It was quite amazing to see him manipulate the film, cut the masking sheets, burn the plates and then make numerous adjustments to the press just to get the job out and prove to our customer the press would print.On another occasion, we had a customer in our shop and Frank was print testing with some plates that the customer had brought. The Harris LXG-FR had Micro flow dampening. What a chore it was to set the dampener, because it was driven by two sets of V-belts. I leaned down to look at the plate docket the customer had brought. Frank, without missing a beat, leaned over and said if I ever pulled out that screen plate he’d kick me into the middle of next week! Frank knew that trying to run a full screen in such conditions would be a disaster.On yet another occasion, we had sold a printer a Heidelberg KOR single-colour offset press. A few months later that customer had dropped a dampener form into the press and smashed it. Resulting inspections by the Heidelberg agent indicated the press was scrap, so we were able to take it back for parts. After months of this press languishing in our shop, Frank strolled in one day and asked, “Whats up with the press?” I told him the story and how the press’ owner had said the plate cylinder was bent and it was toast. “But did you check it yourself?” Frank asked. I had not. So we did it together. Much to my surprise the plate cylinder was not bent and we quickly went through it and sold it on to another shop. This lesson was one of the most important Frank would pass on to me. Our long association proved to be much more than fixing presses and learning common sense. Frank would always challenge you. This trait seems almost extinct today. Over the last 40 years we had many a good mechanic work for us. Some were quite brilliant, others less so. Frank was unique in his ability to speak to owners with confidence while at the same time be a mentor to even the lowest skilled employee. From all walks of life there are folks even today that can share the same sentiments about Frank and how he was the best friend any of them could possibly have. Frank’s genius was in his confidence. He never let a piece of equipment intimidate him. No matter the complexity or difficulty. Especially with an offset press, Frank’s common sense fundamentals allowed him to almost always disregard the operation manual and use inherent basics to set grippers, adjust bearer pressures or make a feeder run difficult stocks. Honey, disconnect the phone Over the next 25 years I would make seven or eight trips to Russia but a visit in 1980, in the midst of the Cold War, was special. For Frank, this was his first visit anywhere out of North America. We traveled aboard an aging Aeroflot Ilyushin Il-62 where the in-flight refreshments consisted of handing out mickeys and chocolates wrapped in tin foil. So here we were in Moscow during two weeks of September 1980. Our goal, to study various printing related equipment manufactured by the Soviet Union and see if we could purchase any of it.Frank and I had become close friends. He taught me a great deal and I needed him to help me access the viability of the anticipated equipment we would see. We arrived at the scary monolithic Hotel Ukraina near Red Square. A very large haunting and dark place we nicknamed Dracula’s Castle. The Ukraina was a huge place built in a typical Soviet Style in 1953. This was also a foreigner’s Hotel and Russians themselves could not enter without a pass. The room had a black-and-white TV and a radio that was hard wired and couldn’t be turned off. Only the volume worked – there was only one station, too. I recall it was made of Bakelite and had the shape of the Moscow University’s main tower. The radio would chime an eerie tune to signify the top of the hour. Off we went the next day to the Red Army printing plant. There we were to see the supreme example of the Soviet industrial complex in the POL-54 offset press. This press, a single colour about 74 centimetres (29 inches) was running with two operators (one sitting on a stool at the delivery). To make matters worse the press wasn’t even running offset but rather letterset (dry offset). Frank had a quick look, smiled and whispered, “If that’s all they have we’re in for a rough two weeks.” Representatives from Techmaschexport (Soviet exporting agency) asked our opinions and I nudged Frank to go take a better look. He’s under the feedboard checking the grippers while all of a sudden the operator hits the run button. This caught Frank’s finger in the press and, as blood dripped from his hand, off he went with a nurse to the infirmary. Shortly after, with a plaster cast the size of an ice-cream cone, in strolled Frank. We never saw the Pol-54 again and apparently no one else did either.Our days off proved amusing and we had a lot of them. Each place we visited, Frank shook his head. In order to buy something at a store you needed to find what you wanted, get a chit, go to teller to pay, then back with receipt to the first guy. The 1980 Olympics had been held only a few months earlier, so we wandered over to the main outdoor stadium where, to our glee, we found a store that sold potato chips. Nearby was what we would call a fast-food restaurant. We nicknamed it the Bun & Run. They were serving some kind of dish with a flatbread and a white creamy sauce poured over it. Looks good we thought. Pulling out a few Rubles, Frank bought a couple only to find out the sauce was some kind of butter milk. Tasted awful, smelled even worse. The food in the Ukraine was remarkably better than Russia.We walked each day to Red Square and watched the locals in the GUM department store. We visited a science and technology museum and spent time at the INTOURIST Hotel bar because as foreigners we could get in. But mostly we found ourselves in the main dining area of the Ukraina each night, getting a laugh when we spotted new arrivals trying to figure out that the only drinks were Georgian sweet “Champaign” and Vodka. We took a flight to the Ukrainian city of Odessa on the Black Sea. There we toured a prepress factory known for platemakers and cameras. It held really nothing of relevance, but we consumed a lot of Vodka during a lunch put on for us. That evening Mr. Ptashkin, our host, insisted we take in a show at the famous Odessa opera. Moments after taking our seats, Frank quickly nodded off. Afterword we walked down to the water on the famous Potemkin Stairs. These sacred steps were constructed in the 1800s and unique because from the top looking down you don’t see any stairs only landings. But on this night somehow, Frank and Ptashkin got into a bet of who could get to the top first. Frank did.So it’s now after midnight and time to head to the hotel. “Let’s go for a nightcap,” says Frank. There are no night bars in Odessa uttered Ptashkin in a stern voice. “Follow me,” said Frank. Around the back of the hotel, down some steps, knock on a door and – voila – a night bar and with Western liquor to boot. That was Frank, who was somehow a step or two ahead of everyone. Well, we left Frank at the bar and that’s the last I saw of him that night. I was worried in the morning when he didn’t show, having made my way down to the foyer to await our hosts. I was just about to explain Frank’s absence to Ptashkin when he strolled in looking haggard. Best we leave the rest of that story alone.Soviet presses and the KGBOnce back in Moscow another outing was arranged to visit a major factory in the city of Rybinsk. This city was near a giant reservoir and about 300 kilometers north of Moscow. To get there we had to take the train and also get special permits. The trip involved leaving Moscow in the evening to arrive in the morning. Neither of us actually knew where we were going and looking back it seems nuts to take such a long time to go 300 kilometers. We shared a bunk-bed cabin with the female interpreter and Mr. Ptashkin, separated from the proletariat who had less than stellar accommodations. It seemed every time we awoke coincided with the train stopping, changing direction or in one case stifling smoke in the cabin. Someone had closed a vent for a coal-fired massive tea urn at the rear of the car. The factory was huge. It still exists today. Back then it also had its own iron foundry. This facility made a wide range of printing equipment from web to sheetfed. A little cold set web press called the POG-60 was actually a licence agreement with West Germany’s MAN and was created to be portable. There were three units and a folder. Two colours one side, one on the back and in a tabloid size. We found this little press amusing because although the Soviet Union had several dailies we never saw anyone reading them – only reading official posted copies of a broadsheet on designated notice boards.Very large offset and letterpress newspaper webs – all for Coldset newspaper production – were being assembled in the factory. One item of interest was a sheetfed feeder by the name of TIPO, which turned out to be a Planeta design and the Soviets were now building all the feeders that were to be used on these East German presses. Oddly enough, the Soviets failed to use this feeder for their own presses. We were able to view the VOLGA offset press. In a 40-inch size, the VOLGA featured chain transfer from each unit – another dud! We walked past at a brisk pace. But we did have another troubling experience the next day. There was a special apartment in a workers housing complex. This was reserved for foreign guests. We had a few hours to kill and both of us had brought gum and candies to pass out as gifts. Looking out of the window I noticed some children playing in the late afternoon, so we grabbed our goodies and cameras and went downstairs to hand out the treats. All the kids were excited and we enjoyed making their afternoon.The next day the Rybinsk general director invited us to a special workers camp on the banks of the lake. Surrounded by woods, this camp consisted of a large house, sauna and outdoor showers. They laid on a feast along with the customary quantities of vodka and toasts. Followed by an obligatory visit to the sauna. A car arrived for us around dusk and we headed back through the woods toward the main road. However, as we cleared the thick trees two black Moskvitch cars blocked our path. Frank and I were ordered to stay in our car while Ptashkin got out to talk to a bunch of guys wearing three quarter length leather trench coats. Moments later a stern looking Ptashkin came back and told us we had been observed taking photographs in a prohibited place the previous day and the “police” insisted that I hand over my camera and film. At first I refused but Frank clearly knew more than I and told me to shut up and give the KGB the damn film. I reluctantly agreed. The KGB developed my film and kept the ones they felt would cause harm to national security. Funny enough, 14 years later I again found myself at the same factory. By this time the Soviet Union had collapsed and things had changed a great deal. In the huge machine hall, once occupying all types of machine tools, the printing presses were gone and in their place workers were punching out pots and pans. Central planning and subsidies exposed a crumbling infrastructure.The U.S.S.R trip gave us a lot to laugh about for years after, but the trip ultimately proved to be disappointing. What was very apparent to us was a stubbornness of the Soviets not embracing developments from the outside world. As we later discovered all high-quality printing was not printed in Moscow but in places such as Finland, Austria and Hungary. But that’s possibly because print was not a defense industry and languished because of its apparent unimportance. Odd still considering the Soviet Union, at that time, was the world’s largest producer of books.I continued to learn many lessons from Frank – both in and out of the printing world. I really miss my good friend in so many ways and I’m not alone. Frank touched a lot of people’s lives and left an indelible mark on all who knew him. We don’t have many in our print industry like Frank anymore. Guys that were strippers, pressman, mechanics and electricians all rolled into one. I once asked Frank why he had so little respect for authority. In his early days, he had been in the Air Force, trained to use secretive radar equipment. After all the training and being sworn to secrecy, he was walking downtown a few years after leaving the military and saw one of those secret radar units for sale in the window of a surplus store.
Asia Pulp & Paper, a relatively young paper maker founded in 1979, has grown to become one of the world’s largest integrated pulp and paper entities with a raft of new environmental targets and products in the Canadian market.Asia Pulp & Paper Group in 2013 introduced its Forest Conservation Policy as a large-scale environmental initiative based on zero deforestation. The policy would require a range of investments by Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) with a goal to put an immediate end to sourcing pulpwood materials from suppliers involved with natural forest clearance. The company, with its primary roots in both China and Indonesia, subsequently engaged leading environmental organizations like Rainforest Alliance, Deltares (a research institute) and Greenpeace to evaluate this unprecedented Forest Conservation Policy (FCP). APP opened up its operations to allow these organizations to track its FCP implementation progress.Over the next two years, APP continued to work on its environmental stance with initiatives like the world’s first-ever retirement of commercial plantations on tropical peatland – some 7,000 acres – and a program to restore and conserve one million hectares of forest across Indonesia, primarily within the Bukit Tigapuluh ecosystem, home to the endangered Sumatran Tiger. These massive initiatives were in response to mounting environmental criticisms leveled against APP over its practices.As a result of facing the criticism head on, APP has invested millions of dollars into establishing a stronger environmental position and, at the same time, reorganized its operations into one of the most modern structures across the paper world. While most other paper makers are running legacy equipment, often shutting down equipment based on unmanageable fluctuations in supply and demand, APP over the past 10 years has brought on line three new paper machines designed with technical flexibility to respond to new market demands. The company, driven by its own unique eucalyptus plantations, is now seen as the world’s most vertically integrated paper producers. This position has allowed APP’s Canadian operation, focused solely on moving paper as opposed to diversifying into equipment distribution, to reengage to domestic printing industry and become one of Canada’s most powerful paper suppliers. New Canadian modelAPP’s new direction in Canadian printing primarily began in 2010 when David Chin became President of APP Canada. One of his primary goals was to become a preferred paper supplier to Canada’s Tier One printing operations. This would require new levels of market penetration for the company, which had traditionally focused on the retail market as a paper merchant. Chin instead began to build from APP’s long presence in the Canadian market to establish direct relationships with printers, as opposed to working through distributors. “We are not newcomers in the market. We have been here since 1998 so we are a very stable entity and we also have ample stock. If I am not mistaken we are the largest importer for commercial printing paper in Canada and we also have the most inventory of commercial paper in Canada,” says Chin. “We have made some giant leaps with Tier One customers, the top 10 printers in Canada, mainly because of our service and paper quality.” Chin explains APP Canada purposely hires local people, as opposed to transferring people from overseas operations, to help build its presence in the domestic market. “We are truly a Canadian company. We are growing the Canadian economy and not just growing in Asia.”Much of APP Canada’s growth in the commercial printing market over the past six years can be tied to the operation’s ability to leverage the complete production integration of its parent company, which has spent the past decade building one of the world’s most modern end-to-end paper operations. “Our advantage is really integration all of our pulping facilities are a short drive away from our production facilities, if not on site,” says Ian Lifshitz, Director of Sustainability and Public Outreach, Americas, Asia Pulp & Paper Group. “So frankly we are able to get a competitive cost advantages.”Lifshitz notes APP does source some pulp on the open market, typically based on product type, but for the most part APP has emerged as an internally driven global operation that has been outpacing the investments of its competitors. “When we look at investments in new machines, and I am not talking about a converting machine, rather a paper-making machine, it has been a number of years since we have seen any investment in the North American market,” says Lifshitz. “When we look at what APP has done alone in the last 10 years we have brought on three giant machines – we are talking about $12 billion of investment.” In China, APP brought on what is now the world’s largest board machine housed in a building resembling a large airplane hanger to accommodate what amounts to a circular machine measuring around one kilometre in length. “We see our potential on a global scale in terms of investment in technology… and I think that is huge for APP in terms of its future within the industry,” says Lifshitz.New market realitiesLifshitz explains the investment in three modern paper machines allows APP to evolve product offerings as its printing-industry customers are also evolving, which may include providing coated or uncoated sheets, copy paper, stationery or printable packaging materials. “APP can look at the growth segments and expand our portfolio. That is a key to our success,” he says. “We have an advantage in machine flexibility because we are able to produce jumbo rolls… we are able to adapt our machine technology with different levels of pulp, different levels of coating, whatever the customers demands on a full run.”Whereas legacy paper production operations are primarily focused on shipping rolls out for further cutting and converting, APP is able to do single roll production and adjust its machines based on customer demand and this affords significant production savings. Flexible, full paper production integration combined with sourcing its own pulp from plantations allows APP to turn savings into stable global paper pricing. This is a key advantage particularly over the past few years when printers have seen significant fluctuations in their paper pricing.APP’s installation of new paper machines over the past decade are also supported equally aggressive investments around becoming a more environmentally progressive operation. “APP Canada sources from Indonesia and China and, through plantation development and sustainable efforts, we have really been able to take a leadership position to provide what the marketplace wants,” says Lifshitz. “We see customers looking for sustainable paper making and environmental credentials and we are able to provide that now... Over the past five years, the commitment on sustainability has really changed our value proposition and we now really have become a definer in terms of zero deforestation.”The plantation model employed by APP, which allows it to avoid clearing forests, relies on a special fast-growing eucalyptus genus, with other farmed species including poplar and acacia. The APP concessions in China alone represent approximately half of the country’s total pulpwood plantations. “The challenge for us, because we are truly integrated, is that we have to work with our suppliers and our suppliers’ suppliers to ensure they maintain the same commitments that we do in our supply… to ensure that all of our materials that arrive at our mill are harvested sustainability and follow our policies of zero deforestation,” explains Lifshitz.Based on years of research and develops, APP’s eucalyptus trees can now be harvested and planted in five-year cycles. This model is driven by APP controlled nurseries, including its primary Hainan location that produces more than 100 million plantlets each year that are then transplanted into APP’s managed plantations – a process that is crucial to APP’s goal of zero deforestation.“We are an integrated company all of the way from pulp manufacturing to retail and that sets us apart from the rest of the competitors,” says Chin. “Because we are fully integrated, we can go all of the way into the pulp price so we can offer more stable available pricing, which gives us more options.”Chin explains these options afforded by APP’s full production integration directly relates to the growing number of paper varieties it now supplies to the Canadian printing market. This becomes a vital asset as a coast-to-coast operation, with facilities stretching from Quebec to Vancouver, employing around 75 people. Chin explains this position is also supported by the fact that APP is solely focused on the paper needs of its customers, as many of its competitors have diversified into selling equipment and industrial supplies. “Selling our paper is what we have been very successful at over the last few years,” says Chin, “and I think for the next few years we will stick with that.”
The growth of digital technologies is now starting to make a major impact on the textiles sector, where new business models are opening up a world of possibilities.If you don’t believe that digital textile printing has gone mainstream in North American fashion circles, ask Sophie Grégoire Trudeau. On March 10, 2016, in Washington, D.C., she wore a dress made with Canadian-manufactured digitally printed fabric to no less august an occasion than the welcoming ceremony for the first official visit of her husband, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, to the White House. To create the dress, Toronto-based designer Lucian Matis applied decorations made of silk that was digitally printed with a hand-painted pattern of pink and purple orchids onto a background of solid crimson crepe. Fashion media instantly erupted into raves about the dress, some commentators even going so far as to claim that its sensational colours stole the show away from the Prime Minister and the Trudeaus hosts, U.S. President Barack Obama and his wife, First Lady Michelle Obama.In fact, Michelle Obama had already climbed on the digital textile printing (DTP) bandwagon seven years ago in May 2009, when she made fashion headlines by wearing a piece by U.K.-based DTP-pioneering designers Basso & Brooke to an evening of poetry and music at the White House. (Actually, her stylist shortened Basso & Brooke’s design for a digitally printed, Swarovski-crystal-beaded dress into a top which the American First Lady wore over white cropped pants. Another Basso & Brooke garment is the first digitally printed piece in the permanent collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute in New York.)Equipped with these revelations about the wardrobes of celebrity political wives and a tip from a fashionista friend, I tracked down the printer who manufactured the sumptuous silk fabric used in Grégoire Trudeau’s Washington-arrival-ceremony dress: The Emerson Group Inc. of Mississauga, Ontario. Company President Michael Hawke confirmed that the distinctive material was one of their recent jobs and speaks at length in this report about the evolution of his DTP business over the past eight years. Global growth statisticsVia email I also contacted Ron Gilboa, a Director of Functional Printing and Packaging at InfoTrends (Weymouth, Massachusetts) a worldwide market research and strategic consulting firm for the digital imaging and document solutions industry. While I was writing this article, Gilboa was preparing to deliver an overview of the DTP market and trends at the FESPA Digital Textile Conference on September 30, 2016, in Milan, Italy. FESPA (formerly the Federation of European Screen Printers Associations) is a global federation of 37 national associations for the screen printing, digital printing, and textile printing community. The Milan conference is one of a series of educational events on DTP that FESPA has organized since 2008. According to FESPA’s Website, Milan is the largest DTP market in Europe, and the nearby Como region a textile manufacturing and decorating hub that accounts for 55 percent of the European digital textile market and produced more than 180 million square metres of digitally printed textiles in 2015.In an online description of the Milan conference, FESPA CEO Neil Felton comments: “Today, digital accounts for only a small proportion of all textile printing, but this is forecast to grow substantially in the years ahead, with estimates suggesting that digital could account for 5 percent of textile printing by 2020, up from 2 percent today. Clearly that’s a significant diversification opportunity for printers already invested in digital output technology and supporting workflows.”Gilboa kindly furnished me with a statistical report he wrote with InfoTrends Research Analyst James Hanlon, entitled “Digital Textile Printing Market Overview,” that further explains and predicts the extent of the new global commercial opportunities cropping up in this up-and-coming segment of digital print. Their report expects DTP to reach an estimated global product value of over $30 billion by 2020, based on driving factors that include technology maturity, supply chain consideration, brand ability to develop new products, and a significant and positive environmental impact.Additionally, although Gilboa and Hanlon predict DTP’s future growth will be concentrated in the Asia Pacific and other areas of the world where the most cutting and sewing is conducted, they add that “one of the trends we are observing keenly is the formation of localized production that includes print, cut and sew that are digitally enabled and automated. These allow for in-country production and consumption and new revenue streams for customized high value products,” as Hawke’s case exemplifies.Emerson’s 8-year curveHawke’s business, The Emerson Group Inc. is a family-owned, integrated communications company whose current services, aside from DTP, include marketing and design. His father, John, first started the business as a prepress film company in 1986, and Hawke, now 52, jumped in soon after. His brother, Chris, joined them a year later and now runs production. Hawke’s wife, Kara, also joined them in 2000 and now works as Vice President of Sales. These days, even at age 75, John still keeps an occasional hand in the business.As it evolved and the rise of computerized prepress caused demand for prepress film to shrink, the Hawkes bought a small design company and converted it into an advertising agency. Then eight years ago, after they first saw digitally printed fabric being produced in Europe, they decided to get involved in soft signage production. Hawke says they reached this decision in part because returning to some form of manufacturing seemed a more comfortable fit than staying with prepress and design work alone.They started doing DTP with one large-format printer 3 metres wide and within the next three years added two more printers, both 1.8 metres wide. All three machines, manufactured under DuPont’s Artistri brand, are no longer available for sale. Hawke clarifies: “Although we do also own a dye-sub printer as a backup, we don’t do dye-sub” (short for dye-sublimation printing, a common process for decorating apparel, signs, and novelty items such as cell phone cases or coffee mugs. In dye-sub specialized processes apply sublimation dyes first to transfer sheets, then onto another polyester or polymer-coated substrate using heat.) Rather, all Emerson’s DTP work is printed directly to fabric.Right now Hawke’s business employs 25 staff, six of whom work in the front end with the rest divided between two production shifts on weekdays. Production staff also routinely work overtime and on weekends during peak periods, which nowadays Hawke says fall practically all year round, except for summers and at Christmastime, when orders tend to slow.Presently their DTP operation produces both large-format print on synthetic fabrics and textiles in natural fibres for fashion and interior décor. Their customers are located all over North America, many in the United States. Textile orders typically involve relatively small runs of 200 to 500 metres of printed cotton, linen, silk, viscose, or blends based on these fibres. Large-format orders include not only the usual signs, banners, trade show displays, and backdrops, but also frequent novelty items for theatrical performances, festivals, special events, weddings, and large parties. One especially challenging job Hawke recalls was a wall covering for the theatre of the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, North Carolina--a project requiring them to print and sew together three separate panels into a gargantuan 30-feet-high-by-435-feet-long scene simulating the grandstand at a NASCAR race. Another was a tent for a corporate banquet with paintings by Old Masters printed on the interior walls, and a 50-feet-wide-by-165-feet-long roof printed on the inside to look like a ballroom ceiling decorated with elaborate crown molding.“We are getting more and more orders for soft fabric walls and trade show displays,” says Hawke. “Although vinyl has traditionally been the main substrate for these products, fabric is so much easier to use in many ways: it’s lighter, more resistant to creases, easier to move around, and easier to handle and store.” DTP detailsHawke recounts that they have previously tried to run four different types of textile dyes on their equipment: acid dye, pigment dye, disperse dye, and reactive dye. Now, however, they specialize in only the latter two: disperse dye, which they run on their large-format printer for synthetic fibres, and reactive dye, which they run on the other two printers for natural fibres. Reasons for limiting their production to this two-dye system include that washing the printers repeatedly to change over dyes is costly, plus the only fabrics they cannot print are nylon-based ones (because the dye won’t stay on the fabric.) Hawke specifies that the process of applying disperse dye to synthetics requires heat, while applying reactive dyes to natural fibres uses steam to avoid burning the fabrics. He adds that when using reactive dye, the type used to print the silk for Grégoire Trudeau’s dress, textiles turn out softest to the touch and their colours look the best.“We try to offer our clients a range of about 20 different synthetics and 30 different natural fabrics that will work for a variety of projects, including displays, upholstery, drapes, household linens, dresses, and accessories,” Hawke continues, adding that textile orders for pillows and scarves seem to be especially popular. Designers can also bring in their own fabric for printing, providing it does not contain nylon, for the reasons explained above. After printing, both synthetic and natural fabrics go through a washing system to remove excess dye, then a post-treatment to apply water and dirt repellent or fabric softener, then larger fabrics are laser-cut to size.Online and other advantages“We don’t do a lot of advertising,” says Hawke. “Instead, a lot of our business comes by word of mouth, Internet searches, and our blog on DesignYourFabric.com, an online business we’ve operated for about a year, where designers can upload their own designs to print whatever quantity they want of their own fabrics. We’ve had some hiccups along the way, but since we got the bugs out six months ago, we’re seeing the on-line business grow.”He explains that to obtain textiles via traditional screen- or rotary-screen printing methods from places like Europe, South America, China, or India, customers have to order at least eight weeks ahead and commit to a minimum order of 100,000 to 500,000 metres. “If they don’t use up all the fabric, they’re stuck having to sell off their inventory. But our on-line ordering system fits the way people shop now, there’s no minimum, we can usually fill orders in seven to ten days – and those time frames are shortening. In eight years, print heads have improved, so whereas we used to get 200 droplets out of one head, now we get 1500 droplets, and the newer heads can print four to five times faster than we used to.” Gilboa and Hanlon’s report provides further supporting details on how digital inkjet technology has dramatically improved in recent years to facilitate a multitude of applications, ink types, print quality improvements, and faster production speeds.Hawke comments: “It’s nice because DTP is starting to bring textile production back to North America. Printing small orders on demand is where the growth is going to be here, because customers can buy locally, they don’t have to buy minimums and don’t have long waits for their orders.” Significantly, Gilboa and Hanlon’s observations on new opportunities mirror Hawke’s Web strategy and bode well for his business model: “New software and technology developments allow for greater brand, producer and consumer interaction. Web based applications are being developed that enable an individual to create designs and patterns for textiles, manage orders, and track fulfillment more easily. All of these combine to facilitate a streamlined supply chain while reducing operation cost. Digital solutions help products reach the market faster, reduce overall inventory, and make purchase activated manufacturing possible. This is great benefit for both the consumer as well as the brand that are now able to develop new products at speeds not possible with traditional printing. Brands, with digital textile printing, can react faster to consumer needs, localize products faster, and produce in small batches and custom products. This all leads to the democratization of design, and helps support upcoming designers, as there is minimal inventory obsolescence risk associated with digital production. Areas of textiles where these benefits shine through include fast fashion, high fashion, sports apparel, home textiles, and outdoor furnishing. Major fashion brands such as Zara and H&M are deploying digital print to improve and reduce their supply chain complexity.”Hawke continues: “Another of the nice things about our DPT business is that our dyes are all water-based, you can recycle polyester, and natural fibres break down in landfill, so our process is pretty green.” Gilboa and Hanlon’s report also emphasizes that “digitally printed textiles have one other key advantage over current methods, and that is a drastic reduction in overall environmental impact. Digital systems are able to produce the same printed textiles with significant reductions in water consumption during the printing process, sometimes up to 90 percent when compared to rotary screen-printing. Reductions are also seen in energy consumption as well as CO2 emissions, where steaming, washing and drying occur.” New stepsThe business resources Hawke continues to rely on include the Canadian Textile Industries Association (CTIA) and ITMA, a global textile and garment machinery exhibition held every four years, next scheduled in 2019 in Barcelona, Spain. His advice to DTP novices: “Prepare for a big learning curve – for one thing because, compared to other substrates, fabric undergoes a lot of changes. It’s not stable. It shrinks, for example, and batches of fabric can vary from one to another, so it’s important to locate suppliers who give you a consistent product.”Hawke’s future plans for his own business: “We’ve reached the stage where we’re maxed out for both space and electricity. So we have a choice of either moving to another building or trying to get more space and more electrical power at our current address. Once we’ve secured more of both these resources, we’ll take another step forward by purchasing more equipment.”
In August, Veritiv Corp. held a groundbreaking ceremony in Mississauga to celebrate the ongoing construction of a 450,000-square-foot facility that will become the company’s new Canadian headquarters. Mary Laschinger, Chairman and CEO of Veritiv based in Atlanta, attended the event along with the city’s Mayor, Bonnie Crombie. Located just off highway 401 at Hurontario, in the growing business area of Courtney Park, now home to some of Canada’s largest industrial facilities, the new Veritiv building is scheduled to be complete by around April 2017. It will amalgamate Veritiv’s three existing facilities in the Greater Toronto Area, bringing together some 350 employees. The project was led by Regional Vice President Jason Alderman, who became Veritiv’s leader in Canada when the company was formed in 2014 after a merger between xpedx and Unisource.Alderman has been with Veritiv for 11 years after leading the company’s facilities supply business, which accounts for 55 percent of revenue generation in Canada, for a couple of years. He previously held various sales and production management roles, primarily in Canada’s Western region. Alderman sat down with PrintAction at the groundbreaking ceremony to discuss the Fortune 500 company’s growing influence in Canadian printing.Why is this project described as an $70 million investment?JA: The first year we are looking at about $8 or $9 million in some CapX to get this building up and going, and obviously the rent side of it to start. And then over the 15-year term, that we have taken out for this facility, it is $70 to $80 million investment overall.What does this building say about Veritiv’s commitment to Canada?JA: We are committed to growth is really what it means. We have an opportunity here to expand on our existing business which is already $106 million as it stands today. And we will have growth in all three core segments of our business: Commercial print, packaging and facilities. If we weren’t committed to Canada, we would not be making this investment today.How will the new building change Veritiv’s footprint in Canada?JA: About 1/3 of our sales will be sold and distributed out of this location once we move in. When we move in we will still have about 20 percent room for growth overall and it also helps us provide some new services that we are thinking of getting into for all three segments of the business. It really is an opportunity to expand the bundle that we already provide to our existing and new customers. What are some of these new services?JA: On the packaging side, we are going to have a little more room to showcase some of the packaging equipment that we previously did not have an opportunity to do. It also gives us an opportunity to bring in a little more inventory to support some of the investments, to support an expansion into the wide-format space, which is a growth media on the print side of the business. We are a little condensed right now in the facility we are at.Which core business will grow most?JA: This year we expect growth in all three segments. I know a lot of people are surprised by the fact that we are expecting growth in print. We believe that we continue to take share in the marketplace over the next four or five years to get ourselves up into the lead position in Canada from a share perspective.We were not a packaging company in Canada if you look back over the past 10 years. In the last two years, we have really accelerated the growth there and we really believe that is where our greatest opportunity for accelerated growth is. But that also relates back to the print business where there is becoming a blurred line between what was traditional commercial print and now those printers are looking to get into some form of packaging world. What will the facility in the GTA mean for the rest of country?JA: We are making some minor changes such as moving out of our existing Ottawa facility, which is a bit older, into a brand new one to improve operational efficiencies and workflow, which keeps costs under control. We are going to continue to look at our real estate portfolio that we have today and see if we need to make changes. But most of those changes are around upgrading facilities. We are not looking to close any facilities or reduce the footprint we have. We are going to continue on with the footprint we have today. We need it to continue to be a national provider to the print, packaging and facilities supply markets in Canada.Is this your first major project since taking on Veritiv’s lead for Canada?JA: There will not be bigger real estate project than this in Canada in the foreseeable future. It has been very rewarding for all of us and me personally.
Metroland Media details the ins and outs of manufacturing community newspapers and distributing flyers in Ontario, using a range of tools to measure its market penetration. Probably Metroland Media, owned by Torstar Corporation, which also owns Canada’s largest daily print newspaper, the Toronto Star, is best known for publishing over 100 community newspapers. Geographically the circulations of these papers span the province of Ontario, from London in the west to Parry Sound in the north to Ottawa in the east, with predictably the densest concentration in the Greater Toronto Area. Most of Metroland’s newspapers are distributed weekly, some twice a week, and two – the Hamilton Spectator and Waterloo Region Record – are dailies. Annually, the company also distributes four billion advertising flyers – partly printed by themselves but mostly printed by others – door to door to households in its newspaper-circulation areas. This year, in partnership with BrandSpark International, Metroland completed a study of its community news readership, comprising over 13,000 online and telephone surveys of adults in Metroland’s circulation areas. The study shows that 90 percent of respondents use either Metroland’s printed community newspapers or flyers for local news or shopping information. Recently, I asked Michelle Digulla, Vice President, Marketing, Metroland Media, and Dean Zavarise, Executive VP and General Manager, Torstar Printing Group, who oversees Metroland’s printing activities, for details on how Metroland maintains this high degree of market penetration in Canada’s most populous province. Digulla and Zavarise also discuss the future of Metroland’s community newspaper and flyer businesses, and how these fit with corporate strategy.Metroland’s portfolioDigulla says, that besides their community newspapers and flyers, Metroland Media is one of the largest direct-mail distributors in Ontario, to the tune of four billion pieces a year that reach about 84 percent of Ontario households each week. In addition to the digital assets associated with its community newspapers, Metroland also operates other major online community news sites that Digulla says are one of its fastest growing businesses, currently experiencing double-digit growth. The company also publishes printed magazines and organizes experiential consumer marketing shows in such categories as bridal, food and wine, travel and most recently a video-gaming show called EGLX, by far its largest expo, that premiered in Toronto in April. Digulla explains: “Our biggest assets are WagJag.com, a group-purchase Website where Canadian consumers can buy discounted products and services, and Save.ca, the largest digital flyer and coupon company in Canada. We dabble in other interests, but the ones I’ve mentioned are the biggest buckets.”Hyperlocal mediaDigulla says one of the main reasons behind Metroland’s strength in community newspapers is the company’s longstanding connections to the communities it serves: “Hyperlocal content really matters to the members of a community. Two-thirds of our online traffic comes from search and social media, where we find many people sharing our local content because of its uniqueness. They can’t find it anywhere else. “Our staff who produce the community newspapers live in those communities, so we know the people intimately, what topics interest them, what causes a stir, and whom to call for the inside story. These relationships give us the right balance between the ability to act locally and be part of the community versus the large scale of a big company that enables us to do our job efficiently.” Zavarise explains: “To maximize efficiencies across our entire platform, Torstar Printing Group operates as a network of printing plants and has downsized or consolidated plants as needed. In the last three years we have closed three plants.” In July 2016, this included Metroland’s Vaughan plant with printing of the Toronto Star outsourced to TC Transcontinental.Zavarise lists the six plants Torstar Printing Group currently operates across Ontario, all with mainly cold-set web newspaper-printing capabilities: Ranked by number of staff, the largest is the Hamilton Spectator plant (in Hamilton), where they print Metroland’s two dailies on three large double-width Goss presses and perform offline packaging work for the Toronto Star. Besides printing and distributing its own properties, Torstar also prints and/or distributes newspapers published by competitors; for example, just recently it signed a contract to print Postmedia’s London Free Press (published six days a week) in Hamilton starting in October.Torstar’s second-largest and most modern plant, located on Tempo Avenue in Toronto, is equipped with a KBA Colora press and two lines of community-style single-width presses. Largely the Tempo plant prints bigger community newspapers, and also Metro Toronto, the free daily owned by Metroland’s sister corporation Star Media Group, also a subsidiary of Torstar. Zavarise says the Tempo plant’s production consists of about 85 percent work for their own or affiliated companies and 15 percent general commercial work for third parties. “At Tempo we are just starting up a new, relatively small heat-set single web installation – our first foray into this type of equipment after many years. Its purpose is to print small to medium runs of flyers and other marketing materials, which we see as an opportunity to grow our already strong relationships with many flyer advertisers by offering them more services,” explains Zavarise. A third plant, Central Ontario Web in Barrie, with two community newspaper press lines, is used to print Metroland’s assets including its many newspapers circulated in northern communities like Barrie and Muskoka. At a fourth facility, Hamilton Web Printing in Stoney Creek, a single line community press prints newspapers and third-party commercial work. Thuroweb Printing, a small fifth facility in Durham, near Owen Sound, produces newspapers for southwestern Ontario communities such as Fergus, Mount Forest and Elmira.Zavarise says Torstar’s sixth facility, Performance Printing in Smith Falls, a suburb of Ottawa, is the company’s most commercial-style plant, providing both newspaper printing (including Metro Ottawa) and full-service printing capabilities for the Ottawa area. Its equipment includes two cold-set community press lines (one tower with UV), sheetfed presses, bindery, an inserting facility, and a digital lettershop operation for direct mail.Commercial third-party printingZavarise explains: “Our jobs for Metroland and Torstar are a captive business. Generally they are fairly routine and fall into the same slots each week. But our commercial printing is more opportunistic, and we’re always glad to take on more commercial work.” He adds that the schedule at each of Torstar’s six plants is overseen internally by each location’s operations manager, but when major changes are requested by publishers and third-party commercial customers, a central planning team figures out where they can best schedule the work to ensure efficiencies and that customer requirements can be consistently met. Since the busiest production days tend to be Tuesdays, Wednesday and Thursdays for community newspapers and Mondays and Fridays for flyers, he says commercial work is often scheduled in between these crunch times to maximize use of resources. “And if necessary, we also maintain relationships with other companies who can do our overflow printing.”Zavarise continues: “In the last three months, we started Metrolandprinting.com, a do-it-yourself Web storefront offering our advertisers and other clients and the general public the ability to order a large gamut of printed products from us directly online. This portal was the brainchild of Nathan Matheson [Director of Business Development and Administration for Metroland Media and Torstar Printing Group], who thought, that instead of just selling what our plants can do, we should facilitate all forms of printing for our customers. This strategy enables us to build on our existing relationships and make things easier for our clients by offering them one-stop shopping.” The Website’s current online offerings include business cards, stationery, postcards, brochures, door hangers, greeting cards, tear cards, tent cards, magnets, labels and large-format signs. Flyer fine points Zavarise explains: “Our distribution business is a very solid, reliable process, audited by the Flyer Distribution Standards Association. It is a sophisticated operation involving not a few guys in a back room, but hundreds of people working in massive facilities of 10,000 to 80,000 square feet with one to four inserting machines. Across our footprint, we operate 14 such large regional distribution centres, most with machine-inserting capabilities.” He says all their distribution facilities share a common software management system to track the week’s flyer placements and delivery destinations. This system records which zones each flyer needs to reach and downloads the information to the inserting machines at each facility. Each facility waits for the printing plants to deliver the week’s flyers before they can start building packages. Typically they start on Friday for a Thursday delivery and work around the clock and through the weekend, depending on the size of the packages to be assembled for individual homes. For one community newspaper, a typical package can contain 30 or 40 different flyers, says Zavarise. Once packaging is completed, contractors transport the bundles of flyers to carriers’ homes along with the printed newspaper for their community. Usually a Metroland newspaper and one or more packages of flyers are delivered separately to each carrier, who assembles them into a single package and delivers it door to door.“Occasionally we use Canada Post, but in many markets we still distribute flyers in packages via youth carriers, each delivering to as few as 50 or 60 households,” Zavarise continues. “That’s where the complexity lies. Advertisers can narrowly target where their flyer lands. We can help them determine which zones have the right demographics to match their target market.”Digulla comments: “No one else in Ontario is large enough to afford or warrant the type of work we do for major clients in targeting flyers to specific locations based on point-of-service customer data collected by the clients. Our team includes a specialist with a Masters degree in Geographical Information Systems who can calculate very narrowly targeted deliveries to as few as, say, 60 homes based on factors such as demographics, income, purchasing behaviour, lifestyle, or psychological profile.” Zavarise says that advertisers often use this targeting service on simpler terms by choosing to distribute their flyer to one specific portion of a community rather than the community as a whole: “For example, although a big grocery store chain might want their flyer to reach every household, a small laundromat might only want their flyer to go to the 1,000 homes located closest to the laundromat. We have the capability of doing that.“And if 20 other types of businesses are doing the same thing,” adds Zavarise, “an individual carrier might end up with a unique set of flyers that is quite different from the package delivered by the carrier on the next block.”Future Geo-demographicsIn the next three to five years, Digulla expects to see much more interest and business activity from clients based on point-of-service data and geo-demographics. She also anticipates that Metroland will be doing more to expand and leverage its growing digital properties.Both Digulla and Zavarise say, that although in general the Canadian newspaper business is being severely challenged by the movement of advertising dollars from print to digital media, Metroland’s study indicates consumers’ receptiveness to printed community newspapers and printed flyers delivered door to door remains high. Consequently, they feel optimistic about Metroland’s ability to continue attracting advertisers to sustain these businesses into the future.Additionally, Zavarise predicts, that although at present, relatively speaking, they do not print a lot of variable data for their flyer advertisers, the demand for this service may grow in the future. For example, right now they print and circulate multiple versions of Niagara This Week in six different zones. Some content is common to all six, but other content is limited to certain zones. Similarly, Digulla says a grocer who has great take-up on particular products in a specific area may customize their flyer for that specific area and request a special drop. In the future, advertisers may start exploiting these types of possibilities more often. “It all depends on them,” says Zavarise. “We’ll stay open to whatever they need.”
For three decades, Martin Bailey has developed unique expertise in building products for processing digital documents. He was a principle driver behind the JDF and JMF formats as CEO of CIP4 from its inception in 2000 until late 2006. He has lead a range of CGATS, ISO and PDF/X task forces as a global expert on industry standards and page-description languages.As CTO of Global Graphics for the past decade, his knowledge is infused into the ubiquitous Harlequin RIP. PrintAction spoke with Bailey about the company’s new Fundamentals program to help inkjet press manufacturers overcome technical hurdles.What is Global Graphics Fundamentals?MB: For the last several years, a number of inkjet vendors have approached us with questions on whether we can help them build DFEs to go with inkjet presses that they have created or solve problems around the speed or quality on presses they are already shipping. And now Eric Worrall is heading up our [BreakThrough Engineering Service] and we’ve essentially formalized what we had been doing in a more ad-hoc manner. [Fundamentals] is designed to allow a press vendor to bring a new press to market more quickly and to be more confident that it is actually going to deliver the speed and quality and functionality that they want to provide to their users.What area is of most concern for inkjet?MB: We have talked quite a lot over the last couple of years, in particular, about halftone ink quality of using greyscale heads on single-pass inkjets. It is an area that a lot of people seem to be struggling with. Why is there little inkjet screen discussion?MB: There [is] very good technology in the wide-format space – multi-pass, fairly slow speeds, with many inks and levels of droplet size on the heads... but we do not see people doing significant work on the half-toning in the high-speed, single-pass production space. We do find that there are real problems there. That the drop placement isn’t as accurate as you would really like it to be, partly because of dot shape deformations, because you get elliptical marks where the drop actually hits because the substrate is moving so rapidly. You tend to have pseudo random coalescing of adjacent dots. It is quite not random enough though. There tends to be a directionality to it, so that at normal reading distance you get a visible texturing. We have been working with three or four press vendors for a couple of years now to improve the output they can produce on their presses – to absolutely minimize the texturing effects and simultaneously ensure we are hitting the maximum total area coverage, ink lay down.What is the best screening approach?MB: There are good reasons to do the screening in different places depending on the workflow. In many cases, it makes sense to do the screening inside the RIP, if you can, simply because you are moving less data around post-RIP... When you consider that the fastest inkjet presses at the moment consume something around 20 gigabytes of raster per second then reducing that data transport requirement is a very significant gain.But, in other cases, there are good reasons why people want to do the screening at the last minute in order to do on-the-fly recalibration, or head-to-head calibration, because of the width of the press, etcetera, and do that in a near close-loop environment… There are people who are using other people’s RIPs and unhappy with the quality they get from the screening or the speed they get at the screening. It is a very useful first step for them to say, ‘I am going to throw away the screener that came with the DFE… I am going to plug in Global Graphics ScreenPro because it is a lot faster and gives the quality I need.’How are inkjet speeds and DFEs related? MB: Building a DFE for one of these very, very high speed [inkjet presses] requires as much emphasis on systems engineering as it does on the RIPping, colour management, etcetera… that is hitting 1,000-feet-per-minute speed, which is aqueous. A lot of the people we tend to be working with at the moment are on UV and it is coming out at about 230/250 feet per minute. So far it is a lot slower than aqueous. I do not know if it is going to stay that way.When will inkjet move deeper into commercial print sectors?MB: They are pecking away at a number of different sectors to start with… Obviously, the direct-mail market as a sort of adjunct to the transactional space, where inkjet has been used for decades, but now pushing into much more graphically rich work. They are being used in the book and publication space. It is also being used in some of the newsprint markets, which is kind of relating to book. It hasn’t really gone into magazines yet, because it is only fairly recently that aqueous inkjet presses have got to the point where you can print at a sensible price on coated paper. That has been a fairly big breakthrough in the last year, 18 months.
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.
SA International (SAi), which develops software for wide-format printing and CAD/CAM for CNC machining, at the ISA Sign Expo (April 19-22 in Las Vegas) will launch its new MyFlexi mobile app. It will be released in conjunction with its SAi FlexiSIGN version 11 and FlexiPRINT version 12 software.The MyFlexi app is available for IOS iPhones and iPads and Android mobile phones and tablets. SAi explains it provides tools to improve throughput and minimize overall job production time – from set-up to completion. It includes remote access to the Web-based FlexiQuote tool to remotely create customer quotes. The Web version of FlexiQuote comes pre-loaded with a database of standard media and costs to configure pricing, while factoring in materials, labour, commissions, discounts and taxes. SAi explains the FlexiQuote wizard can give a customer quote within 30 seconds.MyFlexi also features the MyFlexi QR and Barcode Tester to test the QR codes generated in Flexi’s QR Code Creator. MyFlexi builds on the company’s first app, SAi Cloud.
Agfa released Asanti 3.0, described as an automated production hub and workflow tool for sign and display printers, pointing to version 3.0’s new graphical user interfaces, added automation and more integration possibilities with equipment and Management Information Systems, as well as software like PrintSphere and StoreFront.Asanti 3.0 now includes IntelliTune, which, according Agfa, automatically analyzes and improves image quality. The company explains this can include optimizing skin tones or by eliminating noise, staircasing and blurriness. Other new Asanti 3.0 features include QuickProof proofing support; an improved digital alternative for see-through graphics on clear material; and improved automation through updated parameter presets and smart image repetition.Version 3.0 of Asanti graphical user interface (GUI) includes improved job layout and positioning visualization, as well as a new interface for tiling large jobs. Asanti’s production dashboard displays information like print jobs, the number of prints, status data of multiple engines, ink levels, elapsed time. “It is all HTML5-based and works perfectly for those in close contact with clients and financial connections,” said Erik Peeters, Marketing Manager Workflow Solutions, Agfa Graphics. New to Asanti Color Management is a mode that allows printers to use a wizard for managing colours and shortening throughput time. The software also features new white printing options, as well as an ability to overrule spot colours with alternatives colour mapping to reproduce them.
In April 2017, Enfocus plans to launch PitStop version 2017 to help mark the 20th anniversary since the PDF-preflight software was first released. Signaling the company’s initial move to an annual PitStop release cycle, version 2017 includes what Enfocus labels as PDF Geomapper technology, which provides new ways for objects to be selected or ignored. PDF Geomapper, for example, can be used for configuring preflight checks to check only the objects needed to render or print a PDF file. Any additional hidden or unneeded elements can be ignored or removed, which Enfocus describes as a way to reduce the complexity of files and false error messages.Initial implementations of PDF Geomapper, specifically to help reduce the amount of false error messages, were first highlighted at the Drupa 2016 in June. Described as a first in Preflight by Enfocus, these checks could be restricted to within an irregular shape such as a cutline or structural design information. Expanding the PDF Geomapper technology, Enfocus now allows decisions to be made based not just on a single object, but also by taking into account other objects, underlying or overlapping the original.“The new PDF Geomapper technology opens up an exciting new world of possibilities for preflight checking and correction,” stated Andrew Bailes-Collins, Senior Product Manager at Enfocus. “For example, a text segment can be preflighted based on its legibility, by checking the colour of any objects underneath it.”The newest versions of PitStop Pro and PitStop Server include the addition of 40 Devicelink profiles based on standard ICC profiles, to help users with CMYK-CMYK colour conversions. These profiles have been made available with the support of Enfocus’ sister company X-Rite, leveraging its position as a Danaher company.Enfocus explains the PitStop ICC profiles are particularly useful for customers in packaging, labels and large format, in that the check for Ink Coverage has been improved to work with selected inks and ignore named separations such as ‘white’ or ‘varnish’. This results in a more accurate check, explains the company, as only the actual printing inks will be used.PitStop Pro also includes a new Inspector interface for analyzing and editing page and transparency groups directly within the PDF file. There are also new Action Lists for customer requested functionality, such as automatically generating round cornered rectangles (for dielines) and new ways of modifying page sizes and objects within a PDF file.A new PDF Report function is available for validating the presence and configuration of layers within a PDF file, and new checks and fixes are available within the Preflight Profile Editor.The Adobe transparency flattener within PitStop Server has been updated to the latest version, and Mac OSX Sierra and Windows 10 anniversary update are now supported.
Software developer Avanti Computer Systems of Toronto has integrated its Avanti Slingshot Print MIS solution with the Catfish Web-to-print platform from Infigo Software Limited. The first user of the newly integrated solutions is the Print & Imaging Lab at Arizona State University, the in-house print provider at one of the largest universities in the United States.“Automation is the single most important element in keeping a print provider operating in the black today,” said Cathy Skoglund, Director of ASU’s print operation. The newly integrated solution, according to Avanti, allows customers of imaging lab, whether internal or external, to use the SaaS-based Infigo e-commerce platform to submit a print-ready file or compose the entire piece online. By integrating Catfish with Slingshot, Avanti explains it is possible to automate every aspect of the print job into a single workflow, eliminating the need for human intervention. This includes functions like job specification and submission, reporting, estimating, imposition, inventory management, scheduling, shipping and billing. “By integrating Avanti Slingshot with Infigo Catfish, our customers have easy access to a new set of unique and powerful e-commerce and job submission capabilities,” said Patrick Bolan, President and CEO, Avanti. More heavily used in the U.K. and Europe, Infigo Catfish is a Web-to-print platform for printing companies operating in both B2B and B2C environments. It is an HTML5-based (SaaS) solution that can be customized and configured for use by print buyers. Infigo explains it is now in the midst of an aggressive campaign to market its software in North America. Catfish, with tools like MegaEdit, provides online functions for customer acquisition, retention, improvement of the order process and reducing customers support costs.
In February, Kodak unveiled Prinergy Cloud, an analytics-enabled cloud platform that offers print service providers (PSPs), what the company describes as industry-first solutions to minimize cost and risk while driving business growth.Prinergy Cloud leverages production data and turns it into dashboard reports of actionable information allowing informed decision making in real-time. Customers can seamlessly integrate all Prinergy Cloud services with existing on-premise Kodak workflow software, and lower operating costs by reducing hardware and administrative overheads.Prinergy Cloud is hosted on the Microsoft Azure platform, which Kodak describes as a fast, reliable and secure cloud delivery. Kodak customers can benefit from the 24/7 cloud service monitoring, providing security and availability. Developed in partnership with Yellowfin, Prinergy Cloud’s Decision Analytics offers PSPs, according to Kodak, the print industry’s first analytics enabled workflow. This new capability delivers intuitive dashboards that provide visibility into production costs and system performance by continuously collecting data from operations.All new Prinergy Cloud services are Decision Analytics-enabled. This includes the System Performance Service for print production reporting, and File Archive and Backup for protection against data loss and automated archiving for higher levels of efficiency and security.
Toyo Ink Co. Ltd., a member of the Toyo Ink Group, has unveiled its development of the Elex-one series of electron beam (EB) curable flexo inks. The new Elex-one series is completely VOC-free, making it suitable for food-safe flexible and carton packaging applications.The flexible package printing market has seen growing interest from package printers and converters in VOC- and CO2-reducing technology, according to Toyo, due to increased environmental and safety concerns, as well as regulatory requirements. The company explains demand is particularly strong in North American and European markets, where flexo inks based on solvent materials are mainstream technologies. In particular, Toyo relates the growing industry demand for both water-based flexo and EB-curable flexo inks to the the drupa exhibition last May.“Many of the EB flexo inks out on the market today contain small traces of solvent that is chemically added into the ink during the curing process,” said Katsumi Yamazaki, president and CEO of Toyo Ink. “The Elex-one series was specially formulated by Toyo Ink engineers to cure using only EB irradiation — without the addition of a volatile component. As a result of this, we are able to offer a completely VOC-free solution that still provides the high print quality and performance results that are our customers require.”EB flexo inks do not evaporate or volatilize on the printing press, explains Toyo, so the ink does not change in consistency during processing. Since ink curing does not occur on the plate, stable print quality can be achieved even over long runs. In addition, EB inks are highly safe from chemical migration in that its composition is free of solvents or photoinitiators, making it a non-hazardous material suitable for use in food packaging materials and sanitary products.Elex-one is currently undergoing trial testing for the European market. Once approved, Toyo Ink plans to begin the commercial release of the product in the region. Subsequent launches into new markets are expected once the company establishes a foothold in Europe.
X-Rite Inc., together with subsidiary Pantone LLC, has expanded its PantoneLIVE cloud-based technology, designed for communicating colour via digital networks, with the addition of six new colour libraries for gravure printing. The company also released PantoneLIVE Visualizer, a new software tool that aims to help graphic designers, brands and print suppliers better compare, evaluate and visualize colours across multiple substrates and printing technologies. The goal of Visualizer, free to existing PantoneLIVE users, is to show variability in colour is the result of changes in the base material, printing process and ink types. Visualizer delivers an on-screen visualization of Pantone Master colours (target) and achievable PantoneLIVE Dependent colours. X-Rite explains that sometimes, due to the realities of production materials and processes, the desired Pantone Master Standard colour cannot be achieved with the target substrate and printing technology. Pantone Dependent Standards are designed to represent desired Master Standards in these cases, and are the Pantone-approved best match to the Master standards. With PantoneLIVE Visualizer, users can now visually compare and assess colour selections in a variety of production scenarios. Results from Visualizer can be exported into print-ready PDF documents that can be shared across the supply chain to better communicate design intent.“PantoneLIVE was created to help share accurate and achievable colours across a package printing supply chain,” said Adrián Fernández, VP, PantoneLIVE, X-Rite. “In partnership with our customers, we are continuously evolving the platform to support a wide range of packaging applications and help designers easily visualize on-screen how colour palettes will appear in production.”Fernández continued to explain PantoneLIVE now offers more than 50,000 Pantone colour choices and supports 80 percent of packaging applications: “By increasing the depth and scope of PantoneLIVE, designers and brands are able speed up the entire packaging design process and get products to market on average four times faster.”PantoneLIVE’s six new libraries for gravure printing are ultimately aimed at the production of flexible and label applications. Two of the new libraries, according to X-Rite, are designed to help brands and converters match colour on increasingly popular metallized flexible packaging and label structures.The new PantoneLIVE libraries include:Labels gravure process using solvent ink printed on coated paper with gloss-neutral varnish;Flexible packaging gravure process using solvent ink printed on clear film substrate with gloss-neutral varnish;Flexible packaging gravure process using solvent ink printed on clear film substrate over white ink with gloss-neutral varnish;Flexible packaging gravure process using solvent ink reverse printed on clear film substrate over white ink;Flexible packaging gravure process using solvent ink reverse printed on clear film substrate over white ink laminated to aluminum; andFlexible packaging gravure process using solvent ink printed on aluminum substrate over white ink with gloss-neutral varnish.
In December, arifiQ Development introduced arifiQ Entry for the ability to quickly obtain quotes and place orders for custom print jobs. Available at a flat monthly rate, arifiQ Entry uses the company’s pre-existing arifiQ core engine found in its PRO version.The company explains arifiQ Entry relieves the bottleneck – from several hours to many days – between the time a customer approves a job, and when he or she gets an estimate/quote back from a printer. arifiQ Entry exports to, or integrates with, any MIS, ERP, prepress, or other order management system. It also offers 12 of the 14 major benefits available in arifiQ's high-end solution, arifiQ PRO. The salesperson or other professional uses arifiQ Entry to access the printer's estimating server from anywhere, at anytime, using any internet connection. In seconds, the company explains arifiQ's proprietary algorithms generate up to one septillion 1024 (or more) combinations based on the printer's resources and cost variables, to arrive at a quote. Resources include printing presses, paper stock, and post-press machinery; while cost variables include hourly rates, discounts, and profit margins. arifiQ Entry also include Campaign functionality. Using this feature, reps can obtain estimates on many print jobs at one time, and get not only pricing, but also optimized imposition and media (substrate) decisions. Campaign functionality is one of the features available in both arifiQ PRO and arifiQ Entry. In addition to arifiQ PRO and the new arifiQ Entry, arifiQ Development offers a plugin for Adobe InDesign, as well as an in-plant solution, arifiQ deQuote, which provides quotes via the "print" function on any conventional computer.
Pantone, an X-Rite company, unveiled PANTONE 15-0343 Greenery as its Color of the Year selection for 2017. The company describes Greenery as “a fresh and zesty yellow-green shade that evokes the first days of spring when nature’s greens revive, restore and renew. Illustrative of flourishing foliage and the lushness of the great outdoors, the fortifying attributes of Greenery signals individuals to take a deep breath, oxygenate and reinvigorate.”The Color of the Year selection is determined at the Pantone Color Institute from where Pantone’s colour experts search around world looking for new colour influences. For 17 years, Pantone’s Color of the Year has influenced product development and purchasing decisions in multiple industries, including fashion, home furnishings and industrial design, as well as product packaging and graphic design.“While Serenity and Rose Quartz, the PANTONE Color of the Year 2016, expressed the need for harmony in a chaotic world,” said Leatrice Eiseman, Executive Director of the Pantone Color Institute, “Greenery bursts forth in 2017 to provide us with the hope we collectively yearn for amid a complex social and political landscape. Satisfying our growing desire to rejuvenate, revitalize and unite, Greenery symbolizes the reconnection we seek with nature, one another and a larger purpose.”Pantone continues to explain Greenery brings a natural connection to people’s daily lives through urban planning, architecture, lifestyle and design choices globally – “it is an omnipresent hue around the world.” Often associated with environmentalism and nature, Pantone continues to explain Greenery is also a unifying thread in tech and innovation because of its association with boldness, vigor and modernity.“The tangy yellow-green speaks to our desire to express, explore, experiment and reinvent, imparting a sense of buoyancy,” said Eiseman. “Through its reassuring yet assertive vibrancy, Greenery offers us self-assurance and boldness to live life on our own terms, during a time when we are redefining what makes us successful and happy.”Past selections for Color of the Year include: PANTONE 15-3919 Serenity and PANTONE 13-1520 Rose Quartz (2016) PANTONE 18-1438 Marsala (2015) PANTONE 18-3224 Radiant Orchid (2014) PANTONE 17-5641 Emerald (2013) PANTONE 17-1463 Tangerine Tango (2012) PANTONE 18-2120 Honeysuckle (2011) PANTONE 15-5519 Turquoise (2010) PANTONE 14-0848 Mimosa (2009) PANTONE 18-3943 Blue Iris (2008) PANTONE 19-1557 Chili Pepper (2007) PANTONE 13-1106 Sand Dollar (2006) PANTONE 15-5217 Blue Turquoise (2005) PANTONE 17-1456 Tigerlily (2004) PANTONE 14-4811 Aqua Sky (2003) PANTONE 19-1664 True Red (2002) PANTONE 17-2031 Fuchsia Rose (2001) PANTONE 15-4020 Cerulean (2000)
QuarkXPress 2016 comes out swinging to regain its role as powerful software for the printing industry by focusing on new tools for layout, file conversion and digital publishing. You have to admire the persistence of Quark. I’ve seen major players in the graphic arts software cosmos come and go through the years, many falling from seemingly impervious heights. Remember Aldus – maker of Pagemaker and Freehand? Remember when QuarkXPress ruled the roost in the early days of professional digital page layout? While Pagemaker enjoyed a devoted following in creative circles back in the day, QuarkXPress had the edge with publishing and prepress professionals – especially with version 3.32 which had a tenacious following well into the 21st century! Then Adobe turned the tables by acquiring Aldus and initiating development of a new secret weapon in the page layout wars. InDesign came along at just the right time – Quark was struggling to get their Mac OS X version to market while creative pros wanted to benefit from the latest Mac hardware and operating systems. For them, InDesign looked like the logical choice. Quark eventually brought their next-gen XPress to market, but it was too little, too late. InDesign had captured the creative imagination, and coupled with Creative Suite Adobe seemed to floor rival Quark.But it wouldn’t be a very good yarn if Quark just faded away into desktop obscurity. The punch-drunk slugger eventually went Mac OS X in 2003 and has doggedly progressed ever since, carving a niche in the publishing marketplace by adding features requested by users and focusing on ePublishing and App development through their App Studio. Then things changed with Adobe’s move to their subscription-based Creative Cloud – suddenly QuarkXPress was punching above its weight with perpetual licensing!With seemingly renewed purpose, Quark hit the gym and produced a significant upgrade in QuarkXPress 2016. Aside from a bevy of user-requested improvements and features in this new release, Quark has actually managed land a few sucker punches.File conversion powerhouseFor eons digital artists and prepress pros have lusted after the Rosetta Stone of graphic file conversion – an application that could import a non-native file and render it editable. QXP 2016 can lay claim to being the first page layout application to bring this robust capability to the masses. Accessible under Styles or contextual menu, the Convert to Native Objects tool can magically turn the contents of placed text, raster or vector images to native and editable XPress objects. File formats supported for conversion include Adobe Illustrator, PDF, EPS and Windows/Enhanced Meta file. For a newly introduced feature, I found the conversion process surprisingly easy and seamless. Users can import a supported file into a picture content box as usual, but then choose to convert the entire image, or just a cropped section. This is a boon to designers and production artists who routinely deal with customer-supplied charts and graphs they wouldn’t normally be able to edit.While the feature works very well in most circumstances, it’s important to remember that importing a text laden PDF file, then converting it to native XPress format won’t necessarily provide nice, neat text boxes full of reflow-able content. Much as when opening a PDF file in Adobe Illustrator, text may be broken up into line-by-line elements, or even words, letters and punctuation isolated in text boxes. Also, as with any native QXP object the user will need to have the appropriate fonts active in order to correctly display converted files. However, users are giving the option of choosing replacement fonts before conversion.Other conversion options include the ability to retain the source picture box which will keep the link to the original file as well as the option to ignore soft image masks and transparent blend modes – neither of which are supported in this version of QuarkXPress. In addition to converting imported objects, users can also Convert to Native Object while pasting any supported format file contained in the clipboard. For example, you can copy formatted text from MS Word and convert the content by right-clicking on the destination page and choosing Paste as Native Object from the contextual menu.When converting a file containing raster or vector objects in addition to text, QXP 2016 embeds the object on the page while maintaining the original object format. That means your vector graphics will stay vector within QXP 2016. However, the graphic will not be available as an external image file like other imported QXP support files. Also, users have limited export options when saving these embedded objects out to a file – either PNG or JPEG. That means vector objects will convert to raster when exporting from QXP 2016. Most users will find this isn’t a big detriment to their workflows, as the convenience of converting these files into native editable QXP objects far outweighs the limited export options. And there are workarounds if needed.Digital publishing uppercutFew designers can live exclusively on print these days. Increasingly clients demand digital publishing options along with their collateral designed for print. While Quark has provided a variety of digital publishing capabilities in prior versions of QXP, QuarkXPress 2016 has rolled their App Studio and eBook production tools into their new harmonized Digital Layout workspace. When creating a Digital Layout, users choose from a variety of predefined pixel dimensions for popular devices ranging from Kindle and iPad to a selection of popular mobile phone screen sizes. Users can also define unique dimensions for content that might appear on a Web page, which harkens potentially the most significant new digital publishing feature in this release – the capability to export a project as an HTML5 package. HTML5 is the latest version of the markup language used to power the web and was famously championed by Steve Jobs when he refused to support Adobe FLASH technology on the first iPad – instead suggesting HTML5 would be the future framework for digital content.Turns out Steve was right! Since Job’s endorsement HTML5 has evolved to become the leading technology used for online publishing due to its ability to provide application programming interfaces for complex web functions while natively streamlining the delivery of graphical and multimedia content. Increasingly HTML5 is being used to produce cross-platform mobile applications as well.QXP 2016 also enables designers to convert print projects to digital layouts which can then be supplemented with interactive elements such as video or slideshow galleries while maintaining the aesthetic of the print layout. Additionally, many QXP 2016 text and typographic features survive the jump to HTML5 including run-around text, support for justification and hyphenation as well as embedded OpenType and TrueType fonts. Users are also able to launch a preview of their HTML5 layouts from the QXP 2016 desktop.So does Quark’s HTML5 export feature make every print designer a savvy web coder and online creator? Hardly. Creators of static print will need to study the digital layout paradigm before building compelling eBooks, mobile apps or web content. On first inspection, the QXP HTML5 tool palette offers a beguiling collection of media and interactive content options to the designer such as 360º image, audio, video, zoom, scroll zones and animations. Not all of these interactive elements and enhancements, however, will be effective in every digital publishing channel – standard ePub, fixed-layout ePub, Kindle, Kindle Fire and iOS all have varying capabilities and limitations that will determine what HTML5 can do. This translates to more homework for the newly minted HTML5 producer before undertaking a digital publication for their client.Ringside requestsNot every new QuarkXPress 2016 feature came from the coach in their corner. As I alluded earlier, many of the new features are enhancements requested by die-hard QuarkXPress users. In a nod to technical writers and textbook publishers, QXP 2016 now supports the insertion of cross-references for Endnotes, Footnotes and Numbered Item. Additionally, the Footnotes feature introduced in QXP 2015 has been enhanced with improved formatting options. Also, HTML5 export supports bullets and numbering as well as ‘pop-up’ footnotes when creating a digital publication for fixed-layout ePub format.A long overdue eye-dropper style colour picker tool has been added to the Colours Palette, enabling users to sample any colour from an image or imported object. And another welcome colour capability added to QXP 2016 is a powerful Colour Blends Palette. This tool does precisely what you’d expect, enabling users to build complex multi-colour blends within QXP 2016 in a range of styles including linear and radial. Users can even set different levels of transparency for each colour in the blend!For typography fans OpenType stylistic sets are now supported in QXP 2016 to take advantage of any fancy ligatures, fractions or swashes you may have hiding in your font. QXP 2016 includes a number of UI enhancements geared towards productivity, most notably for the Windows version, which has lagged behind the Mac look and feel. And thanks to their Xenon Graphics Engine QXP 2016 continues the tradition of delivering the best onscreen display experience of any page layout application. They had me at 8,000 percent zoom!Knockout punch?At one point in time Adobe seemed to have the graphics world boxed into a corner with their software suite. Creatives depended almost exclusively on Illustrator and Photoshop to bring their ideas to life, while using InDesign to aggregate the graphic content into printable pages. Today’s creative pros have many more software options at their disposal with applications such as Affinity Designer, Affinity Photo and Pixelmator making inroads into what was once Adobe’s exclusive domain. And like Quark, these contenders have avoided the subscription model in order to appeal to the software libertarians out there.As the printed page vies for relevancy in the digital ring, developers of graphics software take two distinct approaches to iterative improvements… either empower your application to create content for diverse delivery channels, or rely on other specialized applications to collaboratively re-purpose content. Quark has chosen to empower with XPress 2016.Is QuarkXPress 2016 perfect? While the Convert to/Paste As Native Object feature is a remarkable bit of engineering, improving the flow of text into boxes would be nice perk. Also direct InDesign import/conversion is still not an option, though possible through a third-party application from Markzware. And having the capability to produce HTML5 digital publications doesn’t make a printer into an ePub designer – though having the tools sure gives them the option to grow.Having said that, QuarkXPress fans choosing to upgrade to QXP 2016 can actually step into the ring with some confidence, knowing this heavy hitter could be a contender. And others struggling to justify a monthly stipend for page layout finally have an option in their corner!
Propago, a cloud-based Marketing Asset Management software firm headquartered in Austin, Texas, has released native cXML PunchOut support for eProcurement connection capabilities. The cXML PunchOut protocol, explains the company, is the most commonly used method of connecting a procurement application to a supplier’s Web-based shopping cart.“By adding full-cycle cXML PunchOut support, our clients can extend their reach by offering enterprise level integrations to anyone,” said Rick Aberle, CEO of Propago. “By adding native cXML support directly in Propago our clients won’t need to incur outside expenses from either software purchases or consulting fees to support their largest opportunities.”The Propago platform’s support for cXML enables trusted supply chain partners (commercial printers, promotional, and apparel companies) to leverage Propago’s marketing asset management platform through a company’s eProcurement system, such as Ariba, Verian, Coupa, SAP, and Oracle.End users can utilize Propago’s personalization engine, browse the full marketing catalogue and order while remaining in compliance with enterprise procurement processes. 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 stand-alone organization.
Touch7, an extended colour gamut system distributed by Color-Logic Inc, has announced that they will now offer Soft-Proofing capabilities.Touch7 takes just one mouse click inside of Photoshop to produce up to a 7-colour separation of an image. However, Photoshop does not provide an accurate colour representation of any separation with more than CMYK or RGB images,” said Touch7’s Founder and CTO, Richard Ainge. “We are not a colour management company so we partnered with RemoteDirector to provide us with an OEM version of their technology.” Mark Geeves, Director of Sales and Marketing for Touch7, explained: “We have targeted the digital press and printer markets with our Touch7 Soft-Proofing solution since people forget these presses are really production machines and there is a real need not to use them as proofing devices until the design is ready. If printers take six minutes of production time to produce 10 proofs a day then you have one hour of production time wasted. “Touch7 creates an extended colour gamut separation in seconds,” continued Geeves, “which saves hours of manual masking and now with our Soft-Proofing solution, digital presses and printers are more productive as well.” Touch7 is powered by Khaos Technology, a developer of Adobe plug-ins and software tools for the printing industry.
Canon on March 9 released the third generation of its varioPRINT DP product line, aimed at the monochrome production print market, with the varioPRINT 140 Series. Models in the new series print at speeds of up to 140 ipm, 130 ipm and 115 ipmAimed at small- to mid-sized commercial printers and in-plants, the 140 Series is rated for average monthly print volumes up to 800,000 letter-size images and, explains Canon, has the capability of producing peak volumes up to 2.2 million letter-size images per month.“Monochrome printed documents likely affect all facets of our everyday life… [they] are projected to remain the largest by volume in the coming years and there is still a strong desire for devices dedicated to black-and-white printing,” said Toyotsugu Kuwamura, Executive VP and GM, Business Imaging Solutions Group, Canon U.S.A. Software tools for the 140 Series include: PRISMAsync Job Scheduler, PRISMAsync Remote Manager, and the new PRISMAsync Remote Control app for smart devices. The Remote Control app, which can be applied to multiple PRISMAsync Print Server-driven printers, provides notifications of upcoming operator actions like loading media or adding consumables, or alerts of immediate actions needed. PRISMAsync Print Server is currently driven from a Windows 10 operating environment.The 140 Series includes enhancements to copy and scan capabilities for document digitization with tools like book-copy mode, an easy-copy screen, page numbering and a smaller scan file size. Canon explains theses tools are well suited for high-volume copy/scan environments. The printing systems use ScreenPoint Technology’s SuperCell rasterization, which allows for the reproduction of colour halftones and photographs as grayscale images – without operator intervention. Canon states the 140 Series’ DirectPress Technology all but eliminates quality degradation, based on working within a process taht isn’t affected by light, static charge, temperature, humidity, developer or toner mixtures.The varioPRINT 140 Series offers a range of in-line finishing and output options, including stapling, saddle stitching, folding, die punching, inserting, ring binding and high-capacity stacking. The 140 Series’ open Document Finishing Interface enables in-line connectivity to third party devices.The varioPRINT 140 Series is equipped with new security features to help provide better control over unauthorized usage and activity reports. Security features include user authentication by role or via LDAP-based operator login, a configurable user interface and extended audit logging.
Electronics For Imaging is launching into the commercial market two new high-volume, roll-to-roll UV LED inkjet printers in the VUTEk 5r and VUTEk 3r. The company first introduced the systems back in January 2017 and has already installed 3r and 5r printers with customers in North America, Europe and the Middle East. Sandy Alexander of Clifton, New Jersey, became the first company in North America to install the VUTEk 5r back in February 2017. The 3-metre-wide VUTEk 3r reaches speeds up to 3,715 square feet per hour and the 5-metre 5r reaches speeds up to 4,896 square feet per hour. In addition to LED curing, the new printers feature resolutions up to 1,200 dpi and EFI UItraDrop technology leveraging seven-picoliter print heads with multi-drop addressability. This system uses a colour distribution algorithm aimed at providing economic advantages with ink usage, explains EFI, whereby one litre of ink can cover up to 1,600 square feet, on average, across all print modes.Available options for the printing systems include inline roll-to-sheet cutting, slitters and a sheet collector kit aimed at improving throughput by reducing the need to handle printed jobs on separate finishing tables. The VUTEk 3r and 5r also offer optional features like automated double-sided backlit and block-out printing; a mobile app for remote printer monitoring; multi-layer white ink imaging; and additional light colours for extended-gamut imaging.
Canon Canada Inc. introduced its new UVgel technology platform aimed at providing new levels of speed, quality, automation and cost of operation for large-format print providers. The first UVgel-enabled Canon system is the 64-inch Océ Colorado 1640, a roll-to-roll inkjet printer for producing both indoor and outdoor graphics. This product will have its first public debut in North America at the ISA International Sign Expo, running from April 19 to 22, 2017, in Las Vegas, which is when the first units will be commercially available.“We are very excited about this revolutionary new game-changing technology” said Patrick D’Souza, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Professional Printing Solutions Group, Canon Canada. “This new technology will help large-format-print providers to increase their print production while lowering their operating costs, enabling them to profitably grow their business.” At the heart of the Océ Colorado 1640 is Canon’s recently unveiled UVgel technology. Canon explains UVgel combines a radically new UV curable ink from Canon that instantly gels on contact with the media, advanced self-aware piezoelectric printhead technology, an LED-based UV system that cures without adding any damaging heat to the media, and continuous printhead nozzle monitoring and performance compensation. Canon explains these unique technologies combine to create a 64-inch roll-to-roll printer with high standards for quality, productivity, automation, application range and operating costs. Canon also describes the Océ Colorado 1640 as the fastest 64-inch printer on the market, with a top speed of 1,710 square feet per hour and another setting to produce high-quality, point-of-purchase prints at 430 square feet per hour.As UVgel ink instantly gels on contact with media, Canon explains this results in precise dot gain and positional control, perfectly repeatable images, and instantly cured, durable prints. The system’s low temperature LED-UV curing technology moves independently from the printing carriage to help establish uniform post-print UV curing that contributes to print speed and quality.The Océ Colorado 1640 features a heavy-duty drawer mechanism that holds up to two rolls of media at one time, each weighing up to 110 lbs. The two rolls can be of the same media type and size or different media, and once initialized, the print engine can switch jobs between rolls without operator assistance for an ability to run unattended printing. If an unknown media is loaded, Canon explains the printer will automatically measure its thickness and adjust the print gap accordingly. This helps with print quality and also reduces the risk of printhead crashes. This information is then stored in the media library along with other media parameters so that the next time this type of media is loaded, the printer knows how to handle it. The UVgel printheads incorporate patented continuous nozzle monitoring to detect and correct any underperforming nozzles. During each and every printing pass, Canon’s patented nozzle monitoring technology automatically checks all nozzles using acoustic sampling and even detects whether nozzles are going to misfire before they actually do. In the event of nozzle failure, corrective maintenance is automatically performed. Canon explains the Océ Colorado 1640, suitable for both indoor and outdoor applications, provides a large colour gamut similar to solvent inks but combines this with the environmental benefits and safety profile of latex and UV-cured systems. The result, according to Canon, is nearly odorless, VOC-free, durable, colourfast, high quality prints even on thin, heat-sensitive media. Canon’s UVgel technology features ultra-thin ink dispersion with, explains the company, almost no discernible physical profile on the media surface. Canon continues to explain that the Océ Colorado 1640’s UVgel technology features ink consumption that is as much as 40 percent lower than competitive technologies. “Canon Canada is looking forward to the North American debut of this product at the ISA Show in April,” said D’Souza. “We know that there has been a lot of anticipation around this technology and we are very excited about what the future will bring.”
In February, Ricoh, through its European division, introduced the new Pro VC40000 next generation continuous feed inkjet platform aimed at transactional and direct mail clients to deliver high quality output with enhanced productivity features. This newest addition to Ricoh’s market-leading inkjet portfolio complements the existing Pro VC60000 and InfoPrint 5000 systems.The Pro VC40000 features what Ricoh describes as a combination of speed, resolution and ease of use. At the heart of this solution lies the Ricoh TotalFlow Print Server R600A digital front end (DFE) that has been optimized to deliver workflow management for the production of complex, data-driven direct mail and transactional output.The Ricoh Pro VC40000 operates at speeds up to 120 metres per minute, making it capable of producing more than 100,000 A4 images per hour. With paper support from 40 to 250 gsm, application possibilities range from lightweight books to high coverage postcards.Ricoh explains it has made significant enhancements to its software and services offerings to support the launch of the Ricoh Pro VC40000. Ricoh ProcessDirector provides transactional and direct mail workflow support designed to maximize equipment throughput, help ensure 100 percent output integrity and qualify for maximum postal discounts. Additionally, the Ricoh TotalFlow Print Server R600A provides native support for PDF, PDF/VT and AFP together with JDF and advanced colour management support.
Canon unveiled its new Océ ProStream series, which the company describes as a revolutionary new approach to inkjet printing for further adoption into the mainstream of commercial printing. The Océ ProStream prints uncoated, inkjet-optimized, gloss and matt-coated papers at a rate of 80 metres per minute or 1,076 A4 sheets per minute. “We deliberately took a green-field approach to design, with a commitment to create a product that would open up fresh business opportunities for commercial printers, particularly in high-growth segments such as premium direct mail and marketing collateral,” said Christian Unterberger, Canon’s Chief Marketing Officer & Executive Vice President Production Printing Products. “The Océ ProStream delivers on this commitment, pushing inkjet even further into the commercial printing mainstream with its amazing quality and versatility.”The Océ ProStream, according to Canon, combines several completely new core technologies for continuous feed inkjet, and builds on a decade of experience in inkjet with the Océ JetStream, Océ ColorStream and Océ VarioPrint i300.The latest piezo drop-on-demand inkjet print head generation, explains Canon, is leveraged with Océ Multilevel technology for sharper details, smoother half tones and economized ink usage. An Océ-developed set of ColorGrip and polymer pigment inks creates strong colours – on uncoated, inkjet-optimized and gloss and matt- coated offset papers.The new press series uses a sensitive floatation air dryer in which the printed paper is not touched until the print images are fully robust – there are no scratches or changes to gloss levels and minimal paper stress for maximum quality, explains Canon.The Océ ProStream is describes as a heavy-duty production engine with a resolution of 1,200 dpi and multilevel dot modulation at full 1,076 A4 per minute productivity.The Océ ProStream recently earned an iF design award from Germany’s iF International Forum for Design, as chosen by a 58-member jury of independent experts in a competition of over 5,500 entries from 59 countries.“We are confident that the Océ ProStream series will continue to drive our success in our competitive market,” said Unterberger. “With more than 33 percent percent market share, Canon Océ is the undisputed worldwide leader in continuous feed inkjet. The Océ ProStream will build on this heritage and carry forward our proud tradition of innovation in professional digital printing.”
At the Hunkeler Innovationdays in Lucerne, Switzerland, HP introduced its new PageWide Web Press T235 HD, part of the T200 HD Color series. The company explains this new entry-level continuous-feed inkjet web press provides commercial printers with an economical entry point into production-strength inkjet printing.The T235 HD platform, explains HP, is targeted for publishing, production mail and commercial print needs. It can be upgraded to the HP PageWide Web Press T240 HD for increased productivity. “With the introduction of the HP PageWide T235 HD, it’s easier for more PSPs to make the analogue to digital transformation,” said Eric Wiesner, General Manager, HP PageWide Industrial Division, HP Inc. “As the HP PageWide Web Press platform reaches a milestone of 210 billion customer-printed pages, it further reinforces the market’s adoption of HP Thermal Inkjet technology.” Using HP’s High Definition Nozzle Architecture (HDNA) with a native resolution of 2,400 nozzles per inch, the duplex HP PageWide Web Press T235 HD runs at 400 feet per minue (122 metres per minute) in Performance Mode, using single drop weight printing. It is capable of producing 200 feet per minute (61 mpm) in Quality Mode, using dual drop weight printing with seven levels of half-toning per colour, and finer grain printing for smoother skin tones, gradients and secondary colour solid fills. “HP's high-volume PageWide solutions allow print service providers to add greater value to high-volume data-driven print communications with uncompromising performance and colour quality that brands demand,” said Wiesner.
Komori Corporation has added a new press to its Lithrone G Series, the Lithrone GX44RP offset press, describing the system as the ultimate in one-pass double-sided printing. The 44-inch Lithrone GX44RP is equipped with H-UV technology to deliver high quality, high productivity and short turnaround stability for double-sided printing.Komori describes the press as being well suited for applications like publication printing, magazines and books, and duplex package printing. Key features of the new press include single-edge gripping, which makes the margin on the tail edge of the sheets unnecessary. This enables paper costs to be cut by minimizing the sheet size. The Lithrone GX44RP also employs four double-size transfer cylinders, which eliminates sheet reversal and to help provide stable sheet transport for handling either light or heavy stocks through. Additionally, front/back plate imaging is in the same direction, (just as with single-sided presses) increasing efficiency in prepress. Supported by the KHS-AI integrated control system, benderless Full-APC and the H-UV curing system, the Lithrone GX44RP provides short makeready and powderless instant drying to accommodate fast turnarounds. Options that can be included with the press are the A-APC Asynchronous Automatic Plate Changer, the PDC-SX Spectral Print Density Control SX ,odel and the PQA-S Print Quality Assessment System.
Agfa Graphics launched its Jeti Ceres RTR3200 UV LED roll-to-roll printer for what the company describes as mid- to high-end applications. The new engine can include a combination of optional white printing and primer for producing higher-end image quality and durability.The Jeti Ceres, leveraging Agfa’s UV LED inks and thin ink layer technology, is a dedicated 3.2-metre roll-to-roll printer capable of printing on single- and dual-roll medias at speeds of up to 186 square metres per hour.“The Jeti Ceres RTR3200 LED could be considered the roll-to-roll equivalent of the renown Jeti Titan series,” said Reinhilde Alaert, Marketing Product Manager, Sign & Display High-End. “Our goal with this new engine is to maximize productivity while staying true to Agfa Graphics’ industry-leading image quality and low ink consumption, which is why we bring a roll-to-roll alternative in the Jeti product family.”The Jeti Ceres can print on heat-sensitive medias like self-adhesive sheets and PVC without warping or wrinkling them, which opens up new opportunities and allows printers to reduce the costs. The new printer is equipped with white ink circulation that extends along the entire ink line. “Agfa Graphics’ thin ink technology results in wide-gamut, vibrant images – no matter the substrate. Our inks’ high pigmentation, along with our deep understanding of the physics of ink jetting, keeps ink consumption low, extremely precise and waste-free,” said Alaert.Agfa Graphics’ Jeti Ceres also adds a primer option for durability when printing on unusual or difficult roll-based media. The engine pre-prints a layer of primer automatically before depositing ink, preparing the top layer for surface tension to better receive ink. Asanti, Agfa’s wide-format printing workflow software, comes with the Jeti Ceres system, which also makes it compatible with Agfa’s cloud-based PrintSphere for flow of information between customers, colleagues, freelancers, departments and other Agfa printing solutions – streamlining file sharing and enhancing data security.
Ricoh at the start of January unveiled its Pro C5200s series, a toner-based colour production printer aimed at in-house print centres, corporate reprographics departments, print-for-pay and commercial printers. The new Ricoh Pro C5200s and Pro C5210s produce colour and black-and-white documents at up to 65 and 80 ppm, respectively, reaching VCSEL resolutions of up to 1,200 x 4,800-dpi. Along with optional oversized media support, the Pro C5200s works with medias of up to 360 gsm simplex and 300 gsm duplex at 13 x 19.2 inch standard format. The optional oversized media support provides a 13 x 27.5 inch format.“With the RICOH Pro C5200s series, we are helping expand customers’ capabilities so they can serve as a one-stop shop for their clients, whether they’re an in-plant or print-for-pay…. This series is designed to fit easily on our customers’ production floors, within their information flows, and within their budgets,” said John Fulena, VP, Production Printing Business Group, Ricoh USA Inc. The system has a total paper capacity of up to 8,250 sheets and four paper trays available as standard. This feature combines with the series’ saddle-stitching, embedded paper library, and folding capabilities to make the Pro C5200s devices suited for booklet production. Optional Cover Interposers and Booklet Finishers are available. The new systems leverage Ricoh’s optional Smart Operation Panel for workflow automation, as well as a variety of scan-to options, including Scan-to-URL, Scan-to-Directory, Scan-to-USB and Scan-to-SD.
Mimaki, a manufacturer of wide-format inkjet printers and cutters, which recently opened a facility in the Greater Toronto Area, has introduced two new Kebab options for printing on cylindrical objects.These Kebab options can be deployed using Mimaki’s UJF -7151 plus or the new UJF MkII Series printers, which are based on UV-LED inking systems. The application of UV inks and curing allows inkjet-based systems to print directly onto a growing range of substrates and objects.Mimaki explains the Kebab option for UJF Series printers has the ability to print on cylindrical objects like stainless steel tumblers, bottles, cans, vases, packaging and candle holders.All Kebab devices offer 360-degree direct printing on a range of material sizes. These new options can be mounted to the printer’s flatbed table, specifically with the UJF-3042 MkII printer, and the Kebab MkII L device for the UJF-6042 MkII and the UJF-7151 plus printers. They function via Mimaki’s RasterLink6 software.
Agfa Graphics has introduced an upgrade of the Jeti Mira to include UV LED curing technology and an enhanced varnish option to produce 3D prints. The printing system now also integrates with PrintSphere, through Agfa’s Asanti software.The Jeti Mira is a moving-gantry flatbed printer featuring up to 2.69 metre-wide prints, print and prepare functionality, a dockable roll-to-roll option, two table versions, speed (up to 231 m²/hr), six colours (white color standard), pigmented UV inks and two rows of Ricoh inkjet print heads. The latest printer upgrade also includes UV LED curing technology. “Equipped with UV LED lamps for the curing process, the Jeti Mira comes with a number of economical, ecological and business-generating benefits,” said Reinhilde Alaert, Marketing Product Manager, Sign & Display High-End, Agfa Graphics. “LEDs have minimal heat output, for example, which allows for a broader scope of print applications. They also ensure very stable bi-directional calibration, high productivity, significant power savings and consistent output over the lifetime of the system. This all leads to a greater ROI.”Leveraging LED technology, Agfa Graphics’ UV LED inks can print on heat-sensitive substrates such as thin slides, self-adhesive sheets and stretchable PVC materials. Agfa explains its UV inks hold a wide colour gamut and colour vibrancy in both indoor and outdoor applications, while their high pigment load and Asanti’s colour management tools provide low ink consumption. “At SGIA this year, Jeti Mira was the recipient of a Product of the Year Award, thanks to its high printing quality and low ink consumption, which makes it stand out from the competition,” said Alaert. The Jeti Mira is driven by Agfa’s wide-format workflow software Asanti, which controls the printing process from prepress to production and finishing. New to Asanti is the optional integration with PrintSphere – Agfa’s cloud-based service for production automation, file sharing and safe data storage. PrintSphere offers a standardized way for print service providers to automate their workflows and facilitate data exchange. The Jeti Mira can now also expand into new applications with 3D lens printing technology, using a combination of printed lenses composed of UV-curable varnish and image manipulations. “With this new potential to generate stunning 3D effects, the Jeti Mira is truly a versatile printing revelation,” said Alaert.
Canon Canada has introduced the imagePRESS C850 Series, consisting of the imagePRESS C850 and C750 colour presses, aimed at commercial printers, in-plant operations and franchise printers, among others. The imagePRESS C850 Series is the successor to the company’s imagePRESS C800 Series.Canon explains the imagePRESS C850 Series is designed to provide offset-like image quality through its gloss optimization technology, enabling users to match the gloss of the toner image to that of the media. The press also leverages a 32-beam R-VCSEL red laser to help produce crisp and clear images efficiently at 24,00 x 2,400 dpi. For increased flexibility, the system comes with a number of screen patterns to choose from and new 190-lpi dot screen capabilities, again aiming to provide offset-like reproduction. By using CV Toner and an Advanced Image Transfer Belt, Canon explains these devices can print high-quality work on a range of medias, including textured stocks..The imagePRESS C850 and C750 devices operate at print speeds of up to 85 and 75 letter-sized pages per minute, respectively, in black-and-white and colour. Canon also points to the press line’s reliable paper feeding with air separation and double sheet detection intended to reduce paper jams and production interruptions. The Compact Registration Module is designed to provide consistent colour. The presses can be integrated with a range of inline finishing options to stack, fold, saddle-stitch, staple, perfect-bind and ring-bind. A new option for this series will be the Multi-Function Professional Puncher-A1 for die punching on a wider range of media sizes and weights for letter size and larger, oblong bound books. Utilizing Canon’s die set, this new finishing module can crease documents in-line to produce folded applications, including saddle stitch booklets, with less paper cracking on the spine of the document. This series of printers now supports auto-duplex printing of up to 30-inch long sheets – helpful in the short run production of 6-panel brochures, posters and dust jackets.
Zünd has introduced what it describes as robust routing option, called the RM-L router, for working with heavy-duty materials like acrylics, plexiglass, aluminums, polycarbonates, Dibond, Forex, and MDF. The spindle delivers 3.6 kW of processing power and is well suited for print service providers running diverse work that is typically processed via different tools.In response to this ever-growing application range, Zünd’s new RM-L system is capable of routing, engraving and polishing a range of materials with what the company describes as a powerful spindle with pneumatic collet. With a maximum torque of 0.7 Nm, in addition to 3.6 kW of power, the tool allows for dense, hard materials to be processed at greater speeds and cutting depths. It essenetially reduces the number of passes required to increase throughput. The RM-L spindle is water-cooled for run longevity and uses what Zünd describes as a high-performance dust extraction system to keep the working area clean. The new router module is equipped with MQL, a minimal quantity lubrication system that keeps the bit lubricated to minimize friction. As a result, Zünd explains very little heat is generated during routing, which can affect bit life. This lubrication system also allows for greater acceleration and processing speeds.The technology relies on a surface compensation system to determine the thickness of materials and detect inconsistencies. During processing, the system compensates for any variances by making the necessary depth adjustments. Particularly for engraving applications, Zünd explains this prevents quality issues arising from differences in material thickness by maintaining constant routing depths.The system uses a ER-16 collet for concentricity and to maintain reliable retention. To accommodate different shaft diameters, HSK-E25 collet holders are used, which allows for the use of a wider range of bits with one and the same router module. The ARC HSK automatic tool changer of the system takes care of handling and changing router bits. The magazine can accommodate up to eight different preloaded collet holders.
Masterwork USA, a finishing manufacturer of folding carton and packaging equipment headquartered in Tianjin, China, introduced its newest Duopress model: the MK21060STEs foil stamping and die-cutting machine. The company explains its engineers have designed the new model to incorporate better stability, additional technology and a faster maximum speed of 6,000 sheets per hour.“We’re pleased to unveil the Duopress MK21060STEs for the post-press market,” said Wayne Zheng, Marketing Manager for Masterwork USA. “Our expert research and development team have designed a new and exceptionally better computerized foil controlling system, which can handle complex foil advance calculations to help reduce foil usage of up to 60 percent. “They’ve increased the speed on the Duopress to 6,000 sheets per hour,” continued Zheng, “which is really 12,000 sheets per hour because it is producing three processes in one pass through the press: foil stamping, die-cutting, and stripping... Masterwork is the only company to offer this type of machine.”The Masterwork Duopress machines are designed with both foil stamping and die cutting functions in one pass, explains the company, to provide increased accuracy and efficiency. One pass offers register between die-cutting and foil stamping. If an operator has to feed the paper through two machines, explains Masterwork, the positioning of the paper may be slightly different and the die-cut and foil stamping might not be as accurate. The machine can also be optioned to stamp two separate foil applications in one pass in its two platens. The foil stamping system on the MK21060STEs is equipped with three longitudinal foil advance pulls and two transversal foil advance pulls.The Masterwork Duopress MK21060STEs is designed with a non-stop feeder. A pile change can be achieved while the machine is in operation with the help of non-stop swords. Adjustments on the feeder can be made with micro adjustments.Masterwork explains the Duopress MK21060STEs has enhanced tension control during foil feeding and its error tolerance of 1 mm during foil unwinds. A PID heating system controls its 20 independent heating zones. The operator workload is reduced due to a pneumatic plate locking device.The machine's stripping station features stripping frames, a stripping concave template, and stripping boards. The transmission mechanism and cam movement curve are designed for stripping stability and accuracy. The centre-line registration system used for the stripping board provides accurate positioning and easy adjustment.The non-stop delivery system is equipped with a delivery curtain. The delivery system has a double-sided pneumatic operating system, making it quicker and easier to control. An additional benefit in the delivery is the pneumatic sampling device, explains the company, which allows the operator to check the product as the machine is in production. The machine operator is provided with two fullly functioning top screens to control production. The screens display every machine function, including working speed, yield, fault diagnosis, and pressure. "The past 20 years has seen rapid product development,” said Zheng. “Masterwork has introduced six major lines including 70 different specification products, covering hot foil stamping, die-cutting, inspection, folding-gluing, digital inkjet, and gravure printing presses.”
In front of more than 80 international customers in its Mex, Switzerland, facility, Bobst unveiled what the company describes as the highest productivity metallizer in the world.The Bobst K5 Expert, successor to its K5000 metallizer, can run at speeds up to 1,200 metres per minutes and is available in widths from 2,450 to 3,650 mm and can house increased roll diameters of up to 1,270 mm to meet new industry trends. The vacuum metallization system, aimed at the packaging industry, houses what Bobst describes as the largest coating drum in the industry at 700 mm, which improves collection efficiency by 16 percent. This means less aluminium consumption and increased boat life.The K5 EXPERT features a totally redesigned evaporation source providing the widest coating window in the market, which Bobst states to be up to 50 percent wider than some competitor. This larger window translates in better coating uniformity and collection efficiency, minimizing aluminium wire waste. A more intuitive HMI screen and software interface make the machine easy to operate. Its new design allows the operator to run everything from the front of the machine and to be positioned much closer to view the evaporation source and metallization process through the strobe window. Another new feature, which the company describes as unique in the industry, is the Automatic Sequential Control (ASC) system, which speeds up start-up of the machine with minimum operator involvement required, making the K5 EXPERT easy to operate. In addition to the Bobst Winding Mechanism, based on true tension control, the new model incorporates low friction Ferrofluidic seals for better tension control on the rewind – producing a virtually wrinkle-free roll-to-roll vacuum metallization process.The K5 Expert also has a variety of energy saving and waste reduction features including ECO mode which reduces energy consumption by up to 50 percent during stand-by and Film Save mode which has a synchronized faster shutter action (opening in just five seconds) and aluminium wire ramp up to minimize the amount of un-metallized film (waste) to less than 400 metres per roll, explains Bobst.As an option, the High Deposition (HD) source has an improved design for higher speed of operation for those metallization jobs that require a high deposition rate of up to 4.0 OD.
Sydney Stone, which specializes in distributing and servicing short-run finishing systems, is introducing two new Morgana products into the Canadian marketplace. As Morgana’s distribution partner for the country, Sydney Stone is launching Morgana’s next generation DigiFold Pro 385 and AutoCreaser Pro 385 systems.One of the key changes from previous DigiFold models, explains Sydney Stone, is the introduction of a high-capacity vacuum top-feeder that can take a sheet pile of over 17.7 inches. The company continues to explain after the size and thickness of stock are entered, all other feeder functions including air and vacuum settings, side guide positions, and fold roller gaps are automatically adjusted for easy setup of jobs. Stock of up to 0.4mm can be creased and folded with virtually no cracking of the sheets or the toner on them. Another new feature is the dual creasing blades, the Morgana DynaCrease, for creasing and folding applications at over 6,000 sheets per hour, and one for “creasing only mode,” allowing for a range of applications to be produced on one machine. The AutoCreaser, according to Hillhouse, is still Morgana’s best-selling machine and he expects further adoption with the new Pro 385 aimed at higher volume applications as a heavier duty machine. “Some of our customers had been using the previous generation machines for longer runs of offset or digital work, this new model will enable them to load the pile feeder and let the machine run,” said Michael Steele, Managing Director of Sydney Stone. “The high level of automation here is going to greatly benefit business owners with a goal of maximizing efficiency while producing output of unparalleled quality.”
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).
The Newspaper Association of America, to better reflect “the news media industry’s evolution to multi-platform, digitally-savvy businesses and premium content providers,” has changed its name to News Media Alliance and launched a new website, newsmediaalliance.org. The association explains this new focus aligns with its membership, approximately 2,000 news organizations, and the new website visually depicts this expansion of news media into digital and mobile formats. The approach focuses on what it means to be a news media organization today, explains the association: communicating in real-time across multiple platforms. “Our transformation efforts are designed to show the positive trajectory of the industry and to share the innovation and growth taking place, especially in the digital space,” said News Media Alliance Vice President of Innovation Michael MaLoon. “There are so many great things happening in our industry right now, and our job is to tell those stories.”In addition, for the first time the association is broadening its membership requirements to allow digital-first and digital-only news organizations publishing original content to become members. The association states it has a number of new tools and resources it will be making available to members in the coming months that reflect the digital focus of its membership, including:ideaXchange, a new online community for News Media Alliance members launching this fall, which is to provide a platform that will make sharing, brainstorming and learning from one another easier than ever.metricsXchange, a new digital benchmarking tool exclusively for members, that will allow comparisons between markets and publications, providing new insights into the news media industry’s digital business efforts. The Alliance will also provide analyses and highlight newsworthy trends mined from the tool.mediaXchange, the News Media Alliance’s major annual event, will take a reimagined approach. Taking place in New Orleans in 2017, the event will focus on the future of the news media industry. “The news media industry should be optimistic. All evidence shows that people of all ages want and consume more news than ever,” stated News Media Alliance President and CEO David Chavern. “We need to focus on new ways to address the needs of audience and advertisers. Advertising on news media digital and print platforms continues to be one of the most effective ways for advertisers to reach important audiences. Publishers are working to adapt advertising across all platforms, make ads less intrusive and increase consumer engagement.”
When the term Web 2.0 seeped into business vernacular in the mid-2000s, it seemed to hold little concrete meaning. It was Internet ether following crazed venture capital funding of nascent but often flawed online business strategies. Web 2.0 initially seemed like a make-good promise for millions of lost dollars.In hindsight, Web 2.0 is now the descriptor for the foundation of user-generated content manifested most obviously as billion-dollar social media platforms. It has created completely new businesses amassing enormous wealth – in a matter of years as opposed to decades – as younger generations successfully tap into a robust online economy.Industry 4.0 is a much more relevant evolutionary term for the printing industry. Unlike Web 2.0, which certainly drove the Internet to become a GDP factor, Industry 4.0 ultimately involves the deployment of tangible goods, factories, machines and equipment. The Internet of Things is an important business term to understand, but perhaps more of an acknowledgement for the revolutionary – existing – network infrastructure built by the likes of Cisco, Sun and Oracle. Industry 4.0, which includes The Internet of Things amid its most prevailing and complicated definitions, is a term to describe the new wealth to be generated from an overdue return to industrialism.For more than 50 years, the greatest business innovations to emerge out of stable economies have been generated around computing, from software and graphical user interfaces to processor chips and communications networks (both micro and macro). As Moore’s Law reaches its limit, which Intel’s CEO stated to be a reality in 2015, Industry 4.0 arrives for business visionaries to begin leveraging decades of computing power to drive industrial equipment.Elon Musk, who was born in South Africa but also holds Canadian and American citizenships, is the ultimate Industry 4.0 visionary. In 1995, Musk and his brother, Kimbal, used a small family loan to start Zip2 and develop online city guides for newspaper publishers, leading to contracts with The New York Times and Chicago Tribune. In 1999, Compaq acquired Zip2 for $307 million in cash and, within weeks, Musk’s proceeds co-founded an Internet-based financial services company called X.com. A year later, X.com merged with Confinity, which held a money transfer service called PayPal. Musk was PayPal’s largest shareholder when eBay bought it for $1.5 billion in 2002. Within weeks, Musk founded a new company called SpaceX with the ambitious goal of jumping the commercial space industry by building rockets.With NASA’s retirement of its Space Shuttle program and mounting U.S. tensions with Russia, whose Soyuz rockets are today relied on by most space agencies to carry cargo and people beyond Earth’s gravitational influence, Musk saw opportunity to undercut the dormant astronautic activities of Boeing and Lockheed Martin. Focused at the time on aeronautics, these defense giants reacted by forming the United Launch Alliance (ULA). Today, with a base $1.6 billion NASA contract for 12 resupply flights, it costs SpaceX around $60 million to launch a payload aboard one of its Falcon 9 rockets. A ULA launch costs around $225 million – Space Shuttle missions were upwards of $1.5 billion per launch, depending on cargo. Driven to make money, SpaceX developed a reusable Falcon 9 rocket (first stage) that in 2016 has twice successfully returned to Earth, landing on barge in the middle of the ocean after delivering an ISS payload. A SpaceX launch burns relatively little in fuel ($300,000), meaning there are significant cost savings with a reusable first stage rocket. The company estimates it would save 30 percent, around $43 million a launch. Commercial space company Blue Origin, controlled by another online magnet in Amazon’s founder Jeff Bezos, has also successfully landed reusable rockets, although much smaller. None of this would be possible without taking advantage of Industry 4.0, applying incredible processing power to industrial equipment. Tesla is another prime example of Musk’s Industry 4.0 leadership, applying processing power to self-drive his battery-powered Tesla cars. Robotics will play a major role in Industry 4.0 and happen to be a Canadian specialty – driven by the Canadian Space Agency. Robotics will become a force for all manufacturing. Industry 4.0 is well underway and it is a positive development for the printing industry, which has lived on the edges of this business term for decades, processing billions of bits and bytes to million-dollar machines, offset, inkjet and toner. An industry that spent the past two decades forcing its machines to speak fluently with each other is ready for Industry 4.0.
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.
How the Iron Curtain ushered in the half-size web in the face of large-format offset to forever change print. View the embedded image gallery online at: https://www.printaction.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=latest&layout=latest&Itemid=1#sigProGalleria1ad228270f If you were born in the 1950s and chose printing as an occupation, then you already know most of this story. Pressrooms of larger commercial printers typically employed huge sheetfed machines – sheet sizes of 60- and 77-inch monsters. They were the epitome of highly successful businesses. The bigger the press, the more likely you were to be among the top 10 percent in the industry. Only heatset web offset plants were more substantial.Such large format sheetfed printers existed because, as the amount of printing increased from the 1920s to 1970s, the only logical way to gain an advantage was to print more on a single sheet. Web offset was a much more segregated sector with different customers and very few web printers owned a sheetfed press.Sixty-four-page signatures were common especially if you produced books and short-run magazines. Massive size sheets meant tremendous hurdles in handling and re-stacking or even turning over to print the back sides. Several machine makers developed blanket-to-blanket presses for one-over-one printing. George Mann and Crabtree cornered this market with presses in the 56- and 65-inch sheet size. The French company Marinoni made similar machines and was eventually bought by Harris.None of these presses were easy to run. Older Manns required the plate clamps be removed and placed on a table whereby the plate was mounted. Then, along with the heavy clamps, hoisted back into the machine. But for one-colour book work like school books these presses saved a lot of time with a single pass through.The binderies of the day faced just as many issues. Sheets – anywhere from 35 by 45 inches to 52 by 72 inches – would arrive and need to be folded. Dexter’s Quad folders were often used (all knife folds). If there were size changes it could take days to set up. Baum made monsters too, albeit not as large. These were all-buckle and, as with all folders of the time, had a very high feed table. I often joked that you needed oxygen to operate them. The biggest challenge was again in paper handling. Reams had to be hoisted by hand to load the feeders!The industry of its day seemed content to follow the maxim of larger (sheet size) was better even though that meant everything else in a supporting role had to be huge. It seemed nothing else would give a printer a technical advantage over another. Web was an old-boys club few sheetfed printers would dare enter – even if they could scrape up enough cash to do so. In Canada, companies like Ronald’s, Maclean Hunter, Southams, Lawsons and Richardson Bond & Wright (RBW) held the keys to a door few would dare cross.Quiet leap forward with GDRIf you visit Berlin take a stroll through the DDR Museum situated in the former East Berlin sector, just a short walk from the Brandenburg Gates. Inside you will see an interactive display of life in East Germany after the Second World War and up to 1989, when The Wall fell. Nearby a display of wooden hand grenades, which were given to children so they could practice chucking them over the wall when the decadent westerners invaded, there is a plaque that helps to define the miserable life that existed then. The East Germans provided the Eastern Bloc with the majority of hard currency by exporting the lion’s share of what they produced. Rejects were kept for the locals.As the Iron Curtain fell upon Eastern Europe after WWII, many German businesses found themselves trapped in the wrong place and at the wrong time. One such firm, known today as ZIRKON, had a storied past going back to 1819. Originally known as J.F. Schelter & Giesecke they started out as type founders. By 1827 they started building printing machines. The now famous PHÖNIX art platen was well received all over Europe and sold well into the early 20th century. In 1952 Schelter & Giesecke, along with about 80 percent of the East German industry, found themselves reorganized into the new Volkseigner Betrieb (VEB) state-owned structures. The company was renamed VEB Druckereimaschinenwerk-Universal Leipzig. Already having been involved with small reel-to-sheet machines before the war, they had designed and built a rather novel little web press known as the RZO. This was an offset press with three cylinders (plate, blanket and impression) and a sheeter, too. Various stories exist on just how and why this VEB came up with such a concept. Rumours suggested because these machines were so small (they had a web width of 24 ½ inches and a cut-off off 17 3/8 inches) that the whole press could be loaded on a truck and driven all over the Eastern Bloc to print newspapers and propaganda. During 1952 they manufactured the RZO with only two units so only one-over-one printing was possible. By the next year, VEB expanded the line with the RZO II. It could run with four units and at speeds of only 8,000 iph. A folder was added that could be dollied into position in front of the sheeter. However, the small press had only two ink forme rollers, but this was fine for ground- wood newspaper stock and limited coverage only. Newspapers and flyers fit the bill.By the time 1957 rolled around, a small New York company called Zarkin Machine Co. caught wind of the RZO. Zarkin, incorporated back in 1928, was into all sorts of things and not just printing. After the war they were building plate whirlers and graining machines and it is suggested that two of the owners, Charles Zarkin and Jerome Reinitz, had in 1949 financed the rebuilding of a bombed out printing press factory in Berlin. This may have been the firm KiekeBusch for shortly after a new company Royal Zenith appeared in the US and the Kiekebusch sheetfed was marketed under the name of the Royal Zenith Jobber. The KiekeBusch was an odd little press with a Spiess feeder and made entirely of either aluminum or the new Suluminum alloy created by the Nazis during the war. Zarkin and Royal Zenith were both connected to each other. One hundred and thirty five RZO II’s were bought by Royal Zenith and sold into the US market by 1957 and a new chapter of printing was about to be written. In 1963, a revamped model of the RZO was designed. This press continued with the 3-cylinder principle but was faster and more refined. Called the Ultraset Junior RO62, it quickly found homes in both America and Canada. Marketed first as the Webmatic and then the Rubin 90, the press gained from Royal Zenith’s upgrades and demands to drastically change the printing landscape. A major incentive for anyone dealing with the East Germans was hard currency. The powerful US dollar was so desperately needed in the GDR that these machines were sold for ridiculously low money.The mighty Harris Intertype Corporation was starting to take notice. Harris was the industry leader in sheetfed especially 60 and 78 presses. Back in 1953 Harris had already decided to enter the web business and purchased Dallas-based Cottrell Company. With Harris’s knowledge of offset and Cottrell’s letterpress web skills, it soon blossomed and a wide range of Harris-Cottrell web presses in all sorts of sizes from 16pp to 64pp took hold of the North American market. But Harris didn’t have a small half-size web and they could see clearly how Royal Zenith had created a brand new business of turning large format sheetfed printers into 8pp web shops. This was causing havoc with Harris sheetfed sales!The argument was compelling for Royal Zenith. Paper would be cheaper, the press could eliminate folding in the bindery, fewer operators and most importantly faster speeds. No more monstrous platemakers or folding machines and paper cutters. No heavy handling of stock, perfecting was as simple as a turn-bar and machine footprint was not much more than a 38-inch sheetfed. By 1963, Harris bought a successful forms press manufacturer by the name of Schriber. Out of this, on the commercial side, came the revamped M-90 long grain web press and shortly after a new short grain M-110. The big advantage of the M 110 was that it was a 4-cylinder blanket-to-blanket design – just like the bigger commercial presses. So now instead of turn bars, a 4-unit press prints four colours on both sides at the same time. Add a dryer and some chill rollers and Voila! – the perfect tool to decimate the large sheetfeds completely. This M 110 entry may have hastened Harris`s resolve to drop the complete sheetfed program in an extraordinary 1975 decision. Not to be outdone, especially in a market they themselves had single handily created, VEB Polygraph/Royal Zenith had another press to launch in 1968. The ZIRKON 66 appeared (referred to in North America as the Royal Zenith 300) and it had all the same attributes as the Harris M 110 plus one very big advantage: Price! VEB Polygraph had come up with a press with some warts, but still able to produce high quality printing equal to sheetfed. Over the next 15 years, Harris and VEB Polygraph/Royal Zenith would battle it out for market share while at the same time destroying forever the very large format sheetfed industry. By 1982, there were seven more competitors in this segment. Albert Frankenthal (now KBA) with its A 101, Miller Johannisberg with the CW68 and Webb 66 (a licenced copy of the Zirkon Forta 660), Komori with the System 20 (long grain), MAN with the Octoman, Heidelberg with the Web-8 (long grain), Hitachi 440 and 660, and Solna with its C-50. These were all similar 8pp presses and now marketed the same way. The age of the half-web was here to stay.Both Harris and VEB Polygraph continually brought new technologies to the half web market. In 1978, VEB Polygraph launched the much improved FORTA 660 (or RZ420). The press ran 40,000 iph and was equally matched by Harris’s M 110 B.Royal Zenith must have made a fortune on the VEB Polygraph association. They certainly did with its Planeta business as well as representing other Eastern Bloc combines like Brehmer, Perfecta and KOVO-Romayor. By the time of reunification (1990), Royal Zenith saw its advantage evaporate overnight and sold its interest to the newly formed and privatized Planeta. Planeta continued for a short time to represent the newly named VEB Polygraph (ZIRKON) but with virtually no cash and still bloated with too many employees, too much inventory and no cash, were gobbled up by KBA. ZIRKON continues today in Leipzig as a privately held GmbH and has made forays into 16pp webs as it continues trading. The beginning of the end of the half-web happened slowly. And by 1995 drupa, new sheetfed technologies for perfecting 4 over 4 put a lid on its coffin. The advantage the half web once held over larger sheetfeds was eroded by the declining run lengths, lower waste (of new perfecting sheetfeds) and more efficient make-readies of 16pp page webs. The larger webs could, by the mid 1990s, easily compete with what had been an exclusive segment held by the little 8pp webs.In the early days of half web, printers also started to realize that they could print new work like business forms, newsletters and direct mail, opening up more revenue streams for a press that was first idealized to print propaganda on bad paper. Today manufacturers face a new challenge in keeping even the 40-inch press viable in the face of newer digital presses. This threat is real and the main impediments are the costs of such new (digital) technologies. Currently there is severe sticker shock and something that is completely inverse to the story of the half web versus large sheetfed. Half webs can today be bought for less than the value of their metal. It is a reminder of how quickly printing technology changes today.
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: https://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!
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.
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