Eskoworld Mirrors Company’s Growing Influence
More than 600 users of Esko technologies descended on Phoenix last week for the 4-day 2013 Eskoworld conference, eclipsing last year’s record-breaking attendance of around 530 customers.
Last year’s Eskoworld attendance growth was attributed in large part to Esko’s unveiling of several key new products at the drupa trade show in May 2012. Eskoworld 2013 was further buoyed by the fact that Esko has acquired just over 1,100 completely new customers in the past year, which also saw the company’s revenues grow by around eight percent.
Esko’s research and development is supported by its new parent company, Danaher, which continues to gain influence across the printing world with its additional control of X-Rite, Pantone and Videojet, among others.
In the past year, Esko launched new products like the Kongsberg XN cutting table, Esko Suite 12.0 software, Full HD Flexo, and CDI Spark 2420. More than 600 Kongsberg XN cutting tables, for example, have been installed since the technology was first launched at drupa. The Kongsberg XN technology is also providing Esko with a deeper play in the sign and display market.
The company stated during Eskoworld 2013 that around 70 percent of its customers are directly involved with the packaging supply chain. Esko also estimates that 15 percent of its clients are currently operating in the sign and display market, where it clearly intends to grow through technologies like Kongsberg and Esko Suite. This suggests Esko will focus more intently on commercial printers, who represent substantial investment interests to find new revenue streams beyond traditional sheetfed offset work.
Esko also feels its Full HD Flexo, unveiled at drupa but commercially launched in April 2013, is ready to set a new quality standard in flexography. The technology – building on Esko’s existing HD Flexo product line – is designed to produce a combination of smooth highlight printing and gravure-like solid ink densities. Full HD Flexo, according to Esko, moves beyond the binary discussion of flat top or round top dots to create the best possible print dot structures on one plate.
“This is a giant step forward for flexible packaging converters as the result is high-quality flexible packaging that stands out,” stated Jan Buchweitz, Senior Product Manager Digital Flexo at Esko, when the technology was officially released. Full HD Flexo is currently installed at over 20 trade shops and converters around the world.
At Eskoworld 2013, the company also unveiled version 12.1 of Esko Suite (available July 2013) with a series of new features, including automation tools for gang-run printing on large-format flatbed systems. Using Automation Engine 12.1, multiple odd-shaped designs can automatically be ganged onto a single print sheet layout.
Suite 12.1 includes a new set of Standard Template Workflows for easier handling of prepress and production tasks in typical applications for the folding carton, label and signage sectors. In prepress editors PackEdge or ArtPro, Esko Suite 12.1 users can now define areas on a job for inline visual inspection systems, which receives its setup data directly from Esko Automation Engine. With the inspection area defined upstream and not by the press operator, Esko explains it becomes easier to standardize the production process across multiple sites, presses and operators. First inspection system integrations work with Esko´s technology partner AVT.
CombiPress Support is another new feature found in Suite 12.1, which helps automate prepress tasks when a job – particularly in the label sector – requires different printing processes, such as offset, flexo, toner or screen. The Esko Viewer in Automation Engine 12.1 is now equipped with a barcode and braille reader. In the software space, Eskoworld showed numerous advances with ArtoisCAD, a staple in packaging software currently celebrating its 15-year anniversary, including the launch of ArtiosCAD Enterprise, which stores assets a centralized corporate database in the cloud.
Several of the 100 educational sessions at Eskoworld 2013, including 20 in Spanish, focused on the colour management technologies of X-Rite and Pantone, which Danaher took control of in mid-2012 with the $625 million purchase of X-Rite. Product managers and executives from X-Rite attended Eskoworld to provide updates about their progress with PantoneLIVE, a new cloud-based service providing access to data that is certain to set the new global colour standard.
PantoneLIVE is built around a purely digital Master Standard library for colour, derived from spectral data. Printing companies will never be able to reproduce the Master Standard, but will instead access what the company refers to as Dependent Standards. These are digital colour libraries based on individual printing processes and Pantone has currently set up 18 Dependent Standards for PantoneLIVE.
Facing the challenges of creating a digital cloud filled with brand colours, PantoneLIVE recently received an important endorsement for its technology direction and progress with the May 23 news that Procter & Gamble, which owns brands like Gillette, Tide and Pampers, is implementing the service. Printing operations will need to pay close attention to the development of PantoneLIVE as product giants like P&G come on board.
“PantoneLIVE is an efficient, effective and seamless technology that saves time and money, and helps ensure design intent makes it to shelf, whether we are creating a new Charmin package design, proofing an Olay label, mixing ink for Tide packaging or assessing the quality of Gillette packaging on press,” said Phil Duncan, Global Design Officer at P&G. “PantoneLIVE is an excellent solution for simplifying how we access digital colour palettes for design, proofing and print. When fully implemented, the productivity benefits will be significant – both internally for P&G and for our suppliers.”
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