Jon Robinson

Jon Robinson

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Monday, 29 August 2016
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.

Monday, 25 July 2016
After a decade of intense research and development, supported by unprecedented technology partnerships, is production-strength inkjet finally ready to disrupt commercial printing.

The continued growth of inkjet printing systems was once again the major force at drupa, eight years removed from the cutting-edge system introductions of Fujifilm’s cutsheet Jet Press 720 and HP’s PageWide web press platform, which presented new possibilities to a sector largely dominated by the continuous-feed systems of Océ and Ricoh. At drupa 2012, another range of primarily concept production-inkjet machines were introduced by powerful players like KBA, Komori, Konica Minolta, Landa, Miyakoshi and Xerox.

At drupa 2016, all of these companies and many more had expanded their production-inkjet platforms with serious new players like EFI and Heidelberg joining the mix, setting sights on the packaging world. Several new technology partnerships between paper-transport experts (offset press makers) and print-head developers speak to a concerted effort to drive inkjet into the mainstream.

The past decade of inkjet R&D investment alone, collectively stretching into the tens of billions of dollars, by so many prominent technology suppliers rings the loudest chorus of reality – inkjet is building a new foundation for the future of printing. Still, the question remains with most printing companies for when inkjet systems, even with an ability to match 40-inch format size (unlike toner’s electrophotographic drum), will be ready for prime time in the commercial printing market. Key issues like quality and speed, press and consumable costs, have been a major challenge for the mass adoption of inkjet, even as this fascinating printing process has been disrupting pockets of publishing, transactional and direct-mail printing.

Commercial print influence
Alec Couckuyt is one of Canada’s most-experienced printing leaders in the field of digital printing. Twenty years ago, serving as Vice President of Direct Marketing at Transcontinental’s innovative Yorkville plant, Couckuyt was driving variable data to Xeikon’s Chromapress to produce personalized automobile booklets. Building files from VIN numbers, the facility printed cover forms featuring specific car models and colours, while also applying variable text and dealership locations, to entice customers into a new rig before their leases ran out.

“We were forerunners at that time, but it was far from being fast enough and you had to be in a highly controlled environment,” recalls Couckuyt, who was also integrating inkjet print heads on web presses at Yorkville. “Twenty years later, look at how far we have come… you can feed [an inkjet press] with so much data and the output is so cost efficient. The sky is the limit and this is an exciting time.”

Prior to his digital-printing work with Yorkville, Couckuyt began his career in 1983 as a Product Manager for Agfa Canada, ultimately serving as the company’s Vice President of Graphics Arts Systems for 10 years until joining Transcontinental in 1996. Today, as Senior Director of Canon Canada’s Professional Printing Solutions Group, he holds a unique knowledge set to describe the adoption of production-inkjet systems in Canadian commercial printing.

“We are targeting commercial printers right now with the experience that we have acquired in the transaction market, combined with the quality levels that inkjet has reached, when you talk about the VarioPrint i300 and the ImageStream, as well as the capabilities of printing on coated offset stock,” says Couckuyt. He joined Océ in 2008, as Vice President of Production Printing Systems, shortly before the company (purchased by Canon in 2012 for approximately $1 billion) installed one of Canada’s first web-fed production inkjet systems.

“We have more than eight years of experience with a similar technology that has evolved to a point where it is now ready for prime time in commercial printing,” he says. “You always have to take into account the volume, the production capabilities of equipment, and I think there is bigger potential for cutsheet inkjet devices in the Canadian market, more so than continuous-feed inkjet.”

Near the back of Canon’s drupa 2016 booth, the company ran a new web-fed ImageStream inkjet press, which is a class of technology Couckuyt feels some commercial printers will look at depending on their needs. “It is the same technology,” he says, relating the VarioPrint i300 to the ImageStream platform. “You are using 1,200 x 1200 native inkjet heads, combined with smaller droplets, different types of inks, coated stocks, proper drying systems, and now you are playing into the commercial printing field.”

Web-fed inkjet, traditionally referred to as continuous-feed systems, has a significant existing install base because its paper transport naturally runs substrates much cleaner through the imaging system, whereas a turned-up ear can easily jam a cutsheet press. This cutsheet inkjet challenge is being addressed, however, as offset press makers become heavily involved with inkjet development. Despite the experience advantages of web-fed systems, Couckuyt points to the business realities of Canadian commercial printing, which for decades has been built around cutsheet workflow. “It would only be a logical step to also add an inkjet cutsheet device,” he says. “Basically, it offers quite a bit of additional application opportunities to the commercial printer.”

Downtime becomes uptime
“When you run an offset press, you are always making sure that you have the least downtime possible, which must be minuscule when you look at your total production time,” says Couckuyt. “In digital printing, people talk about uptime – just the opposite. If they had 50 to 60 percent uptime [on toner] they were happy, but that doesn’t cut it for an offset printer.”

Canon’s cutsheet VarioPrint i300 system is promoted as having an uptime of more than 90 percent, often approaching 95 percent: “Now you are talking about a production machine – in addition to the quality and capabilities of printing on multiple papers – that fits right into the offset world,” says Couckuyt. “Those factors are extremely critical and the reasons why we believe it is ready for the commercial printer.”

To improve cutsheet inkjet uptime, for example, the VarioPrint i300 is a self-contained system, meaning it is temperature and humidity controlled, and all external elements have been eliminated (a noticeable trait looking at the body of the machine). Even the input trays of the i300 are sealed for temperature control. The unit has to be decompressed when opening up its doors. With its doors open, the first thing you notice about the i300 is a massive drying system. Canon engineers ultimately surmised a sheet needed to travel in the drying system for two seconds at full running speed to properly condition the paper – hitting it with infrared, conventional heat and air systems – before reentering the duplex imaging system.

Couckuyt explains this unique drying system is critical because operators do not need to slow down the i300 when applying heavy ink coverage. “It is actually a production machine and it is built in such a way that even if you have high coverage you will not slow down the press,” he says. To further improve uptime, the i300 employs a Sentry Unit that ejects wavy, earmarked or unwanted papers, again at speed, before first entering the imaging system. “A jam in digital printing on a cutsheet device is always your biggest nightmare.”

Quality applications
Commercially released more than a year ago, there were 42 i300 systems installed globally before the opening of drupa 2016, which actually marked the system’s availability in the Canadian market. A key new feature of the i300 introduced at drupa is called ColorGrip, which applies a primer specifically where expensive inkjet ink needs to go, instead of blanketing the sheet.

A critical goal for all inkjet system developers, particularly for commercial printing adoption, is to improve their inks to a level that can more easily adhere to both coated and uncoated papers without the need for applying a primer. This will take time, but systems like ColorGrip, which actually immobilizes the ink to stop it from convalescing into big, ugly dots, are providing a vastly superior level of quality output than older generation inkjet systems. “ColorGrip keeps the right colour in the right position,” says Couckuyt, “so you are basically extenuating and giving more pop to your colour – Even a good sheet, you make a lot better.”

One of the greatest advantages of digitized sheetfed offset presses, and why the technology remains core to the vast majority of printers, is application flexibility – an ability to throw almost any commercial print job at it, regardless of ink coverage, stock or format. For a printer to invest more than a $1 million into an inkjet press, even if today’s systems can handle a greater range of work, it becomes critical to understand the production cost of specific applications.

“With the VarioPrint i300, where it becomes viable for a commercial printer to enter into that field, you are looking at a million and up impressions per month – all the way up to 10 million,” says Couckuyt, explaining a typical web-fed system requires at least five million impressions to become a viable investment.

“We spend an extreme amount of time with the customer before a sale takes place,” says Couckuyt. Canon will run a job file from a printer’s existing offset infrastructure at its Océ facility in Boca Raton, Florida. “We will make a complete analysis of the files, ink consumption, press time, everything, so that the client really knows in advance what they are embarking on.”
Monday, 06 June 2016
Pronto Reproductions Ltd. has added an EFI 1625H wide-format printing system, purchased through Cansel, to its plant in Mississauga, Ont. The company runs a range of printing equipment, including a Heidelberg Speedmaster CD102-6 + LX and a Xerox IGen4 EXP, among other machines and a finishing technologies.

Installed at the beginning of 2016, the EFI 1625H is described as a mid-level production printer with four colours plus white and 8-level grayscale capabilities, as well as LED drying. The system handles flexible and rigid substrates up to 65 inches (64-inch printing) and up to 2-inches thick. The company is also running 3M cobranded inks for MCS Warranty.
Monday, 06 June 2016
Huge Paper Inc. has launched what it describes as a first-of-its-kind magnetic substrates swatch book featuring the product line of Magnum Magnetics. Led by President Jeff Tapping, Huge Paper has long served Canada’s printing industry as an independent source of unique paper, magnetics and synthetics for digital printing applications, in addition to more standard commerical work.

The company’s new swatch-book collection of printable magnetics features samples of Magnum’s most-popular substrates, including pre-magnetized DigiMag in a range of weights, RubberSteel regular black and write-on white, and MessageMag magnetic adhesive substrate.

Huge Paper provides a range of magnetic substrates in the Greater Toronto Area, which can be applied in both digital and litho printing processes. Magnum Magnetics substrates are describes as meeting all North American safety standards including those for toys.

Magnum Magnetics is the largest manufacturer of flexible magnetic products in the United States including printable magnetic sheets and rolls used in a variety of industries and applications.
Tuesday, 10 May 2016
Al George, one of the most-influential printing business leaders in Canada through the 1980s and 1990s, passed away on May 9 at age 73. George was best known for his leadership of McLaren Morris and Todd, which was founded in 1958 and soon became the print supplier for Hallmark Cards. By the early 1960s, the production of greeting cards represented 25 percent of total company revenues.

Following this preeminent Canadian printing contract, McLaren Morris and Todd (MM&T) burst into North American printing notoriety when the company’s owners took a chance on a new, struggling client trying to manufacturer their Trivial Pursuit board game – created in 1979 in Montreal by Chris Haney, a photo editor for Montreal's The Gazette, and Scott Abbott, a sports editor for The Canadian Press.

With MM&T’s crucial manufacturing partnership, Trivial Pursuit would become a global phenomenon, peaking in 1984 when more than 20 million games were sold across the continent. Building on its greeting card and Trivial Pursuit growth, as well as the 1980s boom in collector cards, MM&T began to shift its primary focus onto the production of labels as the company was purchased by Al George and John Morris in 1993 – with previous, second-generation owner Southam retaining a 30 percent interest.

The leadership of George and Morris, who would purchase the balance of Southam’s interest in 1995, would set the foundation for one of North America’s leading label-printing operations, which ultimately led to its purchase by Mail-Well (Cenveo) in 1998. At the time, MM&T had sales of approximately $50 million. Commenting on the sale, George, who was serving as MM&T’s President at the time, said, “We will now be able to expand beyond our current capabilities with the backing of the substantial Mail-Well printing organization.”

George remained with the organization until his retirement in September 2002. The MM&T operation would continue to evolve as a North American printing powerhouse. In 2013, the facility would see a technology investment of more than $6 million to install a 14-unit Heidelberg Speedmaster XL 106 sheetfed press (featured in PrintAction’s May 2015 cover story.)

In 2015, printing giant WestRock Company entered into a definitive agreement worth approximately US$105 million to acquire Cenveo’s Packaging interests, involving six Cenveo facilities across North America, which generated more than US$190 million in revenue in the previous fiscal year. This deal included Cenveo Packaging's most-prominent Canadian facility, MM&T, in large part built by the innovation and strategic insight of Al George.

Al George visitation and funeral details
Family and friends may gather at the Ward Funeral Home on Friday May 13, 2016, from 6-9 pm. A Celebration of Alan George’s life will be held on Saturday May 14, 2016, at the Ward Funeral Home at noon.
Tuesday, 26 April 2016
Alpha Poly Packaging Solutions of Brampton, Ont., for more than two decades primarily focused on the print production of polyethylene plastic bags, originally garbage bags before quickly moving into higher value food-service products, the latter of which was buoyed by an acquisition that basically doubled its size overnight. Alpha Poly’s February 2016 acquisition of Mikia Printing, a specialty flexible-packaging converter, however, speaks more to the company’s future.

The Mikia purchase is the most-recent example of a range of strategic investments led by Alpha Poly President Patrick Kerrigan, who took over leadership of the 50,000-square-foot operation in 2012, succeeding his father, Paul, who founded Alpha Poly in 1989. Kerrigan has been shifting Alpha Poly’s business approach since leading a lean-manufacturing audit in 2009, followed by a branding change, a new sales approach, and ultimately a multi-million-dollar capital equipment investment.

In 2013, Alpha Poly installed a massive 8-colour MIRAFLEX AM from Windmoeller & Hoelscher to produce higher-end process print jobs.  This investment was followed by a decisive push to capture the growth in multi-laminates with a Nordmeccanica Super Simplex SL laminator. With the support of family members holding key leadership roles, including Matthew Kerrigan, Stephanie Kerrigan and Martin Boeykens, Alpha Poly is positioning itself as one of Canada’s leading independent companies in the robust flexography sector.

Kerrigan worked outside of the family business for 15 years after going to school for broadcast journalism at Mohawk College in Hamilton, Ont., which ultimately led to a career in post-production for television and movies. Kerrigan explains this experience allowed him to learn about his own approach in the business world before joining Alpha Poly. “I love to work with people and to mentor,” he says. “It is exciting to watch people grow – helping their families grow.”

Manufacturing measures
When Kerrigan led the lean audit for Alpha Poly in 2009, he faced difficult decisions of managing a manufacturing business, particularly one that has worked to foster a family-like atmosphere across the entire operation. Following the audit, Kerrigan estimates Alpha Poly reduced its labour by 30 percent and increased its output by 80 percent. “The return on investment was paid back in a year,” he says, noting how much discipline it took to institute the changes; for example, having one operator work two packing machines instead of a traditional one-to-one ratio.  

Just prior to the lean-manufacturing audit, Alpha Poly had purchased the assets of a struggling London, Ont., operation that had succumbed to selling work below cost, an easy trap to fall into in any printing sector. “You need to know and understand your costs,” says Kerrigan, who was preparing to have the same lean analyst return in February to reset Alpha Poly’s base after the past three years of change management to branding and sales.

 “It is great to see things moving ahead,” says Paul Kerrigan, who continues to attend major management meetings. “Patrick is driving the ship. We have a lot of good workers and that is a big part of making your business successful. It is exciting to come in and hear about all of the things going on.”

As he began to transition into leading Alpha Poly, Kerrigan leveraged years of broadcasting experience to evaluate the company’s brand position, which lacked a concrete marketing plan. Alpha Poly’s eight-year-old Website was in need of a revamp to better support the sales structure and any future manufacturing investments.

“When people heard about us, because our name used to be Alpha Polybag, the first thing was ‘Oh, you do the shopping bags for the grocery stores,’” Kerrigan says, noting the company had also been printing roll stock for a long time, as well as reverse printing on polyesters. “We re-launched our name to let people know we are not just a bag manufacturer.

 “At that time, I knew the next phase of the company was to get into multi-laminates because you could see back then it was a growing market,” Kerrigan says, recalling reports that indicated multi-laminates would experience eight or nine percent worldwide growth year over year. “Everything is moving from rigids like plastic clamshells and jars to stand-up pouches, so I knew it was a market you wanted to be in.”

Developing new markets
Kerrigan explains a key driver of Alpha Poly’s strategy began to unfold in late-2012 when he crossed paths with David Mailman, who was helping to  lead packaging manufacturer Multipak Ltd., which was in the process of shuttering its operation.

The high-end flexo knowledge of Mailman fit perfectly with Kerrigan’s plans to move Alpha Poly into new markets, which would require investing in the new press. “The stars aligned,” Kerrigan says. Mailman arrived in early 2013 to take over Kerrigan’s role as Plant Manager and to help direct the company’s capital investment.

This allowed Kerrigan to focus on melding Alpha Poly’s rebrand with a new sales approach. “I kept feeling that every time we came into our monthly management meetings we were always looking in the rearview mirror – what happened in the month before,” Kerrigan says.

He brought in an outside firm to review the sales strategy and a decision was made to implement the Salesforce.com CRM tool. At the time, Kerrigan explains Alpha Poly was generating healthy but flat annual revenue growth of around six percent. “We started setting targets for everybody and measuring,” he says. “People want to do better, but if you do not have anything to measure you do not know how well you are doing.” A sales roadmap was put in place to steer away from a shotgun approach and instead focus on what constitutes an ideal Alpha Poly customer.

In its most recent fiscal year, Alpha Poly experienced year over year revenue growth of slightly more than 20 percent. “We know where we are going because we can see everything in our pipeline,” Kerrigan says. “We can do accurate budgeting now… plus you have metrics that everybody is looking at.” The reinvigorated sales structure is also supported by a new business-development approach led by Kate Davis and former HP Canada trailblazer Debra Swift.

The February 2016 arrival of Vaughan Campbell, former owner of Mikia, who takes on a prominent technical sales role with Alpha Poly, helps establish one of the strongest senior leadership teams in Canadian flexography, with a technical and strategic ability to reach into completely new flexo markets. One of the most promising aspects of Alpha Poly’s new direction is that it currently only generates around five percent of its business from the United States.    

With all of the investments in people and technologies, Kerrigan continues to focus on bottom-line growth. “We have to keep this cog going and we have really invested in this team to help us,” he says. “Our next goal… I would like to see in the next couple of years a 10-colour press in here.”
Tuesday, 19 April 2016
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.
Tuesday, 05 April 2016
Steve Cory of Objex Unlimited shares insight he has gained from almost five years of innovative 3D printing, which stands to revolutionize a range of industries.

Just as most people might be shocked by the invention age of inkjet printing (1951), toner printing (1959), and laser printing (1969), the birth of 3D printing traces back to 1983 despite its new stature as the beginning of a third industrial revolution, opined by futurist Jeremy Rifkin three years ago. Today’s potential of 3D printing, also commonly referred to as additive manufacturing, is based on its sudden widespread accessibility, akin to the consumer-level arrival of the Internet in the late-1990s despite its 1969 roots laid down by ARPANET.

The availability of mature 3D printing technology now falls into the hands of revolutionary business leaders who take enormous risks to disrupt legacy markets and to ultimately generate new revenue models. In the west end of Toronto, Steve Cory, President of Objex Unlimited, is one such entrepreneur who has been exploring the possibilities of 3D printing since 2011. He has built a worldwide name for Objex developing innovative scanning booths, unrivalled 3D figurines, creative and industrial prototypes, and by diving headfirst into any potential 3D arena his team of young engineers, artists, programmers and writers can imagine.

Growth of Objex Unlimited
Cory found his way into 3D printing after reading what he describes as one of those big-future articles in The Economist, highlighting a 3D-printed chainmail glove and working clock. He became obsessed with the implications of additive manufacturing and for six months researched the sector, attending a handful of local 3D-printing enthusiast meetings.

In mid-2011, Cory, at age 35, had been running his own consulting business for more than a year. A problem solver at heart and a trained mathematician, he had built a successful career by leveraging Information Technology to manage production, including a 100-person plant making sprockets and roller chain; catering facilities at Pearson Airport; and with the document-destruction company Shred-it.

“I was always a good manager because I had better information than anybody else,” Cory says. “I would go get it myself, because I was really good at understanding ERP systems, pulling the data – optimizing it.” Computer Integrated Manufacturing exploded across the business world in the 2000s and Cory in 2009, with the recent arrival of two young children, decided to use his attractive skill set to branch out on his own. He became bored, however, with the tedious routine of sitting around the kitchen table and developing process solutions in Excel.

Cory in September 2011 made a seminal decision to invest around $100,000 to purchase a used 3D colour printer and to lease a 3D plastic printer, followed three months later by his first scanner. “It took three months to complete my first order, which was $200,” he says, “and it took me another two months to sell a $50 order to a guy who still buys from me all the time.” Cory also began to serve as a distributor of 3D technologies to sustain  his more inventive plans for 3D printing. As fate would have it, the second handheld scanner he sold was to an influential Toronto businessman who would soon become a silent partner in Objex Unlimited.

“I wasn’t really looking for a cash infusion at that point,” Cory says. “I was ready to muddle through for the next coupe of years and grow slowly as revenue permitted, because I knew it would take time.” The cash infusion, however, allowed Cory to dream even bigger, broaden Objex Unlimited’s 3D printing assets, and begin to hire and train a unique collective of employees to push the frontiers of commercializing 3D applications.

“My business partner feels a big responsibility to give back and we are both very proud of the jobs that we have created here… 26, 27 jobs and probably 15 of these people would not have jobs like this,” Cory says. “They are extremely intelligent and talented, but maybe they didn’t go to the right school or maybe they are a little too wacky to survive in a normal working environment.” Cory prides himself on the creative atmosphere at Objex, which, to take from his own long-term business mantra, is very likely fostering future leaders of Canada’s 3D printing industry.

Exploring the future
Objex Unlimited today primarily uses Multijet Modelling, Fused Deposition Modelling, Stereolithography and 3D inkjet technologies, in addition to a range of ancillary equipment, to meet almost any non-metallic prototyping or modeling needs. This includes printing with carbon fibre and Kevlar additives.

“Prototyping is the reason 3D printing exists, because there is nothing better to make one-offs [particularly] if it is a small part with high detail,” Cory says. “When I started Objex there were three or four other 3D printing companies in Toronto all very strong in the automotive industry.”

Understanding it would be difficult to push his way into auto-part prototyping, where engineers supply great geometries but are naturally picky, Cory instead took a risk to focus on more creative 3D printing. As a result, Objex Unlimited is likely the most diverse 3D printing operation in Greater Toronto, probably Canada, running 14 machines. It affords Cory an unprecedented perspective – as both manufacturer and distributor – for what the 3D market can bare.

“There is a lot of really good marketing out there that makes it look like you can get a $1,000 printer and make parts for the Space Station,” he says, adding most people entering 3D simply do not understand its many critical manufacturing nuances, such as how difficult geometries are to reproduce, working with negative space and support materials, or why Z-axis builds provide little product strength. Cory explains any 3D printer between $20,000 and $50,000 is really a starting point to figure out how 3D works.

“A good 3D printer is $100,000 and they go up from there – it is capital intensive,” he says, reinforcing the need to take a long-term approach. Objex Unlimited itself – albeit on a unique path of 3D discover – is only now beginning to realize meaningful return on its investments, expecting to generate anywhere from $5 to $6 million in revenue by the end of its current fiscal year.

Cory explains the growth of 3D-print portals, driven by machine utilization, ganging jobs on a printer bed via online templates, presents significant challenges. “I really feel, that in some ways, 3D printed parts are disregarded by people because they have had bad experiences with them – poor quality, bad results, because everybody is chasing that low cost and lowest cost is not the right way to do it.”

He describes building an aluminum extrusion for a window, as an example. It might take three hours to print the part upwards on the Z-axis, but it can be easily snapped. If the window part was instead built lying down, this would require filling its negative space with support materials (later torn away or dissolved) and it might take seven hours to print, but the part actually bends because its lines are built horizontally on the X and Y axes.

Leading the way
Cory and his team are now a few months into an ambitious project to produce thousands of 3D figurines. Selftraits is an Objex-owned storefront studio on Queen St. West in downtown Toronto selling 3D selfies starting at $120 each. Selftraits leverages one of Objex Unlimited’s key R&D programs, a 3D scanning booth that employs 140 synchronized SLR cameras and vast amounts of intellectual property, from electronics and lighting to focusing tools and data transfer. The system was built by two 24-year-old Objex employees, who are now working on a fourth iteration of the machine, which Cory calls The Cobra and will sell for around $250,000.

“Everybody tells me our photo booth is overkill: ‘Why would you use 140 cameras when 60 is fine.’ It is to reduce the digital sculpting time,” Cory explains. The Queen St. store opened on December 10 and scanned about 300 people to make 5-inch-high figurines before Christmas. “I don’t think anybody in the world could have done that – not just scanned but delivered.” Cory hopes Selftraits will be scanning 500 to 700 people per month this summer. “It is both exciting and scary because we are proving a business model that you can have a free-standing store to make [3D] selfies and actually make money.”

Objex is now working on a mobile booth to scan dozens of people per hour at major events, in addition to high-profile art installations, which will place the Toronto company onto an even bigger 3D world stage.
Wednesday, 23 March 2016
The former mayor of Toronto, Rob Ford, 46, passed away on March 22 after a battle with cancer. Prior to taking office, Ford was a principal of the family printing business Deco Labels and Tags, based in Etobicoke, Ont., on the outskirts of Toronto’s downtown core. He became the first printer to occupy the city’s mayoral office since William Lyon Mackenzie was elected as Toronto’s first mayor in 1834.

Ford served as Chief Financial Officer of Deco Labels, which was founded more than 50 years ago by his father, Doug Ford Sr. He worked closely with brothers Doug and Randy Ford to grow Deco Labels into one of Greater Toronto’s largest label printing operations, while also developing his firebrand of politics as a City Councillor that lead him to victory – by 93,669 votes – in Toronto’s October 25, 2010, Mayoral election.

Read Victoria Gaitskell’s November 2010 PrintAction cover story on Rob Ford, published just days before he officially took office on December 1.
Tuesday, 09 February 2016
MET Fine Printers of Vancouver, BC, won Best of Show, Print, in Veritiv’s annual uVU awards competition for its production of Nike’s Young Athlete Book, You Can Even Ask My Dad book, produced on a Man Roland 700 UV press at 240 lpi.

The Award of Excellence for both design and print went to the project Empowering Global Citizenship Book, designed by Circo De Bakuza and printed by Imprimerie l’Empreinte of Laval, Quebec.

The competition, which travels across the country to recognize leading print and design projects produced by Veritiv customers, included four Judges’ Choices awards received by Andora Graphics, Unicom Graphics (2), and Flash Reproductions, in combination with partnering design firms.

The remaining category winners in the uVU Print Categories included: Imagination Ink Ltd. of Regina, SK, for Wide Format; Hemlock Printers of Burnaby, BC, for Brochures (2 awards); C.J. Graphics for Brochures (2 awards); C.J. Graphics for Catalogues; Hemlock Printers for Magazines; Flash Reproductions for Note Cards and Invitations; C.J. Graphics for Note Cards and Invitations; Kallen Printing for Books; Somerset Graphics for Books; MET Fine Printers for Books; Emerson Clarke for Digital; and MET Fine Printers for Packaging.