Jon Robinson

Jon Robinson

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Tuesday, 02 February 2016
Brad King has been named Vice President of Xerox Canada’s newly redesigned national graphic communications organization. Prior to his new role, King was Xerox Canada’s Vice President of Central Operations, responsible for sales and marketing of Xerox’s portfolio of office and graphic communications products to clients in the Greater Toronto Area and southwestern Ontario.

King was a member of the 1992 Canadian Olympic team and competed in alpine skiing in Albertville, France.

“The printing industry continues to be a very competitive marketplace for our clients – it’s also a very exciting time as we develop new technology platforms that will help them produce relevant, profitable, quality and high value offerings for their own customers,” stated King, in a release about his new role. “As the industry continues its migration from offset to digital, we are well positioned with our leading high-end printing solutions – such as the Xerox Impika Evolution, a continuous-feed, inkjet digital press – to help our clients broaden their offerings, while increasing productivity, overall revenue and business growth. This is a strategic priority for us.”
 
Xerox explains the redesigned graphic communications operation will provide clients across Canada with access to specialized experts to help them better leverage the company’s production and digital printing technologies, application developments and workflow solutions.
Monday, 18 January 2016

At the age of 17, Vinay Tewathia, after a high-school co-op placement with a local print brokerage, began to build a printing business in the basement of his family’s home. He initially designed and brokered print, developing a business model around the high-impact possibilities of modern production technology.

By 2004, Tewathia founded New Era Print Solutions and focused on adding value to print through special finishing treatments. He acquired New Era’s first major press in 2012 with a Heidelberg DI. This August, as he was in the process of doubling his shop’s space from 3,200 to 6,400 square feet, to accommodate a 29-inch, 5-colour Heidelberg press with coater, PrintAction spoke with Tewathia about his passion for print.



This article originally appeared in PrintAction's September 2015 issue.

Why have you invested in a 29-inch press?
VT: We already have one Heidelberg machine. We have windmills and letterpresses where we do all of the finishing, from foil stamping, embossing, offline UV, and the OPP laminations and more of the specialty stuff. So we are just expanding more on the production side… we are known as higher-end printers within our local community. So the whole point of us acquiring the machine is so we can take on more and more, not outsource as much and be cost effective for the current brokers that we are dealing with.

Why focus on high-end print?
VT: Everybody knows how to get a quick postcard, business card or flyer done, but a lot of people get stumped or have questions when it comes to creating something with a foil stamp or adding a finish or some sort of elegance to the job.

Starting from the age of 17 and coming up in this industry, you are young and see how traditional technologies can be married with new technologies, so you just try to create something different and use new looks and feels.

Why print instead of digital media?
VT: We are in both. Print has been the stronger revenue for me. It is kind of where I started… I did a lot of the design for free [in the beginning] just to get the work flowing, incorporating it into my print price. What I find today is that digital is becoming more and more over-saturated and people want that tangible good in their hands and that is why we went the route of specialty and high-end finishing versus just everyday print production.

How significant was the DI press purchase?
VT: Purchasing the DI was probably the best move we have ever made… it is probably why we are in the position to now acquire the 5-colour Heidelberg. Without the DI, I just had a digital machine and we were outsourcing so I would always have to gang things up on a bigger sheet. It was very tough to offer different stocks and types of jobs, outside of just ganging things up and trying to make a profit.

How will the 29-inch format help New Era?
VT: A lot of the work I outsource now is to 40-inch machines and I find this is a happy medium to bridge the gap between outsourcing jobs and keeping them in-house. I am hoping the Speedmaster will allow us to do pretty much 95 percent of our work in-house... we definitely anticipate becoming a lot more profitable.

How will the facility expansion help?
VT: Right now in our one side we have the DI, three letterpresses, offline UV coater, OPP laminator, a folder and our cutter, with a whole bunch of skids and paper on the floor. We are now putting the press on the other [newly expanded] side with all of the paper, which will give us an easier workflow and customer-pick up area on the  current side.

Why do you have such optimism for print?
VT: Everybody has new challenges and new things they want to do and I always feel like we are helping them out. Sure, printing is a tangible good, but I also feel like it is a service industry because you are serving people who have needs on a daily and weekly basis… to be honest that is what drives me all of the time… driving for success, trying to get bigger and better companies through our door.

What key print challenges are you finding?
VT: A lot of the market is underselling and undercutting each other and the truth is if the bigger companies put their heads together and stabilize costing I think it would really revive where print can go in the next five to 10 years. I think print is being undervalued and that is a  significant challenge.

What is the risk with this new press?
VT: It is just over a half-million-dollar investment… the biggest one we have made thus far. It is the most critical time, being at an age where I am, but I feel it is going to get us over the next hump in business.

Why invest in offset, and not digital toner?
VT: Offset is traditionally what I have been dealing with for the last 14 years… I still feel like it is going to be almost impossible to replace conventional offset machines. There is still going to be a need for bulk work and specialty work; and you are still very limited when it comes to digital machines. The investment on a brand new digital machine to me is too risky... I know what I can produce, create and generate with this offset machine.

Friday, 15 January 2016

Craig Riethmacher grew up surrounded by the business of large-format printing, with his father being one of the founding shareholders of Middleton Group back in 1952. Middleton today is a unique printing operation in Canada, based on its move into merchandising more than a decade ago and a continuing drive to deliver the rich quality of screen printing through two massive, 4-colour, UV-enabled inline presses, and four single colours.

Middleton was also among the country’s first screen printers to dive into inkjet printing, taking on a 4-bed-per-hour Inca Eagle 44 press in 2005, followed three years later by a 10-bed-per-hour Columbia Turbo. In late-2010, Riethmacher led Middleton’s purchase of a massive Agfa M-Press Tiger press, which produces up to 170 beds per hour.

In March of this year, Middleton replaced its Columbia Turbo, after running it for seven years, with Canada’s first Inca Onset R40-LT UV inkjet press. Before touring the company’s impressive 50,000-square-foot printing plant, Riethmacher sat down with PrintAction to discuss the growth and direction of Middleton Group.

The following article was originally published in PrintAction June 2015 issue.

Historically, what was the largest technology jump for Middleton?

CR: When I worked on the presses we switched from solvent-based inks to UV inks. That was a really big jump, because it just changed everything. It changed all of our equipment and all of our processes.

What were the early days of digital like?
CR: The speed was horrible compared to screen-printing, so it was really limited in the beginning... But it was beautiful when it came out – just so slow. The biggest bonus was the lack of prepress compared to screen.

Why did you invest in the new Inca?
CR: The Inca is so good for us because of the type of work that we do; having to do those thick substrates and edge-to-edge printing and now we can do whites and spot gloss clears, so it is a really good press and it fits our shop.

How much has printing white advanced?
CR: It is great. We are screen printers so we have had that luxury of doing digital and putting a screen ink on the back or vice versa, but you still run into some weird curing issues... We went through a good amount of R&D on that, so to be able to just send in a sheet and have it come out with white on is great.

Will digital inkjet replace screen?
CR: Ten years from now if they keep going as they have in the last 10 years, we are going to be running some pretty speedy digital presses. I don’t think you will ever replace screen 100 percent, but it will get close. I do feel there will always be a place for screen.

What percentage of your work is screen versus inkjet?
CR: We do more digital. I would say probably 60/40. It is very much quantity related too. Larger jobs that are over 500-plus sheets tend to go screen – depending on what the job looks like. Sometimes we will look at the artwork and realize it is going to be very difficult to produce screen, like some jobs with fine light colours that have really low percentage tones where we are going to pull our hair out trying to achieve colour, so we just put them on the digital press.

How important is print today at Middleton?
CR: We are definitely not just a printer anymore with all the permanent display work we do, but we still like to boast that we are a pretty darn good printer. We always have been and I think we always will be about quality. We will take the extra step to make sure our quality is well above average before it goes out the door.

Do you feel the competition of commercial printers getting into wide-format inkjet?
CR: Yes – when we were just screen-printing, it was just us and three or four other big competitors. That became five or six as digital started and now there are people with [digital] in their garages, nipping away at things.

There are so many types of digital. So, what we tried to do here was not become a so-called digital shop where we have other processes like roll-to-roll. We buy digital equipment that compliments our screen print and it makes us a better large-format printer – better at what we do best and what we sell best.

Will you scale up the R40-LT over time?
CR: We have the M-Press, which really pounds out the prints and it wasn’t that we were looking for another print pounder… The LT was perfect for us because it is four times faster than the Turbo. Even at the base model and quality is exactly the same whether you have the full R40 or not. We will definitely be looking to scale up the press moving forward.

How much of your sales is from merchandising versus print?
CR: I would say about a 60/40 split with printing still being higher… Print is very competitive. We are going to get what we can, but if we really want to grow our business we have to grow it on the merchandising side, while still being a great print provider. That is really where our focus is... helping the bottom line.

Friday, 08 January 2016
Mary Ann Yule is to assume the role of Managing Director of HP Canada Co. on February 15, 2016, responsible for all aspects of HP operations in Canada. She succeeds Lloyd Bryant, who retired as President and CEO of HP Canada in December 2015 after a distinguished career with the company in a range of progressively senior sales, management and general management roles.

Yule joins HP Inc. from CDW Canada where most recently she was the Vice President and General Manager since 2008. In this role, she was responsible for driving business growth and national brand recognition. Prior to joining CDW Canada, Yule served in various senior management and key marketing positions at Toshiba of Canada and Tech Data Canada. She brings nearly 20 years of leadership experience in the Canadian technology sector.

"Mary Ann brings incredible passion and energy to our business," said Christoph Schell, President, Americas, HP Inc. "I am extremely excited to welcome her to HP and my direct staff. I have no doubt we will achieve new heights in Canadian markets under her leadership.”
Thursday, 07 January 2016
Friesens of Altona, Manitoba, began to install its new 73-inch manroland R900 HiPrint XXL perfecting press in March on its way to building one of the world’s most-efficient pressrooms (originally published in PrintAction September 2015).

The town of Altona in southern Manitoba holds slightly more than 4,000 people in an economic landscape primarily driven by farming- and agriculture-based businesses, as well as the manufacture of books. In early March, the town became home to one of the world’s three 8-colour, 73-inch manroland R900 HiPrint XXL perfecting presses, which Friesens Corporation is leveraging for short-run book work.

Most presses of this size are saved for the packaging sector, where perfecting is usually not needed to print on both sides of the substrate. Of course, Friesens’ press also required significant inline colour management tools to deal with a massive sheet that will often hold 64 unique and different pages at one time. The company is well known by other printers for its near-spotless pressroom and by North American publishers for its ability to print short-run, colour-intensive works of art.

“I never want to lose the underdog mentality that has existed as part of the fabric of this company for 107 years. We are in the middle of nowhere, but that just breeds ingenuity and hard work,” says Curwin Friesen, CEO of Friesens Corp., which provides an ownership model for its approximate 600 employees, tying the highly respected book manufacturer even closer to the community.

When the R900 arrived in Altona by dozens of tractor-trailers, it was too large for Friesens’ shipping bays and the company needed cut a massive hole into the side of the building for direct entry into what would become a newly configured pressroom. Installed, the press is  approximately 100 feet long and weighs half a million pounds. Before commissioning the press in July, celebrated with a ribbon-cutting ceremony with hundreds of staff members and around 75 dignitaries, Friesens conducted three and half months of set up and testing.

Form efficiency
The decision to go with the R900 was made a little more than a year ago, after first discussing the possibilities of moving to very large format technology at the drupa 2012 trade show in Germany. It would be a challenge to handle such a large sheet and perfect it without marking, which can be a technical struggle even with 40-inch perfectors.

“It is very much an efficiency play and a progression from where we have moved in our history,” says Friesen. The company began working 8-page signatures, four pages on each side of a sheet sent through the press twice, drying twice before folding. When press technology improved the crew moved to a machine printing 16-page signatures, again twice through. “In the late-80s, we went to 50-inch format when others were on 40-inch format and that allowed us to go to a 32-page, 8 ½ x 11 signature.” The press sheets still traveled twice through the press, but the company’s 50-inch machines were printing a 64-page children’s book with just two sheets and four make-readies.

The new 8-colour, 73-inch manroland R900 perfector allows Friesens to print a 64-page children’s book with one sheet and one make-ready. The relative efficiency of the new press, over the 50-inch machines, is increased by anywhere from 300 to 400 percent, with a more precise number expected after more time with the R900 reveals figures like wastage, press speed, and finely-tuned make-ready – with the latter number ending up slightly more than a quarter of 50-inch machine make-ready.

“There are hardly any book manufactures in North America who are running 50s and almost none overseas. It is basically a 40-inch world and we live in the 50-inch world and now we are trying to live in the 73-inch world,” says Friesen. “Is it more efficient – absolutely. Are we excited about the productivity numbers we are starting to see – you bet we are. Since the ribbon cutting, every week is getting better and our crews are getting more familiar with it, more comfortable.”

Pressroom build
The multi-million-dollar technology investment included the purchase of a massive Maxson Automatic Machinery Co. precision sheeter, because Friesens has traditionally converted its own stock, which now sits about 15 feet in front of the press.

A new large-format platesetter – about 65 feet long in its own controlled positive air space – is also close by and integrated with robotics to move the massive 73 x 50-inch plates – in addition to 50-inch plates – through the imaging process, before a specialized conveyor is wheeled about 10 feet to modified catwalk rails where crews finally touch the plates for mounting on the R900.

The manroland R900 configuration is also unique because Friesens’ management decided to maintain its bindery set-up for 32-page signatures, resulting in an inline slitter system integrated with the new press, as well as the continuing interest in 50-inch machines. “One of the other things unique about this press is that we put an engineered pit underneath it, so we have better access and that is not done anywhere else in the world,” says Friesen, noting how much the company’s mechanics were involved in the R900 investment project.

“The beauty of it is that we were starting from scratch and our goal was to create the most-efficient pressroom in the world and everything mirrors this mindset,” says Friesen.

Market matters
Despite its massive size, the efficiency of the press and pressroom allows for incredibly short runs of around 4,000 books and up, with an ideal range at around 10,000. “We are a short-run book manufacturer that is what we specialize in within our book division,” says Friesen. The company already produces long runs that may measure around 100,000, but the R900 also presents a new opportunity to provide sheetfed press quality on some lower-end Web offset press speeds.

“Books are not DVDs. Books are not music. Books are different. As we see with business cards, some players in the market believe that business cards are going to be around forever and they certainly do not seem like they are going away,” says Friesen. “One large player has also used large format on short-run business cards to change the game.”

Friesens generates approximately 55 percent of its revenue from the U.S., which Friesen has noticed picking up because of the lower dollar, and 45 percent domestically. Based on various avenues of research, he notes the book market has been very stable for the past five years, to the point where independent bookstores are growing for the first time in a decade. Friesen explains it appears the concentration of e-readers has hit a saturation point in North America. “E-books have their niche and have an important role in the book business, but not the only role,” he says. “Publishers see that sales are bearing that out and so we continue to believe there is a strong future for books.”

Friesen describes one recent report from Deloitte based on polling a sample of 18 to 24 year olds who exhibited a strong propensity toward printed books. “Despite the fact that they live in a digital world they still like print for a bunch of reasons.” Friesen is also noticing more on-shoring of book printing, relating that many publishers are returning to North American printers instead of having the work done in China.

The trend is driven by much busier Chinese ports and the need for shorter turnaround times, as well as more preference to print lower run totals; for example, two 5,000 jobs instead of 10,000 at once. Friesen explains it is not in a printer’s best interest to print 10,000 books and have the publisher only sell 2,000. “Is China still going to be a big printing force – absolutely – but if five percent of that business returns, or 10 percent, on a billion-dollar industry, that is significant.”

In addition to its strong roots in yearbook production, typically with runs measured in the hundreds, self publishing is a growing sector for Friesens, through its FriesenPress division that sells packages – potentially with editing, copywriting, designing and proofreading services in addition to printing – that might cost around $3,500 run on digital presses instead of $15,000 via litho.

“We believe that we are going to be in books for a long, long time and if we are going to be in books then we better be geared up for it and not just dabbling,” says Friesen, projecting a relatively stable market for at least the next decade. A little more than five years ago, however, Friesens’ managers were tasked with expanding the company’s interest in packaging, which resulted in think4D, consisting of around 40 employees.

After purchasing a Toronto company and related patents, and investing a few million into R&D, think4D is a unique operation in the world that marries thermoforming and printing.  “We found thermoforming and print were two different worlds,” says Friesen. “With some of the technologies we were researching, we thought that we could combine those worlds. Why not print on the plastic and then thermoform that piece out of the plastic already printed.”

This innovation in packaging is built from a culture that developed over decades by leveraging technology to innovate the process of manufacturing books. “It isn’t always just the numbers we paint on press at times. There are efficiencies and robotics and workflow… yet the product we are producing is an art piece, often at the end of a creative chain.”

Tuesday, 22 September 2015
For the first time in North America, Agfa Graphics will be demonstrating the new Anapurna M2540i FB printing system at Consac sign and graphics tradeshow running in Mississauga at the International Centre on September 25 and 26, 2015.

The Anapurna M2540i FB system on the booth will be a 6-colour plus white UV-curable flatbed system, which reaches printing speeds of up to up to 93 m2/h (1,001 ft2/hr). Agfa explains the M2540i, with its moving gantry flatbed, is well suited for both step-and-repeat work and for printing on a range of media sizes at one time.

Demonstrations of the Anapurna M2540i FB at Consac will include the following printing applications: Second surface printing, sandwich white (colour, white, colour); multilayer printing (colour, colour, white); and second surface, 2-sided printing on clear substrates to illustrate how to print an image to be read correctly on the front and back (colour, white, blackout, white, colour).

Agfa continues to explain the flatbed system can run a range of indoor and outdoor medias, as well as on uncoated rigid media like corrugated boards, rigid plastics, plexiglass, mirrors, exhibition panels, wood, aluminum, MDF, stage graphics, and advertising panels. In addition to the Anapurna M2540i FB, Agfa will also be demonstrating the Esko Kongsberg V24 cutting table.
Tuesday, 01 September 2015

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).
 

Tuesday, 01 September 2015
Lynn Worley joins Gandy Digital as National Sales Manager to develop the company’s wide-format-system footprint in North America. Worley spent the past 18 years at xpedx in a range of roles and recently as a Print Solutions Manager with Veritiv Corporation focusing on wide format technology.

“I am excited to start a new challenge with Gandy Digital and look forward to working with the team to further develop their already extensive digital printer products,” said Worley.

Gandy Digital is headquartered in the Greater Toronto Area and has more than 35 years experience developing and manufacturing inkjet-printing technologies. Its primary inkjet machines include the Pred8tor, Domin8tor and Gladi8tor, which are all designed and manufactured in a 40,000-square-foot Mississauga facility, while its software is engineered in the United States.

“We view his appointment as a sign of our commitment to being the leading company in our industry,” said Hary Gandy, President of Gandy Digital. “Our new innovations such as the SoftJet Direct to Fabric Printer and the introduction of our Sl8te LED Printers, as well as increasing demand from our customers led us to look for an addition to our team who will fit in with our ethos of innovation and exceptional service.”
Thursday, 27 August 2015

William Li, Color Technology Manager for Eastman Kodak, will lead what he describes as a historic meeting taking place next week at Ryerson University in Toronto. Open to Canada’s printing public for their input, the September 3 meeting is to focus on the direction of the emerging ISO TC130 standards for printing and colour quality, which is critical to the near-future interests of Canadian printers and technology suppliers.

As Canadian Chair of the ISO TC130 Technical Advisory Group, Li explains the September 3 event will mark the first, in-person meeting of its kind to plan how Canada’s printing industry can impact the use of global standards relating to colour management.

Over the past few years, European organizations like Fogra, as well as IDEALliance in the United States, have become strong forces in directing the technical basis of colour management. Li explains Canadian printers need to take action now to serve their own interests as printing continues to move more rapidly across borders.

The meeting is to begin at 9:00 am in the HEI Boardroom of the downtown building housing Ryerson’s Graphic Communications Management program. After introductions, Li, who is based out of Kodak’s Vancouver facility, will provide an overview of the issues surrounding ISO TC130.

Lasting until approximately 4:00 pm, the agenda will also cover standards currently being put on the table by the various technical groups around the world; Canada’s position prior to an important fall meeting in Seoul, Korea; and the mechanics of how the Canadian Technical Advisory Group should proceed.

Participation by Canadian printers is encouraged through an This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .


Tuesday, 28 July 2015

In addition to announcing the availability of the Pro C7100 press line earlier this month, Ricoh has introduced enhancements to ProcessDirector and InfoPrint Manager software, which fit into the company’s Critical Communications portfolio.

ProcessDirector can now integrate multi-channel capabilities, such as email and electronic presentment, while InfoPrint Manager adds Linux support. ProcessDirector users can send customers all or part of a job’s documents via email. Emailed documents can be set to dynamically pull key information into subject lines, arranging the message in the manner most useful to the reader.

With the updated software, users can set separate versions for different audiences, such as internal help desk and external customers, with different kinds of information available. The system utilizes preset AFP forms that are dynamically filled in at time of printing, so users no longer have to store preprinted forms.

Ricoh, in July, also announced the availability of the Pro C7100 press line, which was unveiled in September 2014. The four-colour Pro C7100, available in both printer/scanner and printer-only configurations, features an AC-transfer system and elastic fusing belt technology to enhance output on heavily textured media like vellum and linen, explains the company.

The press reaches speeds of up to 90 pages per minute, handling a maximum sheet size of 13 x 19.2 inches, with a monthly volume of 240,000 based on A4. Using Ricoh’s new vacuum feed LCT, the press has an option for oversized prints of up to 27.5 inches in length.

The press also features a sheet-to-sheet mechanical registration system that squares the sheet prior to imaging, adjustable from the user interface. It also holds a media library that allows users to adjust and associate different parameters per substrate to help ensure IQ and reliability. A self-contained liquid cooling system keeps the developer at a constant temperature and minimizes disruptions in extended production runs.