Plastic film manufacturer American Renolit Corp. (ARC) is introducing what it describes as more environmentally friendly non-phthalate versions to its range of digital printing films, suitable for indoor and outdoor printing applications.
Published in Substrates
At an international awards festival celebrating the creative and marketing communications industry, a new collaboration is showcasing how labels and packaging can impact in a personal and memorable way.
Published in Application
Canon Canada today hosted an open house for printers, creative professionals, designers and photographers to explore the company’s latest print technology in its 5,000-square-foot interactive showroom at its corporate Canadian headquarters in Brampton, Ont.
Published in Headlines
Last Thursday more than 400 people attended the 36th annual Gala Gutenberg at the ballroom of the Bonsecours Market in Montreal to celebrate excellence in print achievement. In total, 15 trophies were awarded to a range of printing industry companies from the province of Quebec. This year’s gala included the Coup de Coeur Award again, where attendees were invited to vote for their favourite piece at the cocktail party.
Published in Headlines
Sydney Stone, a Canadian distributor of print-finishing equipment, supplies, services and technical expertise to clients worldwide, has been named Morgana Systems’ top worldwide dealer for 2017. The firm has been a Morgana dealer since the early 1980s.
Published in Headlines
While manufacturers around the world have reached new heights in technology adoption and equipment innovation, there are still many pain points that hinder optimization, efficiency and even safety on the plant floor.
Published in Management
Overall growth in dollar value terms for packaging was depressed for the years spanning the middle of the decade – although this is largely attributable to relative strength of the dollar against other currencies across that period. Still in 2017, value reached US$851.1 billion, a 2.8 percent growth compared to 2016 at constant prices. This steady expansion is anticipated to continue across the next five years, rising slightly to 2.9 percent year-on-year across this period, to reach $980.4 billion in 2017.
Published in Headlines
It was once said, “Don’t reinvent the wheel – just realign it.” As print customers increasingly seek to improve their environmental footprint and their company’s social responsibility ranking, relevant information can be gleaned from other sectors’ sustainability efforts.
Published in Environment
HP Inc. has announced two new six-colour PageWide ultra high-volume inkjet web presses for pre-print corrugated packaging, the HP PageWide T1190 and HP PageWide T1170, described as delivering higher productivity and quality for digital packaging presses.
Published in Production Inkjet
Esko has extended its portfolio of solutions with Text Recognition, a new plug-in for Adobe Illustrator that aims to make last-minute copy changes to outlined text fast, safe and simple.
Published in Software
Best Deal Graphics and Printing, a trade printer located in Scarborough, Ont., has recently added a second Komori 40-inch press to its lineup of equipment. The 16,000 sheets-per-hour press is being installed by Komcan Inc. and is expected to be operational within the next week.
Published in Installations
Canada’s national statistical agency Statistics Canada recently installed a Standard/Horizon automated AFC-564A folding system in its print department.
Published in Installations
Ultimate TechnoGraphics, a Montreal, Quebec-based company specializing in imposition and finishing automation, has announced the new Ultimate Impostrip configurator for Enfocus Switch, developed in collaboration with software distributor and system integrator Impressed Germany.
Published in Software
Xerox says it is introducing “another first” in the world of print — the only digital press that can print metallic gold or silver dry ink, CMYK and clear dry ink in a single pass. Announced today, the Iridesse Production Press is described as a high-speed, six-station colour press that combines four-colour printing with up to two specialty dry inks in one printing pass, eliminating the multiple presses and processes usually required for print embellishments, Xerox says.
Published in Digital Printing
After being elected head of Ontario’s Progressive Conservative (PC) Party on March 10, Doug Ford now stands to become Premier of Ontario if his party wins the June 7 provincial election. “Our focus will be on straightening out the finances of this province,” he said, two days after his leadership victory. “We’re going to reduce hydro rates, start attracting high-paying jobs... and make this the most-prosperous region of North America.”
Published in Profiles
DATA Communications Management (DCM) has entered into an agreement to acquire privately-held Perennial Group of Companies for a total purchase price of roughly $12 million. DCM has arranged a $12-million non-revolving term loan facility, of which $7 million will be used to fund the upfront cash component of the acquisition.
Published in Headlines
On May 4, Ontario Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Dowdeswell visited the Xerox Research Centre of Canada’s innovation hub in Mississauga, Ont., which aims to help foster Canadian innovation and advanced materials manufacturing breakthroughs.
Published in Headlines
Massivit 3D, a provider of large format 3D printing solutions, has appointed Kevin Sykes president for North America.
Published in Appointments
Kodak says its new InSite Prepress Portal 9.0 (IPP) features a new user interface that delivers a “simplified, intuitive and real-time proofing experience”. Designed to reduce cycle time, IPP offers 24/7 access to communication and job status, which Kodak says minimizes traditional proofing requirements while decreasing costs.
Published in Software
Avanti has announced the integration of its Slingshot’s Print MIS software to BCC Software’s BCC Mail Manager postal software, a USPS CASS/PAVE certified platform.
Published in Software
In a statement issued late Tuesday, Xerox announced it reached an agreement with shareholders Carl Icahn and Darwin Deason to resolve a pending proxy contest and ongoing litigation related to the company’s proposed combination with Fuji Xerox Co. Ltd., a subsidiary of Fujifilm, which would allow Fujifilm to take the controlling interest in Xerox.
Published in Headlines
Deep inside our Howard Iron Works Museum sits an odd looking offset press. Cast in the frame the words Komori along with the once familiar Bat logo. I managed to finagle this press from the hands of an English dealer. It took years to finally pony up enough cash to get him to sell it to me. For he was a lifelong Komori man and took great pride in having this press displayed in his factory. I was told it was built in 1928, but as hard as I tried, I was never able to verify this.

We had to make a couple gears for it. So after measuring we were all surprised to learn this little machine was built to imperial measurements and not metric. Why such interest? Container Corp.’s director of research said it best: “If you don’t remember the past. And are not conscious of the present, you have no future.” There are literally thousands of lessons to be learned and amazing stories to be told about our industry’s pioneers. Komori is but one excellent example.

Early Tokyo years
You don’t learn much about the early days for this Tokyo-based company and, as with all Japanese engineering firms, Komori is extremely careful with its reputation. It all started on October 20, 1923, when Komori Machinery Works was formed as a private business. The print world was just awakening to the new phenomenon called offset lithography and Komori seemed to take the position – quite rare in Japanese manufacturing – to enter an immature market instead of building what everyone else was, namely letterpress machines.

As near as I can research, the press we have, which is hand-fed, is a near clone of either the British Furnival or American R. HOE. After the U.S. discovery in 1904, lithographic offset sprang to life in Japan. Prior to 1920, the Harris Automatic Press Company had sold several machines into the empire and to rave reviews. Most likely companies like Komori had taken notice.

During the early 1920s, few westerners knew anything about the Japanese. Besides the arts-and-crafts business, Japan exported very little and travel was rare. In 1925, Komori’s first produced machine was a Planographic hand press (stone printing). This was a copy of America’s Fuchs & Lang lithographic press and of a very simple design. By 1928, Komori built a 32-inch hand-fed offset press – similar to the press in our museum. Early designs stemmed from duplication of English and American machines.

The Komori firm was run by the Komori family who today continue to control a large portion of its equity. The next three decades were rather uneventful and with the country’s military action in Manchuria, soon followed by entry into World War II, Japan was systematically locked out of technological developments that were taking place in America, Britain and Europe. Komori could only sit and watch while they busied themselves servicing the antiquated Japanese printing industry, as well as making attachments to allow automatic feeding of hand-fed machines.

In a 1997, a World Bank report explained, that after World War II, Japan lagged far behind the west technologically and didn’t compete internationally, but imported technology, which allowed them to enter a high-speed growth period referred to as the Gerschenkron model. This means it was a latecomer enjoying the accumulation of innovations developed in advanced countries. The Japanese word Manabu (to learn) and Manebu (to imitate) are key elements in all well respected Japanese manufacturer’s early beginnings. Komori was no exception and, considering its factory was destroyed by fire during the war, the company had few options but to rebuild, accumulate knowledge and try again. By December 28, 1946, Komori Machinery Works was finally incorporated into a joint-stock or public company.

By 1952, big things started to happen. Komori had finally built an automatic feed offset press. This press was fitted with the American Dexter feeder and delivered to Kyodo Printing Company. By 1956, one of its very first presses, a model KW-2 with a sheet size of 26 x 39 inches was exported to Canada. It went to Montreal.  Years later that press made its way to the Quebec city of Sherbrooke and by the late 1970s sold again to a printer in Oakville, Ontario. It was scrapped in the early 1980s. In 1957, Komori Currency was started and a range of Intaglio Simultan-like presses were established. Komori presses have printed Japan’s banknotes ever since much to the chagrin of KBA-Giori.

The company continued to develop products, releasing a four-colour UM-4C in 1957, a five-colour in 1961 and a six-colour in 1963. That same year saw the introduction of the Kony and the Unikom models. Later the monster Kosmo, a unitized press built in the 45- and 50-inch formats, was launched. Komori marketed the Kony Super 9, then Super 10, in North America and Europe, but not the Kosmo.

Opening up Japan
The 1950s opened up Japan as much as the constrained government would allow. This proved beneficial to all manufacturers as many set sail for the engineering capitals of the world. Komori did the same, for the company was already well known in Japan. The period between 1950 and 1970 was an enigmatic time for most westerners when they viewed Japanese industry. In the graphic arts a scattering of firms made mostly facsimiles of almost everything. Even in the early 1970s, the famed English Wharfdale letterpress was still being manufactured in Japan. Hitachi Seiko also made a copy of the Heidelberg OHC cylinder press. As Japanese industrialization geared up, there was a lot going on besides cars and transistor radios.

Aside from a few exports there remained no western market for Japanese printing equipment. In fact, Germany never seemed too concerned about licencing technology to fledgling engineering firms. Sumitomo – a very large corporation – was building Miller-Johannisberg presses. Yoshino, perfect binding and trimming machines from Sheridan and Martini. Even KBA had its little KRO Rapida made for a while by Ryobi. But Japan did have its close neighbours and equipment flowed all over the area from China and Korea to Indonesia and the Philippines. Komori slowly carved out a market even though by the early 70s Mitsubishi, Ryobi, Shinohara, Fuji, Sakurai and Akiyama were playing in the same sandbox. Especially in the domestic market, Mitsubishi MHI proved to be a constant irritant and major competitor. Heidelberg continues to be a major presence in Japan to this day.

But few were building web presses. In 1970, Komori entered this market with the first of its blanket-to-blanket System series presses – System 25. Besides TKS, Hitachi and Toshiba, few dared competing in this segment. Goss for many years had some of its newspaper presses built here and the locals seemed to always prefer machines from the west. The 546-mm cut-off remains a favoured size in Japan and most of Asia and Komori catered to this cut-off, continuing to build this size today.   

Also in 1970 someone must have seen the MAN or ColorMetal back printer. Komori added this feature to its Kosmo presses as an option. The back printer, or as Komori called it, reverse printer (RP), became a mainstay and well received addition. The RP continued with the Lithrone and won orders in carton printing for heavy board perfecting without the difficulty of building a perfector.

1970 was indeed a big year. Not only did Komori’s web program arrive, but this was the year of the Sprint series. The Sprint was a 25-inch press that started off as a one- and two-colour and then in 1971 a four-colour. These presses caught fire and featured a German Mabeg Jr. feeder head and electronic in-feed controls made by Omron (now house built as Eyekom).  The Sprint series was so popular that it remained in production for more than 35 years. Press operators found it easy to run and it had very creative ancillaries over the years like delivery controlled plate register and Komorimatic continuous flow dampening. The later would graduate to the full line of sheetfeds and web presses. In 1976, the company name was changed to Komori Printing Machinery Co. Ltd.

Komori’s real breakthrough year was 1981. In that year, after exhaustive study and research, Komori came out with a press like no other, the Lithrone. This would be the moment German builders woke up and started to pay attention. What was this little company running out of three rather small manufacturing sites – Toride, Yamagata and Sekiyado – doing? And how could they possibly? I’m almost sure the former Heidelberg rebuild centre in Waldorf, Germany, was just a bit smaller than Toride.

Over the next four decades, starting with the Lithrone, Komori would drive a range of innovations into the press-building world with offset innovations, factory builds, metals, and now inkjet system transports and partnerships.

Lithrone impact
To get a grasp of the monumental changes that were brought by the engineer design of Komori’s new Lithrone platform in 1981, you must look back to 1965 and a company known as Planeta, in the former East Germany. Planeta was also rather isolated, locked behind The Iron Curtain, but the press maker had some brilliant ideas. Few in the rest of West Germany and Europe paid much attention when Planeta launched its Variant press platform, but Komori certainly did. The Japanese press maker quickly saw the benefits of the double-size impression and transfer cylinders on the Variant. Although the Kosmo was a unitized press, the Kony was a bit of a discombobulation of upper and lower unitized units. Komori saw the light and embraced the Planeta Variant’s forward-thinking unitized double-size cylinder design. Planeta is now a part of Koenig & Bauer.

Not everything Planeta was borrowed. Komori retained the upper swing arm first used on Miehles, then Rolands, and made its own version of the Mabeg feeder head and essentially improved or re-engineered every part of the Planeta design principles with a press that remains today as a watershed beacon of Komori engineering achievement. And it was fast. At 13,000 iph, the Lithrone eclipsed both Roland and Heidelberg by 3,000 iph in 1981. I could go on and on about various features but suffice to say the Lithrone made Komori what it is today. Twenty-six-, 28-, 44- and 50-inch Lithrones would soon enter production.

During the early 1980s, the packaging industry soon discovered the benefits of using aqueous coatings instead of varnishes. Komori became the first to build a factory tower coater. True – Planeta had done so earlier but these were simply printing units less the inker. Komori fashioned its own three-roll coating apparatus and followed Planeta’s lead by offering extended deliveries. Unless you ordered a hollow transfer Lithrone, however, running short-grain carton was not ideal. Both the solid and skeleton, or hollow cylinder, still only allowed substrates of up to .032 inches (0.8 mm). Roland and Heidelberg (1986) already eclipsed this and of course Planeta had the widest range up to 1.4mm or over .050 inches. This is why even today Koenig & Bauer still carries the reputation as the ultimate carton press. In 2017, when every manufacturer can essentially run the same caliper of board (including Komori), Planeta’s early penetration into that market continues to pay dividends for Koenig & Bauer.

Buoyed by its strong sales – especially into the U.S. and Europe, Komori pushed to acquire the Harris Graphics Corporation in 1988. In fact, Komori had made what it assumed to be a deal with the principle owner AM International, and even released a press statement confirming the acquisition. At that time, Harris web division was a leader in commercial and insert printing web systems. When the dust settled, however, Komori was trumped at the final hour by Heidelberger Druckmaschinen. No doubt anger sidelined Komori executives, but not for long as Komori swooped in to buy the small French specialist packaging narrow-web manufacturer Chambon. In retrospect, considering the depressing state of the web-offset business today, Komori may have been done a favour.

It’s in the metal
Komori grasped another sales tool. When Japanese exports took off in the early 1970s, the West handed out the moniker of “Japanese Junk,” from early cars that would rust away to machinery that would break from poor foundry methods. There were a lot of consumer products leaving Japan that had only one saving grace – price. This story is an old one and we have seen it reappear again with China’s entry onto the world stage. In short, made-in-Japan in 1970 meant inferior goods at very cheap prices. It’s incredible to consider how this has changed in less than 50 years.

I don’t know about you, but I can go for days without thinking about cast iron. But to machine builders, it’s a very important topic. Komori was well aware of the uphill battle it faced trying to export a machine that was about 80 percent cast iron. In fact just about every heavy machinery exporter did too.

Nebiolo S.p.A. of Italy faced the same backlash. With a tarnished reputation, Nebiolo turned to Meehanite to prove to the world their cast was as good as any. So Komori did a smart thing. Komori’s major castings come from a company called Kasakura Metech Co. and Kasakura became a certified Meehanite foundry in 1981, although its roots go back to 1919. Meehanite is a process to increase the quality of grey castings. It was developed back in the 1920s by the Ross Meehan Foundry in Chattanooga, Tennessee.  Meehanite Corporation was formed to, among other things, license third parties to use the technology which essentially increased the Perlite and removed Ferrite from the cast, strengthening it.

Heidelberg, which owns its own foundry, already had a century of skill making superior castings, but Komori’s supplier was unknown outside Japan. Now Komori would emblazon their castings with the famous “M” logo in bas relief to show the world it could supply castings as strong as anyone. Ironically, Mitsubishi took a slightly different path when it did the unthinkable by having a non-Japanese company (Beiren of China), make much of theirs. Kasakura now has a foundry in China, too.

No one today should question the superior engineering of Komori presses. After all the upheaval in the offset business, Komori has remained the undisputed leader in Japan and one of the world’s top three press manufacturers in the world. Quite a feat for a company that always holds its cards close to the vest. Like Heidelberg, KBA and Manroland, Komori too finds the lithographic business dwindling from the highs of the 1990s as digital devices take more and more of offset’s position away.

Made in Japan and Israel
Landa Digital’s S10 press is already made up of Komori transport, coating and perfecting components. Komori signed an agreement with Landa to both provide traditional press components and also exclusively market its own version of the Landa S-10 as the Komori Impremia NS-40. Since there is no way yet to determine the success or failure of this platform, the industry sits and ponders if these very expensive Landa presses will be stars or dogs. Knowing Komori, I’d put my money on the former. However at eye-watering prices even as a success others will make that determination.

Konica Minolta also partnered with Komori on the smaller Impremia IS29. Komori even started selling its own guillotines in 2014. I didn’t really think the world needed another guillotine but... All the while Komori keeps selling new generation GL(X) 29- and 40-inch presses and perfectors to a satisfied user group of commercial printers. The crafty HUV-doped UV, which uses much less power and produces less heat, was a Komori-Iwasaki-EYE invention that for a brief few years had the market all to themselves. Now pretty much everyone has a low-energy UV alternative to offer.

Rarely first with new designs, Komori researches the market well. If a competitor’s leap is deemed important enough, you will see it worked into a Komori press. Just look at the up and over delivery from Manroland, vacuum feeder from Roland and Heidelberg, or even the Wallscreen and Inpress concepts from Heidelberg. They all made it into the Komori GL40 a few years later. There is also a flat line across all major press makers today as everyone makes an outstanding press.

Few know the inner workings behind the Japanese mystic, even fewer care. Mitsubishi MHI’s recent exiting of its sheetfed business, handing the keys to Ryobi, has not done much to eliminate a competitor. If, as many suspect, the Mitsubishi Web program may be shuttered or sold off entirely, the landscape may only alter inches not feet.

There is a source of puzzlement when benchmarking Made in Japan with the rest of the world. Certainly exporters are heavily supported by government incentives (as well as periodic tax benefits for the domestic market), and almost all Japanese branch units run lean with very low head counts. With such world-acclaimed products, some find it ironic that basic functions such as spare parts and communication vary greatly from region to region.  The Germans remain leaders with greater transparency in customer relations. In short, to outsiders it seems the only thing holding back Japanese companies is in fact themselves.

When Toyota was named the world’s largest car company in 2016, it might have been a statement that some in the automotive industry questioned. Not the fact that Toyota was the largest and so successful, but why it took them so long.    

Virtually every manufacturing segment has a Japanese company ranked at or near the top. Komori is no exception. The new super factory/assembly hall opened in 2003 in Tsukuba, Japan, was years in the planning and built with the next technology leap in mind. KANDO, the new catchword meaning, as Komori interprets: “Beyond Expectations... is an expression of who Komori wants to be and why it’s important to you.”

Every press manufacturer has a few product embarrassments in their closets. Some more than others. No one is exempt. In Komori’s case they have been rather fortunate in successfully dodging major blunders over its 94 years. Not only do they have a dedicated following but their management team has taken great pains to run a conservative, profitable world-class company.

The year 2018 marks Komori’s 95th year in business and a very good reason to celebrate a special company that from 1923 to now has been in the offset business almost exclusively.  You may not see Komori race out in front of the pack in a marathon, but you will sure see them at the finish line.
Published in Headlines
Transcontinental Inc. has announced specifics regarding the sale of some of its Quebec-based newspapers assets, a plan that was first made public in April 2017 when the company launched a process to sell all of its newspapers in Quebec and Ontario, which are controlled under the Montreal company’s TC Media operation. That move came just weeks after selling its newspaper assets in other provinces.

The Quebec and Ontario newspaper sales process, which Transcontinental expected to span several months, involves 93 local and regional publications and their related web properties, including the Métro Montreal newspaper.

Transcontinental is selling its two Drummondville-based publications, L'Express Wednesday Edition and L'Express Weekend, to a Canadian corporation in part led by the company’s former TC Media General Manager for this region, Dave Beaunoyer. The 19 employees of these newspapers are transferred to the new entity, along with four employees from TC Media's production team.

Six of the publications within TC Media’s newspaper sell-off announced last April are going to Gravité Média, a group that includes Julie Voyer, former General Manager at TC Media for the Montérégie region. These publications include: Le Journal Saint-François, Le Soleil de Châteauguay, Brossard Éclair, Le Courrier du Sud, L'information d'Affaires Rive-Sud, and Le Reflet (Delson).

The 55 employees of these publications are transferred to Gravité Média. In addition, nine employees from TC Media's production and finance teams will continue their careers with Gravité Média.

TC Media also announced the sale of its weekly Le Peuple Lotbinière to MELIORMÉDIA Inc. Three employees are transferred to the purchaser.
Published in Headlines
The Touch Bar in Apple’s new MacBook Pro melds with Adobe Create Suite and Photoshop 17 to provide a new way forward for premedia professionals.

Honestly? I’d expected to own a flying car by now. If not a flying car, at least a self-driving one, right? Instead I have to settle for Lane Change Warning and Apple CarPlay. And where is the ubiquitous artificial intelligence guiding and improving my everyday life? Siri and Alexa are fun to play with but hardly fill the bill as intelligent digital assistants. Seems like the future I was anticipating isn’t quite here yet!

For that reason, I’d tempered my expectations of the October 2016 Apple Keynote, held to roll out the new line of Macbook Pro laptops. To no one’s surprise, Apple Marketing VP Phil Schiller proudly extolled the virtues of the new Macbook Pro – thinner, faster, more graphics power and the sharpest Retina Display ever squeezed into a razor thin aluminum chassis. Additionally, Schiller boasted about the new Force Touch trackpad, twice as big as the previous iteration and the responsive 2nd-gen butterfly mechanism keyboard first introduced on last year’s Macbook.

Then Schiller coyly revealed the new Touch Bar: a narrow Retina resolution, multi-touch strip of glass replacing the function keys normally found at the top of every laptop keyboard. Schiller cleverly paused for a requiem to the underused function key that it replaced, a remnant of the earliest days of computing, before showing how the Touch Bar could revolutionize working with the Macbook Pro.

As one would expect, Touch Bar integration is baked-in to the latest Apple software ranging from Safari, Mail and GarageBand on the consumer end of the spectrum to Final Cut Pro at the high end. However, while impressive, Touch Bar integration into off the rack Apple apps wasn’t enough to tempt me to abandon my faithful 2012 Macbook Air.

But all that changed when Bradee Evans, Adobe’s Experience Design Manager for Photoshop, took the stage to preview Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 with Touch Bar support. “This new Macbook Pro and Photoshop are made for each other,” Bradee exclaimed. “This new addition of the Touch Bar really combines with the keyboard and the new giant trackpad to create this incredibly natural, expressive and powerful new way of working in Photoshop.”

During her demo, Bradee masked and combined images by accessing the Photoshop Select and Mask tool (found in the Select pull-down menu) directly from the Touch Bar. Once selected, the Touch Bar immediately displayed Select and Mask properties for easy adjustment while Bradee simultaneously worked on the image. In a non-Touch Bar workflow, users have to mouse or trackpad all over the place to access the menu, adjust the many parameters for the tool in the properties window, then mask the image – jumping back and forth between creative and technical activities.

Bradee was able to work much more intuitively by using her right had to carefully mask the image with the Macbook Pro’s sizable trackpad while adjusting tool properties on the Touch Bar with her left hand. She was able to resize brushes while masking in real time without ever taking her eyes off the image on the MBP Retina Display.

I have to admit, I was intrigued. As a Creative Cloud user, I was already eagerly anticipating the 2017 refresh of the venerable CC collection that forms the nucleus of my premedia workflow, but hadn’t considered that a Macbook Pro might be in the cards as well. After all, Creative Cloud subscribers receive the CC 2017 upgrade at no additional expense. On the other hand, moving to Apple’s Touch Bar enabled Macbook Pro line represents a substantial capital investment – one I would have to budget for. Adobe released their CC 2017 apps in January, but it took me until late April to lay my hands on a Touch Bar enabled Macbook Pro.

Photoshop 2017 for premedia
Gone are the days of the major, life-altering 18-24 month software upgrade cycle for those of us in the graphics world. With most design and layout dragons long since slain, Adobe has pragmatically chosen digital publishing and other forms of content delivery as their primary focus for innovation. In recent CC updates (including CC 2017), InDesign, Illustrator and Photoshop have seen steady, but modest improvement while other Creative Cloud applications get major upgrades.  

In addition to Touch Bar integration, Photoshop CC 2017 boasts new features geared towards productivity. For starters, the New Document window has been completely redesigned to display a wide variety of presets, templates and parameters. Additionally, users can search Adobe Stock for a plethora of pre-baked layouts available for purchase. Users can also create customized presets and templates to suit their specific workflow needs.

Photoshop’s search tool has been supercharged with access to Adobe Stock, and Adobe Learn. For example, if you search “Window” the results include instructions on how to minimize windows, create an application frame as well as a selection of images of windows in a wall available in Adobe Stock. The new Find Similar function can source a variety of Adobe Stock images based on any image in your library. Of course at any time users can opt for good, old fashioned search of their assets.

Adobe has made a number of other improvements to Photoshop including support for Open SVG fonts, a polygonal lasso tool and unspecified performance enhancements.

But the biggest perk for users of the latest Macbook Pro remains Touch Bar support for a variety of PS tools such as Layer Properties, Brushes and Favourites. Users can also uniquely configure the Touch Bar by adding their frequently used commands or deleting under-utilized functions. My favourite uses for the Touch Bar include being able to scrub through the history stages and blending modes when working with Layers.

InDesign and Illustrator 2017
Both InDesign and Illustrator have received a major UI refresh. To mitigate user eye strain, the interface has been modernized with an appealing flat look that is both easy to read and customizable to specific tastes. Users can now choose between Dark, Medium Dark, Medium Light, and Light for the UI and adjust the height of tabs in the working space to make them easier to read. Also, as with Photoshop, both InDesign and Illustrator have an overhauled New Document dialogue with access to a correspondingly wide range of presets, templates or Adobe Stock layouts.

Adobe’s page layout powerhouse saw only minor improvements in the CC 2017 update. InDesign has introduced some typographical tweaks with Open Type enhancements, including the ability to preview Open Type properties on single characters or all the content in a text frame. Additionally, fans of footnotes will be happy to hear that they can now Span Footnotes Across Columns by selecting it as an option. And if you ever wanted to scale your arrowheads independently of the stroke weight, your future has arrived!

Besides the UI overhaul, Illustrator has benefited from some new features including the ability to import text into a path or shape, as well as fill objects with Lorem Ipsum placeholder text by default. You can now also crop imported raster images as you would in Photoshop in addition to accessing a wide range of colour themes using the new Adobe Colour Themes panel for your design project.

Sadly, there doesn’t appear to be support for the Touch Bar in either of the current versions of Illustrator or InDesign.

Are we there yet?
Historically, innovation has come from vying for survival – the need for a company to compete for its very existence has driven some of the greatest advances in hardware and software. And while both Apple and Adobe have all but vanquished their closest rivals, both companies are continuing to innovate, albeit on their own schedules.

Realistically, Creative Cloud subscribers would continue to update their applications regardless of the new features, simply to keep their workflows current. Thankfully Adobe has maintained a steady pace of innovation by introducing new features on a regular basis rather than saving them for a major upgrade cycle. And for those still working with Creative Suite 6 (the last version you could own), each successive iteration of Creative Cloud ups the temptation factor.

As for Apple and the Touch Bar, the jury is still sequestered. I bought a new Macbook Pro because my aging Macbook Air was starting to struggle everyday tasks. And while I chose the Touch Bar model largely due to Adobe’s support in Photoshop I’m not sure that functionality alone would justify the additional expense. I am however, finding Touch Bar integration into Apple apps surprisingly useful and I’m relying on it more every day. But will Touch Bar fever hit InDesign and Illustrator? That remains to be seen.

Currently the number of MacBook Pro users who might benefit from further Touch Bar adoption by Adobe must be relatively small compared to their wider customer base. I think Apple would have to expand the technology to more of their product line, perhaps through a product like a Touch Bar Magic Keyboard, before Adobe and other developers would have the critical user mass needed to justify further development.

Should you run out and by a new top-of-the-line Macbook Pro for your Photoshop workflow? At this stage, I think it’s too early to tell whether Touch Bar is a fad or the way of the future. If the idea intrigues you, I suggest watching the Adobe demo before taking the plunge.
Published in Premedia
Brandtjen & Kluge Inc. has introduced the new ApexFoil foil stamping and diecutting press for small to medium format. The company states the technology provides innovations in application range, makeready and efficiency. The commercial release and first official exhibition for ApexFoil will be at PRINT 17 in Chicago this September.

“We were driven to develop the ApexFoil in response to customer feedback and a clear understanding of their evolving business needs,” said Michael Aumann, CEO of Kluge. “The functionality of this innovative new product will allow for better efficiency and more output in an ever-changing workflow environment driven by digital print technology.”

Kluge explains operators can use the ApexFoil’s Compass control system that includes patented features to control time, temperature and tonnage, which the company describes as three key properties of foil stamping. Kluge explains Compass allows operators to greatly reduce, and in some cases eliminate, job makeready.

ApexFoil also includes sliding Clearview interlocking safety guards, a PLC touchscreen interface, a multi-point LED lighting package and high-performance Delrin work surface. The programmable foil system that can hold a tolerance of +/- .016 inches at the foil gap and also provides programmable step-and-repeat capability.

Kluge also points to the system’s 24/7 programmable dual surface heat control with timer control to pre-heat die and makeready surfaces prior to a shift start up, as well as a foil, die and makeready alignment system that trims set-up time and increases set-up efficiency. ApexFoil, explains the company, also features quick-set tool-less registration adjustments and an ultra-lightweight die mounting plate, which can save up to five minutes of set-up time during job changeover.
Published in Postpress
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