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Commentary & Analysis

FREE: Out of the Whirlwind: Metrix, Delphax, Epson, HP

By Noel Ward,

By WhatTheyThink Staff
Published: October 27, 2004

By Noel Ward, Executive Editor of OnDemandJournal.com and Managing Editor of WTT's Trade Show Coverage October 27, 2004 -- As you may have by now guessed, this show was a whirlwind of activity. I'm going to cover a lot in this final piece, so hang on. Attendance I haven't seen real numbers yet, but attendance seemed fairly strong. Still, the publisher of another industry publication thought it was down. His scientific measure used the length of the cab lines leaving McCormick each day. He may have hit it lucky, because another industry vet thought the lines were far too long. "You really wanted to be the guy putting the people into the cabs," he quipped. "Most people slip him a dollar, so he was pulling in about $60 a minute. Not too bad.!" But more to the point is what the attendees were like. Most vendors I asked said they were writing orders and said attendees were serious about making purchase decisions. Sounds good, but we'll see how it looks when the dust settles. If people came with checkbooks in hand it's a good sign. Any pent-up demand (or reluctant willingness to buy) has been building up over the past couple years when things were decidedly lean, so it's good to see that things may be on the upturn. HP Flies with Jeppesen HP-Indigo had a full array of its presses at the show, including the new HP-Indigo press 5000 model that was unveiled at drupa and is now in final beta. Look for availability in early 2005. This is the first Indigo that shares design and engineering with both HP and Indigo and is a big addition to the company's already strong product line-up. It has multiple paper drawers and can print with up to seven colors making it ideal for color-critical applications. I'll have more detail on this machine as it reaches the market, which is where the real proof of value lies for any technology product. For example, the name Jeppesen has been synonymous with aviation for decades. Now a Boeing company, Jeppesen provides continually updated navigational charts to approximately 80 percent of the world’s airlines and a similar share of the general aviation market, which includes corporate and recreational air traffic. More than a billion charts each year are produced by the combined printing facilities at Jeppesen’s worldwide headquarters in Denver, where two HP Indigo w3200 presses were installed earlier this year, and the company’s Eastern Hemisphere headquarters in Frankfurt, Germany, where three additional HP Indigo w3200 presses are scheduled for installation. HP announced this alliance at Graph Expo as a means of demonstrating how HP technology can change not only the printing industry but also the industries it serves. But why print charts digitally? First, Jeppesen provides major airline customers with tailored coverages that meet specific routing needs but these can be cost-prohibitive for general aviation customers. Digital printing provides greater flexibility at a lower cost. Second, even the most complex chart graphics and photos can be printed quickly and consecutively, eliminating the production time normally spent on collation. This reduces the amount of paper required and builds greater flexibility into Jeppesen’s overall printing operation. Epson I'm amazed every time I look at the prints I make on my Epson desktop inkjet printers. Who'd have thought inkjet would become the top choice for everything from letters and basic printing to photographs?. I've used Epsons for about 7 years, and aside from the one I killed by using some off-the-wall brand of ink, the things simply do great work. And the new Stylus Pro 4000 I saw in Chicago is no exception. This is a $2,195 printer (including RIP) that can print edge-to-edge on 17 x 22-inch sheets or roll stock, has a built in cutter, and is both Pantone licensed and SWOP approved. This means it can work as a dead-accurate contract proofing device for graphic designers, ad agencies and print providers. For example, a designer can set up profiles for specific presses and papers, define ink densities and ICC profiles and print the proofs with the assurance they will match final output. These features and the low price make it a no-brainer alternative to any conventional proof. An ad agency, could for example, place one in the offices of key clients and send proofs of pending print jobs to that device for client sign-off. Sure beats sticking conventional proofs into a cab or FedEx package. Epson is focused on being the master of inkjet printing and proofing quality and has even more in the works, both for general inkjet printing and for proofing. You'll have to stay tuned for the details. All I can say for now is that what they have coming is very cool. Delphax I've visited Delphax at the last couple of shows this year and gone away impressed with the solutions they have with their partners and their own high speed print engines. In Chicago Delphax was again running its Books for Schools program, this time with half a dozen literary texts destined for needy schools in the Chicagoland area. Bob Vandenboom, Worldwide Marketing Director for Delphax always tells me about the enormity of getting the system installed, coordinating with multiple vendors, and arranging for donations with the schools. Each time he sees the big system run, cranking out a 260-page book every 5 or 6 seconds, he looks up at the big monitor that shows throughput speed, and listens to the questions of book manufacturers who see the system as something that makes sense for their business. And it all becomes worthwhile. At Graph Expo the core of the system was a Delphax CR 2000 digital press running at 450 feet per minute connected to a Muller Martini Amigo digital binder. The covers were done on a Xeikon DCP 5000 digital press with inline lamination and the results looked like any offset book you would pick up in your local Borders. The typical minimal print run--due to economics--at offset book manufacturers is around 5,000 copies. Vandenboom tells me the Delphax CR2000 system cuts this nearly in half, to as little as 2,700. As book manufacturers adopt these systems, this means many more out-of-print titles could again see the light of day and more profits can reach the bottom lines of publishers. Metrix Being a digital printing guy I don't think a whole lot about the way offset printing is done and what it can take to get a job on press. But once in a while I see something worth a mention. Take the task of multiple-up positioning of jobs on pages for gang printing. In most print shops optimizing press sheet layout is a time-consuming pain. Metrix, from an Australian company called Lithotechnics, automates and streamlines job planning by calculating the optimal layout for each sheet. In addition to time and labor savings, this reduces waste, the number of plates required, and eliminates data re-entry in pre- and post-press by exporting JDF. I suspect there are even ways digital printers can use it for some types of short run jobs. It's a slick product and well worth a look. And that's it from my end. The rest of the WTT gang has filled you in on offset printing, MIS systems, prepress and direct imaging and more. What we all felt on the floors of McCormick Place was an excitement. The industry is heating up again. The technologies that were new just a few years ago have gotten more stable, more mature. Digital printing is becoming a mainstream technology. There was no one at this show selling film. CTP, a big question mark a few years back is commonplace. The same is true for DI. Wide format has become positively routine for signage, banners and the like. And inkjet--in all its guises is becoming a hot property. At breakfast on the last day of the show, we were all talking about things we had seen and heard and how things were moving so fast. The hints and rumblings we hear of what's to come are exciting. As good as some of what we saw at Graph Expo was, there is some amazing stuff in the pipeline. And we'll be here to tell you about it as it happens. See you next time.



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