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Commentary & Analysis

FREE: Graph Expo Files: Some Entirely Serious Observations And Some Not-To-Be-Taken-Too-Seriously Prognostications

The question I am most often being asked about the 2006 edition of Graph Expo is,

By Frank Romano
Published: November 17, 2006

The question I am most often being asked about the 2006 edition of Graph Expo is, “What was the most interesting thing you saw at the show?” Answer: crowds of people in a buying frame of mind.

Attendance was up and so was the mood of the audience. Seminar attendance exceeded all previous Graph Expo events and exhibitors reported record sales.

The first trade show of the modern era was PRINT 68, and both PIA and NAPL had their own shows between the PRINT events. In 1982 the  Graphic Arts Show Company was formed by the National Association for Printing Leadership (NAPL), NPES The Association for Suppliers of Printing, Publishing, and Converting Technologies (NPES), and Printing Industries of America (PIA), now PIA/GATF and the three shows became one—PRINT every four years or so and Graph Expo during the in-between years. Here are the attendance figures:

• PRINT 68: 40,000
• PRINT 74: 66,000
• PRINT 80: 67,000
• Graph Expo 82: 32,000
• PRINT 85: 68,000
• PRINT 91: 70,000
• PRINT 97: 74,000
• PRINT 01: 68,000
• Graph Expo 04: 40,000
• PRINT 05: 62,000
• Graph Expo 06: 42,000

A Frank Look at What's Happened

Since 2001 U.S. trade shows have seen been disappearing. We have lost all but a few regional shows and attendance has been declining over the years.

Here is my short list of observations:

1. All monitors are now flat screens. No CRTs in sight or on site.

2. One scanner on display but loads of digital photography. Five exhibitors can repair your old drum scanner.

Exhibit space for digital printing exceeded the exhibit space for offset lithography. Press makers displayed fewer presses as the cost for installing them on the show floor has become exorbitant. Inkjet printing occupied as much space as toner-based printing. Not a single single-color offset press was on display.

3. Exhibit space for digital printing exceeded the exhibit space for offset lithography. Press makers displayed fewer presses as the cost for installing them on the show floor has become exorbitant.

4. Inkjet printing occupied as much space as toner-based printing.

5. Not a single single-color offset press was on display. There were two two-color presses with all others four colors or more.

6. CTP was shown in fewer booths compared to trade shows since 1997. Consolidation of suppliers and saturation of the upper end of the market are probably reasons.

7. Film was non-existent—there are still some users but CTP bundled offers are converting the last holdouts.

8. Consumables are now ink, plates, proofing materials, and a few chemicals. Plates are trending to processless which negatively impacts processors and chemistry.

9. There were three DI presses on display. A few years ago, there were seven of them.

Consolidation among suppliers continues. The Kodak booth, for example, was once 14 separate companies. Consolidation among printing firms continues. One-third of the printers who attended had acquired or merged with another printer in the last three years.

10. There was more mailing equipment—inserters, inkjet addressing, etc.—than at any other printing event. The Postal Service had a display. It was shipped by UPS.

11. Flatbed inkjet moved from new technology in 2002 to dominant technology today. You can print on board, plastic, wood, metal, fabric, and more.

12. Consolidation among suppliers continues. The Kodak booth, for example, was once 14 separate companies, all of whom took their own booth a decade ago.

13. Consolidation among printing firms continues. One-third of the printers who attended had acquired or merged with another printer in the last three years.

14. UV technology everywhere—inkjet, coating on offset presses, etc.— online and offline.

15. Thankfully, JDF is now mainstream and the hype level was very low. One vendor in a trenchcoat said, “Pssst, wanna see some JDF?”

16. Adobe’s new Print Engine was shown by most of their OEMs. It devours PDF instead of PostScript. Was this the last year for PostScript RIPs as we know them?

Whence to Whither

The major trends that I observed were:

1. Larger, faster, more automated offset litho presses were being acquired in record numbers. More than one press maker told me that offset was back. Actually, these newer presses are replacing two and three older presses. Thus, smaller staff or the same staff can produce more printing.

2. New automated offset presses are pushing the envelope (so to speak) on makeready setup. Press suppliers had users talking about runs as short as 250 on 20" and 40" presses. They were stating that this ability will force digital printing to even shorter runs.

3. Digital printing sold at record levels. This will be a banner year for toner-based color digital printing. Printers are now available at many price/performance points to enable small to very large printing firms to enter the market.

4. You cannot comment on digital printing without commenting on the phenomenal rise of inkjet. From humble beginnings on the desktop to wide formal banners, it is now replacing screen printing on one level and the high end of toner printing on the other.

5. Many of the new exhibitors were involved in digital asset management, Internet storefronts, workflow, and even cross-media systems.

You cannot comment on digital printing without commenting on the phenomenal rise of inkjet. From humble beginnings on the desktop to wide formal banners, it is now replacing screen printing on one level and the high end of toner printing on the other.

6. A number of print buyers attended the show and the seminars. What was interesting was the fact that they are not just print buyers. They are involved with e-mail and Web sites and search advertising—media. They depend on brokers and graphic designers and consultants to help them buy printing.

It was a great show and it bodes well for the industry overall. But the event did portend an industry in the midst of transformation.

We'll Check Again in 2034

At the Executive Outlook luncheon, I provided a list of fearless predictions with the specific month and year. That way you can keep score.

• October, 2006: Xerox introduces image enhancement software. People start to look better.

• September, 2007: New MustSeeUms category: Whogivesacrap.

• June, 2008: The Print Council goes out of business. No one notices.

• December, 2009: Last piece of film made by combined Kodak-Fuji-Agfa division—KoFuFa.

• June, 2010: Just what the world needs: New screening technology—AM, FM, XM, and Sirius Satellite Screening.

• January, 2011: Canon reveals new toner made from ink.

• February, 2011: Use of inch marks in place of real quotes banned under new Federal law.

• April, 2011: Heidelberg and MAN Roland merge. New name is He-Man. Heidelberg-Xerox connection nixed—Heidrox sounds like cookie.

• March, 2012: New KBA XXXXXXL press prints sheet one acre square. Muller-Martini pondering folder.

• April, 2012: PIA, NAQP, and NAPL merge to form PINAPL. Ray Prince back where he started.

• November, 2013: Pantone patents entire color spectrum.

• May, 2013: Ghent Work Group not sure what they do. Asks, “Why the heck are we in Ghent?”

• May, 2015: Exxon-Mobil-Xerox introduces automobile click charge based on monthly driving volume.

• June, 2016: Nations of the world outlaw PowerPoint.

• September, 2017: All industry consultants exiled to Mars. Industry revenues increase immediately.

• November, 2017: Military creates color that kills on sight--ICC color management gone amok.

• June, 2018: Chemistry-free, process-free, aluminum-free, plate-free CTP—it’s called digital printing.

• July, 2018: Mushy proofing introduced. Fills void between hard and soft proofing.

• August, 2018: HP wide format inkjet printer has 6 million inks to cover entire visual color gamut.

• October, 2018: Paper from Asia contains word flu.

• November, 2018: JMF, JDF, MIS, CIP, CIM expunged from English language.

• December, 2018: Hot metal Linotype re-introduced. Industry thrilled with re-useable consumable—resumable.

• January, 2019: Standard introduces scroll production system. Folding and finishing on a roll.

• April, 2019: Kinkos sold to Quiznos. Print on cold cut sheet paper.

• July, 2019: Secret to true color management discovered and then lost again.

• August, 2019: Lost in translation: New one-color press from Komori has 28 units.

• September, 2019: InfoTrends enters weather forecasting market. Buffalo to have 18 percent CAGR growth in snow.

• October, 2019: First laser die cutter in space cuts out axis of evil.

• January, 2021: JDF 10.13 is 6,000-page specification. Paramount acquires film rights—to star Brad Pitstop.

• April, 2021: New Global RIP is so fast it sends data back in time. Jobs delivered yesterday.

• July, 2021: 200 megapixel camera looks into subject’s soul—metadata plus metaphysical data.

• April, 2022: China bemoans manufacturing moving to U.S. Most Chinese now working at McWal-Mart.

• October, 2022: Print industry still waiting for rising tide.

• November, 2022: New CTP can image plates from outer space.

• May, 2023: Graphic designers who create bad files sent to Guantanamo.

• January, 2025: CIP124 links to each person’s cerebral cortex. Total workflow a reality.

• August, 2028: Dental fillings are flash memory. Bite into USB 89.0 interface and upload data. Toothache = memory full error

• December, 2031: Title bout: Connection discovered between e-books and e-coli.

• March, 2034: Lights-out printing. Darkrooms return.

Frank Romano has spent over 50 years in the printing and publishing industries. Many know him best as the editor of the International Paper Pocket Pal or from the hundreds of articles he has written for publications from North America and Europe to the Middle East to Asia and Australia. Romano lectures extensively, having addressed virtually every club, association, group, and professional organization at one time or another. He is one of the industry's foremost keynote speakers. He continues to teach courses at RIT and other universities and works with students on unique research projects.

Please offer your feedback to Frank. He can be reached at frank@whattheythink.com.

 

 

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