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FREE: If It's September..., Graph Expo Digital Preview

by Noel Ward,

By WhatTheyThink Staff
Published: September 19, 2003

by Noel Ward, If it's September it must be time for Graph Expo, that lollapalooza of printing technology that takes over Chicago's McCormick Place, generates tips for cabbies and trips to great blues clubs. It wasn't all that long ago that the aroma of ink permeated your nostrils even before you walked on the show floor, but now you are greeted mostly by the hum of electronics and must stroll deeper into the hall to find the big iron. Graph Expo exemplifies the growth of digital printing and its intrusion into the print market. Digital devices are taking over some work that once ran on offset presses, along with many new applications spawned by an assortment of software that adds new capabilities while making printing much less a craft and much more an information-and knowledge-based process. These digital print jobs tend to be shorter, and often more complex, so print providers are increasingly concerned with workflow. After all, the more jobs they produce, the better the revenue and presumably, profitability. But some of the “workflow solutions” rolled out to support digital print engines in recent years have seemed a few fries short of a Happy Meal—not terrible, but less than complete. So look for leading print engine vendors to be talking at some length about workflow when the doors to McCormick Place open on Sunday morning, September 28. Given the pace of technology, the solutions you'll see are still not complete, but many are able to provide workflows that cover a lot more ground than they did even earlier this year. Of course, workflow is only part of the game. Machines and applications that address specific challenges are what attendees come to see, and vendors will be showing off a wide range of options that span the gamut of printing needs. From the digital printing side of the show, here are some of the highlights. For more details before you hit the show floor, be sure to download the PDF of WhatTheyThink.com's GraphExpo Guide.   Heidelberg Digital/NexPress When you walk in the main door the first thing you see is the sizeable chunk of real estate that is the world of Heidelberg at Graph Expo. The printmeister has something for everyone, the rest of which my colleagues Cary Sherburne and Patrick Henry are ably covering in their columns on offset and prepress. Here's the digital side. First up is the expanding line of Digimaster black and white digital presses. The Digimaster 9110 will be on hand, along with its MICR toner-capable brother, the 9110m. The faster 9150 will show off its speed and the new 9110cp—that “cp” means commercial printer—will be introduced. Aimed at commercial shops that handle large black and white jobs, the 9110cp has variable paper handling, improved workflow options and improved image quality. The Digimaster line is gathering a following out in the marketplace, including one recent placement of eighteen 9150s at Alianz, a direct mail printer in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, bringing the total number of 9150s at Alianz to an even two dozen. Sounds like a Digimaster farm to me. Heidelberg will also have the NexPress 2100 digital color press in its booth. Word has it that the machine boasts new capabilities, including Internet-driven applications. Other rumors abound, but we'll have to wait until Sunday morning to see what is happening with the NexPress.   Hewlett-Packard Digital Publishing Solutions HP-Indigo is continuing its strategy for gaining share in the commercial printing market, and will show off a very full line of presses that utilize the liquid toner technology acquired from Indigo. Its somewhat inscrutably named line of HP-Indigo presses is arguably the broadest in the industry, with machines that span most types of commercial printing applications. Features like six- and seven-color printing, web-feeds and the ability to run spot and fluorescent colors are among the distinguishing features of these machines. HP will also have its usual array of wide-format inkjet printers along with inkjet printers targeted specifically at designers and other graphic professionals. I was impressed by these small boxes when I first saw them a couple of years ago and they are still among the best inkjets on the street.   Océ Printing Systems USA One of the print engine vendors with a clear focus on workflow, Oce will be demonstrating how “Océ keeps Workflow Running Smoothly” in Chicago. Its modular PRISMA software architecture enables a broad range of print workflow applications that begin with document creation and extend all the way through to finishing and binding. There's a lot to PRISMA, so be sure to take some time to check it out. Océ introduced two new families of print engines last fall at Xplor in Anaheim, Calif., and will be showing those running a number of applications for the unique operating environments and requirements of the commercial printing and publishing markets. Check out the VarioPrint 5000 line for in-plant, CRD, data center and commercial print operations. The VarioPrint 5160 at GraphExpo will feature monochrome and spot color printing, backed up by several finishing capabilities including stitching and stacking. The VarioPrint 2000 family has the simultaneous copy/scan/print capabilities needed to fit in office and network print environments as well as many CRDs and commercial print centers. Many large book printers have been turning to Océ and its VarioStream 7000 line of pinless printing systems, not the least of which is Quebecor World. At Graph Expo Océ will be showing the VarioStream 7650cx printing black and white books and photographic posters. Some of those books will be copies of a novel written by a class of 5th graders in Atlanta, Georgia, which Océ is donating to the school after the show. Many of Océ's printers offer extensive spot color printing, but the company's direct imaging CSP 700 offers short-run full color with consistent quality with no interruptions for calibration. The seven-color CPS700 can also be clustered to deliver higher print volumes.   Scitex Digital Printing Coming to Chicago with a theme of Printing Freedom that Runs the Gamut, SDP says “Printing Freedom is realizing flexibility and potential in your digital printing investments. t means escaping the boundaries of limited functionality.” SDP seems to be able to raise the bar on quality, capabilities every time they go to a trade show. At Graph Expo they'll have the VersaMark Vantage running 5 print heads with the S400 Galaxy controller. Able to run black, spot and process color, the Vantage makes it possible for transactional and commercial printers in lower volumes and smaller facilities to print in SDP's Business Color and see a positive ROI with volumes as low as 3 million images per month. SDP will also be showing off its very successful Dijit line of narrow-format inkjet machines designed for bar coding, numbering and personalization. These fast machines always seem to draw a crowd at every show. Go see them in Chicago.   Xeikon Xeikon, one of the first companies on the digital color printing scene, is still a key player in the market. Xeikon is carving out a niche in commercial printing with an emphasis on packaging, labels and special applications. But the company's roll-fed presses do much more and offer 20-inch wide printing and the firm's unique One-Pass Duplex capability. Every show Xeikon seems to have another tweak that adds value. Be sure to see what it is this year.   Xerox Offering the broadest array of digital printing products, software and services in the industry, Xerox has something at Graph Expo for just about every type of print provider. Situated next door to arch-rival Heidelberg at McCormick Place, The Document Company will be showcasing its portfolio of workflow solutions, printing systems, software, and services while highlighting book publishing, 1:1 marketing and short-run printing applications in color and black and white. Much of this expands on the introduction of FreeFlow, the collection of digital workflow products, partners and services rolled out at On Demand in the spring. Xerox's booth will feature a workflow theatre with free training seminars offering tips and best practices on a variety of issues, such as how to start a variable data printing business, how to maximize printing workflows from job submission through invoicing, and more. The hardware running all these apps includes an ample array of leading Xerox products. On the color side there'll be the flagship DocuColor iGen3, DocuColor 6060 and the DocuColor 3535 printer/copier that uses Xerox's EA (Emulsion Aggregation) toner. The monochrome world is represented by the new mid-range Xerox 2101 and the DocuPrint 75MX, a mid-range MICR printers with 1200 x 600 dpi resolution. And then roll-fed DocuPrint 850 CF will be there to handle applications for high-volume POD and publishing. It's going to be quite a show. And then there's the evening soirées at blues clubs and other fine venues. But that's all still a few days off. In next week's installment you'll see what several print engine vendors had to say about the market and the shape of the industry at our “virtual lunch.”

 

 

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