The eve of Superbowl weekend also marks the beginning of this year's Graphics of The Americas Show. Being in Florida where ground water and environmental protection of the Florida Keys is sacrosanct, protecting the environment is important to everyone. As an industry, graphic arts is way ahead on environmental protection issues, and there are plenty of "green" initiatives at GOA.

Tree Free Paper
Commercial web printers are also extremely interested in environmental issues and they are demanding components that allow them to meet or exceed environmental standards. Although environmental regulations are more relaxed in Latin America, there is still interest and environmentally sensitive products. Take for example Tree-Free ecological paper from Aluminum Paper Wholesale. According to company president, Eric Sanudo, Tree-Free paper is made from 100% sugar cane fiber, available in letter and legal size in several colors. Bagasse, the waste material left over from the sugar making process, is converted into 90 brightness printing stock in a state of the art mill in Colombia, originally built by WR Grace, later sold to International Paper Company and now privately held. This paper is an acid free, medium fiber paper that runs well in laser, ink jet and multifunction devices. It will soon be available at retailers in the U.S. for under $26.00 per case. NBC has contacted the company about doing an Eco Watch interview. They are actively seeking distributors - stay tuned.

While we're talking about printing substrates, let's not forget about Yupo. Having been previously distributed in the U.S. for 30 years by Kimberly Clark, Yupo is celebrating at GOA, 5 years of distribution under its own name. Specializing in both paper and technical printing products for the packaging industry, Yupo has several wonderful products that solve demanding-hard-to-solve labeling applications. These products are made from treeless materials which are completely biodegradable and earth friendly. In 2003, Yupo will concentrate on customer support for its packaging and converting customers with hard to solve problems. Always on the leading edge of development, keep on watch for new products from them in the near future.

Workflow Automation
Competition continues to intensify among web printers, and web printing itself faces growing competition from other print and non-print media. Web printers have two basic options to combat these pressures - they can deliver more complex products and services (where there is more value-added) or they can improve production efficiency. Critical factors are print quality, productivity, make-ready time, waste reduction and ease of use. CTP is extremely important both from a workflow and chemistry standpoint. On display at GOA are direct to plate technologies, including a very interesting Million 2 no heat thermal plate from IBF-Graphix which yields 200,000 (or more) impressions. They will yield up to 1 million impressions if post baking is done. These plates, manufactured in Brazil, are making there debut here in Miami, for sale to the North American Market.

Also on display is a digital press that prints without plates - the DICOweb press from MAN Roland, Inc.- the first offset press that prints without plates. Computer Integrated Manufacturing advancements go hand-in-hand with CTP. MAN Roland's PECOM JobPilot and PressMonitor, for instance, take CIP3/4 data from the computer-to-plate workflow and uses it to preset the press's ink profiles. It also lets operators perform make-ready on the next job while the press completes its current assignment. CTP also works hand-in-hand with automatic plate loading.

Although there tends to be a technology lag between the States and Latin America, they are no less interested in production improvements. Many Latins visit GOA to source add-on accessories for existing presses or to buy pre-owned systems. According to Betty Weber of Bob Weber, Inc., "We're having a great show. Not everyone can afford the latest technology, and they come to us for cost effective pre-press solutions. We have been serving Latin American companies for over two decades."

Also supporting the Latin American market with technical advice for more efficient operations is Flint Ink. According to Dominique Marchand, Flint Ink's marketing director for Latin America, "Some of these countries are very poor, but the printing business is growing. Argentinean families, for instance, have on average 4.2 children. We see continued growth and are prepared to help printers get better performance out of whatever equipment they have."

So, there you have a snapshot of day one at Graphics of The Americas. Stand by for more to come.