Much to the chagrin of Philadelphians, W.C. Fields once summed up his visit to their city saying, "I went to Philadelphia once: it was closed." A sour comment from a man noted for his acidity, and a comment most unlikely to apply to the AIIM/On Demand Conference and Expo taking place next week at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.

The shift of venue has been a regular topic of discussion since the 2004 iteration of On Demand in its usual venue of the Javits Center in New York City, with naysayers, critics, pundits, advocates, and others all chiming in with their opinions. Some almost matched W.C. in tone, while others lauded the shift from Gotham. Whatever the attitude of the industry, equipment and software vendors have not hesitated to ensure their presence at what has become a major industry show and conference. Now joined at the hip with AIIM, the blend of the previously separate conferences is a powerful admixture of information and print technologies that reflects the realities of corporate and digital print markets and their increasingly intertwined relationships.

There's a lot going on this year, much of it revolving around workflow. Cary Sherburne will be covering a lot of the details on the workflow front. Heidi Tolliver-Nigro is looking into most aspects of finishing and binding; and I'm seeing what the print engine vendors have to show off. Of course, much of what the different companies will be showing is really a mix of these areas, so we'll look into that overlap, and will also be hearing first-hand how some companies' customers are applying digital print technology. Here's a very abbreviated look at what some of the key players will have in Philadelphia.

HP-Indigo is rolling out two new major initiatives. The new HP-Indigo "Press Your Advantage" business-builder program will make its debut. This is a package of tools and services intended to help HP-Indigo owners maximize their investment at each stage of the digital print business lifecycle. This is not unlike other business development tools already in the market, but each takes a somewhat different approach to building business. Such programs are critical to success for many digital printers and I'm looking forward to seeing what HP-Indigo has cooked up.

Another initiative is more virtual. Graphic professionals who cannot attend the show can still get the latest updates on HP commercial imaging and printing products at the new HP Graphic Arts portal (, which also launches on May 17. The portal comes on the heels of the opening of HP's Graphic Arts Solutions Center in Atlanta. That facility is designed to provide real world scenarios for commercial printing experts looking to make the most educated decision based on their individual production needs. Similarly, the portal is intended to help graphics professionals find the right HP imaging and printing solutions for their needs by bringing together products, services, resources and tools to create a personalized, integrated experience.

IBM is heading to Philadelphia fresh from celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Infoprint 3800, introduced in April 1975. That old box printed 215 pages per minute at 144 x 180 dpi. How times have changed! The Infoprint 4100 at On Demand is a tad quicker, at 1220 impressions per minute at 600 dpi. The 4100 will be shown with an end-to-end document factory workflow based on the company's Infoprint Workflow.

The show will also be the forum for an update on the AFP Color Consortium, IBM's initiative to make high-speed digital color a reality on its Infoprint line. Other print engines on hand include multi-function devices and the Infoprint 2090 cut-sheet printer. On the emerging technology front, Big Blue will also have an RFID technology display showing inventory tracking and control systems.

Océ's booth is being set up as "The Printshop of the 21st Century, with Océ equipment and PRISMA workflow software running live jobs from document creation through production. Guided tours will begin showing pre-and post-PRISMA examples of how various PRISMA modules aid document creation from office workers and graphic designers alike. Next, the jobs go into prepress for additional preparation and proofing. Some jobs will come in digitally (including some in Xerox DigiPath format), while others will be scanned and placed into the workflow. All the jobs then go to production area where monochrome and color cut-sheet printers will handle output. One of the machines is the new VarioPrint 5140advanced (announced at Océ's Open House in March) which can run monochrome, highlight color and MICR jobs. On Demand will be its first U.S. showing.

Another part of Océ's presence at the show is both in their booth and elsewhere at the show. Océ print engines and PRISMA software will be part of a production system including finishing and binding machinery from Lasermax Roll Systems, MBO America, Muller Martini, and paper from Weyerhaeuser. A VarioStream 9210 will print book blocks while an CPS 900 Platinum color printer produces full-color covers. The system will produce some 10,000 perfect-bound books for donation to Philadelphia schools through the Declaration of Education program. Students and representatives of the School District of Philadelphia, as well as Philadelphia Mayor John F. Street, will be on hand to accept the donation. In addition, players from the Arena Football League’s Philadelphia Soul will be in attendance to support the initiative, and will sign autographs for students and attendees.

Xeikon, which is staging a remarkable comeback, will be there with the 5000 model of its continuous-feed digital press. This machine was rolled out at drupa last May and does terrific work, but what I'm interested in seeing is the Xeikon Print Protector which enables digitally printed documents to be finished and handled swiftly under all circumstances. It applies a water/wax/silicone oil emulsion on both sides of the digital print. This emulsion forms an invisible protective layer that helps documents stand up to the wear and tear of everyday use, while keeping the colors bright and accurate. Moreover, the protective coating significantly reduces the build-up of static charges.

This is not an inconsequential feature. Digital prints are notorious for their inability to withstand the rigors of passage through postal systems, and this coating is Xeikon's answer to this challenge. A study conducted earlier this year by PIA/GATF assessed the durability of digital and direct image prints--with and without additional treatment-- when passed through automated sorting systems of the U.S. mail. Xeikon's Print Protector did well in the test, so it will be interesting to learn more.

Expect Xerox to show off a wide range of solutions that encompass equipment and software that the company claims can " help customers unleash the power of digital printing and grow their business." Tied to this is the company's own business development program called Profit Accelerator, targeted at iGen3 owners. This was rolled out at drupa last year and I'll get an updated look during the show, along with other business development initiatives. I think it's great to see industry-leading firms continue to pay attention to helping customers' grow their businesses. The industry is changing rapidly and print providers have a remarkable opportunity to be part of a transformed graphic arts industry. But being in the trenches everyday can block the view of print providers, even those who have invested in top-shelf digital presses. The support of industry leading equipment and software providers who can provide the business development programs, education, and technical support can help change print providers' businesses--and be examples others can emulate in an evolving printing industry.

Inhabiting one of the larger On Demand booths, Xerox will have many of its color and mono digital printers running various applications. A big part of Xerox's story these days is workflow, and the company will likely expand its FreeFlow collection of applications that give customers greater control over how and when jobs are printed. In most areas of their booth, Xerox will have customers on hand to share their experiences of how equipment and software has helped them in their businesses.

I see I'm out of space again, so stay tuned for the next news about the 2005 AIIM/On Demand show.