What you really need at a show like PRINT 05 is a little magic, like the Time Turner Harry Potter and Hermione Granger use to go back a couple of hours and be in two places at once. That's because at a show the size of this one, it's easy to be in the wrong place at the right time, and vice versa.

This was how the show started for me, but show schedules being the evolving illusions they tend to be, it all worked out and I managed to connect with most of the folks I wanted to see on Friday as we all adjusted our dance cards to accommodate each others' conflicts and availability. How we all did this before we had cell phones I have no clue.

HP Gets Wider

Ana Izquierdo, Marketing Director of HP's large format business, explained that the company views the large format business as having 3 segments. The first is CAD, where HP has long been a major player. Next is Graphics, which HP actually divides into two groups. There are creatives, such as artists and graphic designers who use wide format devices for proofing and other design work. Next are print-service-providers, ranging from sign shops and quick printers to commercial shops whose work includes billboards, vehicle and building wraps and other "big jobs." (Sorry, couldn't resist!.)

The technologies range from aqueous inks for the thermal inkjet heads on HP's traditional DesignJet machines to light solvent printers and piezo heads used in Seiko's SII line of machines that will be marketed through HP. Then there's the recent acquisition of Scitex Vision, that truly expands HP's capabilities under one of its own brands. The SV machines offer aqueous, solvent and UV-curable options in formats designed for wrapping buses and buildings.

Izquierdo says this range of capabilities means HP can differentiate itself with the broadest variety of technology for wide format printing from a single supplier. "It provides the customer with a single point of contact and the security of HP reliability," she notes.

Quark has adopted a new logo, an ultra-stylized letter "Q" that to my eye looks more like a lower-case "a." The logo won't download from Quark's website so you'll have to go there for a look.

The new logo is the latest step in transforming Quark from a once customer-hostile entity to a new Quark that encourages dialog with its customers and focuses on identifying and addressing customer needs. "This is not the Quark you thought you knew," says Glenn Turpin, Director of Corporate Communications. The Denver-based company that once dominated page-layout software has been upstaged in recent years by Adobe InDesign and more recently by Adobe Creative Suite. Turpin says some customers have come back to QuarkXPress, including some sizable magazines. Others never left and Turpin reports strong interest in the forthcoming version 7 of QuarkXPress. That may not appear until early next year, but numerous features are being added, virtually all the result of customer requests. "We're collaborating with customers to make the product better," says Turpin.

To see some of what's in store, cruise the preview areas on the Quark site. There's some good stuff in the offing. Quark 7 users can expect a rich array of new features, some of which seem (gasp!) almost InDesign-like in their functionality, but it looks to me as if they feature the ease-of-use that QuarkXPress has long been known for. I'm looking forward to seeing it.

Nipson rolled out a faster version of its VaryPress 200, featuring a new carbon fiber drum that company president Robert Stabler says has about twice the life of the regular steel drum in exchange for a moderate uptick in cost. In addition to the longer life the carbon fiber eliminates the need for lubrication, which was typically done on the VaryPress line with Teflon. Selected earlier models may be retrofitted with the new drums.

Other advantages are that the carbon fiber unit is harder than its steel predecessor, and it takes an electrical charge better. This enables a smaller dot, contributing to improved print quality. This was apparent in the samples I saw, which featured crisper, darker text and much improved half tones. There is still room for improvement in the halftones, but the technology is clearly improving.

The VaryPress 200 was running a book manufacturing app at about 290 feet/minute, a 25 percent increase over the model shown at the On Demand Show in May. The VaryPress 400 model also gets the new drum but no speed hike. Both machines are supported on the post-press side by Lasermax Roll Systems, Muller Martini and Hunkeler.

Nipson has been at this game for a while, and as use of digital printing expands into more and more applications, Nipson's machines are gaining ground, especially where many different substrates are needed, including finicky ones like vinyl. The biggest players in the market probably don’t have to worry, but the growth is there. In the second quarter of this year, the VaryPress 200 and 400 models have seen a growth of 67 percent over the same period in 2004.

Now I get to spin the Time Turner again and see where I wind up next. Stay tuned!