“Putting stuff on stuff” – Ink and Paper at Graph Expo Special Report by Gail Nickel-Kailing, Senior WTT Editor October 20, 2006 -- There are times, as you walk down the aisles of Graph Expo, that you think the event is totally focused on “iron” – “big iron,” digital presses, digital printers, plate makers, bindery equipment – all the hardware necessary to producing a printed piece. Occasionally, we need to remember the purpose here is to put some kind of pigment onto some kind of substrate… That is, “putting stuff on stuff.” So with that in mind, let’s take a closer look at inks and substrates and some of the companies distributing them. (Just a reminder, this is not an exhaustive list of vendors; to view the entire list of exhibitors, go to the Graph Expo website. Inks Toyo Inks: Toyo introduced a wide range of inks including food grade inks, conductive ink, and solvent-free and waterless inks. With RFID becoming more of a reality, the ability to print conductive inks directly onto products and packaging is moving to the forefront and Toyo offers conductive inks for those applications. At Drupa 2004, we saw several examples of food printed with graphic images; Toyo offers a line of food-grade inks for just such application, including black ink made from squid ink. While it is fun to think of printing a message on a cookie, more practical applications include pharmaceuticals. Printing codes, lot numbers, and other information directly on pills and capsules ensures the ability to create an “audit trail” and prevent counterfeiting. Sun Chemical: Sun Chemical distributes ink and other products and services, including press blankets. Sun no longer manufactured their own blankets, but continues to distribute Sun-branded blankets manufactured using technology licensed to Day. Sun offers inks for conductive, water-based, Flexo inks for printed electronics and a line of security inks for flexo, offset and digital printing. (Sorry, can’t tell you anything more about the security inks – after all, they’re for secure applications.) Inks are not something simple - just a little liquid, binder, and pigment. To ensure that the end result is exactly as designed, inks must be customized to: * Application * Paper/substrate * Press * Fountain solution * Blankets All of this, of course, makes troubleshooting any problem a very complex process. Users will soon have a wide range of available services to assist them in the selection, custom matching, use, and disposal of inks and pigments. Sun is currently building and testing a series of internal training initiatives that will soon be rolled out externally, including: * Webinars * “Tech Talks” * Technical publications * Product blogs The Global Shade Library – a software application to automate color matching – can deliver up to 70,000 custom colors. Combined with a piece of equipment like the Mx6magnum from GFI Innovations, it is possible to design a graphic with specific PMS colors and use the shade library to calculate the “recipe” for the custom ink to match the color. The Mx6 delivers small “shots” – measured in milliliters – of pigment to a color base to create the custom color. And, if a printer has excess ink from a project it is possible to recall the original “recipe,” calculate a new recipe which uses the excess ink as a base for a new PMS color. A process like this can reduces ink waste by turning a light PMS color into a darker one for use on another project. New inks from Sun include Persona inkjet inks for mailing and plastic cards, Triton inks for heat set web printing, and Liberty sheetfed inks. Flint Group: Like all ink manufacturers, Flint is being challenged by increasing costs of and new demands on petroleum products. The cost of supplies has almost doubled in recent years and there are new demands from new industries which siphoned off supplies needed for print production. Flint Group – until just last week – consisted of five major business units: * Flint Group – provider of inks for nearly every application * Xsys Print Solutions – provider of narrow web inks * Flint Group Printing Plates * Flint Group Pigments – provider of pigments, dispersions, varnishes and special additives sold inside and outside the printing industry Jetrion – EFI and Flint Group announced that EFI will be acquiring Jetrion. While K+E Inks have been manufactured since the 1860s, the acquisition of Xsys brought the brand under the Flint umbrella. The K+E inks are now offered in now offered in North America by Flint. Sericol - Fujifilm Piezo inket and digital offset is seeing increased adoption according to Sericol/Fujifilm. Sericol now offers a line of UV inks with improved flexibility and a better cure rate. Not long ago, Fujifilm bought Spectra, major manufacture of piezo ink jet heads, Paper/Substrates Mohawk: An unusual application from Mohawk includes a digital watermark for short runs of water marked paper. While companies are still likely to want longer runs of watermarked paper, a digital watermark can eliminate the lead time needed for such applications. Mohawk has also sold its Strathmore Artists Paper, papers used by students and fine artists. Mohawk continues to provide the widest line of text and cover papers. Xerox: Xerox offers a wide range of papers/substrates – including waterproof and magnetic media. The magnetic media is actually delivered un-magnetized so that it can be printed easily and then magnetized after printing. The un-magnetized substrate doesn’t get hung up in the printer and lets the user print larger sheets and cut to size. Xerox also offers a line of carbonless paper for Xerox color and monochrome printers that has been optimized for the iGen3 110. It is now possible to print multipart, carbonless forms including barcodes, color graphics, logos, sequential numbering, etc., on demand and eliminate the traditional forms inventory process. With this carbonless paper, a wide range of multi-part forms can be printed even on desktop equipment. . Sabin Robbin: Tucked in among the big paper providers is Sabin Robbin, a job lot paper company that has long provided custom converting. Sabin-Robbin is a hybrid merchant offering a blend of branded first line products and traditional job lot custom converting. The Sabin Robbins story has a long history: In the late 1870s, Mr. Sabin Robbins traveled the south selling supplies to pharmacists. At that time, the paper bag hadn’t been invented, so when a customer made a purchase, the pharmacist rolled the goods in a sheet of paper and twisted it at the ends. Being the entrepreneur that he was, Sabin Robbins struck a deal to buy over runs from the paper mills back home in Middletown, OH, and resell it to pharmacists at a much better price than they had been paying. One day a local printer ran out of paper and none was available locally. Remembering the sheets he’d seen at the pharmacy, he asked to buy some. To his amazement, the quality was much better than what he’d been getting and the price was much cheaper too. The demand for Sabin Robbins paper was immediate. Selling over runs to pharmacists was a good idea, but selling them to printers was a great idea. That is how Mr. Sabin Robbins invented the job lot paper industry. Distributors By consolidating buying power and offering less than truck load lots, Xpedx and Pitman are “one stop shops” for the graphic arts industry. Xpedx: With consistent revenue growth, Xpedx offers coated and uncoated papers to the industry. While a large amount of coated stock is coming from Asia – China, Korea, Japan – where low labor rates mean lower cost, Xpedx focuses on paper produced by US mills. Sales of coated papers, more cost effective now than in the past, are increasing and more marketing collateral is being printed on coated stock. Top printers with top clients are selecting top tier paper. The Xpedx National Technology Center was developed as a strategy to provide more products and services, including remote diagnostics, remote proofing and disaster recovery. Last year’s hurricane season made planning for disaster and business recovery necessary. Remember, the day you lose your files is the day you’re out of business. A new frontier for Xpedx is binding and finishing and JDF workflow. The company distributes JDF-enabled hardware and software and recommends only JDF-enabled equipment. Even if a printer doesn’t have a full JDF workflow, it is time to prepare for the future and plan ahead. Xpedx.com, the company’s e-commerce site, has seen more than 3.5 million online orders in the last 12 months. E-commerce services are not only available through the Internet but also as EDI for a direct interface. Xpedx does not drop ship from suppliers, but ships from their own warehouses through their own transportation network. The e-commerce initiative is backed by 18 e-business support personnel who help set up the program and provide customer support. More than 100K SKUs, including paper and graphics, packaging, and facility supplies and equipment, are available. A new initiative announced by Xpedx is a “pay per click” program which allows equipment buyers to avoid having to make a big capital investment in digital equipment while building up their digital business. A pure “pay per click” program – paying only a flat fee per page printed – allows printers to avoid a capital outlay, to achieve higher profit margins on smaller amounts of new business, and to build a digital business without having to make a large upfront investment. The purpose is to get more small and medium-sized printers into the digital printing business. Pitman: Pitman offers a full line of products and services for the graphi arts industry asl well and is focusing on two new markets: flexo and packaging and wide format printing. A new partnership between Pitman and EFI/Vutek complements the Charette Wide Format Group, which provides a comprehensive portfolio of wide format equipment, media, ink and services. Pitman offers equipment from Agfa, ColorSpan, DuPont, Epson, HP, MacDermid, Mimaki, Mutoh, and now EFI/Vutek. Wide format equipment includes roll-to-roll, flatbed, and combination printers. Through the Charette group, Pitman offers now training options including seminars to help commercial printers understand the wide format printing opportunity. Bell & Howell: One does not often think of Bell & Howell as a distributor however the company is providing some of the same services as Xpedx and Pitman. Bell & Howell offers business continuity services that will provide off-site printing services on Xerox and IBM equipment. The services are available to all companies, including Bell & Howell customers and users of competitive products. A new initiative B&Hsupplies.com offers a full line of consumables and equipment – anything needed for a print/mail operation – that can be drop shipped to buyer direct from the supplier.