Much has been written about Esko Graphics and Artwork Systems recently with the acquisition of Artwork Systems by Esko and the subsequent renaming of the combined companies to EskoArtwork. In order to find out what to expect from the companies at Graph Expo, WhatTheyThink spoke with Mark Vanover, EskoArtwork Director of Marketing.

WTT: Mark, lots of excitement these days with the acquisition, and right before the show! Now that the company has announced its new name, will we see a combined booth or separate booths at the show?

MV: We will each have our own booths, but you can expect to see a fair amount of cross-fertilization between the two. Some Artwork Systems products will be shown in the Esko booth, and vice versa. And you will also see signage and information promoting each other"s solutions to help visitors ensure they see everything they need to see.

WTT: Since you were focused on Esko prior to the acquisition, perhaps you can share with us what the high points will be from the Esko side.

MV: On July 7th, 2007, we launched Esko Software Suite 7, and we will be featuring that at Graph Expo. In the past, our workflow umbrella was called Scope. We were getting ready to bring out a new version of Scope, but all of the underlying software pieces were at different version levels and it was a little confusing. We took this opportunity to drop the Scope moniker and move all of the various components into one software suite at one revision level, as well as to include major product enhancements. This way, going forward, it is a lot less confusing for everyone. Also, we are able to better build on the brand equity of the Esko name in the printing and packaging industries.

WTT: That sounds exciting and I am sure our readers will want to take a peek at the new release. In general, what, in your opinion, should attendees at Graph Expo be focusing on this year?

MV: From an overall perspective, no matter what aspect of the show attendees are interested in, they need to be looking at technologies that create efficiency in whatever part of the process they are looking at, in order to drive down costs. I would hope that would be a general theme for anyone coming to a trade show today—what is going to help me run my business better and more efficiently.

WTT: And in many cases, of course, that will involve JDF implementation. I recently worked with a professor/student team at Ryerson University in Toronto on some research into JDF implementation in the packaging industry, performed under an EDSF grant. They found that JDF was not particularly pervasive in that segment yet. What are your thoughts on that?

MV: The JDF adoption rate for any industry segment is going to be based on how comfortable a particular business feels in implementing JDF and getting to the point where it provides all the benefits it can provide. The Schawk Mississauga example in the EDSF white paper is interesting. Mississauga is 50% JDF enabled, but the company as a whole is 2% enabled. Right now, we are still at the early adopter stage of JDF usage in packaging. Part of that is due to the fact that packaging standards were developed a little later than those for commercial print. Lieven Plettinck, the principal software architect for Esko, is chairing the CIP4 Packaging and Labels Workgroup. As a company, we have had intimate involvement with moving the packaging portion of the JDF standard to where it is today. I would imagine that in some aspects of packaging, you will see more widespread adoption than in others. The packaging industry as a whole tends to be technology adopters, although some are technology averse. But you find that dynamic in most industries.

WTT: What other cool things can we look for from EskoArtwork at Graph Expo?

MV: We will be showing 3DX, a plug-in for Adobe Illustrator. This is a really slick packaging-specific plug-in for Adobe Illustrator. Most of the time, packaging is designed in two dimensions. But the final three-dimensional product—a folding carton, for example—may have parts of a single element on three or four different parts of the carton. When the flaps come together, everything has to line up perfectly to create the design of the element. 3DX allows you to import CAD data into Illustrator, and display a 3D image of the carton in a separate window so you can see how the graphics will look when the package is assembled. It can be rotated, flipped, etc., in 3D. It also has some really great tools. If you place an element in the 2D image in Illustrator, for example, it automatically knows where to place that element in the 3D image. Before, a graphic designer might have had to go to a great deal of effort to determine what goes where with respect to the folds, and to ensure that images are not upside down, that there are no gaps, etc. Now they can see the image in 3D and avoid a lot of possibility for error. This application won a GATF InterTech Award, and we are really proud of that.

WTT: That does sound pretty interesting, and I will look forward to seeing it in action. Anything else our readers should be checking out?

MV: The other thing I thing we will be showing along those lines is Esko Visualizer, a product from the Stone Cube acquisition we made a few months ago. We have supercharged the product and renamed it. It allows you to add specialty elements like gold foil, embossing and hot stamping to CAD data, and then look at it in different types of lighting environments on the computer monitor. The designer can really see what the final product will look like by applying unique databases of visual effects. This is something that people should really take the time to see if they are doing 3D work. For folks that are not at the show, they can see a demo of the product online.

WTT: That"s another one I will be sure to review for our readers. Mark, thanks so much for sharing your insight and telling us what will be hot in the Esko booth. Anything else you would like to add before we close?

MV: These are really exciting times, and there is a huge opportunity for EskoArtworks as a combined entity in moving forward and serving our customers, no matter where they come from. Both companies have been industry leaders. Combined, we will be an even better company moving forward.