Please Come to Boston for the Springtime By Noel Ward, Managing Editor, Trade Shows There are a number of ways to tell spring has arrived. The southern parts of the country are in that wonderful stretch of temperate weather before the heat of summer sets in. Up north, seasonal ice cream stands are opening up. And in the digital printing biz the On Demand show is taking over a convention center. This year the city is Boston, and the show is ensconced in a new convention center just across the inner harbor from the airport. In fact, AIIM/On Demand is probably the largest show the new facility has seen since opening in 2006. Given that it's April, certain Boston spring traditions are in full bloom. The Boston Marathon takes place Monday the 16th: go see which fast African runner takes home the big check this year. The same day, the Red Sox are wrapping up a three-game set against the Angels at Fenway, one of the last great ball parks. The Celtics play their final game of the season on the second night of the show. Try to play hooky and go see one of these events. Getting around town is easier now that the city has finished the Big Dig that buried its central expressway, so the traffic actually appears to move (still a novelty in Boston). Boston is a great city for a conference with lots to do when not on the show floor. Take the time to enjoy. Meanwhile, we have a full line-up of coverage planned to keep those of you who don't make it to Boston apprised of what's taking place. This time we're dividing the coverage between some on-the-floor reporting and high-level observations and perspective. Barb Pellow, Cary Sherburne and I will be on the floor, dividing up workflow, web-to-print, cross-media, print engines and finishing, while Frank Romano, Andy Tribute, Dr. Joe Webb, Steve Aranoff, and Robert FitzPatrick will provide commentary and perspective on much of what they see and hear at the show. Print engine vendors have kept their cards close this year so the real details are lacking. And while they have shared some information, most of it is under NDA until the show opens, so you'll have to be content with some educated guesses and suppositions until Tuesday, April 17th. So here goes. HP In booth #1539, HP will showcase its HP Indigo line, highlighting profit-enhancing applications such as VDP-driven direct-mail and marketing collateral printing in up to seven colors. The technologies being shown focus on end-to-end productivity, and include partner solutions that help create turnkey production operations. But because traditional documents are only part of digital printing, HP will also have some of its Designjet large-format inkjet solutions on hand. This is a good move given that most other key players in wide format don't attend On Demand, and it emphasizes the breadth of printing technologies HP has to offer. In addition, HP's Larry Tracy is scheduled to participate in a panel discussion, "Is Inkjet the Technology Story for 2007?" on April 18. Given the pace of change in inkjet, this could be a good session. IBM IBM Printing Systems (booth #1801) will exhibit their newest innovations, from the InfoPrint 5000 Duplex, its recently announced inkjet color printing system; the latest in digital books solutions; and the InfoPrint 6700 thermal printer integrated with RFID. IBM will also show its InfoPrint Workflow and InfoPrint Productivity Suite in conjunction with software tools from Exstream and GMC, which will be demonstrating trans-promo capabilities in the IBM booth. Kodak will have a lot going on in booth #1515. They will be showing solutions that focus on helping drive customer growth with mid- to ultra-high volume digital printing. And because Kodak is interested in more than putting ink and toner on a page, it will also highlight its scanners, software, services, and support Kodak says can help squeeze higher levels of productivity and efficiency from business processes. According to Kodak, the booth will feature dedicated areas for digital printing, unified workflow for digital and conventional print, as well as document imaging. Kodak will have some of its electrophotographic and inkjet print solutions on hand, along with a new printer and front end you haven't seen before. Since I haven't seen it either, I'll have more to say later. Konica Minolta Mid-range color continues to heat up and KM's bizhub PRO 6500 will be in booth 1215. Priced at under $50 large and with a low TCO, this machine looks like an excellent value and a good fit for a lot of print operations. Also interesting and worth a close look is the Printgroove workflow software that Konica Minolta is rolling out here at On Demand. For many of the businesses likely to invest in KM's print engines, Printgroove looks to be an attractive way to implement a digital workflow. I got a glimpse of it at the company's dealer convention last month and will take a closer look here. Nipson tells me they will be displaying a variety of print applications where the VaryPress excels. To me, this sounds suspiciously like books, given that the fast Nipson box is the engine of choice for at least one of North America's major book manufacturers. Although the size of booth 945 in Boston prevents them from setting up the book factory system demonstrated last month at Muller Martini's open house on Long Island, it will be shown on video. The process of turning a five-mile long roll of paper into a finished book is a fascinating one, with multiple approaches, and I'm looking forward to seeing this one, even though it won't be live on the floor. Océ, coming to Boston on the heels of its Open House in Poing, Germany, has a lot to show off in booth 1229, and proves that this company has competitive offerings in several market segments. On Demand will be the North American debut of the new VarioStream 9240--the long-anticipated four color version of the 9000 family. This roll-fed machine produces four-color pages at up to 172 ppm and can also print black-only or with spot colors. From the same family but with the pedal pushed firmly to the floor is the VarioStream 9610, which runs at some 1,350 monochrome pages per minute. It can also print in highlight color and in Graphic Arts Plus modes at lesser speeds. On the cut-sheet side, Océ will also have the two new models in its VarioPrint 6000 line, the 6160 and 6200. These throttled back versions of the VarioPrint 6250 (which won a BERTL Best of Show award at last year's On Demand) offer the same simultaneous duplexing technology, large paper supplies and multiple finishing configurations. Both new models are field upgradeable to the faster version. Océ also has its new mid-range cut-sheet color systems, the CS620 and CS650, which offer 65 ppm printing with assorted finishing options and a compelling TCO in a compact package. On the finishing side, Océ will show the results of a partnership with Italian finishing company CEM to offer check and coupon book production. I'll also be seeing CEM separately at the show and will report back. Océ will also demonstrate the new BLM500 an inline, square spine booklet maker for several of its cut-sheet devices. This device combines stitching, folding, spine forming and long-edge trimming for documents of up to 200 pages. On the software side, Océ is introducing its PRISMA Accounting Software for information tracking, capture and reporting to help print shops manage overall production performance. Ricoh In Booth 619 Ricoh will have a full spectrum of affordable production printing systems for a wide variety of environments. According to Ricoh, the key word for its offerings at the show is affordable, an attractive word in a time of cost pressures and aggressive competition. Ricoh’s DDP 92 monochrome Digital Document Publisher, which features both VDP and MICR capabilities will be demonstrated in operation with the EFI MicroPress to produce PDF-generated booklets as well as innovative bank checks using Ricoh’s Check 21 technology. For more performance, check out the DDP 184 Digital Document Publisher which uses two 92-ppm internal print engines. This box features highlight color capabilities that let users implement Check 21 processing while transforming checks and invoices into effective marketing tools. Further proof that the mid-range color space is a hot one are the two Aficio 5560 full-color printers on the floor, running with EFI’s Fiery Controller. The 5560 produces 55 ppm full color, 60 ppm monochrome, along with tabs, in line booklet making, and other capabilities. Demos will include production of full-color VDP price lists, VDP catalogs, highly-personalized VDP direct mail items and more. Then there's the EMP 156 Printer from Ricoh, rated at 156 ppm, and offering a full 14”x18” page format, that is designed for high-volume, high quality print output. Configured with EFI’s MicroPress Pro and CP Bourg booklet maker, it will be producing booklets and other items from PDF files. Xeikon Xeikon (booth 907) will have its 160-ppm 6000 model which offers a number of advancements over its predecessor, now dubbed the 5000plus. The continuous feed configuration of the Xeikon engine gives it the ability to run a wider range of jobs than its cut-sheet competitors and Xeikon plans to show off some of those capabilities in Boston. Among the samples they'll be running--in conjunction with some finishing partners--are a wide variety of print-on-demand applications such as personalized calendars, brochures and web-to-print solutions. Xeikon's workflow partners will also be in the booth to demonstrate some custom integrated solutions. This will all be supplemented with videos and presentations that show what can be done with the big, red, continuous-feed, one-pass duplexing presses. Xerox will have an array of current and new printing systems in booth 914, along with the usual array of supporting software and programs. I can't go into any detail, but it's probably going to be worth spending time in the Xerox booth because there's a lot to see. And word has it that the stuff in Boston is only a glimpse of what'll be in Chicago at Graph Expo in September. Xerox is claiming to have "the coolest applications and the hottest technology," so we'll just have to wait and see what shows up on the floor. Look for apps including direct mail, books, TransPromo documents, and personalized web-based collaterals. Continuing with the themes of the right business model, the right workflow and the right technology, Xerox is planning to not only demonstrate these applications but show attendees how to create them. This will be augmented with new tools from the Profit Accelerator business development program, and I'll be meeting with Gina Testa, the ebullient VP for that area. Workflow is a big a deal at Xerox and Cary Sherburne will be bringing you news from the FreeFlow front. There are some good things coming there. On the print engine side, Xerox will have ten new or updated monochrome and spot color products and three new color machines that are the latest versions of some existing machines. On the monochrome side especially, there are some new Nuveras that definitely fall into the "not to be missed" category, and be sure to check out the new 495 continuous feed duplex printer that uses flash-fusing technology. This box was launched in February and this is the first big public showing in North America. Tied to back ends of these different print engines are new finishing systems from several partners, and those will be running in partner booths across the show floor. And that's only the areas I'm dealing with, and I haven't even touched on finishing. Our coverage will all come at you over the next couple of weeks. Adding to this will be the first WTT video coverage from a show, with interviews and a first hand look at all that's happening on the show floor. So stay tuned. We'll be back!