Monday, March 8 — It may be the just the trade-event formula that many in the industry have been clamoring for. A small but hand-picked audience. A low-cost exhibiting opportunity for the sponsors. A niche-specific program on a hot technological topic. Networking moments galore. And, a great location to make those who should participate want to participate.

PrintUV 2009, which opened today and concludes tomorrow at the Wynn Encore resort in Las Vegas, has all of those elements and, for an event in only its second year, some genuinely impressive attendance figures. About 150 registrants are here, a 50% increase over last year. To insure a 70:30 ratio of printer to vendor personnel, a number of would-be exhibitors have been turned away. Those fortunate enough to make the cut—18 platinum, gold, and silver sponsors—are making their presences known with modest but engaging table-top displays.

And all of this in a year of deep recession when the outlook for other print industry trade shows is uncertain at best. There’s no stronger proof of PrintUV’s drawing power in the face of these odds than the fact that one printing company, Bentley Graphic Communications, has sent no fewer than eight of its people here—a delegation that would be remarkable for its size at a far bigger show in the best of times.

What accounts for the turnout? Air Motion Systems Inc. (AMS), the founder and organizer of PrintUV 2009, has cannily identified and cleverly played to an underserved niche in the industry’s cycle of conferences and trade shows.

AMS, a maker of UV curing systems, realized that after many years of being thoroughly misunderstood, unfairly criticized, and often poorly implemented, printing with UV-curable inks and coatings has come into its own as a stable, verasatile, and high-value-adding production process. The presentations at PrintUV 2009 address its many merits as an investment for printers seeking a stronger competitive edge and a higher profit margin: instant and VOC-free sheet curing for immediate handover to postpress; robust surface protection; and dazzling special effects on a broad range of substrates including plastics and uncoated paper.

Supplier-side figures reported by AMS indicate that UV printing is gaining ground and market share. At today’s opening session, Hans Ulland, a co-owner of AMS and the company’s vice president for sales and marketing, said that while sales of conventional inks are down from 30% to 60%, sales of UV inks are defying the recession either by remaining flat or by increasing as much as 45%. He further claimed that 60% of sheetfed presses are shipped “UV prepared” and that about one-third of these are delivered with UV systems in them. In the last three years, he added, sales of UV presses overall have increased by 45%

The focus of the conference is sheetfed UV—no information about web applications or digital inkjet UV is to be had, at least not this year. But a third edition is being planned for 2010, and the scope of the program is certain to expand. What AMS wishes to concentrate on now is building a community of interest around UV, be it a trade association, a technical users’ group, an executive peer group, or equal parts of all three.

More about the conference—including a rousing call-to-arms by Warren Werbitt, producer and star of the celebrated YouTube video about Pazazz Printing—will be reported here and at WhatTheyThink. But PrintUV clearly is off to a bounding start wearing a sparkle and a sheen worthy of the process that it’s all about.