by Noel Ward, Managing Editor of WhatTheyThink.com's Trade Show Coverage and Executive Editor of OnDemandJournal.com October 30, 2003 -- Floor traffic at Xplor is never a good gauge of attendance because so many people are usually off in the sessions. My schedule was way too packed to investigate the sessions (my loss), but although floor traffic seemed light, executives from Heidelberg, Scitex Digital and Xerox all told me the people coming to their booths were serious and in at least one case, orders were placed. Of course, such deals are not truly attributable to the show (sales cycles for high-dollar printing machines being what they are), but customers and prospects are indeed showing up. One Oce exec from the U.K. came across the pond with about two dozen customers and prospects, Scitex has told me of numerous customers and prospects coming in from Asia and Europe, while other vendors noted how attendees were asking the “right questions”--meaning were fewer tire-kickers and more people who are considering and evaluating their next investment. “More suits and serious questions,” is how one vendor described it. Over breakfast this morning, Kazem Samadari, Global Vice President of Marketing at Scitex Digital Printing explained that SDP was here not just to roll out the new VersaMark JetBlack printer but because it’s the company’s firm intention to demonstrate it is a permanent player in the transactional printing, and is bringing products to market that add value to any data center, in-plant or service bureau. The new JetBlack model, which enables print providers to start with a basic black machine and then upgrade the device to spot or full color, is in response to extensive research with customers and prospects. Samandari said the passage to color in the transactional printing market is inevitable, but how quickly color will be broadly adopted will vary by company and applications. He believes the market for color is approaching critical mass--the point at which print providers and their customers begin to expect color rather than think of it as a mere option. “Many [customers and prospects] want color and have customers who want color, but are still unsure of the overall demand in the markets. JetBlack gives them the ability to install a machine that gives them the standard black printing they need today but build on that same platform and deliver spot and full color printing as their business needs change. It secures their present without endangering their future.” If the steady traffic in SDP’s booth is any indication, JetBlack and the company’s Vantage full-color printer were drawing attendees who were checking out the new options these machines offer. While they don’t offer some features the Xplor market needs, but Samandari told me to pay attention and keep looking for new innovations from the company from Dayton. Nipson You always learn things at shows, so I took advantage of Xplor to talk with Alain Flament, president of Nipson North America to get a better sense of the company’s machines which use magnetography instead of xerographic or inkjet technology. I’m not delving into the techie side here, but Flement explained some of the advantages of Nipson’s technology as used in the company’s new 8000 SED model on display here in Atlanta. Flament said a key advantage is the long-life metal drum that can stand up to 20-30 million feet of impressions before requiring replacement. The drum and the imaging technology also provide a greater flexibility of substrates in stock configurations, ranging from Bible paper to card stock. In addition, Nipson’s machines easily accommodate tipped-on cards and can run labels without any negative effect on the imaging drum. Furthermore, there is no static electricity on the paper, which makes finishing easier, and the substrates are less sensitive to moisture and need less conditioning. MICR is a common job spec these days but MICR toner usually costs more to print, a difference that may be reflected in job costs. But magnetographic toner is magnetic anyway, so can be run in many MICR applications at a lower cost than on some electrophotographic machines that use plain or special MICR toner. Service bureaus, direct mailers, in-plants and even some large commercial printers are presently using Nipson’s machines, which commonly are driven by AFP-IPDS datastreams, but can accommodate PDF and PostScript by using transformation software from companies like Solimar. Meanwhile, there are questions in the air about Xplor for 2004, the quarter-century mark for this conference. The board of directors and Skip Henk, the newly installed chairman of Xplor are already evolving a strategy to help the show grow and is opening his door to ideas and input from all interested parties. Henk was pressed for time here in Atlanta but look for an interview in a few weeks at On Demand Journal.com. Skip is an industry veteran with a deep understanding of the way all parts of the printing business works and is primed to make some real differences at Xplor. Meanwhile, on a totally unrelated note, those of us who get their cell phone service through Verizon have been baffled by our phones’ inability to understand the concept that Daylight Savings Time ended on Saturday night. Here in Atlanta our phones refuse to show the right time and mine actually flips back and forth between present and future, as if I’m stuck in a rift in the space-time continuum. But then a lot of trade shows feel that way anyway after a couple of days. More later.