“Don’t say ‘cameras,’ and don’t say ‘printers.’ They’re ‘devices.’” Even the car is now a device.

Such were a few of the opening comments from Joe Adachi, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Canon U.S.A., Inc., at the Canon One event held in Boca Raton earlier this month. It has become de rigueur at industry conferences to talk about technologies far afield of the graphic arts. This is apt for Canon, given how many disparate industries and markets they are involved in, but it’s now increasingly the case that industry presentations talk about artificial intelligence, robotics, and self-driving cars, at least in passing. It only makes sense, as a lot of these technologies will be seeping into printing industry technologies, sooner rather than later.

It’s not just technologies. There are other changes afoot that impact manufacturers’ relationship with their customers.

Much Ado About Color

The big news that came out of the Canon One event was the launch of the UVgel Colorado 1640 (Color Ado; get it?), but this annual event is a good opportunity to catch up with Canon. Mal Baboyian, Senior Vice President BISG Océ Products Marketing & Support, Canon U.S.A., Inc., and Executive Vice President, Large Format Solutions/Production Print Solutions Canon Solutions America, Inc., provided an update of the status of the Océ ProStream, Canon’s new production inkjet platform, which was announced last month and officially demonstrated for the first time at Hunkeler Innovation Days, and which is on the verge of shipping. “The print quality is outstanding,” he said. He also added that the ProStream is not a replacement product, but intended “to open new markets for us.” It incorporates elements of some of Canon’s other inkjet products, such as the VarioPrint i300 and Colorstream 6000 Chroma, but is a wholly new design, and is intended for such applications as premium direct mail and marketing collateral, to name but two.

Baboyian also offered an update on the code-named “Voyager 2018,” a prototype of which was seen at drupa last year. “It is progressing,” said Baboyian, “and it is astounding.” The Voyager is a B2+ cutsheet inkjet press, slated to start shipping—as the code name indicates—in 2018.

In the wide-format space, Baboyian touted the success of the ColorWave series of technical printing machines even in the face of competition from HP’s recently launched PageWide series. “We were able to maintain our placement numbers, primarily due to the ColorWave 500.”

In the flatbed arena, the recently launched Océ Arizona 1200 an 2200 flatbed printers garnered several best-in-class awards. Overall, said Baboyian, Canon machines account for about 26 percent of the flatbed market, or at least the flatbed markets in which Canon competes. For example, Canon doesn’t play in the very high end (the $1 million+ machines) or the very low end (entry level).

As of 2016, said Baboyian, 78 percent of Large Format revenue comes from CAD, while only 22 percent comes from display graphics. “By the end of 2019, we anticipate a 50/50 split in CAD and display graphics,” he said. “Just in 2017, our goal is to grow our Arizona placements by 50 percent. How are we going to do that? New product introductions, as well as repositioning pricing to gain market share.”

And, of course, a very big part of the wide-format strategy involves the new UVgel platform, and it’s safe to say that the Colorado 1640 is only the beginning. “It is breakthrough technology,” said Baboyian. “Productivity is far above anything in the space that it competes. It’s highly automated, produces a wide range of applications, and has a low cost of operation. We are excited about this.”

We covered the unveiling of the Colorado earlier, but in a nutshell, it is a 64-inch, four-color, UV-cured machine that prints using gel-based inks that decouples printing and curing which allows for much faster printing—up to 1,710 square feet per hour, depending on the application. It will print on any rollfed media that traditional UV machines can print on, and has an MSRP of $58,000. The Colorado 1640 can be seen live in person at the upcoming ISA Sign Expo in Las Vegas.

If You Help Them Build It, They Will Come

In a later session, Bob Honn, Sr. Director of Marketing at Canon Solutions America, talked about changes in the reprographics market. In the AEC (architecture, engineering, and construction) market, a combination of fewer documents printed (thanks to digital alternatives, such as tablet-based technical documents) as well as end-user-based printing capabilities, reprographics shops that had served almost exclusively the AEC and general CAD market are considering expanding into display graphics. “They’re looking at color graphics and flatbed devices as a way to diversify their business, because if they stick with just the CAD business, they’re going to go the way of the dinosaur,” said Honn.

To help them get into new areas, last year Canon launched the Business Builder Program. “The Business Builder Program was developed to help them take that ‘leap of faith’ and get into the color graphics area,” sad Honn. “With the purchase of an Arizona flatbed and Onyx software, we’re bundling in consulting services like sales training. Their sales people know how to sell CAD documents, but they don’t know how to sell color output.” The Business Builder Program also bundles in other elements like marketing best practices, application training, and other support services. “It’s a number of services throughout the course of the year that helps them get up to speed very fast so they’re not making a huge investment and then have that investment not pan out.”

In Plant We Trust

In other session, Valerie Belli, Vice President at Canon Business Solutions, spoke with Vaibhav Agarwal, Director, Procurement Services, for Notre Dame University, about the university in-plant’s relationship with Canon, which has evolved from simply buying equipment to becoming what Agarwal called “an office management partner.” The university also takes advantage of Canon’s other technologies, such as buying its cameras and lenses. “We’ve gone beyond print,” said Agarwal. “We’ve become related to Notre Dame,” added Belli.

Just as the nature of the relationship between print service providers and their customers is changing into more of a consultative partnership, so, too, is the relationship between equipment manufacturers and their customers changing. Initiative like the Business Builder Program or the more “hands-on” involvement in their customers’ businesses, like Notre Dame, Canon is taking advantage of this changing relationship.