Richard Romano is Managing Editor of WhatTheyThink | Printing News & Wide-Format & Signage. He curates the Wide Format section on WhatTheyThink.com. He has been writing about the graphic communications industry for more than 25 years. He is the author or coauthor of more than half a dozen books on printing technology and business. His most recent book is “Beyond Paper: An Interactive Guide to Wide-Format and Specialty Printing.
In WhatTheyThink/Printing News’ Annual Sign Franchise Review, we take a look at how the major sign franchises fared in the past year, how they managed the COVID-19 pandemic, and how they plan to make up lost ground in 2021.
Last week, ISA staged its Sign Expo 2021 Virtual, which succeded in replicating, perhaps as best as possible, the feel of being at a live event and networking with colleagues. Here is a quick rundown of the first day.
The challenges of the last year may have slowed some progress in the expansion of dynamic digital signage (DDS), but it has, at the same time, opened up some new opportunities for DDS technologies—especially as they become less expensive and higher quality.
A recent ISA webinar looked at how the sign and display markets fared in Q4 2020, and offered up some forecasts for 2021, which IHS Markit analysts see as a “transitional year” from COVID to post-COVID while 2022 will see the rebirth of the economy, employment, and the industry.
Signage has almost always been one of the most essential means of communicating important messages, which was why wide-format and sign shops early on in the pandemic were considered “essential services.” Health and safety messaging was the killer app for display graphics in 2020, and that is going to remain the case for the foreseeable future. Here’s what to look for.
WhatTheyThink’s Fall 2020 Business Outlook Survey asked print business executives and owners about their 2020 business conditions, business challenges, biggest perceived opportunities, and investment plans, as well as opinions of virtual events and their 2020 hiring plans. The results of this survey are included in WhatTheyThink’s Printing Outlook 2021 special report. Here are some of the top-level findings from that report.
HP updates its Latex roll-to-roll portfolio with four new units that bring white ink printing, new inks and printheads, and a renewed commitment to sustainability. Additionally, HP has launched a new Latex Print and Cut line and refreshed its PageWide XL units for the technical printing markets.
Founded more than 30 years ago as a business forms printer, Vancouver’s Still Creek Press has adapted and evolved over the years, adding wide-format printing capabilities and other products and services. A recent project saw the company come to the rescue when the University of British Columbia Opera decided to stage a virtual production.
As we enter 2021, we have reasons to be optimistic, maybe even over-optimistic. So let’s put the old year behind us (to the extent that we can), jump feet-first into the new one, and resolve never to use terms like “the new normal” or “pivot” ever again. Instead, let’s look at some of the substantial new opportunities for wide-format graphics and signage. What can we be over-optimistic about?
“Retail” embodies vastly different kinds of businesses, all of which have fared differently during the pandemic. As a result, rather than V-shaped, perhaps we should think of it as a K-shaped recovery. But what does that mean for retail graphics?
According to the Q3 2020 ISA Quarterly Economic Report, it’s going to be a long, hard slog to full recovery, and not just domestically. 2021 will be an improvement, but don’t expect the “new normal” (whatever that is) until 2022.
As we enter “the new normal,” temperature detection systems and signage may become important elements of compliance and liability for businesses. This article looks at Altoros, a veteran professional IT services and software provider that has entered the temperature signage market.
A lot of shops have been doing vehicle graphics for many years, but even more have mot net explored the opportunities to be had. And as with virtually everything else, the COVID pandemic has the potential to alter the market for vehicle graphics.
In the face of prohibitions on live fan attendance at sporting events, both college and pro sports teams are filling empty stadiums with printed spectators. Read how Ricoh helped two sports programs take advantage of wide-format printing to connect with fans while also helping raise money for health initiatives.
Yesterday, the PRINTING United Digital Experience kicked off with a day’s worth of sessions and product demos surrounding the world of Graphics and Wide Format: Hardware & Consumables. Richard Romano “attended” Day 1 and reports on the four sessions.
Epson is expanding its footprint in the signage market with the new SureColor R-Series—two 64-inch roll-to-roll printers that utilize a resin-based ink technology that is intended as an alternative to latex.
The COVID pandemic has wrought many changes in the printing industry in general and the sign industry in particular, but one interesting development has been an increase in residential signage. The market for this kind of signage may not disappear once the pandemic does (if the pandemic ever does)—and it can prove to be a lucrative opportunity worth seizing.
Once describing the intersection of signage and décor, the application area of environmental graphics now, in the age COVID, has come to embody new kinds of signage and display graphics—and are even moving into the home.
According to the Q2 2020 ISA Quarterly Economic Report, the COVID crisis accelerated some trends both for print and digital signage that had started to emerge pre-crisis. The sign industry isn’t expected to recover to 2018 or 2019 levels until 2022.
The definition of “industrial printing” has been changing, especially with the advent of inkjet printing, which is opening up all new “industrial” applications. This article looks at the state of industrial printing today, and the various applications that comprise it.
Velox specializes in industrial-scale direct-to-shape digital printing—or, as the company calls it, “decorating”—predominantly on tubes, aerosols, and other cylindrical items. We take a look at the capabilities of Velox’s technology.
Yesterday, Canon Solutions America announced the new Arizona 2300 Series wide-format flatbed printer. The new series is built on a novel approach to media handling that eliminates zones, masking, and taping, helping speed job changeover and reduce operator intervention.
Offering a diverse array of applications, from banners and feather flags, to vehicle wraps, to ADA signage, to channel letters 30 stories above the ground, Signs By Tomorrow Fort Worth has grown dramatically since Phil Fox bought the franchise in early 2018. An emphasis on marketing and versatility have been the keys to growth—even in the midst of a global pandemic.
Last year, Xanté had launched InfoMark, a way of linking supplementary and complementary digital and multimedia assets to print media by means of a four- or five- digit code. Since it was launched, InfoMark has evolved, and extenuating circumstances have led to its growing adoption in some markets that Xanté had not originally considered. We caught up with Xanté president Robert Ross.
Benson Integrated Marketing Solutions offers a wide variety of small- and wide-format printing, signage, apparel, and promotional materials to the multi-family home real estate market. Early adopters of web-to-print, Benson provides individual B2B sites for customers through which they can order customized materials, and has recently launched a B2C site for COVID-related products.
This feature rounds up some of the highlights of our Technology Outlook article and webinar series specific to wide-format, signage, and textiles and apparel, offering up some product releases and trends from the first half of 2020.
In development even before COVID-19 hit, InfoLnkX by SpeedPro is an NFC-based chip that can be programmed to deliver digital, contactless menus to patrons’ phones right from restaurant signage or table decals. But the uses for InfoLnkX go far beyond restaurant applications.
Each year, Printing News invites small commercial print business owners to participate in our Top 100 Shops Survey. This article presents the results of that survey, this year’s Top 100 small commercial printers, and profiles of the Top 6.
Last week, 22Miles—a developer of digital signage and wayfinding systems—launched TempDefend, a highly customizable “protection as a service” solution that integrates dynamic digital signage with thermal cameras to scan visitors to a business or other establishment, generating an alert if the visitor’s temperature exceeds 99.5°.
Amy Gran, LA&C Radcure Tech Service & Product Development Chemist at Ashland, talks about Ashland’s energy-curing adhesives and coatings for the food packaging markets, some of the new product trends coming to market—such as tactile materials like soft-touch coatings, sand textures, and raises images—and the advantages of UV curing for these kinds of applications.
As businesses start to reopen, they will have post-COVID print needs beyond safety and distancing signage. To follow up last week’s look at the current signage environment, Richard Romano identifies some of the unique print needs reopening restaurants are likely to have to complement their signage.
Sign shops were essential businesses when the crisis first hit and they will continue to be essential businesses as the country starts to reopen. Post-COVID signage will be important in both the short term and the long term, and there is no reason why it can’t be creatively designed, professionally printed, and seamlessly integrated into a business’s pre-existing signage and branding. Let’s have a look at what some local businesses have been doing signage-wise.
Two of the most anticipated industry events—Messe Dusseldorf’s drupa 2020 and ISA’s Sign Expo 2020—were postponed due to the COVID-19 crisis. We spoke with the organizers of these events about their rationale for the new dates, the expected impact on the events themselves, and the impact of the pandemic on the printing industry.
Marci Kinter, Vice President, Government Affairs, SGIA (now Printing United Alliance) talks about the increased importance of sustainability and the circular economy to packaging producers, brand owners, and consumer products companies.
The thought of hopping on a sailboat and heading out to sea is an appealing one at the moment and thanks to a company called PhotoSails, sailing enthusiasts who buy their own boats can defray the cost of their investment.
FASTSIGNS of Saratoga Springs won the Grand Prize at the Wide Format & Signage/FASTSIGNS Awards, held during the annual FASTSIGNS International Convention in Phoenix, Ariz., back in January. The six-year-old franchise won for interior and exterior signage for Maggie McFly’s ninth location at Albany’s Crossgates Mall.
Our annual review of the sign franchises finds that employee challenges and competition from commercial print businesses top the list of challenges, while expanding the range of applications tops the list of opportunities. In all, these four organizations generated $926 million in revenues in 2019.
Have you ever tried installing high-end graphics on the hull of a boat while floating on a raft? Meet LuxWrap, a British company that has carved out a decidedly unique niche: high-end yacht graphics. They recently gold-foil-wrapped a yacht for hair extension brand Bellami—a project that was beset with all kinds of challenges.
How are wide-format and signage providers coping with the COVID-19 crisis? Some are playing important roles in providing safety signage, while others still serve businesses that are classified as “essential.” In the first of a series of “check in” articles, we look at how the crisis has impacted the wide-format and signage market.
Last year, the Association for PRINT Technologies (APTech) teamed up with the Tarsus Group, the organizers of Labelexpo, to launch a new show called Brand Print Americas. The inaugural event will be co-located with Labelexpo Americas, September 15–17 at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center, in Rosemont, Ill. We spoke with Andy Thomas-Emans, Strategic Director of Tarsus Labels, Packaging and Brand Print Group, about the new show and how it complements Labelexpo.
As the options for applied graphics proliferate, it can be a challenge for print service providers to keep up, and yet it has never been more important to understand how a material will perform both on press and on its intended surface. As a result, consumables manufactures are playing a greater consultative role.
Last week we attended RadTech’s 2020 UV+EB Technology Conference in Orlando. Richard Romano reports on some of the new trends in energy-cured inks for packaging, 3D printing, and how UV technology is helping combat the coronavirus.
Eileen Weber, President of RadTech, talks about this year’s RadTech UV+EB Technology Expo & Conference 2020, which took place this week in Orlando, Fla. She also discusses some of RadTech’s upcoming events and initiatives.
As of this morning, the ISA Sign Expo 2020 is still a go. This year, the show heads to Orlando April 1–4, with four days of educational sessions and its continuously expanding exhibition floor. We spoke with Brandon Hensley, ISA’s Chief Operating Officer, and Iain Mackenzie, ISA’s VP of Meetings & Events, for a preview of this year’s show.
WhatTheyThink’s annual printing industry outlook report, including the results of our Fall 2019 Business Outlook survey, is now available in our Report Store. This article offers some of the top-level results from that survey.
Xanté has launched an alternative to the QR code called InfoMark that lets writers and other content creators “attach” multimedia elements to print via a unique four-digit code. We gave InfoMark a spin to see how it worked.
Wide-format printing often involves a phenomenon called “apparent resolution,” which can be quite different than a print’s actual resolution. An image designed to be viewed up close, like a photograph in a magazine or direct mail piece, will have a different apparent resolution—and thus resolution requirement—than one designed to be viewed from a long ways away. Taking apparent resolution into account was the raison d’êtreof a new specification for sign and display graphics just released by the Ghent Workgroup.
Technology and a changing print product mix drive changes in the distributor–client relationship. We spoke with Matt Bruno and Nathan Goldberg of the PSDA to get a bead on how the non-asset-based print sales market has evolved.
Since its founding in 2002, Phoenix, Ariz.’s Custom Graphix Signworks has cornered the market on that most commoditized of wide-format applications: banners. We spoke with Mladen Mike Mirkovic, founder and principal of Custom Graphix.
One of the most exciting growth areas in print today is direct-to-object (DtO) printing, but challenges of ink adhesion, transport, and feeding abound. I spoke with Peter Baldwin, Director of Marketing for East Dorset, Vt.’s Engineered Printing Solutions (EPS), about some of the issues—and opportunities—involved in direct-to-object printing.
Whether it be for production inkjet, packaging, wide format, or industrial printing, inks are evolving at a rapid pace to enable the fast-growing range of print applications. This article will offer a look at some of the recent developments specific to wide-format inks—and even more specific to solvent/eco-solvent and UV inks.
The Sustainable Green Printing Partnership (SGP) is complementing its Printer certification with a Supplier certification, and in 2020 will be ramping up its outreach and education efforts with regional “lunch and learn” forums. We caught up with SGP’s Marci Kinter to talk about what’s new with SGP as we enter a new decade.
Lod, Israel’s Massivit 3D was founded in 2013, and in the past six years has made a substantial impact with its 3D printing technology. Erez Zimerman joined Massivit 3D four years ago as VP of Global Sales, and was appointed CEO in May 2019. We caught up with Zimerman at the recent PRINTING United show in Dallas.
Troy Power, cofounder of CapStone Technologies, talks about the company’s Red Hot Technology Award-winning AutoViri robotic solutions for automating mailing workflows. AutoViri helps connect the physical workflow to the digital workflow—and can save customers money on mailing costs by being plugged into the latest USPS regulations.
Ricoh’s Heather Poulin highlights Ricoh presence at PRINTING United, focusing on the customer experience. In addition to its continuous-feed inkjet and wide-format hardware offerings, Ricoh was featuring its 5th Color Lab, showing customers how to design for new printing technologies, how to manage color, and how to use ColorLogic to print metallics.
The RMX Network is an alliance of more than 100 independent North American wide-format print service providers. It’s not a franchise, but rather an affiliation of like-minded companies that band together to support each other and help solve problems. We spoke with President Rick Bosworth to learn more about their unique business model.
Dan Johansen of Ricoh talks about the company's wide-format journey from a manufacturer of inkjet printheads to a manufacturer of entire wide-format printing systems, including two new UV flatbeds—the Ricoh Pro TF6250 and the larger Pro T7210—and the Pro L5160 latex printer. Ricoh also was demonstrating a printing system for imaging directly onto the side of a truck or plane.
Last Fall, Avery Dennison held its Wrap Like a King (WLAK) competition, which honored some of the best and most creative vehicle graphics projects. We spoke with one of the judges and some of the regional winners to get some insight into the vehicle graphics design process.
Fujifilm’s Becky McConnell talks about the latest developments with the Onset X3 wide-format UV flatbed printer, as well as a new inkset from Fujifilm that was specifically formulated for greater adhesion to difficult plastic and synthetic substrates.
Epson launched its first wide-format printer in October 1999, and Epson’s Reed Hecht talks about the latest generation—the SureColor P7570 and P9570, featuring a redesigned print engine for photographers, fine artists, graphic designers, and proofers—as well as how the requirements for art and photography have changed over the past two decades.
Ryerson University’s Dr. Abhay Sharma shares some top-level findings from a new expanded gamut printing study he authored, based on a series of extensive tests using commercial color management systems to process and print test forms containing PANTONE spot colors.
What is 5G and what is its impact on sign and display graphics likely to be? Richard Romano spoke with Dexter Johnson, author of a recent ISA white paper called “5G in Signage Technology” about the technology and the advantages of 5G and its potential applications in sign and display.
Dirk Craib, VP of Sales for Rochester Software Associates (RSA), talks about some of the issues that in-plants have been facing—security being chief among them—and how RSA’s software solutions are helping address those issues.
Miguel Gonzalez, Director of Sales, talks about Mutoh's new eco-solvent printers which launched in September. The new machines have been redesigned from previous generations and now offer bulk ink delivery as standard feature.
Gayle Robinson, Production Manager for Tanner Health Systems' in-plant, talks about Tanner's small, two-person in-plant. The department produces letterhead, direct mail pieces, appointment reminder cards, and other collateral materials, and has also been acquiring wide-format printing capabilities to open up the kinds of materials they can print on and produce–such as wayfinding and other kinds of signage.
Two weeks ago, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court’s decision in the case of Thomas v. Bright that the government cannot distinguish between on-premise and off-premise signage because it is an unconstitutional content-based distinction. We spoke to David Hickey, VP Advocacy, for the International Sign Association (ISA) about the decision and some of the potential ramifications.
Tim Miller, interim production manager from the in-plant for the State of Oregon, talks about the vast array of products and services the in-plant produces for the various state agencies and departments across Oregon, such as jury summonses, training manuals, and creative color work for the state lottery.
WhatTheyThink spoke with Marybeth Gilbert, Vice President General Manager Production Inkjet and Packing Business, Chris Irick, Worldwide Product Marketing Manager, Entry Production Inkjet, and Bill Bay, Manager, Production Cut Sheet Business Team.
John Cruser, Global Manager of the Bloomberg in-plant, talks about the vast array of materials the in-plant produces for the news organization—from promotional and marketing materials, stationery, and business cards to wide-format prints of magazine covers, as well as specialty items such as golf balls and cellphone covers.
Digital wide-format printing and new substrates are changing the face of wall décor, both in commercial and residential spaces. In this feature, we look at some unique applications and detail some prevailing trends.
John Bedsted of the Mayo Clinic’s in-plant talks about the various medical information products that his department produces for the Clinic's million-plus patients. The in-plant has a mix of offset and digital equipment, as well as inline and offline bookletmakers.
WhatTheyThink talks to Renée Yardley, Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Sustana Group—parent company of Rolland Paper and Sustana Fiber—about the company’s new sustainability initiatives as well as the current state of sustainability in the paper and printing industry.
John Sarantakos, Director of the University of Oklahoma in-plant—the biggest university printer in the country—talks about how wide-format, display graphics, banners, and specialty printing are growing while at the same time there has been a migration away from black-and-white copies and traditional offset printing.
What kinds of signage and display graphics are in fashion? You don’t need elaborate market research surveys to find out—sometimes all you need to do is get out of the office and have a look around. Just doing a little recon can often generate ideas for new product areas to expand into.
Mike Lincoln, from the State of Colorado inplant, talks about the growth his facility is seeing in transactional work for various state agencies and individual municipalities and districts, as well as his four-year production inkjet journey. His was the first government inplant to install production inkjet equipment.
"Inkjet devices can print on any surface" is a common industry talking point, but the practical reality is a bit more complicated, involving the chemical and physical interplay of inks and substrates. This article offers an inkjet printing reality check.
Howie Fenton talks about a trio of white papers he recently completed for the In-Plant Printing and Mailing Association (IPMA). Specifically, his white paper on the topic of the “customer experience” found that web-to-print is still one of the most important issues for in-plants, as in-plant customers want that “Amazon experience.” Other white papers looked at predictive analytics and integrated services.
SAi’s new VirtualSign is an augmented reality (AR) app that lets signmakers show clients how a sign will look in situ before it is printed and installed. We spoke wth SAi’s Gudrun Bonte, Vice President of Product Management, who oversaw the development of the app.
Automation for wide-format printing can encompass a lot of different processes, from automatic file processing, to robotics, even to database management. Where once wide format was deemed too “artisanal” or “craft-like” to be automated, the times are changing. After all, as competition in the wide-format segment continues to heat up, automation becomes a key element in controlling costs. We’ll take a look at the current state of automation for wide-format printing.
Shana Farrell from Fox Valley Technical College talks about the major themes of her inspirational keynote at this month’s In-Plant Printing and Mailing Association (IPMA) Conference. We should step back and try to decide what our goals and purpose in life really are. She also talks about her own personal journey that led her to ask these questions of herself.
To help vehicle wrap installers better help customers with color change vehicle wraps, Avery Dennison has launched an online Car Wrap Visualizer that shows how a particular vinyl film color looks on a representative sample of vehicle types. We spoke with Avery Dennison’s Abby Monnot, who helped develop the tool.
Joel Beaton, Address Management Director for the Church of Scientology's in-plant, talks about the changing nature of mailing, especially, the “Amazonification” of mail and how mailers and shippers need to be able to allow mail and package recipients to closely track their shipments.
Howie Fenton of Howie Fenton Consulting discusses some of the early, preliminary results of the latest IPMA survey of in-plant printing departments. What are the latest technology and business trends? How are in-plants faring? What are some growing product and service areas? The survey is still open and additional in-plants are welcome to participate.
WhatTheyThink is the global printing industry's leading independent media organization with both print and digital offerings, including WhatTheyThink.com, PrintingNews.com and WhatTheyThink magazine versioned with a Printing News and Wide-Format & Signage edition. Our mission is to provide cogent news and analysis about trends, technologies, operations, and events in all the markets that comprise today’s printing and sign industries including commercial, in-plant, mailing, finishing, sign, display, textile, industrial, finishing, labels, packaging, marketing technology, software and workflow.