This Week

with Frank Romano


Hi, this is Frank Romano from  Welcome back to another episode. 

The other day I got a copy of the NPES News, it’s a great publication, it summarizes research, it has information on foreign marketplaces and other information about the industry.  NPES, as you know is the association for suppliers to the industry.  And then they’re talking about some recent research involving digital printing.  And it had to do with what they call tipping points; that is that moment in time when a certain technology just takes off. 

Like when I stopped using the telegraph…

Offset lithography dragged along for a hundred years and then all of a sudden it found a marketplace and within a decade letter press was gone. 

Now according to the research, they say the tipping point for digital printing is decades away.  Decades, as in 20 years or more. 

Just try and wait me out…

And I disagree with that.  The chart that they have here compares analog pages going down five percent over this projection, 2009 to 2014, and digital pages increasing 11.3 percent.  Now, I don’t think it’s going to take a decade for those two worlds to come very close together.  And two things happened this week that really pointed that out to me. 

The folks at Kodak sent me the first two books that were printed on their Prosper Inkjet Press.  Beautifully done, absolutely no difference between what they’re doing and offset lithography.  If there is, it would take someone with a microscope and some analytical equipment to really tell the difference.  I tried to save the first publications that were done with digital printing.  I have the first thing that was done on the HP Press, but that’s not important because what is important is the latest thing they did.  This is off the HP, I think it’s a T300, it’s their inkjet press.  And this is full color on coded stock.  Here feel that. 

Print beats digital again…

Now, you look at this and you look at these and you say, wait a minute, what’s the difference?  If the cost is lower with existing technology because the run lines have gone down because you want some flexibility, then this is going to grow.  This is going to grow.  And it’s going to grow faster than you think it’s going to grow. 

So when they say that the tipping point for digital printing is decades away, no, I’m sorry, it’s going to happen very quickly when it happens.  And you can already see the seeds of that being sewn by the kinds of technology that’s out there.  If I put this in the hands of any user and I said, how is that printed?  They would have no idea because new technology is catching up very quickly with the quality levels of old technology. 

Now there’s something else about this study that disturbed me.  It said it excluded any equipment under $50,000.  So they were covering only high-end production equipment. All right, I understand that.  Certain suppliers will sell high end equipment and want to know what the market is for certain kinds of machines.  And that’s great.  But if you look at the market, there are more of the smaller machines.  Under $50,000 gets you a phenomenal machine nowadays.  You can get something that is 40 pages a minute, very good quality, has the ability to have online finishing.  You have the ability then to compete with the big guys.  So smaller printers, who in the past would have had to invest a significant amount of money in the bigger equipment can now find something else. 

So when you exclude the high end production equipment and then you purport a chart that deals with the number of pages that are involved, you say trillions of pages Simplex North America and you’re only looking at the production equipment, then your entire chart is suspect because then it’s only talking about those pages that are done on high-end equipment, it’s not talking about those pages that are done on moderate level equipment, which means then that the tipping point may have already come. 


And the chart doesn’t tell us that and the research doesn’t tell us that.  So, it’s a brave new world for digital printing.  It’s amazing how quickly it has changed.  From 1993 – it took a decade, from 1993 to 2003, for that technology to really take off.  And you can see the chart.  If you look at the chart of the acquisition of equipment, it just grew exponentially.  And continue to grow that way.  And the new production equipment is coming online, roller fed, higher speed, B-2 sheet fed; these machines are going to make a significant difference.  Some of them will be priced at the high end of the industry because of the production level, some will be priced in the middle of the industry and some will be priced at the lower end of the industry.  But they will all do similar things and they will all absorb pages from analog technology. 

What analog technology has to do is to advance to the next level.  Offset lithography, Gravure, Flexo will have to figure out how to get to a more productive level.  They’ve already made great strides in many cases, but you can’t beat, for short run printing, digital printing because digital printing gives you the advantage of no make ready, quick change over, and phenomenal cost advantages in some cases.  Not all cases, but in some cases. 

So in any case, watch all that research that’s out there.  Some of it is suspect. 

And that’s my opinion.  Take care. 

Next Time…

You’re eating a sandwich at lunch and you say I’ll use Helvetica upper and lower case in a blue box, thank you very much…