The show goes on, and all things considered, it was a good one for The Cannata Report.
(This is the second in a three-part series of our Print 18 coverage.)
I arrived in Chicago for Print 18 on Sunday September 30th wondering if the rumors about the show being on life support were true. What I saw and heard over the next three days at this conference dedicated to commercial print was a pleasant surprise.
What I witnessed was a show that still had a pulse. Admittedly, I’m no doctor so I can’t accurately diagnose the patient’s future chances of survival, but based on conversations with vendors, show organizers, and conversations with attendees, the Print show still has some life in it.
Above left to right: The Xerox Iridesse digital press, the centerpiece of the Xerox booth. An example of a box (yes a box) created on the Iridesse and printed in gold. Konica Minolta’s Andrew Jones demonstrates one of the company’s packaging machines.
The Association for Print Technologies, the organization behind Print made adjustments to this year’s conference, including shortening the length from five days to three and reconfiguring the space so exhibitors who might be traffic challenged were positioned closer to the entryway and nearer some of the heavy hitters. Yes, exhibits were smaller, some key players were no longer exhibiting (EFI and Muller Martini, for example,) and there was no show daily. Still, for us at The Cannata Report, there was a lot to see and plenty of vendors to meet, including Canon, HP, Konica Minolta, Ricoh, Riso, Rochester Software Associates, Sharp, and Xerox.
Above: The Ricoh booth on the first day of the show was one of the Print 18 destinations for demonstrations of augmented reality.
Based on our interactions with vendors, attendees, and walking the show floor, these represent our 10 takeaways from Print 18.
- Better attendance than expected. According to a post-show press release, nearly 17,000 print professionals attended this year’s conference. Those numbers aren’t too bad even if they include exhibitors and press. Most major manufacturer’s booths were busy on Sunday afternoon and Monday, the only full day of the conference. Canon, HP, Konica Minolta, Ricoh, Xerox, all had respectable traffic, and we found it difficult navigating those booths without bumping into someone. To be honest, this may have been the result of exhibitors having smaller footprints than at past shows, or business really was booming as Xerox told me during their recent analyst event in New York City.
- Less hardware. Most OEMs had a variety of devices in their booths although some such as Ricoh economized and had either a single device or fewer devices than year’s past. It’s too soon to tell if this will be an ongoing trend, but if each vendor’s exhibit space keeps getting smaller, there won’t be space for the large printers that have historically been the centerpiece of these booths. Not bringing hardware could prove to be a liability. As Thayer Long, president, Association for Print Technologies, told me when we met on the last day of the show, companies who bring technology tend to do the best at this show. “You get out what you put in,” he noted.
- Where have all the dealers gone? Traditional office technology dealers remain an endangered species at Print 18 although one might argue you can’t really be endangered if you never went to the show in the first place. Dealer sightings at Print 18 were rare as Bigfoot sightings in the wild but confirmed and reported sightings at this year’s event included dealers representing Atlantic, DPOE, FlexPrint, Impact Networking, LDI, and Ultrex. We understand this is a commercial print show, but dealers could still get a lot of value from seeing the technology on display from their vendors and competitive vendors and rubbing elbows with commercial printers. As Long observed, “This is a good place to be if you want to grow your business.” Although Long was referring to commercial printers, that comment could also apply to the office technology dealer.
- Follow the leads. Some OEMs, including Konica Minolta, told us they were pleasantly surprised by the number of leads generated at the show. A few even sold some hardware.
- Inkjet Takes Off. Riso was there with its inkjet machines as were other vendors, including Canon, HP, and Xerox. The emergence of inkjet is a sign that commercial printers are becoming increasingly toner deaf as they more seriously consider replacing their toner-based devices with inkjet. We’re still not close to that happening in any significant way just yet but based on what we saw and heard at Print 18 and the thINK conference in early September, the commercial print industry is moving in that direction.
- Invisible and specialty inks have things covered. It’s not what colors can I print anymore, it’s what colors can’t I print? Gold, fluorescent colors, white, and invisible inks were on full display at Print 18. We were particularly impressed by the gold output samples created on Xerox’s Iridesse press.
- Nothing like the augmented reality thing. Ricoh, Xerox, and Konica Minolta were all touting the latest trend in print—augmented reality, or interactive print. It certainly isn’t print as we used to know it even though it’s been around for a few years. Here, QR codes allow users to hover their mobile phone over a printed page, and that page comes to life via a video, for example, that in some cases addresses the user directly. It’s all about adding value to printed materials.
- HP, HD, and FM. Printed output is going higher def and nowhere was this more prominent than at the HP booth. Here we saw various samples of HD output as well as FM screening, a halftone process where halftone dot sizes can be as fine as 10 micrometers, creating output comparable to that of photographic prints.
- Labeling and packaging, and wide format on display. Print 18 isn’t a show with a big emphasis on labeling and packaging machines, but that didn’t prevent Konica Minolta and Muratec from showing their labeling and packaging products, which in our view, fit right in the wheelhouse of many commercial printers. As does wide format with vendors such as Canon displaying their wide format devices.
- Print will be back. Long emphasized that the association is committed to improving on Print and continuing its legacy in 2019 and beyond. As he explained, this show isn’t about being all things to everybody. The plan is to be in Chicago in 2019 and discussions are going on with current exhibitors about participating in next year’s show. Long expects to see more immersive and interactive experiences at next year’s event. Meanwhile, the association is already looking at ways to enhance the show while continuing to be about all things print.
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