Key Industry Manufacturers and Others Invest in Major Presence as Overall Show Sales Soar
As the crisp fall air started to roll across the country, Orlando, Florida was as hot and steamy as ever for the annual Graph Expo show, held for the first time at the Orange County Convention Center at the end of September.
This was an interesting Graph Expo year. For one, we’d already been to drupa, which is held every four years in Dusseldorf, Germany. This massive trade fair had an exclusive on most, if not all, of the major announcements this past summer. In drupa years, Graph Expo usually has the North American launch of many of the hot, new products on the market, even though the official debut of those products happened overseas months ago.
And second, we had a change of venue in the mix. Graph Expo has been held in Chicago for as long as I can remember, and this was the first year, in an experiment to try different locations, to see how it would be received. The show is set to return to Chicago for the next two years, and then back to Orlando again in 2019.
But what did these factors mean for the show itself? First of all, it seemed a bit smaller than in the past. Some of the big exhibitors chose to either scale back their booths, or opt out on having a booth altogether. In a few cases, they partnered with others for a small presence on the show floor, but in many cases, big vendors were just absent.
On the other end of the spectrum, some companies, including Canon and Xerox among others, were still a very visible and had very large presence at the show. And others such as Muller Martini actually decided to return to the show this year after being absent last year.
Attendance for the show this year was down, but every exhibitor I talked to said it was, paradoxically, a good thing. The “tire kickers” were the ones who opted not to travel to Orlando, leaving the show floor to those attendees who were looking to make deals. Exhibitor after exhibitor said that overall traffic was down, but they had more signed contracts and sold more equipment than in previous years. And to be honest, most of them noted they were perfectly pleased with that outcome. They would rather talk to 10 people who are ready to commit to a sale than 100 who are just browsing.
Just because it was a smaller show this year, didn’t mean there wasn’t some great technology on display. Here are just a few of the things that caught my eye while walking the show floor:
Konica Minolta Business Solutions
Konica Minolta had many great options running in its booth, but what drew the most attention was the virtual reality (VR) experience. Putting on the VR glasses, attendees could see—and touch—the AccurioJet KM-1, which was launched at drupa. This inkjet press “combines the speed and flexibility of offset presses with the digital benefits of variable data printing and zero make-ready,” according to the company. It prints on 23×29.5-inch sheets, allowing for 6-up letter-size printing. Using VR to let visitors see more presses than what would fit in the booth really made for an innovative experience, and drew crowds throughout the entire show.
This year, EFI had a ton of MUST SEE ‘EMs’ winners, Graph Expo’s coveted awards that recognize the most innovative technologies to come to market in the previous 12 months. This year, EFI swept eight categories with the following products acknowledged as a MUST SEE ‘EM:
• EFI Fiery Color Profiler Suite G7 calibration and verification (Color Management and Quality Control);
• EFI Digital Marketing Automation Platform (Variable, Transactional and Multi-Channel);
• EFI Nozomi C18000 single-pass corrugated board digital press (Pressroom: Digital Presses);
• EFI AquaEndure Inks (Pressroom: Wide Format);
• EFI Armor Erase UV Coating (Pressroom: Wide Format);
• The EFI and Esko integrated workflow for digital packaging (Management Systems);
• The EFI Corrugated Packaging Suite (Management Systems); and
• EFI Optitex Collaborate software (Prepress and Premedia).
In addition to having its winning, innovations products and services available for attendees to take a look and learn more about in person, the company also launched a host of brand new products at the show as well, including:
• EFI Quick Print Suite, an MIS and eCommerce cloud platform;
• EFI Corrugated Packaging Suite featuring an advanced core Manufacturing Execution System (MES) for board production management;
• Cloud-based EFI Optitex Collaborate App for designers, pattern makers and print teams;
• EFI Fiery NX print server;
• EFI Fiery Color Profiler Suite color management platform for higher-quality output to Idealliance; G7 specifications; and
• Fiery Navigator digital print business intelligence tool.
There was something for everyone, no matter what segment of the industry attendees focused on, making it a very busy, and very productive, stop for everyone on the show floor.
Canon USA, Inc.
Another big manufacturer that didn’t go small this year was Canon, which also had a MUST SEE ‘EM award for the Océ VarioPrint i300 digital press, which the company had on display. With a theme of #PrintCanon at the show, the booth was a testament to the wide range of technologies the company offers.
Canon also took the opportunity to launch a new product—the imagePRESS C850 series of digital color presses, consisting of the imagePRESS C850 and imagePRESS C750 models. The imagePRESS C850 Series offers end-users the image quality enabled by imagePRESS Gloss Optimization, R-VCSEL laser and advanced twin-belt fusing technologies, color consistency, productivity with up to 85 letter-size images per minute, reliability and versatility with a wealth of in-line finishing options, digital front-end options, media support, and the new auto-duplex print capability of up to 30-inch long sheets to produce the array of print products needed to satisfy high-demand production-print environments.
HP announced four new presses at Graph Expo: the HP PageWide Web Press T390 HD, T390M HD, T380 HD, and T370 HD. Billed as an expansion to the company’s High Definition Nozzle Architecture (HDNA) technology, the presses “provide high-quality color prints and enable print service providers (PSPs) to address a wider range of commercial printing applications, such as customized magazines, catalogs and books,” noted the company in a statement. The goal with the new presses is to close the quality gap between analog and digital devices, which allows printers to address a much wider range of clients and applications.
Xerox Technology Business
Xerox had five MUST SEE ‘EMs winners at Graph Expo this year: the Brenva HD Production Inkjet Press; Direct to Object Inkjet Printer; FreeFlow Core 5.0; FreeFlow Digital Publisher; and XMPie’s Campaigns-on-Demand.
“The road to transformation and growth in today’s competitive graphic communications market starts with the right technology and partner,” said Robert Stabler, senior vice president, Graphic Communications Business Group, Xerox, in a statement. “At Graph Expo, attendees [saw] firsthand how we’re arming our customers with the next wave of print technologies to help them stay competitive and propel business forward.”
The company also notably received the MUST SEE ‘EM Legacy Award for the iGen3 VI Digital Press. Billed as a game-changing technology that had a profound impact on the print industry that is still being felt today, the technology was recognized for its contributions to the modern print industry.
Still Fit for Large Print
Change is never easy, especially when it comes to an institution like Graph Expo, that many of us on the production side in the United States look forward to every year. But this year’s show proved that change isn’t necessarily a bad thing, breathing new life into attendees and exhibitors alike. This was just a small sample of some of the technologies and innovations on display. I am already looking forward the exciting changes the show might have in store for us in 2017.