From Print 13 to 2014... We Are Looking to the Future!

Every year, we like to think that our trip to McCormick Place will give us some insight into what lies ahead in the coming year. PRINT 13 delivered just that. While the central theme of the PRINT 13 show was digital color print, the buzz centered on cutsheet inkjet solutions. At least seven vendors had products or presentations in their booths centered on cutsheet inkjet. But only one showed the ability to take up to B3 paper – the new Niagara from Canon Solutions America. This solution makes use of existing technologies from the company’s product lines, such as paper handling from the Océ VarioPrint® 6000 cutsheet family and print heads from the Océ ColorStream® inkjet family. With speeds up to 8,500 duplex letter sheets per hour, or about 280 ppm, the Niagara is big step up in cutsheet color speeds.

dpi-bp-article-12-2013-niagara.jpgCanon Solutions America showcased sample output on a variety of paper stocks and, even on untreated paper, the output impressed the likes of Madison Advisors. While the output looked better on more expensive papers, the difference between mid-price and high-price samples was negligible. That will help keep the overall cost of using a Niagara system lower, helping printers remain profitable. Niagara will be released to the market in 2014 in a limited capacity, so stay tuned for more details throughout the year.

According to Madison Advisors, expect to see growth in digital color continue through 2014. The firm’s recent engagements have shown an increase in production color printers in both in-plants and service bureaus. Outsourced print providers without high volume color capabilities are reviewing the market for the best solution to meet the needs of existing and new client opportunities. Most understand the need to have the color devices in place when bidding on color jobs as the learning curve is too great to take an “if they come, we’ll build it” approach. Creative sales approaches are needed to get these placements so the service bureaus can control their capital expenses while building volume.

Custom packaging and product labeling is a growth area for commercial printers and there were a number of products at PRINT 13 geared toward this, again, many inkjet-based. The opportunity here is two-fold. For the printer, digital packaging printing allows them to respond quickly to changes in labeling from their clients. Short runs can now be profitable as you can print fully customized single units. For the marketing manager, digital printing of packaging and product labeling allows them to customize the messaging on each product to a specific micro market or respond to an outside event with special packaging.

The message from PRINT 13 was that color digital print is the future and the industry is prepared to deliver solutions to streamline the production process. Printer vendors are investing in new print technology while software providers are investing in new solutions that are more user-friendly and easier to support. 2014 will be an interesting year as these new print solutions get into the hands of end users and we see if they deliver on the hype. Stay tuned!