The biggest “highs” this year, in my opinion, were the several major industry tradeshows led by (of course) drupa. Though attendance was 20% lower compared to 2008, May’s drupa still attracted over 314,500 from more than 130 countries to see its 1,850 exhibits. For me, the most important result was that about 50% of all visitors actually placed orders – and most were inked at the show itself. About 2,400 journalists from 75 countries attended. The buzz of the show, according to the people we had on the ground, was undoubtedly Landa Nanography. The next drupa will be June 2 to 15, 2016.
Another big high this year was Graph Expo. Leave it to our best friends south of the border to stage a show that had more new features, more new events and more business-building seminars than ever before. One of its highlights was the first-ever InPlant Place booth that provided in-plant professionals with their own dedicated section. There are over 45,000 in-plant printing operations in the U.S. alone and this is definitely a growing market segment. Pack Expo International made history with over 1,800 exhibitors, more than 1.1 million square feet of exhibit space and record-setting registration numbers. The SGIA Expo in Las Vegas attracted a record 22,000. Michael Robertson, SGIA President and CEO, saw a huge increase in first-time visitors. There were also numerous smaller local industry trade shows staged during the year throughout North America that were extremely successful.
More good news: believe it or not, national printing shipments actually increased, according to Statistics Canada. With the exception of March, every month this year (up to August) has surpassed figures for the corresponding month in 2011. Let’s hope that trend continues. It was also nice to see that newspapers are still read by 80% of adults in urban areas, according to NADbank. More importantly, printed newspapers continued to be the most popular way of reading. Here in Toronto, 75% of adults over 18 read a printed or online edition every week and just under 50% do so every day. And guess which city has the most informed urban readers? It’s Halifax – with the highest weekday print readership and the highest total daily reach. Take that Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver!
An ingenious new Canadian technology seemed to fly below the radar in 2012, but I can see it becoming big news in 2013. It’s already getting international attention. Winnipeg, Manitoba’s Prairie Pulp & Paper has created Straw Paper, a product made from agricultural waste that contains 80% wheat straw and 20% FSC-certified wood fibre. The new wheat-straw-based paper has the lowest environmental impact with respect to non-renewable energy use, greenhouse gas emissions, wastewater and aquatic acidification. We’ll be on top of this emerging technology like an MMA fighter on an opponent, trust me.
There were more good news headlines. The PIA celebrated its 125th Anniversary in January as Mutoh celebrated 60 years in business. Businessman Tony Langley became the major shareholder in manroland sheetfed and Hans Gronhi acquired Sanxin and Shinohara presses. California-based 4over opened its first Canadian production facility in Mississuaga, Ontario while Esko was launching its Suite 12 packaging software. 3D printing machines, cross-country seminars and animation software made news in Canada. Major paper companies such as PaperSpecs, Neenah, Sappi, Appleton and others created exceptional sample books and paper-selection guides and held free informative webinars. Asia Pulp and Paper joined the fray by having representatives in every province.
Multi-function printers led the way in new product releases along with dozens of digital machines. Heidelberg, Komori and manroland inked agreements with Landa Corporation. Printed plastic solar panels were being researched to replace existing technology. American Printer magazine did its best impersonation of the Arabian Phoenix, rising from the ashes with a new B2Me magazine format where advertisements matched subscribers’ demographic profiles.
Closer to home, Laycon signs of Fergus, Ontario created new technology to make channel letters with common daytime colours light up at night. There were so many new tech and mobile devices launched or improved – tablets, androids, ultrabooks, iPads, smartphones – that I felt like I was working for Silicon Valley! KBA users won an astounding 35 international Newspaper Color Quality Awards while Dr. Gerold Linzbach was named new Heidelberg CEO for 2013. Speaking of Heidelberg, they successfully developed IT as a new business in 2012.
KBA had excellent half-year finances with a cash flow of 55 million euros. Fujifilm’s J Press 720 won more awards, this time from the PIA. PDS Pressdown released the world’s fastest digital tabletop label press in Canada as Sydney Stone introduced several new machines to the Canadian market after it launched its new online Resource Centre. HP earned its first UL Sustainability Certification for water-based inkjet Inks. Komori entered the printed electronics market in a big way with its Pepio line.
The RIM BlackBerry 10 entered the Apple and Android phone battleground. Pitney Bowes introduced new technology for high-volume printing and mailing and the Samsung Galaxy Note II helped coin new jargon – the phablet! Huh? Cold foil became available from manroland sheetfed and Corporate Image won Best Binder Award – again! The Globe and Mail launched its paywall subscription system and other daily newspapers soon followed.
PAC donated $25,000 in scholarships to Ryerson University and three Canadians were winners in Adobe’s 2012 Design Achievement Awards. The National Reading Campaign launched its “What Did You Read Today?” campaign and Ryerson University received major technology software donations from Esko. Nokia release its Lumia 920 Camera Phone and Taiwan technology giant Asus brought the world’s first convertible ultrabook, the Asus Taichi, to Canada. To summarize, I’m happy to say that the good news stories overwhelmed the bad news.
However, there were lousy news stories in 2012 too – the usual layoffs, plant and shop closings for starters. The Encyclopedia Britannica ended its renowned printed edition, Xpedx closed its stores division, Lexmark said adios to its inkjet products, and Heidelberg cut 2,000 jobs worldwide while Quebecor axed 500 here. Canada Post offered a 10% discount on unaddressed advertising early in the year, then in July (surprise, surprise) said higher rates for transactional and direct mail are headed our way in January. Postmedia axed Sunday papers for the Ottawa Citizen, Calgary Herald and Edmonton Journal and several printed magazines were replaced by online versions.
There were deaths too, deaths of hard working, pioneering people whose roots dated back to the 1950s. Patriarchs like Unigraph’s Leo Thibault, Tower Litho’s Tassos Siriopolous and Dennis LaBine, retired owner of LaBine Printers in Pembroke – and so many others – passed away after decades of service. But at the same time I’m hopeful because I know that their sons, daughters and even close friends will continue their work and the families’ traditions of excellence that reflects their names. In fact, for every obituary I wrote, I penned more good news stories about people in our industry. People like Kwik Kopy’s Doug and Barb Bower who were named 2012 Franchisee Owners of The Year and have been married for 52 years; Avanti Systems’ CEO Patrick Bolan who was appointed to the CIP4 Advisory Board; and Dr. Hadi Mahabadi, retired head of the Xerox Research Centre of Canada who received the Order of Canada.
Some “cool stuff” from 2012
Here are my picks from the realm of wacky and wonderful. Sun Innovations, the Russian manufacturer of large-format presses and inks, had one of its finest creations detained at a Moscow airport. It contained samples of printing for a client in Colombia. Customs officials were misled by the high-quality reproduction of Van Gogh’s famous “Sunflowers” printed on canvas with raised printing that mimicked the brush strokes. The samples were mistaken for original art and were therefore forbidden for export without special permission from the Russian Ministry of Culture. Careful next time comrade.
I read about news of carbon-dioxide-absorbing labels and reported on Twitter toilet paper (yes, toilet paper) that can actually print your twitter feeds! Flexible e-ink displays were released in Europe and out of drupa came news of the debut of “intelligent humanoid paper-handling robots” (as opposed to dumb paper-handling robots). Another cool product was Alphyn’s new Touchscreen Gloves for mobile devices that will keep your fingers warm in freezing winter. If you’d like to get more details on all these stories, just visit: www.graphicartsmag.com.
My final “cool” news item goes to Peter Cober, President of Cober Evolving Solutions in Kitchener, Ontario – one of our industry’s finest companies. He had left a comment on our website about a news item on the resurrection of American Printer magazine. It was very apropos. “Interesting where we’ve been and where we are headed,” he wrote. “I have a book published by American Printer in 1870 on typography. I use it to illustrate to people that the printed word will be around for a long time. The power and relevance of the electronic mediums today for sure has its place. Congratulations on using today’s technologies to produce a printed magazine that has real value to the consumers.”