Reflections on a successful Print 17

Print 17 in Chicago was my first tradeshow since 2014. It was great to see old friends and familiar faces, get re-acquainted with new technologies, and wrap my head around emerging trends. I didn’t know what to expect when I landed in the windy city and headed for McCormick Place, the traditional home of the show. I knew the event was smaller than it had been in previous years. That being said, it did attract over 450 exhibitors. But I didn’t know what the mood would be or what the crowds would be like (attendance figures were not in at press time).

I have to say that my overriding takeaway is that nothing has really changed and most aspects of the event were familiar to me. If you’re cynical (which I can be at times) this could be an indictment of the show and the industry. But as my thoughts continued to coalesce and my feet stopped throbbing, I sensed my sentiment shifting from cynicism, to reality, to optimism. Because, if things haven’t changed that much, it also means they haven’t deteriorated either. I went in expecting a sober experience, but it was actually much more positive and stable than I imagined it would be. Evolution has, of course, made its mark on our industry. Here are some observations that stood out to me. The crowds, judging by pure eyeballing, seemed pretty good. The mood and energy on the show floor was generally upbeat. Some exhibitors did grumble a little bit, noting the shrinking footprint of their booths, but even in casual conversations, most of the aisle talk was pleasant and very positive.

I continue to be slightly awed at the groundbreaking capabilities of the technologies being exhibited. Some of the applications I saw were just simply cool and such a far cry from my previous tradeshow offerings. I marvelled at printed samples on wonderfully tactile substrates that come close to being works of art. And don’t even get me started on textile printing – quite possibly the most exciting and fun segment out there with boundless possibilities. Inkjet technology continues its incursion into the industry and it’s now available in many formats – from entry-level machines, to large web presses, to all manner of large format devices. Toner talk at the show seemed minimal. As did offset talk.

Talk of printing as a communications medium was also minimal – certainly not dead, but not front-and-centre. Instead, the buzz was on packaging, textile printing, direct mail, functional and industrial printing. EFI CEO Guy Gecht captured this best when, during the EFI press conference, he said one of the key ways to transform print was to arrive at a new definition of print. Print 17 pointed the way to this new definition in stark relief as I re-engaged with the industry. By our next issue, the SGIA in New Orleans will offer even keener insights and direction. But this transformation is not without its challenges and it does require a re-examination, for every print shop, of what exactly print can be.

What caught my eye

It would take every page of this magazine to summarize some of the remarkable technologies on display, so here are some highlights from my point of view.

Horseshoe Press (Burnaby, BC) became first printer in Western Canada to acquire Konica Minolta’s groundbreaking MGI JETvarnish 3D Evolution. The world’s first B1+ scalable sheetfed Digital Enhancement Press features 2D spot UV coating, 3D dimensional coating, digitally embossed foiling and more. Fujifilm debuted its Onset M, a B1 format sheetfed digital UV inkjet printer specifically developed for high quality short runs. Also making its debut was the Acuity LED 3200R super-wide-format printer for display and exhibition graphics.

Epson presented several digital imaging solutions, including the SureColor P5000 Commercial Edition with SpectroProofer. The 17” production printer delivers an industry-best 99% Pantone Plus Formula Guide solid-coated colour matching. Standard Finishing occupied one of the largest booths with live demos of die-cutting, perfect binding and trimming, slitting and creasing, folding, saddlestitching, inspection systems, and roll-fed print solutions. Ricoh debuted its Pro VC40000 continuous-feed inkjet platform to the U.S. market. The continuous-feed inkjet platform makes producing complex, variable-data-driven direct mail and transactional output much easier. Xerox showcased its Rialto 900 Inkjet Press, Trivor 2400 High Fusion Inkjet Press (for printing directly to offset-coated stocks), and Versant 3100 with enhanced automation features for faster turnaround times and expanded application opportunities.

And these were just the small tip of a very large iceberg! I can’t wait for next year’s show.