2019: Year in review

From new tradeshows to new technologies, from new installations to new partnerships, here’s my annual look at what I believe are the top stories of 2019. Do you agree? My apologies to those deserving news items (including ones from December that occurred after our press deadline) that I was forced to omit.

Story of the year: Printing United

Built upon the success of its predecessor (the annual SGIA Expo), the inaugural Printing United tradeshow attracted about 30,000 to the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas, TX, Oct. 23 – 25. The new event was an all-encompassing showcase occupying 724,000 sq. ft. of floor space. Show organizers – the Specialty Graphic Imaging Association (SGIA) and NAPCO Media – managed a sold-out show floor of 680 exhibitors, arranged over 100 educational sessions and several other events to further connect industry players. And here’s the kicker: pre-show registration for their Printing United 2020 tradeshow (Oct. 21 – 23 in Atlanta, GA) has already exceeded 6,000 attendees. At over 1 million sq. ft., more than two-thirds of the show floor has already been reserved!

Ford Bowers
Ford Bowers

“The feedback we continuously received throughout the show and following the event, from both exhibitors and attendees, has been overwhelmingly positive and powerful,” said Ford Bowers, President and CEO at SGIA. “Many commented on how revitalizing it was to see such a full and comprehensive event. We were most thrilled about all the buying that took place on the show floor. This is the best testament that our industry, indeed, is thriving. We just needed the right model – and we’re confident that we’ve produced that with Printing United.”

Mark Subers
Mark Subers

Mark Subers, President of Printing United, added: “The vision for Printing United has been two years in the making. Seeing it all come together was surreal. We worked hard to provide this industry across all segments with solutions and resources they need to make their businesses successful. For some, that means expanding their capabilities within their traditional industries; for others it’s collaborating and converging with adjacent segments and markets. Either way, there was something for everyone, and our passion for where this industry is headed is invigorating.”



  • Postage stamp, Canada PostCanada Post raised the rate for domestic letter mail weighing 30 grams or less to 90¢ from 85¢. The price of a single domestic stamp increased to $1.05 from $1. Canada Post added that the impact of this first increase since 2014 would be less than a dollar a year for the average Canadian household, and about $14 per year for the typical small business. However, this did have a huge impact on those involved in direct mail, related businesses and that industry’s supply chain.
  • Heidelberg Assistant celebrated its first anniversary with over 700 users at 400 print shops worldwide. Its new digital customer communications and service portfolio helps clients 24/7 with their digital transformations with specific data and information to manage digital production much more efficiently. Each user can also get an overview of his or her print shop’s service and maintenance status, including data-driven failure predictions.
  • Mimaki Canada’s successful Future of Fabrics seminar January 17 at its head office and showroom in Concord, ON explored how to expand a printer’s business opportunities with the OEM’s products. They held live demos of Mimaki dye-sublimation and direct-to-textile printers, as well as its UV-LED and eco-solvent printers. Technical specialists also discussed future fabric and textile-printing technologies.



  • HP Indigo 50000
    HP Indigo 50000

    HP reached a milestone sale of its 1,000th HP Indigo Series 4 Digital Press to Ryan Printing in New York, continuing the momentum for its 29” (B2) platform across commercial, labels and packaging print applications to customers in 65 countries. The Series 4 platform includes the oversized B1 HP Indigo 50000 for commercial and photo printing, the HP Indigo 20000 for labels and flexible packaging, and the HP Indigo 30000 for folding cartons.


  • Ricoh and Cisco formed a global partnership to provide cloud solutions to empower digital workplaces to deliver increased productivity in a more secure environment. Handling cyber attacks usually involves specific expertise and huge costs. In response, the two companies will be providing solutions to maintain and manage a secure environment more simply and at a much lower cost.
  • EFI donated a number of Optitex 2D/3D design software licenses for students and faculty members at the Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s Wilson School of Design in Richmond, BC. The donation gave students the necessary skills to enter the textile and apparel industry, including access to the Optitex eLearning site, which features user-friendly training materials, videos and webinar recordings that provide job-specific training for patternmakers, marker makers, technical designers, 3D designers and others.



  • MET’s new headquarters in Vancouver
    MET’s new headquarters in Vancouver

    Metropolitan Fine Printers (MET) opened its new, state-of-the-art Vancouver, BC headquarters housing its management, sales and production teams, as well as its core manufacturing plant. “We see ourselves as a cross-media communications partner, combining our unparalleled printing expertise with MET’s cutting-edge technologies to elevate your brand,” said MET President Nikos Kallas. MET is an international, award-winning, carbon-neutral printer serving the Vancouver, Calgary, Victoria, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle and Honolulu markets.


  • PDI Large Format Solutions became the first in Canada to install three new EFI VUTEk printers – a flatbed/roll-fed EFI VUTEk h3 superwide-format LED printer, an EFI VUTEk 3r+ roll-to-roll LED printer, and an EFI VUTEk FabriVU 340i soft-signage printer. The major technology upgrades are expected to drive growth over the next several years. With production facilities in Laval, QC, PDI customers include many of the largest names in Canadian retail.
  • Mimaki USA opened its new Technology Center in Gardena, a suburb of Los Angeles, CA. The celebration featured a ribbon-cutting and traditional Japanese Kagami Biraki ceremony. The new 28,446 sq. ft. center houses Mimaki’s entire product portfolio. Unique to this location, visitors can also experience a new Textile & Apparel Lab with dye-sublimation and direct-to-textile printers and a finishing room with laminators and cutters.



  • Graphics Canada LogoGraphics Canada, the largest tradeshow in the country for the printing and graphic arts industry, took place April 11 – 13 at the International Centre in Mississauga, ON. The biennial tradeshow drew over 7,000 visitors with more than 150 leading industry suppliers occupying over 100,000 sq. ft. of floor space. Its footprint grew by 6% over 2017 and included one of the largest conference programs ever assembled in Canada, as well as several co-located events with leading industry associations.
  • EFI was acquired by an affiliate of Siris Capital Group for $1.7 billion in cash (USD). Siris is a private equity firm focused on “investing and driving value creation in technology companies that provide mission-critical solutions and are facing technology transitions,” it said.
  • Xerox unveiled new services to help clients’ with their digital transformations. The new services included Intelligent Workplace Services, Capture & Content, Accounts Payable, Digital Hub & Cloud Print and Campaigns on Demand Services. Sector-specific services included Digital Insurer (for insurance companies), Digital Patient (for healthcare organizations), Digital Citizen (for public-sector authorities) and Digital Retailer (for retail stores).



  • Agfa H3300 LED
    Agfa H3300 LED

    Agfa Graphics Canada held a successful open house at its Canadian headquarters and production facility in Mississauga, ON. The focus was on boosting print quality and increasing productivity, while lowering overall production costs. Live demos included the full Jeti Tauro, Jeti Mira and Anapurna lines of wide-format digital printers. Agfa and Esko also teamed up to demonstrate their integrated workflow solutions.


  • Epson opened its first Certified Solution Centre in Canada at TG Graphics in Mississauga, ON, allowing hands-on access their entire printing portfolio – including signage, dye-sublimation and DTG solutions, and much more. The OEM’s wide-format digital SureColor S-Series, F-Series and P-Series, extensive print samples, and comprehensive customer-training opportunities were showcased. The Centre will also allow TG Graphics to display a wide range of printing applications in a state-of-the-art setting.
  • GPA debuted its comprehensive 500-page swatch book (yes, 500 pages!) weighing over four pounds! It featured a huge range of papers, synthetics and specialty substrates perfect-bound into one volume. Never before has a book of this size combined papers and synthetics and been perfect-bound, said the specialty substrate leader.
  • Mack Media in Toronto installed Canada’s first EFI VUTEk h5 superwide-format printer. The large-format digital specialist will use its new printer to establish a competitive advantage in graphics segments where larger companies dominate the market, while also increasing production volume, improving print quality and reducing turnaround times, especially on larger projects.



  • Heidelberg Speedmaster XL 106 Press
    Heidelberg Speedmaster XL 106 Press

    Heidelberg earned its largest contract in 20 years as Brazilian online printer Printi invested in three new Heidelberg Speedmaster XL 106 8-colour presses (with perfecting and LED UV technology) and a fully automatic Suprasetter 106 CtP system. Twelve Heidelberg technicians installed them over eight weeks. Printi’s overall goal was to boost productivity by up to 30%. Makeready times have already been cut from 40 minutes (on Printi’s older presses) to just four minutes on the new ones. In addition, what used to take five presses to produce can now be handled by its three new Speedmasters.


  • Landa’s S10 Nanographic Press went into commercial production at packaging printer Edelmann Group (Heidenheim, Germany). Over 60 leading converters and printers from around the world attended an open house at Edelmann’s facility to see Europe’s first Landa S10 Nanographic Printing Press produce commercial jobs at 6,500 B1/41-inch sheets per hour. The shop experienced exceptional print quality while running 7 colours and achieved 6,500 B1/41” sheets per hour producing commercial jobs at full production 24/7.
  • Ryerson University students shared in $40,000 in scholarships from the SGIA, who awarded 20 students with $2,000 each. Students had to be enrolled at an SGIA Educational Institution member college or university full time for fall 2019, and demonstrate a commitment to a career in graphic communications, print technology or print management. The winners included five students from the Graphic Communications Management course at Ryerson University in Toronto: Iain Ailles, Justin Chan, Matthew Fantauzzi, Julia Forrester and Afrah Idrees.



  • Xerox Baltoro HF Inkjet Press
    Xerox Baltoro HF Inkjet Press

    Hume Media of Toronto became the first company in the world to acquire the new Xerox Baltoro HF Inkjet Press. The cut-sheet inkjet production press can print high-volume jobs with superior image quality and productivity while adding support for coated stocks without the need for primers or pre-treatments. The breakthrough platform supports high-quality production with economics similar to offset printing. The Baltoro is also the only entry-level press to use AI to optimize and maintain colour and image quality and self-correct in real time.


  • CJ Graphics of Mississauga, ON won the most Benny Awards (20) in the history of the PIA’s Premier Print Awards. This was the first time that a Canadian commercial printer was awarded the most Bennys – not only in Canada, but worldwide! The annual competition recognizes outstanding achievements in print production, with the Benny Award being the highest honour that a shop can earn. CJ Graphics also won 42 Awards of Recognition and 83 Certificates of Merit.
  • Mary Elizabeth Black of Big Cedar Estates in Oro Medonte, ON lost her battle with cancer July 5. In 1996 she blazed a new trail as Professor and Chair of Ryerson University’s School of Graphic Communications Management (GCM) in Toronto where she developed management trainees for the printing industry. She was also the force behind the creation of GCMs new home, the Heidelberg Centre. After Ryerson, she became a leading recruiter for the print industry. Mary won many awards and was also president, director and advisor for many important industry associations.



  • Captiva’s interactive banner for Lise Watier
    Captiva’s interactive banner for Lise Watier

    Captiva Innovations of Vancouver, BC launched its interactive LED eBanners for Lise Watier’s new lipstick. Lise Watier is the largest cosmetics manufacturer in Canada. The deployment was at 50 selected retail locations across the country. The POP solution integrated programmed micro-LEDs and touch-sensors into banners to better engage shoppers. Customers simply touched the “play” button on the banner to stop the racing LED lights to discover any prizes they had won.


  • Drytac Canada of Brampton, ON continued it expansion into a new facility that began in June. The move took place in stages to ensure uninterrupted production. The international manufacturer of self-adhesive materials for the print, label and industrial markets, moved its operations into a state-of-the-art facility spanning over 70,000 sq. ft. The new premises consolidated Drytac’s manufacturing and distribution into one building to improve efficiency, while housing its entire Canadian workforce.
  • Xeikon added features to its Panther technology to achieve haptic-effect printing for printers looking to enhance and increase their range of labels. Haptic technology simulates touch in a digital environment. It was the unique combination of the Xeikon X-800 workflow and the PantherCure UV ink that generated a tactile layer, yielding a more engaging experience for end-users.


  • Bill Kidd
    Bill Kidd

    The Toronto Club of Printing House Craftsmen (IAPHC) closed after almost 100 years of philanthropic service. A letter from President Bill Kidd and other executives went on to say: “Membership is now at an all-time low. Throughout the years, the club has given support to printing personnel, both local and international. Students who were considering the printing industry for employment also received support through scholarships. All our assets will be forwarded to the Canadian Printing Industries Association, which has a Canadian Print Scholarships Program.”


  • Canadian Print Scholarships announced that 68 new and returning students at five schools nationwide received scholarships for the 2019/2020 academic year valued at $1,500 each. The schools included the BC Institute of Technology, Manitoba Institute of Trades and Technology, Nova Scotia Community College, Ryerson University and Southern Alberta Institute of Technology. Jeff Ekstein, Chair of Canadian Print Scholarships, added that this was the most scholarships it’s ever awarded in a single year!
  • Pantone added 294 trending colours to its Pantone Matching System, creating an overall library of 2,100 colours that allowed for much more design flexibility. The latest colour additions included updated, cross-referenced data for closer uniformity between physical and digital formats. It was the first addition of colours since 2016.



  • Solucan Group
    Left to right are: Marvin Foreman, Sales Manager, Tonejet; Rob Day, CEO, Tonejet; Sebastien Baril, President at Solucan and Jean-Francois Gaudreault, General Manager at Solucan, pictured with the Cyclone system.

    Solucan installed the world’s first Tonejet Cyclone direct-to-can digital printing system at its new production facility in Trois-Rivières, Quebec. The new system will give regional and Northeast American beverage producers and smaller craft brewers all the benefits of short-run digital can decoration without the high costs, waste and recycling headaches that come with traditional labels and shrink-sleeves. The new system can produce millions of unique, customized cans.


  • HP announced a $200 million investment over five or more years to develop water-based ink technologies for printing digitally on corrugated packaging and textiles. The commitment was part of HP’s Sustainable Impact vision to implement “safer, simpler solutions aimed at creating sustainable digital print.” The OEM added that its water-based inks for corrugated packaging have already shown leadership for sensitive applications such as food packaging, while the sign and display markets are utilizing its water-based HP Latex Inks.
  • Custom Colour Imaging & Publishing of Toronto became the first adopter of Taopix.ai technology in North America. UK-based Taopix is the world’s leading developer of white-label personalization and photo-commerce software. The technology automatically simplifies the creation of complex photo books and other similar products by intelligently selecting photos in their chronological order – thus removing the time-consuming process of doing this manually. The technology also significantly reduces time to market.


  • Xerox opted out of its contentious joint venture with Fujifilm, and entered into agreements with Fujifilm and specific subsidiaries. The terms of the agreements included sale of Xerox’s 25% stake in Fuji Xerox Co., Ltd. (FX) to a subsidiary of Fujifilm, modified sourcing terms for future products that will ensure Xerox’s product supply continuity, sale to an affiliate of FX of Xerox’s 51% stake in Xerox International Partners (XIP), and dismissal of the $1 billion lawsuit Fujifilm filed against Xerox after last year’s terminated merger.
  • The Book Manufacturers’ Institute (BMI) announced the recipients of its Distinguished Master Bookman Award and its Signature Award. The Distinguished Master Bookman Award, given to a BMI member who’s made an extraordinary contribution to the industry during a lengthy career, was won by Mike Collinge of Marquis Book Printing (Montmagny, QC). The Signature Award, given to a BMI member who’s made a valuable contribution to the welfare of the industry and/or the Institute through the display of superior leadership qualities over an extended period of time, was won by Jim Kaeli, who recently retired from Muller Martini.
  • Xeikon America and Anderson & Vreeland entered into an agreement under which Anderson & Vreeland will sell the Xeikon line of dry toner and inkjet-based digital label presses in Canada and the U.S. The move will increase Xeikon’s sales strength in North America. A&V will begin offering Xeikon digital press solutions in early 2020. For each prospective customer, A&V will work in partnership with Xeikon’s regional sales managers to assemble optimal press configurations, and to assist in contract negotiations, ordering and installation. Xeikon will provide maintenance services and consumables post-sale.


Tony Curcio is the editor of Graphic Arts Magazine.