Archive for the Digital Printing Category

Graph Expo & DMA2012: A tale of two shows

Posted in Digital Media, Digital Printing, Print Media with tags , , , , on October 30, 2012 by multimediaman

Both the premiere print trade show and the top direct marketing conference were held in October this year. I had the fortunate opportunity to attend these two shows back to back: Graph Expo in Chicago on October 7-10 and DMA2012 in Las Vegas on October 13-18. As I walked the exhibit spaces and attended meetings, presentations and other gatherings, I saw important similarities and differences between these two events. Each in their own way illustrated how the graphic arts and direct marketing industries are being impacted by digital, social and mobile media technologies. They also revealed the complexities and difficulties facing every organization in our era of data-driven marketing and communications.

The mood among presenters, exhibitors and attendees at both shows was one of cautious optimism. The ongoing perfect storm of economic downturn combined with rapid technological change was on everyone’s mind. Both shows were devoted to providing answers and solutions to the pressing problem of the day; how can business owners and decision makers achieve success by more effectively serving client needs.

One way to compare these events is to look at the numbers. Since the figures for the 2012 shows have not yet been published, I will use the numbers from last year:

Event              Attendees      Exhibitors    Conf. Sessions
Graph Expo      20,000+          490+            50+
DMA2011         8,500+           350+            200+

With an emphasis on technology demonstration, Graph Expo is primarily about the equipment needed to accomplish marketing and communications objectives. And with an emphasis on conference sessions, DMA2012 (Direct Marketing Association) is focused on programs that educate and inform its audience about the processes needed to prepare and analyze initiatives. GraphExpo is for service companies that buy systems for the execution of programs. DMA2012 is for marketing companies that buy tools and solutions for the conceptualization of programs. Taken together, the two represent a continuum of the entire marketing and communications loop; where the one ends the other picks up.

These characteristics can also be seen by the way the event organizers describe themselves to their audience:

Graph Expo: “Graph Expo is the year’s largest and most exciting display of ‘live’ running equipment in the Americas. Watching a machine run and participating in a demonstration teaches you things you just can’t learn by sitting in a conference room or looking at a brochure. This show is a problem-solving adventure designed to help you make informed purchasing decisions.”

DMA20212: “The content at DMA2012 will deliver real-world solutions you can use immediately, as well as strategic guidance to help you plan for 2013. You’ll find an inspiring line-up of key thought leaders and innovators from the world’s leading companies. These gurus will educate and inform you on the latest trends:

  • optimizing content across channels
  • monetizing social media
  • integrating media according to customer preference
  • leveraging real-time analytics for daily decision making”

I arrived at Graph Expo on Sunday, October 7 and entered the expo floor when it opened at noon. Along with everyone else, I noticed immediately the prominence of the manufacturers of digital printing technologies, as was the case in last year’s show. Canon, Xerox, HP, Fuji, Kodak and others have taken over the largest booths in the show. In previous years, these booths were occupied by Heidelberg, KBA, Komori and Mitsubishi. Although Heidelberg stood out by having a large space with many machines on display, gone are the days of GraphExpo as a showcase of large and loud offset printing machinery.

Benny Landa speaking at the InfoTrends breakfast at GraphExpo

On Monday morning October 8, I attended an InfoTrends breakfast meeting that featured a talk by Benny Landa, the inventor of digital printing (he launched the Indigo press in 1993). Landa spoke about what he called the “economic depression of the printing industry.” As he reviewed the new printing technique his company has developed (nanography), he explained that the “98% of the printing being done today” is static, non-variable data printing. Since much of this printing is not profitable, it means that printing companies are unable to invest in new technologies.

Chris Anderson delivering the opening keynote at DMA2012

My visit to the DMA2012 Conference began by attending the opening keynote on Monday, October 15. The featured speaker was Chris Anderson, editor of Wired magazine and author of the business book “The Long Tail.” Anderson spoke about the implications of “big data” for marketing organizations. Big data is the ever-growing mountain of information about our lives; companies like Google and Facebook are accumulating big data about our online and offline activities, preferences and habits. The challenge facing marketers is how best to use this information since it is not structured and does lend itself to traditional analytical tools and methods. Anderson said that big data is a challenge to traditional marketing models.

From this brief report, it is evident that we are passing through an exciting time in our industry; we are well into the transition from the traditional, analog world of yesterday to the data-driven, digital world of tomorrow. However, the path forward is not obvious; marketing organizations and their service providers are facing a multiplicity of challenges. Among the keys to success in this rapidly shifting environment is taking advantage of events like Graph Expo and DMA2012. In this way, we can grasp the fundamental trends of development, learn from our peers and prepare our own organizations to meet the new demands of our clients.

DRUPA 2012: A report from afar

Posted in Digital Printing, DRUPA 2012, Print Media with tags , on June 25, 2012 by multimediaman

Like most people in our graphic arts community, I was unable to attend the international printing and paper expo—DRUPA 2012—in Düsseldorf, Germany this year. The trade show, which is held every four years, took place May 3-16 at the Düsseldorf Fair Grounds. DRUPA—a contraction of the German words for printing (druck) and paper (papier)—is by far the biggest and most important printing industry event in the world. This year the exhibits covered 1.7 million square feet of floor space and were on display in a total of 17 halls.

Having attended the expo twice in the past, I was very keen to follow the industry news reports—primarily from WhatTheyThink.com—and official DRUPA press releases as they came in each day. However, this year it was also possible for the first time to follow the event from social media streams. Through numerous YouTube and Twitter posts—from exhibiting firms as well as by attendees—it was possible to get a real-time view of what was happening.

Among the most important news from the show came after it was over. DRUPA 2012 saw 314,500 experts from more than 130 countries attend; this was 75,550 less than 2008. “This drop does not come as a surprise for us and the sector as a whole. In Germany alone the printing industry lost some 3,900 operations with over 61,000 employees between 2000 and 2011. In the USA over the same period more than 7,700 printing operations closed,” explained Werner Matthias Dornscheidt, President & CEO of Messe Düsseldorf.

There were other international dynamics in evidence at DRUPA, as the final press release from the show explained. “With more than 190,000 foreign visitors the international focus of DRUPA continues at a very high level. What is striking here is the high number of trade visitors from India, which, now reaching some 15,000, ranks as the second largest visitor nation after Germany (123,000 visitors). Following behind these two in the country ranking is: Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Great Britain, the USA, Switzerland and Italy. It is particularly gratifying to see the rising proportion of visitors from South and Central America (8.8% in 2012 compared to 7% in 2008)—and more specifically from Brazil.”

You can read the DRUPA 2012 Final Press Release here, http://ilnk.me/10708

Moving on to the technology of the show, you can find a summary of all the DRUPA news reports from WTT.com both before and after the show here, http://ilnk.me/1072b

The major developments were clearly in digital printing with various inkjet-printing devices taking center stage.  And the biggest news from DRUPA was the launch by Landa Corporation of a new category of printing called nanography. Benny Landa, the founder and CEO of Landa Corp., is the godfather of the digital printing revolution. After he invented the Indigo press—the first full-color variable data printing device—in 1993, Landa then sold this technology to Hewlett-Packard in 2003.

Landa’s new nanographic technology is distinct from other forms of digital presses in that it does not begin from the business proposition associated with variable data printing. Previous digital printing devices have attempted to compete for marketing and communications dollars based upon the value of personalized content. Nanography, while it offers this capability, more importantly makes a business claim on a substantial spectrum of static print media currently dominated by the offset method.

The DRUPA standing room only crowd at the Landa Nano exhibit

The basic ideas of Landa’s new solution are found in the following excepts from his DRUPA presentation:

“Everything that can become digital will become digital and that includes printing. Since 1993 when we launched it, digital printing has exploded. … And yet, digital printing barely nibbles around the edges of mainstream printing. Only 2% of printed pages are printed digitally. This is why we have invented nanography; for the other 98% …

“I bet there is not one person in this hall that believes that 200 years from now man will communicate by smearing pigment onto crushed trees. The question on everyone’s mind is when will printed media be replaced by digital media. … It will take many decades before printed media is replaced by whatever it will be … many decades is way over the horizon for us and our children. We are concerned about the coming decades and there the question we must ask ourselves is: ‘How can my business prosper as the printing industry transitions from mechanical printing to digital printing to whatever comes next?’ …

“Its all about the other 98%. And where is this 98%? You are already doing it. The trouble is, you can’t make any money from it. … There is no digital printing on the horizon or the foreseeable future that is going replace offset. Offset will be here for as long as we can imagine. … Digital printing was invented to be profitable at a run length of one, but the problem is that digital printing is also unprofitable as run lengths become longer and longer. That has created an enormous gap where neither offset is profitable nor digital is profitable. But that gap is where your customers need to be; short and medium run lengths and they can’t get it with you doing it profitably and that is why we invented nanography.”

The unique proposition of nanography is that it puts down elements of pigment onto any substrate in ultra small particles that measure in nanometers, one billionth of a meter, thus reducing the cost of basic elements of the printed image. The Landa Nano technology has been so impressive that agreements have been signed to license the printing method by Komori, Man Roland and Heidelberg. A summary of the technical and business issues in nanography can be found at the Landa website here: http://ilnk.me/10735

If you have time, you can watch a 47 minute video of the entire Landa presentation, which was standing room only at DRUPA 2012, courtesy of Yair Zafrany, here: http://ilnk.me/1072d

In addition to the excitement around the Landa launch, there were also impressive digital printing presentations made by HP, Xerox and a number of other manufacturers. A summing up of these developments can be found in a YouTube video by industry expert Frank Romano published by Mohawk Fine Paper here: http://ilnk.me/10736

As has been the case in the past, the most important thing about DRUPA is that it is more about where our industry is going than about where it is today. So DRUPA is a kind of time machine that lets us look ahead a bit. It is my hope that the information reported here will at least provide an indication of what to expect this fall at GraphExpo 2012 on October 7-12 in Chicago. Hopefully, more of us will be able to attend that show and then we can compare notes. See you there!

Chester Carlson: 1906 – 1968

Posted in Digital Media, Digital Printing, People in Media History, Print Media with tags , , , , , , , , on August 16, 2011 by multimediaman
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Chester Carlson invented xerography in 1938. Here he is demonstrating a prototype of the technology.

At age 20, I worked in the basement copy center of the NYU Law School as a college work-study employee. I learned to operate the systems used to duplicate legal documents for law professors and their students. For example, I ran the Xerox 9600; it had a document feeder, image zoom, two-sided copying, a 50-copy sorter, an electronic control panel and a series of sensors to detect paper jams.

I suppose there is significance to the fact that I remember far more about those copiers than I do about the legal documents being copied. I spent most of my free time experimenting, copying my own stuff and pushing those machines to their limits.

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Xerox 9500 with sorter; I worked on a system very similar to this in the copy center at New York University Law School in 1979-80.

Like most people, I took “xeroxing” for granted; I thought it was a fact of life and didn’t understanding where it came from. Only years later did I learn that xerography was a modern form of print technology; it was revolutionary when it was invented and its significance has continued to expand since then. As I think about it now, I am struck that the same distance of time (31 yeas) stands between today and my days at the NYU copy center in 1980 as between that time and the date of the first commercially available Xerox copier in 1949.

* * * * *

Chester Carlson, the inventor of xerography, was born on February 8, 1906 in Seattle, Washington. His early years were filled with hardship. His family was poor and his father suffered from multiple illnesses. Chester began working to support his family at the age of eight. When his mother died of TB, Chester was just 17. He would later say, “That is the worst thing that ever happened to me. I so wanted to be able to give her a few things in life.”

Chester developed an early interest in printing. He started a newspaper called This and That at the age of ten and circulated it among his friends. He used a Simplex Typewriter to set type one character at a time. He said of this experience, “I was impressed with the tremendous amount of labor involved with getting something into print … and I got to thinking about duplicating methods.”

Chester excelled in math and science and was encouraged by teachers to continue on after high school. He attended Riverside Junior College and then Caltech, graduating with a BS in Physics in 1930. Chester took his first job with Bell Labs in New York City as a research engineer. He would later transfer to the patent department as an assistant and turned his attention to document management. Chester recalled, “The need for a quick, satisfactory copying machine that could be used right in the office seemed very apparent to me … So I set out to think of how one could be made.”

Chester’s work on an office copier began in the mid-1930s. He conducted experiments with the help of Austrian physicist Otto Kornei and their first major breakthrough was achieved on October 22, 1938. They successfully transferred an image from a microscope slide to a sheet of wax paper using an electrostatic charge and some organic powder. Initially calling the process electron photography, Chester later commented, “The powder image was adhering to the plate by virtue of relatively small, but nevertheless real, electrostatic forces.”

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The first xerographic image produced by Chester Carlson and Otto Kornei.

With the help of a law degree obtained from the New York Law School in 1939, Chester successfully patented electrophotography in 1942. He tried to sell the concept to companies he thought might be interested in its commercial development. He wrote to more than 20 companies—including GE, IBM, AB Dick and RCA—none of which took him up. He described their response as “an enthusiastic lack of interest.”

In 1946, with the assistance of Battelle Memorial Institute of Columbus, Ohio, Chester finally convinced researchers and executives at The Haloid Company of Rochester, New York to sign a $10,000 contract to license electrophotography. Marketing concerns turned Haloid to search for a better product name and xerography was suggested; the combination of the Greek words xeros (dry) and graphein (writing).

The Haloid Company brought the Xerox Model A Copier to market in 1949, eleven years after Chester Carlson’s discovery. However, it was not a commercial success. It would take another eleven years (and many technological developments) before the fully automated Xerox 914 would become a huge hit as the first plain paper office copier. By 1962, ten thousand units had been sold and by 1968, revenues for Haloid Xerox had reached $500 million.

By 1965 Chester Carlson was worth several hundred million dollars from royalties on his patents, making him one of wealthiest people in America. However, Chester spent years quietly giving away most of his fortune to charities. He died of a heart attack at the age of 62 on September 19, 1968.

Chester Carlson’s invention—which took two decades to convert into a viable product—is used today in tens of millions of photocopying machines and laser printers as well as digital printing systems such as the Xerox iGen and Xeikon press. Along with digital ink jet printing devices, xerographic systems are slowly unseating traditional offset lithography as the dominant technologies of the printing industry.