2019 PRINTING United in Review

Takeaways, trends, new products and more from the first-ever PRINTING United show.
2019 PRINTING United

The Specialty Graphics Imaging Association’s (SGIA) first-ever PRINTING United show recently occurred at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas, taking the place of the former SGIA Expo. Here are some thoughts, observations and more from the editorial staffs of Signs of the Times and Big Picture after attending a range of meetings, interviews, educational sessions and panel discussions during the three-day tradeshow. The 2020 PRINTING United show will be held in Atlanta.

*Konica Minolta introduced a number of new products, with its focus on color, wide-format and digital embellishments. The AccurioPress C14000 made its global debut, a new high-volume toner-based production press that prints up to 3,600 dpi and will have duplex printing banner printing up to 35 in. starting in 2020.

*Summa debuted its L3214 laser cutter, which covers a 3.2 m (125 in.) width, with its designed applications intended for soft signage, home decor, fashion and sportswear. The L3214’s advanced camera technology allows the machine to scan the material design and automatically convert it into a cutting vector. Gary Buck, Summa America’s recently appointed vice president of sales and marketing, conveyed the company’s focus on larger machines and a growing presence in the US. “The roadmap is clear to me [in terms of] where we need to go,” he said.

*Big Picture and Keypoint Intelligence released the results of their joint survey of the magazine’s subscribers during the “Wide Format Application + Utilization: A Study of Productivity and Profitability” session. The presentation was given by Adrienne Palmer, editor-in-chief, Big Picture, and Eric Zimmerman, director of wide format printing, Keypoint Intelligence. They put the findings of the survey and other questions to the panel: Jason Ahart, chief operating officer, Olympus Design Group; Stan Lucas, business development manager, wide format, DCG One; and Chris Laniak, VP of sales, Excelsus Solutions. The topics included applications, equipment, workflow and automation.

The survey found that 65% of Big Picture subscribers are either the CEO, president or owner of their companies with most ranging from $250K to $5 million in annual revenue. An average of 43% of their revenue is derived from wide-format printing and 72% expect growth of 10%. The top applications are banners (72%), signs (70%), window graphics (45%), decals (42%), posters (41%) and vehicle graphics (31%). All of these are reported to be above 50% in gross profit.

Zimmerman (left) and Palmer (second from left) co-moderate “Wide Format Application + Utilization: A Study of Productivity and Profitability.”
Zimmerman (left) and Palmer (second from left) co-moderate “Wide Format Application + Utilization: A Study of Productivity and Profitability.”

Anticipated growth areas include fabric with internal light, according to Ahart and Laniak. Wallcoverings, supergraphics and window treatments – all for retail merchandising – are Lucas’ expected areas of growth. The survey showed that finishing equipment, flatbed/hybrid printers and durable inks will be investments within the next two years. Ahart is looking at a Durst P5 and automation for sewing. Laniak is looking into dye sub, and Lucas is adding cutters and possibly dye sub to his company’s largely commercial printing facility.

The survey looked at workflow trends and errors that lead to waste, finding that “often” and “sometimes” added together, a printer problem (48%), bad data (38%), finishing error (29%) or long setup (29%) were responsible. Ahart brought up temperature and humidity factors within his three nationwide facilities, Laniak mentioned static and finishing, and Lucas cited the need for continuing education to overcome such errors. Finally, the survey looked at automation, with 28% reporting as all manual, 21% as mostly manual, 32% with some automation, 14% as mostly automated and 5% with full automation. While all members of the panel recognized the value automation brings, they also felt most shops were not likely ready to attempt to be mostly or fully automated.

*Electronics for Imaging (EFI) officially introduced its new CEO, Jeff Jacobson, during its customary luncheon. “This is the one company that touches every aspect of print,” Jacobson said. “And with that comes a responsibility.” Ken Hanulec, Vice President of Worldwide Marketing, highlighted market trends, including the acceleration of changing technology, specialization, sustainability, security and brand protection, and data-driven applications.

During a booth visit, EFI demonstrated both EFI IQ – its new cloud-based management platform that monitors its printers, ink and substrates, and was a longtime request by EFI customers – as well as ColorGuard, which helps ensure color accuracy on Fiery-driven digital printers. EFI was acquired by private equity firm Siris Capital earlier this year, and PR manager David Lindsay noted that though the acquisition allowed EFI to escape the quarterly cycle, the company “still pays the same level attention to sales processes.”

*Epson has released 10 new printers since April’s International Sign Expo, five of which debuted at the show from its SureColor line: the 59470, F9570H, F570 (an entry-level, turnkey solution for dye sub PSPs), S60800L and S80600L. An Epson spokesperson also said to be on the lookout for more remote control capabilities with the company’s machines, starting with the dye sub printers. Epson’s customers are searching for different ways of ink delivery sans ink cartridges.

*Big Picture hosted a panel for its latest Women in Print Award winners, with three of the six winners answering questions from the audience and moderator Adrienne Palmer, Editor-in-Chief of Big Picture. Winners in attendance were Tracy Hiner of Black Crow Studios (Long Beach, CA), Tanya McNab of McNab Visual Strategies (Belize City, Belize) and Susan Otterson from ABL Imaging Group (Calgary, AB, Canada). Here are some notable quotes on a range of topics discussed, including the winners’ entry into digital printing, training employees, mentoring, how to deal with sexism and more.

  • “I took a bizarre path… I didn’t even know this industry existed.” – Hiner, who started her business with $2,000 to her name.
  • On the topic of decision-making: “Don’t ever tell me we can’t do it. Always have a solution. – McNab. “Someone told me the best thing to do is to make a decision.” – Otterson.
  • “The biggest change [to the industry] is fabric. It’s changing the face of the industry.” – Otterson.
  • “Everyone can afford an entry-level printer. People are pushing innovative ways to use these machines.” – Hiner.
  • “It helps motivate you and keep you on your game.” – McNab on doubters of her business based on her gender.

*The third annual Women in Print Alliance Breakfast was sponsored by Stahls’ and Konica Minolta, and featured several speakers as well as a keynote interview of teenage, Miami-based fashion designer Ariel Swedroe by Adrienne Palmer, editor-in-chief, Big Picture and Screen Printing magazines. The two discussed Swedroe’s remarkable journey thus far, despite her youth. A brief film encapsulated her introduction to fashion and the variety of more than 800 designs and prints based on her grandfather’s art. “I was always surrounded by art,” Swedroe said.

Swedroe got her start in digital printing at 7 and now studies at a magnet high school for fashion. At school she maintains a 4.0 average and after school goes to work for several hours. “My model is my best friend,” she said as she acknowledged her social life is limited. Among her activities is working with Design Lab, a place where people can go to learn how to sew. Swedroe has taught pregnant teens in Cartagena, Columbia, to sew, works with CODeLLA and Pearl Girlz to teach coding, and plans to go to Africa in June 2020 for more of the same. She feels she has had more setbacks due to her young age than her gender based on designing for women vs. children. But as she astutely pointed out, “Men design for women,” with many of them having started out young as well.

She has used 3D printers, laser cutters and sublimation printers for her fashion line. She is looking into recycled materials and feels they are vitally important to the future of the planet, as “Fashion is the second most polluting industry,” she said. She credits her mentor, Angie Cohen, for aiding in her success thus far, and hopes to continue her work at the London School of Fashion after graduating high school. A truly inspirational young woman.

Kristin Lanzarone-Scribner, WrapStar Pro, spoke about surviving crises and thriving thereafter. She offered five “key ingredients” to help anyone get through a crisis:

  1. Self love
  2. Leading a healthy lifestyle
  3. Separating personal from business
  4. Setting goals and achieving them
  5. Surround yourself with influential people.

Michelle White of Vycom Plastics addressed speaking with confidence. She offered these six pointers to become more confident as a speaker:

  1. Take your time
  2. Don’t qualify statements; be direct
  3. Avoid apologizing
  4. Avoid question statements (non-questions that have the inflection of a question)
  5. Don’t discount your opinion
  6. Be yourself – the most important of the six pointers.

Tiffany Rader Spitzer of Roeder Industries and RedHeaded Step Shirt Consulting Company offered myths about millennials, of which she is one. Though some have not figured out what they want, many like structure and transparency and are open to teaching. They are the future of the workforce, she said.

Zund America’s Heather Roden talked about knowing your value. Noting that women still make only 77-90 cents on the dollar to men, she offered this advice:

  1. Accept a lesser role and work your tail off – though this is becoming dated
  2. Get out of your own way
  3. Speak up aggressively

The presentation concluded with questions from the audience and a “plea” by Palmer for companies to stop the practice of hiring “booth babes” at trade shows. “If your machine needs a scantily clad or body-painted woman to attract attention to it,” Palmer said, “then it’s not good enough on its own.”

Attendees traverse the PRINTING United show floor. Photo courtesy of SGIA.
Attendees traverse the PRINTING United show floor. Photo courtesy of SGIA.

*Agfa brought both its Jeti Tauro H3330 LED and Jeti Tauro H2500 LED to the show (among other machines), and Deborah Hutcheson, director of marketing for Agfa, noted that add-ons to those two machines are coming.

*Fujifilm highlighted the potential of the packaging sector during both a booth visit and during its user panel luncheon. The company’s OnsetX3 HS made its worldwide debut at the show, with the flatbed able to print at 15,500 sq. ft./hr. Also on display was the J Press 750S, a digital inkjet machine that was announced around a year ago.

*INX International noted that direct-to-object printing is an area that will make huge strides. Vice president and general manager Jim Lambert said economic concerns both foreign and domestic is a daily topic with their customers. INX was forced to recently raise its prices for the first time in 11 years, though the company noted that its customers were sympathetic because the increase was in part driven by economic complications with China.

*Mimaki USA released its new TX300P-1800 MkII, which offers the ability to switch between transfer paper for dye sublimation printing or direct-to-textile printing on one unit, and also offers additional dual-ink possibilities. Mimaki USA also announced a new Metallic UV ink available for its UJF-7151 plus benchtop UV-LED flatbed printer, with the new ink able to directly image a surface without the need for added glitter or a foil transfer process. The company has also enhanced many existing printers, among them the JV300 Plus, CJV300 Plus and the CG-FXII Plus.

*Roland DGA Corp. introduced 10 new products, including printers, cutters and engravers: TrueVIS VG2 Series wide-format printer/cutters, TrueVIS SG2 Series wide-format printer/cutters, VersaEXPRESS RF-640 8-color printer, VersaUV LEF2 Series flatbed UV printers, VersaUV LEC2-300 UV printer/cutter, VersaSTUDIO BT-12 direct-to-garment printer, Texart RT-640M multifunction dye-sublimation printer, LV Series laser engraving machines, and DE-3 Rotary Engraver.

*Mactac has launched a pair of new products: the next generation of its B-Free Window Films, and PERMACOLOR PermaGard SAG 38. The B-Free Window Films are designed for flat or simple, curved, clear and translucent surfaces, and for backlit graphics, with applications including privacy films, decorative window graphics and window signage. PERMACOLOR PermaGard SAG 38 is an economy laminate for short-term anti-graffiti and perforated window films applications. This 1.5-mil, high-gloss, ultra-clear durable polyester facestock is coated with an optically clear, acrylic pressure-sensitive adhesive, and is designed for short-term outdoor installations and indoor installations for up to five years.

*SAi debuted FlexiDyeSub, part of SAi’s flagship Flexi software, offering the dye-sublimation world an all-in-one package for their entire workflow. The solution incorporates a full printer production feature-set, as well as a complete design application, to make dye-sublimation design simple for sign and display businesses. When discussing time and waste that occurs for PSPs, Michelle Johnson, director of worldwide marketing, said “our customers’ hardest and most time-consuming part of their jobs is providing customer service.”

*Brian Adam, president and owner of Olympus Group and Big Picture Editorial Advisory Board member, shared tips and tricks on hiring and retaining great employees with attendees of the SGIA Apparel Decorators Luncheon. Adam was named by Glassdoor as one of the top 25 CEOs to work for in 2018. “Hiring employees who care about what they do, care about their company, and enjoy their job will help you stand out and run a better business,” he said. 

Tips from Adam:

  • Engagement tools: Define your culture, including your mission and your core values, and share with your company regularly. Have an annual Core Value Awards Program as a way to reiterate values and recognize top employees. “We’re a team not a family,” said Adam.
  • On-boarding and new employee recognition: Have a set schedule for an employee’s first day that includes arriving late, meeting the president, and avoiding a plethora of HR documents, so they go home excited to come back. 
  • Give employees a voice: Create a suggestion program, do lunch and learns, and have an exit interview with your current employees on a yearly basis.
  • How to engage millenials: Avoid dumb rules, practice meritocracy, understand the benefits they value, and give praise and constructive feedback.
  • Communication: Teach employees how your business makes money, send a weekly update on the company, etc.
  • Appreciation: Show them you care. “Sixty percent of employees say they’re more motivated when they’re appreciated,” said Adam. Plus, it’s typically free.

*One could say Printing United was designed for a manufacturer such as Ricoh. With a portfolio of products ranging from wide-format flatbed printers to sheet-fed digital presses, the targeted attendees could find Ricoh to be a one-stop-shop. The company’s press conference highlighted this opportunity as well as showcased three current customers, Capitol Blue Print, MAC Specialties and Tri-Win Direct. Ricoh also partnered with Heidelberg to support the Wounded Warrior Project. For every badge scanned at the Ricoh booth, a charitable donation was made to its long-standing partner, which supports wounded military veterans and service members.

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