2018 SGIA Expo in Review

The latest trends, products and developments from Las Vegas.
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The Las Vegas Convention Center played host to the recent Specialty Graphics Imaging Association’s (SGIA) 2018 Expo, welcoming more than 24,000 attendees and 612 exhibitors across the three-day tradeshow. Beginning next year, the expo will be rebranded as PRINTING United, and is slated to be held in Dallas from Oct. 23-25. Here are the thoughts from Signs of the Times Editor-in-Chief Robin Donovan, Managing Editor Mark Kissling and Associate Editor Grant Freking on the final SGIA Expo.

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*SGIA President & CEO Ford Bowers pointed to accelerated convergence and consolidation as factors driving the industry, as well as SGIA’s shift away from a screenprinting focus and toward wide-format and other printing markets, leading to next year’s rebranding of the show as “Printing United.” Industry concerns, particularly workforce development, remain lead topics of conversation.

*Mimaki opened a new office in Milwaukee this year, is slated to move its Los Angeles office to a larger facility in early 2019 (possibly mid-January), and is expanding its New Jersey facility. The company, with its new slogan “we are wide format” is focused on improving its existing product lines, including the UCJV line of printer/cutters, which was expanded in June with the smaller-footprint UCJV300-75, UCJV300-107 and UCJV300-130.

*Roland had a similar emphasis on customer service and education, and is focused on helping print providers increase profit margins by teaching them how to use existing machines for high-value jobs and specialized applications through its webinars and user forum at rolanddga.com/forums.

*With the ONYX 18.5 debut, the eponymous company is trying to pre-empt any challenges posed by the migration to Adobe PDF Print Engine 5, which is predicted as a driver of the shift to PDF 2.0, itself released in mid-2017. While PDF 2.0 is not yet a standard, Adobe played a lead role in its creation, and it’s thought that the company could very well force a shift among its users, much as Apple has forced shifts away from DVD drives and wired headphones in the tech market.

* OKI Data Americas launched its five-color Pro9541WT for textile applications. The heat-transfer printer produces graphics up to 13 x 19-in., which the company says helps prevent additional set-up fees or related charges associated with larger transfer papers. 

The main entrance to the 2018 SGIA Expo at the Las Vegas Convention Center.
The main entrance to the 2018 SGIA Expo at the Las Vegas Convention Center.​​​​

*A first-time SGIA attendee – and promised attendee at next year’s Printing United – Konica Minolta touted its first hybrid wide-format printers, the AccurioWide-160 and -200. The machines are four- and six- colors + white, respectively. The company says it is targeting commercial printers, print shops and sign companies with the new machines, and was in the news mid-2017 for its Muratec acquisition, thought to be its first step toward an increased focus on print products.

*HP’s heavily marketed Latex printers were again on display (the company has been unable to trademark the “Latex” name, but still is the brand most associated with it), including its latest printer designed to compete with today’s popular hybrid models. The R1000, which launched last summer, is a mid-level machine with smaller 3L ink cartridges (and a smaller price tag) than its predecessor, the R2000.

*HP, Mimaki and Roland are all making a nod toward the growing trend of pulling small to mid-sized graphics providers in the market forward. As print begins to converge and more and more industries (think retailers) find a reason to bring print in-house, the push to put a digital printer in every sign shop, for example, becomes stronger. That means more entry- to mid-level printers, as well as growth in the interest in hybrid products and machines that handle more diverse substrates. 

*On the media side, ORAFOL, promising a major product launch at the ISA Expo in April, is focusing on a polyurethane laminate, which is designed to extend wrap lifespans up to eight years. The company says that, elsewhere, the longest expected lifespan is seven years.

*EFI’s spokesperson noted a decline in banner printing due to low margins, yet noted continued interest in backlit soft signage. This mimics what we saw in years past with the decline of profit margins for billboard work. EFI has leveraged its many (many) recent acquisitions – most notably Reggiani – to expand its printers and software. Of interest to signmakers at the show were the 126-in. hybrid VUTEk h3 (a speedier h5 is also available) and the FabriVU 340i, a high-end printer designed for soft signage and featuring in-line sublimation. – Robin Donovan

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*The last SGIA Expo featured the first-ever Professional Decal Application Alliance (PDAA) Wrap Team Challenge. Nine teams of two installers competed against each other and the clock to wrap the side of a car in 20 minutes. A panel of PDAA Master Certified Installers judged the jobs based on speed and quality. The competition lasted all three days with Arlon, Ritrama and 3M wrap films being used on each successive day. When it was all over, the team of Miller and Hargittai from Miller Decals (Actworth, GA) and Florida Car Wrap (Davie, FL) took the top prize of $2,000.

*The Arlon booth included a dark room to demonstrate the reflective qualities of their IllumiNITE Wrap Film and other reflective films. They also displayed a small auto-body feature and a countdown clock so any attendee could try to wrap the piece using the company’s SLX Wrap Film in the allotted time.

*Ritrama was promoting their RI-JET 50 Cast Slide&Tack wrap film at their booth, the same film being used on the second day of the PDAA Wrap Team Challenge.

*3M’s lively booth was split between demonstrating two new digital tools to help the businesses side of graphics, the 3M Graphics Install Wizard and the 3M Graphics Hub – and cars being wrapped with the company’s new 1080 wrap film colors, including their shiny new Wrap Film Series 1080 Chrome 0818 HR.

A portion of the SGIA Expo show floor.
A portion of the SGIA Expo show floor prior to the show's Day 1 start.

*Ricoh USA closed day one of the show with an impressive press conference, showing off their many new products introduced this year, including the Ricoh Ri 1000 direct-to-garment printer, the Ricoh Pro L5160 wide-format roll-fed printer and the Ricoh Pro TF 6250 wide-format flatbed printer. The company also announced a closer partnership with Printing United, the newly branded tradeshow that will replace SGIA next fall.

*Several companies are now offering variations of rigid substrates using recycled PVC (dyed black) sandwiched between two thin, white layers of virgin PVC. Palram has PALBOARD. 3A Composites has introduced Sintra Eclipse. Northern Ireland-based Brett Martin was displaying Foamalux Xtra. Other substrate companies impressing at the expo included Piedmont Plastics, whose booth was constructed entirely of materials the company distributes – with the exception of the steel frame. Encore Products was also showing off its new PrintPro foam board. – Mark Kissling

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*EFI showcased eight new products at their booth and others on the show floor, including the world debut of the Pro 32r, an entry-level roll-to-roll LED printer, and Version 4 of its Fiery DesignPro software. During its press luncheon on Day 1 of the show, EFI’s presentation encompassed its observations on industry trends, noting the increase in customers wanting one-stop shops and shorter job times, and the strong market to produce different applications. EFI also introduced its new CEO, Bill Muir.

*INX Digital Vice President of Sales Jim Lambert discussed his company’s ink portfolio, which includes its new premium inkjet ink, Prodigy EGBA, which cures by an electron beam and has no need for photoinitiators. INK also featured its popular TRIANGLE brand alternative inks.

*Over at the Fujifilm booth, the headliner was the new Acuity Ultra Series, which is available in 3.2- and 5-m. models. Becky McConnell, product marketing manager for Fujifilm, complimented their customers and potential customers’ knowledge base while adding that “short run and digital have changed the game.”

*The six winners of Big Picture's annual Women in Print awards spoke at length during a panel on the show’s second day, sharing stories about mentoring, their respective entries into the industry and embracing new and different perspectives from their customers. “We’re learning every day, and I’m going to keep learning until the day I die,” said Cindy Victor, senior director of superGraphics (Seattle).

Other notes: SA International (SAi) unveiled its new purple-based color scheme. Marketing manager Michelle Johnson hinted at new developments to come. “We want to be a step ahead of what’s coming out,” she said. … LexJet’s booth was full of examples of its newest offering: HP Adhesive Vinyl, compatible with HP Latex printers and ink and sold exclusively through LexJet. … Massivit had its usual array of impressive 3D-printed objects in its booth, but also displayed new applications, such as SEG frames and new finishing aspects for the exhibit industry. … Agfa Graphics’ Jeti Tauro H3300 LED, a UV LED wide-format inkjet printer for rigid and flexible media, made its North American debut at the show. Grant Freking

Signs of the Times November 2018

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