Nobody visiting the Print Show at the NEC can expect to see offset litho presses. These simply do not suit the short duration of a three-day event.
However, there will be printing technology to see: toner presses, large format and inkjet presses for printing on paper, on banner material and on fabrics. It will be possible to talk litho with a number of exhibitors, particularly with those providing MIS software but also with paper suppliers and with dealers such as Exel Printing Machinery, one of the UK’s leading used press providers.
The costs of bringing, installing and running heavy machinery at a 21st century exhibition is also prohibitive. It makes more financial sense for companies to bring prospects to the showroom where machines are set up ready to demo. Outside the mega shows like Drupa there is little chance of seeing expensive equipment at a regional or national trade show.
Organisers respond by staging presentations, discussion panels, conference sessions and educational content. For Link Exhibitions, organiser of the Print Show, this means a business seminar theatre and diversification zone. The former will host 20 sessions over the three days where visitors can drop in and catch something interesting. The latter is a collection of information points about additional services that a commercial printer can offer to increase margin and respond to changing market conditions.
This will cover label printing, printing promotional items, textile printing, 3D printing and value added printing. The idea is to turn off the sales pitch and instead talk with visitors, answer their questions and in short become a source of reliable advice and consultancy for those considering a move in any of these sectors.
The organiser has also booked three inspirational celebrities to run book signings on each of the days. This follows on from the popularity of a speech from Julia Bradbury two years ago in support of the Woodland Trust and carbon balancing via Premier Papers.
The three very different personalities on hand will be explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes OBE, Gregg Wallace and Chris Eubank. They have achievement in their fields in common and have created books to express this. There will be a signing with the first 100 receiving a free of charge signed copy of the latest book in question. While each is printed, the authors are unlikely to express opinions of how said titles were printed. Each of the three will make a presentation and answer audience questions at the book signing stage.
The content on the business theatre ranges from trends and future shaping presentations from Frazer Chesterman, investigating opportunities in textiles, direct to shape and decoration; 3D printing from Maryam Qureshi, HP, and how commercial printers can take advantage. These are followed by introductions to JICMail, the tool for ensuring the effectiveness of direct mail and the power of FSC certification.
Nick Devine, the Print Coach, has two inspiring sessions on the middle day along with Epson’s Guy Martin who will be talking about the impact of inkjet printing. And on the final day, Tim Bond, DMA, talks about the trends that brands want to tap into, while Paul Hollohan of Richmond Capital Partners provides thoughts on achieving the exit when it is time to sell up. The final presentation comes from the IPIA’s Marian Stefani stressing the need for printers to reach out and educate buyers to re-engage with print.
Last year Xeretec used the show to announce the Xerox Iridesse, the first six-colour toner press and first to include gold and silver, white and clear as well as CMYK. This will return alongside models from the Versant range. This is its fourth successive year at the event and the supplier says it always aims to bring something new to the show.
This year this will be Xeretec’s Cloud Services platform which applies to all sizes of customer and can be tailored to suit specific requirements. It collects data from numerous collection points so that any action can be compared to a benchmark and improvements measured.
Xeretec argues that switching to its cloud will free up resources inside the customers dedicate to keeping IT running smoothly. Xeretec CEO Steve Hawkins says: “Our four pillars of process, technology, service and people that underpin our Cloud Services offering, ensures that Xeretec has the capability to enhance an organisations’ cloud journey, at whatever stage it is currently at.”
SmartPrint, a Xerox dealer, will also show extended printing technology, but from Ricoh UK where the Pro C7200 five-colour press is going to be pressed into service showing what can be achieved through the fifth colour station. “We are trying approach the Print Show with something sexy we can do: let’s play with files that customers bring along,” says Paul Stead who heads sales at Smart Print. “We have to bring the can-do back to this place.”
The company is hoping to create a take away pack with samples of what can be achieved and with guides to show how to do it. It is about encouraging printers to explore the value added approach.
That will also include metallic foil over a laminated film as offered by Vivid Laminating Technologies on its MX laminators and liquid metal technology from Sakurai produced on its screen presses. These offer a different level of finesse to the laminator led approach. Sakurai will also offer a level of spot UV varnish that is beyond the capability of inline print.
Varnishing is on the agenda for Renz which along with wire binding and calendar binding technology, sells the Argos UV coater in the UK. This goes hand in hand with calendars and photobooks and is suited to book, catalogue, magazine and brochure covers for digitally printed sheets.
Digital print is also represented by HP, though its emphasis will be on large format rather than Indigo, Xeikon with an information and samples stand and Riso. This Japanese company’s own inkjet technology is worth looking at. On the basis that not all digital print technologies are the same, recognising that an Indigo press is on a different plane to a light production toner press in both cost and quality, the Riso is different again.
Production speeds are higher than other cut sheet devices and operating costs are lower. In recognition of the potential in production print, Riso has renamed machines for this sector under the Valezus brand. The Valezus T2100 receives its launch at the show. It is a 320ppm cut sheet duplex printer duplex. It comes with two 4,000 sheet feed bins and similar capacity stacker units. Riso’s ink is oil based, so has no need of heat to fix toner or to evaporate water in an aqueous ink.
Riso presses are not for every application, but are also among the most reliable digital presses on the market with unscheduled service calls almost unheard of.
At the other end of the inkjet scale, Fujifilm will feature samples from the Jetpress 750 and 750S B2 sheetfed presses. These offer the pinnacle of digital print quality with a colour gamut that stretches beyond offset litho, in the same way that a Ferrari offers a different driving experience to a Ford or Vauxhall.
HP has promised to bring the HP Stitch S300 dye sublimation technology that was launched earlier this year. This is a first time appearance for the technology introduced at Fespa. HP has included an on board spectrophotometer to ensure that print results are consistent and repeatable.
A year ago the focus was on the flatbed Latex press and Latex will again feature as part of a stand themed as Yes Unlimited to pick up on interest in soft signage, apparel, decor and large format graphics that will dominate the stand.
Regional business manager Phil Oakley explains: “The HP Stitch S series is a portfolio of digital textile printers that deliver precise colour matching, designed to boost growth via décor and apparel applications, as well as enabling on demand production and personalisation.
Grafityp is dealer for a number of large format print suppliers, Colourbyte likewise, with a strong emphasis on Epson. The Japanese manufacturer intends to demonstrate how it can print on a synthetic leather material using its S60600 printer.
The company has been a pioneer in being able to print apparel using large format inkjet. At Fespa Epson had introduced higher productivity versions of this printer, fed from a new 1.5 litre ink pouch. This is now coming to Birmingham.
Mimaki’s presence will focus on flatbed technology with the JFX200-2513EX LED machine which will be seen for the first time at the show. This doubles speed for printing white over the existing flatbed model thanks to a redesigned printhead. Brett Newman at Hybrid Services says that most installations are configured with the white ink option, so expects the speed increase to be welcomed, pointing out that higher print speeds will take the pressure off time sensitive jobs. “That can help our customers reduce lead times,” he says.
This machine is joined by the UJF-MkII printer for smaller format direct to object printing, for promotional items and by the best selling CJV150 solvent printer/cutter and its UV equivalent.
Finishing receives a strong reception with Terry Cooper Services using the event to highlight the CP Bourg range having recaptured the UK distribution a few months ago. CP Bourg has a line of short run perfect binders and stitchers designed for print on demand applications.
Morgana is a regular at the event having attended every show since launch in 2015. This will be the first, however, since the acquisition of Watkiss by Morgana’s owner Plockmatic and its full integration into the group in May this year.
This means the main launch will be the introduction of square back binding to the range with the offline PowerSquare 160 and 224. These have now been linked to the collater and feeder to create a standalone system using the Plockmatic VF dual bin feeder for offline operation. The company’s rotary die cutter was introduced at the Print Show last year and will return amid a host of other technology. Morgana intends to demonstrate as much technology as possible, a strategy that it has found leads to sales success and to a positive experience for visitors that spend the day away from their businesses.
Encore Machinery is another that majors on post press equipment, the PitStop creaser being consistently popular draw. Ashgate Automation will demonstrate its Fastbind equipment including the simple to use Pureva PUR binder. There will also be a KAS KF640 booklet maker able to produce a booklet up to 320x320mm at 1,000 books an hour. It is an entry level system with starting price of sound £16,000 for booklet maker and trimmer.
The post press systems are balanced by what has been known as MIS for many years. These applications have escaped the confines of costing and estimating and are now effectively business management applications that can monitor and control all aspects of a business, providing feedback that allows managers to take decisions to improve efficiencies.
Tharstern and Imprint-MIS are the traditional UK based developers that have a lengthy pedigree in the industry, evolving from MIS into fully compliant JDF systems that can connect to prepress, press and finishing equipment and into web to print and online portals from different suppliers. Web to print applications will be on show, from VPress for example, with connections to these software applications.
Accura MIS by contrast has developed an end to end systems without the use of JDF. This approach avoids interfaces and awkward connections between third party applications. Keyline on the other hand is a new generation MIS that exploits third party applications using APIs to connect to market leading tools that printers want to use.
It is building a library of these connections that can be enabled almost instantly. This approach has earned the attention of Heidelberg which recently acquired Keyline’s parent company Crispy Mountain to accelerate its own strategy for workflow and its HeiOS approach. Like Xeretec, Keyline adopts a cloud computing approach rather than requiring an on site server.
Paper companies are represented by Premier, Denmaur and Antalis, arguably the UK’s three largest merchants. Denmaur has launched Arctic Snow a new ultra white paper aimed at projects requiring a high quality paper and will be pitched against papers like Heaven 42.
Premier has developed a new division to focus on substrates and materials for large format applications including wall coverings as well as display boards. Antalis has suffered the loss of ArjoWiggins as a key mill supplier, particularly of recycled grades. It has signed up to distribute Nautilus, a recycled paper that can replace the now extinct Cyclus in its portfolio. Stocks are being built up at a point when demand for recycled papers is increasing with the renewed interest in all things sustainability.
This is a topic for a panel discussion on the first day of the show and carried over into a panel about recycling PVC, a notoriously difficult material to dispose of in an acceptable way.
The Print Show will once again deliver a smorgasbord of products and services that visitors can dip into and taste. It is not a mini Drupa and it is not intended to be. The German show can be overwhelming and demands several days to take in only a part of what is on show. The Print Show is much more manageable, something that can be absorbed in a day with enough expertise on hand to justify even the NEC’s sky high car parking charges.
By Gareth Ward