Visiting the Holy Grail of Printing – Graph Expo Review

By Petra Diener – The good news first: I’m still a digital junky. Not even the super fancy printers and papers at Graph Expo managed to turn me back into a paper junky.

Let’s get serious

I’ve had the pleasure of visiting, after many years of absence, Graph Expo again.

In exile in sunny, hot-ish and humid Orlando, Florida, (traditionally this event is held in Chicago, IL) the US hardware, software, and consumables industry did their best to attract print aficionados across North and South America.

One of my clients asked for my support before, during and after the conference, needless to say, that I’d do almost anything to escape the more than 50 shades of grey of good old London.

Since I left the production print world in the late 1990ies, I’ve been working hard to depaperize my life. So it might not come as a surprise to many, if I say, I felt like I was drowning. In Paper.

But enough with slagging off paper.

There were a lot of exciting things to explore at Graph Expo:

Hardware

The big brothers and sisters of the office printing devices by the likes of Xerox, HP, Ricoh, Riso, Canon, Oki, Konica Minolta, EFI (sorry if I forgot one of the big names)

Post production/printing devices such as inserters of all shapes and sizes, cameras for quality control, coating (more on that one later as I totally fell in love with one of them),

Consumables

Consumables from toner across ink to paper (not impressive enough for me to highlight anything in particular – sorry, paper mills.)

Software

Software solutions from documents composition across post composition software to workflow management (more on that later, of course)

Networking

Press conferences, educational session, awards, parties (no, nothing special to report here – what happens in Orlando stays in Orlando), Printerverse and happy hours

So all in all, four days packed from dusk ’til dawn to get up to speed with the latest and finest.

Less is more

I should mention that many experts considered this year’s Graph Expo “less” exciting and crowded than previous ones, partly because we already had drupa 2016 earlier this year, partly because it’s location was moved from Chicago to Orlando. However, everyone I met was happy with the results, though, I guess it’s one of those “quality’s more important than quantity” experiences.

Top of the tops

Rather than walking everyone through the conference in detail, I’d like to pick a few highlights that made my day.

“The Print of One”

We heard of books on demand, and in many cases these are saving the 21st century book printing industry.

We know of personalized printing, starting with transactional printing all the way to direct mail campaign.

But in between, there’s Personalized Catalog printing. A workflow solution presented by Xerox, together with XMPie and Solimar Systems.

And on top of that there’s personalized printing on, well, almost anything. Presented for example, by Xerox or EFI.

EFI actually topped it for me. If their technology makes it to the market at a reasonable price, interior design, any design, will go to a completely new, fully personalized level – most certainly something to watch.

Added value

HP added a more “practical” touch to book printing, like unique QR codes, adding an additional layer to the reading experience.

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Konica Minolta offered some Virtual Reality experience and Solimar Systems show-cased their take on Augmented Reality as an added value to basically any printed document. Worth mentioning here, that the AR experience is fully dynamic and personalized, even in the added video sequences (The Solimar Systems AR app and sample documents are available in the Apple App Store and via Google Play).

Futuristic blast from the past

As a previous print lover, I was seriously impressed by the latest CRON-ECRM flexo technology with the most stunning plate resolution I’ve ever seen, reminding me more of photo rather than litho print: 9600 dpi – ninethousandsixhundred dots per inch!

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My personal highlight of highlights:

Scodix’ digital enhancement presses.

Imagine you have a piece of cardboard, something like a nice a perfume box. It looks and feels quite nice already you’d say? Well, you haven’t seen what Scodix can add to it. Some of their coatings go as far as personalized – most impressive here: adding personalized braille messages to packaging! And guess what, I took their sample book. And still have it. It’s so nice to touch.

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And for everyone who would like to catch up with Graph Expo via video, I’d recommend to check out the Printerverse (PrintMedieCentr) sessions, great discussions with all the major players.

Will I be going to Graph Expo again? Sure thing, I am still trying to find THE solution, hardware or/and software that gives me the goose bumps, leaves me gobsmacked (as they say over here), makes me sit down in awe, showing me the future of print.


About the Author – Petra Diener, CEO/Talent & Communication Specialist, 3 Across The Sea
The Ludwig Maximilian’s University Munich graduate holds a Master of Arts in Drama, Literature and Education. Petra has lived and worked in many European countries (plus extensive stays in the USA and Australia), speaks 6 languages and is looking back at more than 25 years of professional experience both in the Theater/Movie and Printing industry. She is considered an specialist in personal development coaching, marketing & communications, events management, digital printing and Managed Print Services.

Twitter: @petradiener