Big Takeaways from PacPrint 2013 – Australasia’s Largest Print Show
Every four years, PacPrint – Australasia’s largest print show – is held in Melbourne.
The theme for PacPrint this year was “Think Print, Know Print” and the show organisers themselves sum up the show pretty well, stating that “[PacPrint is] Australasia’s most comprehensive showcase of the power of print! Digital, offset and wide format. Labels, packaging, and consumables. MIS, workflow, and finishing. Cross-media, 3D printing, e-commerce and much more. It's all covered at PacPrint!”
Digital, absolutely. Wide format, lots of it. Offset, not so much.
Until recent years, like many of its counterpart trade shows globally, PacPrint has been a show almost exclusively the domain of commercial printers and their businesses. This year however, PacPrint was very reliant on digital technology, with only one manufacturer showing an offset press...and that had a digital front end!
Whether a continuation, a shift, or an addition of technology, I think the biggest take away from the show was inkjet.
Inkjet! Inkjet! Inkjet!
Many manufacturers were talking about or showing their inkjet printing solutions. Continuous, large sheet, flat bed, wide format, or a mix of them.
For many years, photo printing has been inkjet created, so the technology for quality has been there, what’s been needed to get wider and wider, as well as faster and faster. And it’s happening.
Short run static jobs, backed up with personalised jobs, combined with embellished jobs can all now happen with inkjet, and most are enjoying it at close to or as good as offset quality.
Everyone now has broader hardware capabilities
We have been used to manufacturers having different printer ranges for different customer needs, however it seems that every major vendor now has both cut sheet and continuous offerings, dry toner, as well as pigment and die based inkjet. Even traditional cutsheet only companies now have inkjet and/or continuous machines that are quickly becoming entrenched in the market.
Our business is fundamentally about putting an image on a substrate. With the enhancements in inks, drying technologies, transports, web speeds and so much more, the key is now about getting the image to the substrate in the most efficient way. Focusing on the process rather than the design, this will lead to cost and time reductions, as well as more seamless workflows.
If a vendors solution looks too hard or inappropriate for your environment, look next door and see if the competitor’s solution fits you better. These days we can be assured that the print quality should be good enough in most cases, so that can almost come out of the equation.
Expanding Business Services
Although there were cross-media and multi-channel communication solutions at the show, it didn’t feel like many were hitting it hard, focusing more on their print based solutions, which I guess is understandable from a print show.
Forum and Workshop presenters Anders Sorman-Nilsson from Thinque and Kerim El Gabaili from Prografica definitely gave attendees things to think about if they are looking to expand their service offerings.
I think the key in expanding any print or document based business beyond its current capabilities is to not just dabble, but commit and become an expert. If that is not something you are comfortable with, look at partnering as an option, before committing to a path that may not fit your business.
There were two other technologies presented at the show that were getting some great buzz, but how relevant are they – at least at the moment – to personalised customer communication?
Augmented Reality and Image Recognition
Regardless of the printed medium, Augmented Reality (AR) and Image Recognition (IR) increase the value of a printed document by taking the viewer online or simply increasing the value with additional information.
There were a number of AR and IR offerings on show at PacPrint this year, most using real life examples of the technology, giving visitors an awesome interaction with a printed object, including trying on different engagement ring, or positioning a new lounge suite in your room. These examples aside, I felt that most didn’t offer much more of a solution than a QR code.
I think there are great options with both technologies with things like newspaper ads, catalogues and even packaging, where you could scan a section of a product’s box (or even the product itself) to pull up the online manual for example. That said, I think that the technology – cool as it is – needs to go another step into personalisation before it will have an impact on the document industry
For a long time I have felt that 3D printing simply isn’t printing, however I think I’m coming around.
If you forget about commercial print techniques like lithography, flexography, and even digital xerography, and just think of inkjet printing, then 3D printing is pretty close.
3D printing is an additive manufacturing method – compared to subtractive such as carving or turning – where a “print head” builds up layers. I realised that 3D printing is basically printing without the substrate.
3D printing definitely has value in our lives as the technology continues to evolve, particularly in the medical field – such as a the recently reported “printed” stent that saved a baby’s life – but does it have value in the personalised customer communication space? I guess time will tell.
Over the coming weeks I will delve deeper into some of these areas, as well as focus on some technology and events presented by vendors.
My big call for PacPrint’s next evolution in 2017, is more personalisation across a wider range of existing and new technologies. I also believe that there will be an increase in the education of attendees and possibly some more face-to-face peer group discussions too.
28 May 2013 - Also published on the OutputLinks Industry Insights Blog site
14 June 2013 - Published as the cover story of the Greensheet, Volume 46, No. 11
View a PDF of the cover story article from "GreensheetBIZ" here
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