In April, on the eve of drupa, a thousand printers gathered under one roof to explore new developments in graphic reproduction, and to celebrate the successes that these technological advances have brought to them. The place was the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas, and the event was EFI Connect 2012, an annual congregation of printers of every stripe who use products manufactured by EFI.
EFI – Electronics for Imaging – manufactures software used by printers and repro houses to control devices, manage workflow, facilitate enterprise-wide controls, and connect with clients. Its hardware portfolio includes the narrow web Jetrion, a UV inkjet five-color digital press, and the wide format range of Vutek inkjet printers. The company also is the world’s largest manufacturer of UV curable inkjet inks. Attendees at this year’s Connect ranged from label converters to large and small commercial printers, from copy and print-on-demand businesses to sign companies.
Taking the stage to kick off the event was EFI CEO Guy Gecht, who challenged the perception that print is a dying industry. “There are certainly signs that print is dying,” he said, citing Encyclopedia Brittanica’s move from print to digital, the growth of business transactions online and the explosion of interest in iPads and similar technologies. “In the next 10 years, total printed pages are expected to drop 11 percent.
“But there are signs of strength in print,” he declared. “US print industry profits were up every quarter in 2010 and 2011. Outdoor advertising is second only to online advertising. Internet use is driving an increase in magazine readership, and too many applications are generations away from being replaced.” EFI’s own growth is testimony to the strength that can be tapped in the print industry: The public company (NASDAQ: EFII) just announced its ninth consecutive quarter of double-digit revenue growth. Perhaps most noteworthy in Q1 2012 is the 41 percent growth in UV inkjet sales and 47 percent growth in the Industrial Inkjet business unit (Jetrion, Vutek and ink manufacturing).
Gecht entertained the audience with a pointed look at his “Window of Opportunity Principle,” demonstrating how that window moves constantly. One example is in the music industry: The window moved from the phonograph to the Sony Walkman, then to the Discman, and eventually to the iPod and other mp3 players. With that and a few other timely examples, he opened a curtain on the window of opportunity in the print industry.
“Where is the window shifting?” he asked. “In the next 10 years, total offset pages will shrink by
11 percent, but digital pages will grow 98.5 percent.” In that same period, he predicted, total square footage of wide format signage will grow 1 percent, but UV inkjet square footage will grow 156 percent.” He also stated that the window of opportunity has shifted to personalization, which cannot be accomplished without digital systems.
Over the next two days, Gecht would be joined on stage with the presidents of two companies firmly anchored in the print space: Shutterfly, the online photo service, and Staples. EFI executives announced the recent acquisition of Metrics Sistemas de Informação, a producer of MIS/ERP systems for the printing and packaging industries in Latin America. Eighty percent of the company’s clients are in Brazil, the rest spread throughout South and Central America. The Metrics product will be integrated with EFI’s Fiery digital front ends, as well as Vutek and Jetrion inkjet printers.
The Jetrion digital UV inkjet press, which has seen significant growth in the past couple of years and which is now the leader among presses of its type in the world, underwent a dramatic transformation in 2011. At Labelexpo Europe the company unveiled the new 4900 model, which houses the CMYK and white printing press as well as a laser unit for diecutting.
“Modularity and upgradability” are two necessities for digital printers today, emphasized Sean Skelly, vice president and general manager of the Jetrion division of EFI. Modularity is the strong point of the 4900 press, he said, adding that a printer can only benefit from inline converting processes, rather than moving printed rolls to offline equipment. Future developments, he added, might include conventional diecutting, foil and embossing applications, additional print modules, and more.
“The market also needs wider, faster, higher reliability and better quality, higher resolution, more colors, secure inks, integration with MIS and web-to-print systems, and the ability to penetrate other markets, such as folding carton and flexible packaging,” Skelly said. EFI’s wide range of print communication software, such as its Radius ERP platform, is being tailored to integrate with the Jetrion press to offer printers greater control of work from any point in the flow.
“Today, the Jetrion complements flexo,” Skelly observed. “In five years, perhaps they will be going head to head.”