The event also included a number of suppliers such as Heidelberg, Konica Minolta, UPM Raflatac, Xeikon and more. They explained how their products will continue to advance the industry.
In addition, Digital Printing Think Tank III celebrated the 25th anniversary of digital printing.
Several major trends explored were automation, enhanced prepress and better strategic plans to accommodate digital. More efficient workflows, greater image quality and variable data will also lead to the proliferation of digital printing.
According to Donna Covannon, director of marketing, Xeikon North America, there are a few necessary steps to enter the digital market. Printers must develop a marketing plan, as well as identify the latest trends and seek out new applications. Covannon also noted that printers should ask more from their suppliers. Business development is a key component of any partnership between printer and supplier.
“Don’t be afraid to ask a printing company about their roadmap and their plans for the future,” she said. “We want your input, knowing that the technology you pick will be sustainable for the future because these are capital investments. We’re designing our equipment to add on as your business grows.”
Covannon added that most successful digital printing suppliers are customer-focused, and they utilize data and industry trends to increase efficiency.
Printhead development will lead to increased quality and faster speeds, while many suppliers have designed their machines for upgradeability. Prepress is key, as well, because converters must identify the personnel needed to successful run digital, plus the volumes needed to profitably support the press.
“Automation plays a huge part in the end-to-end solution” said Patti Groebe, vice president of production color and inkjet at Xerox. “It’s in the prepress, the technology and the finishing. What are the applications that are going to sustain that application?”
Groebe added that hybrid presses are becoming quite common, especially as inkjet continues to grow.
The panel discussions ranged from suppliers and industry experts to printers. L&NW’s own Steve Katz was featured on the industry experts panel, where he detailed how digital printing has affected the labels and packaging market.
Grandville Printing, a Michigan-based converter, highlighted the supplier panel. The company prints everything from wide-format to labels, and it recently invested in three Xeikon PX3000 digital UV inkjet label presses with a 13” width. The company also features equipment from HP and Delta ModTech.
With digital, Grandville Printing’s Bruce Beery cited a turnaround improvement from 36 hours to 24 hours with its latest equipment. He also noted that selling digital printing requires a mindset change, as it is critical to understand the possibilities–variable data, customization–and add-ons. It is also important for printers to educate their customers on what is possible with short-runs and personalization.
To understand all that the technology has to offer, Covannon recommends attending any of the major industry tradeshows to meet with experts and see the equipment in operation. “Go to the industry events, such as tradeshows, user groups, Xeikon Café, where they are focused on the technology,” she said. “Take advantage of going to them because you’re going to hear about the trends from other industry experts and not just the manufacturers. They’ll help you with building your marketing plan. Business development might come intuitively for business owners, but after all the acquisitions and starting your business, you need a roadmap for the future, and that means understanding the speed, substrate flexibility and durability that’s offered to you.”
“It’s an amazing industry that has had amazing change,” said Marty Maloney, executive VP at Printing Industries Alliance and executive director of the Print Drives America Foundation. “The technology available with digital printing alone is unbelievable. Any company that does not already have a digital press will probably need to acquire one to remain competitive.”