Last week IWCO Direct sent a diverse team of operations leaders, content development specialists and marketers to Graph Expo, the premier North American graphic communications show. Our goal was to meet with key suppliers and check out the latest technology trends.
The exhibit hall was a bit smaller this year than it has been in the past and attendance was light on Sunday as many people battled travel challenges caused by the disruption to the air traffic control system in the Chicago area. However, attendance picked up as the week went on. Although the show was smaller, several vendors told us that the attendees who showed up were more engaged and interested in buying.
As in recent years, digital dominated the show. Hot trends included continuous inkjet presses that handle wider webs of paper (up to 30”) and print on a much wider array of paper stocks. With the continued growth in digital presses, we also saw a wide variety of finishing equipment to go with those presses. One example is machines that apply 3D and special effects coatings, embossing, or foil stamping. The printed press sheets go in one end and come out in seconds with special effects on the surface of the sheets. In addition, there were multiple vendors with new color management and workflow tools present this year.
Another new technology that attracted our attention was automatic letter tray systems for envelope inserting machines. These machines are delivery lines that automate the letter tray preparation process, sorting and filling mail trays with no machine operator required. We also met with finishing vendors to discover ways to more efficiently produce complex formats.
Making Print Interactive
One of the most interesting concepts that recurred in presentations about the health and future of the printing industry was, “Print that informs is dead. Print that performs is growing.” High performing print includes the interactive element that continues to play an integral part in multi-channel marketing programs. Our friends from InfoTrends provided a series of presentations on how print can be used to engage customers, by linking offline with online using tools such as mobile barcodes, NFC (near field communications) tags and Augmented Reality.
The session on Flexible and Printed Electronics was really exciting. This was my second year sitting in on this subject. There are multiple new ink providers and battery suppliers to make printed circuits interactive. One provider to watch is, Ynvisible, a leader in interactive printed graphics that is producing really cool stuff. Enfucell Soft Battery is another impressive supplier that sells paper thin batteries for these interactive printed circuits.
Mail-Gard® Shares Print and Mail Recovery Expertise
Our Mail-Gard division participated in a breakfast seminar attended by 30 people on “Recovering from Disaster.” Madison Advisors moderated this panel discussion in which Nationwide discussed the impact a fire at one of their facilities had on their document capture and print operations. The event made them take a look at their continuity and recovery plans for all operations and make adjustments based on lessons learned from the fire. Our colleague, Jerry Montella, EVP Sales and Marketing Mail-Gard, shared with the group the importance of having a third party print and mail recovery vendor in place when disaster strikes.
All in all, this was a highly productive show that allowed us to engage with vendors, explore new technologies, and take the pulse of the printing and mailing industry. Our creative team is already dreaming up ways the new finishing and interactive technologies can be put to use. See you back in Chicago in 2015!
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