Challenges and opportunities of PrintEx

Over the course of PrintEx I had the opportunity to step off the Whirlwind stand to take part in an industry panel – Perspectives on Print: The Challenges Ahead. I also explored the exhibition as a prospective buyer. My impressions of the event reflect an industry bursting with technology innovations and market opportunities.

PrintEx has a reputation for bringing out the big guns, and the 2015 event was no exception. At Whirlwind we were preparing for months to ensure we had a compelling offering for attendees, and based on the level of professionalism throughout the show, we were not alone in our commitment to putting our best foot forward. With 4,000 square meters packed with the latest technology (some never seen before in Australia), and literally tonnes of impressive machinery on the floor, standing out from the crowd was a challenge. Fortunately the industry buzz surrounding the event attracted the crowds and Whirlwind, as well as the majority of other exhibitors I spoke to, was run off its feet.

The event was a great opportunity to take measure of the printing industry. There were a lot of genuine players looking for ways to add value or improve their service. Large format in particular had a big presence across the event, and it is a buyer’s market with a relatively low entry-level cost – poster printers are starting at approximately $20k. It’s all about the consumables and vendors are offering some compelling incentives for their machines so they can get the ongoing ink, support and consumables contract.

There was a strong presence from MIS providers and there is a lot of talk amongst vendors about the increasing role of JDF. Software development is also becoming prominent across the board and RBS is the new standard.

Finishing automation is abuzz now that digital production makes the cost of producing 1 – 50 an economic reality, whether it’s a book or an A0 poster. So now it’s all about how you can get the file to the device and then finish and dispatch it without too much labour.

Cost of entry into the market is reducing in all areas including MIS, web-2-print, print production and finishing. It’s a dynamic period for the industry and the future lies in niche markets, local business, relationships, and capitalising on Internet technologies.

Exhibition highlights included:

  • The advancement of UV and inkjet technology combined. Large format flat bed printers can produce raised effects using ink layers and UV curing/drying. The quality and definition of this work is outstanding, with some systems printing up to 1200dpi in 6 and 7 colour.
  • Fuji Xerox released their metallic range of inks (silver and gold).
  • The parameters of print have been thrown wide open. It is now possible to print on almost any substrate with 6 and 7 colour inkjet machines and 97% of PMS colours can be achieved by adding a special orange and violet to the CMYK base.

The forum program was another winning feature of the exhibition, with a broad range of sessions ensuring there was something for everyone. I had the opportunity to sit on the panel for the forum Perspectives on Print: The Challenges Ahead. The panel identified challenges such as the struggle to attract qualified staff, the perception of print as an archaic medium, barriers to entry, digital influences accelerating the rate of change and rationalisation of the industry. However it’s not all doom and gloom, with the biggest challenges also presenting the biggest opportunities. For example, the rationalisation of the industry can be an intimidating prospect, often met with fierce protectionism of clients or market segments. Yet if a customer centric approach is taken, there is an opportunity to collaborate with industry peers. This enables a business to focus their operations and growth on areas of strength – whilst achieving the best possible customer outcomes.

Whirlwind also hosted a panel covering The Challenge to Traditional Print Business from Web-2-Print Technology. Our team shared findings about the performance of web-2-print overseas and forecast the impact the technology will have on the Australian market. We shared how our own web-2- print solution – w3p – has the potential to provide exponential growth in this space and discussed exciting technology developments that are continuously being rolled out. The audience consisted of entrepreneurial business people, who are ready to become industry leaders in this swiftly growing niche and 95% dropped by our stand after the panel for in depth demonstrations.

We met with a lot of existing and new customers throughout the event. Visitors to our stand were keen to discuss our web-2-print software and how it will improve their professional presentation, open up the online print marketplace and increase their capabilities.

Many customers were excited about the potential of w3p and of the countless people to visit the stand we believe over 50% will use the technology in some shape or form. w3p is a brilliant, intuitive and powerful product, especially for those who take full advantage of the MIS as well as the shop and client platforms. Our support team is flat out keeping up with enquiries from the show.

Overall PrintEx 15 was a great success for both exhibitors and attendees. A lot of contracts were signed and the next few months will be an interesting period as the industry rides on the optimism generated by the event. We foresee a lot of businesses flexing their new capabilities with their investments from PrintEx.

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