ORLANDO, FL-Many hybrid commercial photo labs and digital printers were on hand for a sold out Specialty Graphics & Imaging (SGIA) trade show, in Orlando, FL in October. As Jeff Vabulas of National Graphics, Chicago said, "It's just like a meeting of the old APCL (Association of Professional Color Labs)."
The evidence sure is piling up that inkjet and UV inks are the current print choice and will be that of the future. Patti Williams of I.T. Strategies is predicting that inkjet will take over the printing of everything photo. She also had some predictions about the life of photo-not photography-but photo printing, "It will be completely finished in 10 years."
Williams sees electrophotography (Indigo, NexPress, and ImagePress) picking up the large photo print volume. Canon agrees, and a spokesman said they should have brought their ImagePress to SGIA. Some at HP felt the same way, because the Indigo digital offset press came up in several seminars. Canon's main goal seemed to be competing with Epson. The new Canon ImageProGraf 8100 and 9100 thermal inkjets with 15,000 nozzles and true 1200 dpi is loaded with more features. Are photographers looking beyond Epson for newer technology?
Ilford Imaging & Oji Ilford brought Swiss and U.S. teams to court their former photo lab customers to get back to using Ilfotrans and Ilfoflex, proven RA4 products that have come down in price and are available through their U.S. distribution agent, Wynit.
And believe it or not, you could purchase a refurbished or new RA4 processor from Colex, who was exhibiting their Fotoba cutter line in tandem with HP. However you make prints, you still need to cut them.
DuPont has decided to get out of the inkjet printer business-concentrating instead on what the company does best-making inks. Several other big printer manufacturers folded up their gantries and left the business; 3M got out, and a few others.
We all remember LaserMaster, the company that put inkjet printers into our production lines. It morphed into ColorSpan/MacDermid, and within a short time will once again be morphed into HP. Why not? All the big companies need an entry-level printer. Fujifilm Sericol, with its million plus Onset Inca, can offer the OcÚ Acuity (Arizona 250). Fujifilm demonstrated how accurate the Acuity is when producing lenticular prints.
Vutek, with its long line of American-made digital printers will soon be offering Raster Graphics' affordable, small-bed variable dot UV printer. Another well-established name, Gerber, introduced the Solara ionx, the first flatbed printer to come with cationic inks (GerberCAT). It is not only a bed for rigid printing, but unlike other hybrid flatbeds, the ionx rolls flexible media across the same bed to a take-up roller. In place of Mercury Vapor UV curing lamps, Gerber technology is Cold Fire Cure. There are numerous other features to check out, and all for under $80,000.
Specialty photo labs finally have a decent choice of affordable flatbed UV printers. The Cube and the GCC StellarJet are two options. These printers are under $150,000 and positioned for a specialty photo lab.
All the finishers were there as well, with their products on display. Neschen/Seal, GBC, Quality Media & Laminating Solutions, MACtac, Advanced Greig Laminators, and IntelliCoat to name a few. They came with new interesting media. A day/night product from Quality drew a lot of attention. 3M had many new products including a window cling to simulate many variations of etched glass.
UV coating machines up to 80" wide from Advanced Finishing Solutions were also getting a lot of attention. For the specialty photofinisher, a new 20-inch wide Cyclone Mini UV liquid laminator was introduced. This is an economy, dual roll system for substrates up to 1-inch thick for $15,000. Check it out at PMA.
Flatbed printers for rigid material remain popular, the big print shops tell me they are checking out new UV roll printers.
The segue from screen to digital printing began in the late 90s, due in part to changing technology and to SGIA's takeover of DPI, its Digital Printing & Imaging arm. DPI was an early 90s association started by some commercial photo labs and software companies, primarily for printing display/banners. SGIA has put DPI to bed, but it has a replacement, GIGA, Global Imaging and Graphics Association, with focus on the initial DPI mission to educate and share information through a worldwide networking system.
Today screen printing remains, and some say it will always be around, but as digital printers get faster and faster, some former screen jobs are being run on digital printers.