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Commentary by Steve Aranoff & Robert FitzPatrick, The EAGLE
October 31, 2006 -- (Originally published at WhatTheyThink.com for Premium Access Members on June 22, 2006) -- We recently attended Fespa Digital, held May 17-19 in Amsterdam. Formerly, FESPA stood for "The Federation of European Screen Printers Associations." Now, with the advent of digital technology, FESPA is known by its acronym, which has worldwide recognition. Similar to SGIA (Specialty Graphic Imaging Association) in North America, Fespa's objective is the promotion of screen printing and digital imaging through each of the 27 separate National Associations in Europe that are its members.
Fespa Digital is a new format for the venerable European screen printing community. It has just completed the first of these three-day expos in Amsterdam with great success. This "digital" format, much like the special "SGIA Digital" last December in Phoenix, is a new kind of trade show for the screen printing industry. Rather than a massive show including the traditional screen printers' mix of relatively slow moving technology with the newer digital technologies as Fespa has been in the past, it now emphasizes only the digital format in the years between the fully inclusive events that occur every third year.
And, just as at SGIA Digital, the ability to see all of the digital technologies that are changing the face of traditional screen printing in close quarters seems to have brought out the buyers. We are told that the number of serious leads received by the suppliers was at least as good as, or better than, the number for a more complete Fespa. And, we're also told that actual business being closed was significant.
So 10 Years Ago
Having been to many screen printing shows over the past 10 years or more, we saw that the change has been extraordinary. Rather than the traditional analog screen presses with their screens, ink and squeegees, this show has digital t-shirt presses automatically printing directly on the fabric. It was also interesting to see the number of digital roll-fed fabric printers testing the market for digitally printed textiles. We think that there was much more emphasis on this at Fespa Digital than there was at SGIA Digital.
It was also interesting to see the varied and large assortment of large- and small- format digital presses at work, roll-fed, sheetfed and flatbed. Here, all of the major worldwide brands were present, as well as a number of unique brands not seen in the U.S. market.
From a digital finishing standpoint, there seemed to be as much interest as in the U.S., with a small number of solutions being shown, similar to the presence at SGIA. At the recent ISA, the Sign Expo in Orlando, perhaps due to the more rigid nature of much signage, digital finishing was more prevalent, having been shown on a more varied group of cutting and routing devices.
Workflow also seemed to take a spotlight with many of the printer RIP manufacturers showing off their latest improvements. Two changes of interest seemed to be the movement by the printer manufacturers to more standardized RIPs and the RIP developers' continuing interest in improving workflow.
Durst began making the change from the private Cheetah RIP that had been developed by its old partner Dice, to the more standard RIPs from Onyx and Caldera. Used by other printer manufacturers and preferred by new customers who already have other equipment, both Onyx and Caldera have taken strong stands in workflow from design through finishing by using the strength of the RIP to provide finishing files that match the files that have been RIPped. And, EFI announced that it was now supplying the VUTEk product line with EFI based BEST RIPs rather than the Colorburst RIPs that had been VUTEk's mainstay since their inception.
Why Shouldn't It Be Easy?
As The EAGLE has been a big proponent of standardized workflow in the digital printing plant, this sensible move to more standard configurations with more workflow features should make it easier to integrate for the printer buyer. As digital printing gets to be more widespread, pressure on the cost per print will force these newer print providers to learn all the workflow possibilities possible to enhance their ability to survive and prosper. Because of the Fespa Digital's small size, it was relatively easy for a prospect to see demos on a wide variety of printers, finishers, and RIPs within the short, three-day show period.
We have now been at four shows in a row that have made this easy. Graphics of the Americas, as we have reported, had most of the digital technologies in one hall. ISA, although it contains many remnants of more traditional sign manufacturing, has become mostly a digital show. SGIA Digital drew a good sized crowd of buyers, not just lookers, and now Fespa Digital has done the same.
For companies, manufacturers, dealers and buyers in the digital world, the last six months have been a great opportunity to see everything that is going on more succinctly and easily than ever before. Fespa, which has been a triennial show, now sees the opportunity to do an all-digital show in the intervening years for Europe. SGIA has only used the Digital show as a quick fill-in and is going back to the full format for 2007. It will be interesting to see how the two shows, in very similar customer markets. continue from here.
The EAGLE is pleased to see that SGIA has continued its "digital presence" into 2006 by incorporating a two-track, complete digital workflow this fall, showing design through RIP, print and finish for both rigid substrates and for flexible materials. And, south of the border, the largest show in Mexico, Imprexpo in Guadalajara, has redefined itself for 2006 as "Imprexpo Digital." Imprexpo has shifted its focus to "visual communication." In the new format, there will be less emphasis on offset and much more on digital printing with a special focus on specialty graphics. Imprexpo is scheduled for November 15-17.
For many years, before the changes in ownership and market that caused the demise of the Seybold Seminars, that expo, as an all digital event, had significant success and seemed to champion solutions rather than hardware. From a market viewpoint, The EAGLE would like to hear from industry members with their thoughts on the current breadth of trade shows in the marketplace and suggestions about how they would be most helpful to vendors and end users going forward.
Stephen P. Aranoff is founder and principal of ARTTEX Associates. He has 28 years experience in the development and profitable distribution of printing/digital imaging market products. Managing prepress technology companies from start-up through significant growth, such as Xyvision, Eikonix, Raytheon Graphics, UNDA, and ScanView, he has played a leading role in introducing many first-of-a-kind successful printing industry products.
Since 1986, ARTTEX has provided pragmatic business, marketing and sales strategy and implementation consulting to both large and small client companies based upon this successful operating expertise - including bringing off shore products to the domestic market.
Well known clients include: Cactus/3M, Dainippon Screen, Heartland Imaging/VieNet, Island Graphics, Kodak, Ricoh, and Scitex, as well as venture capitalists, law firms and startup technology ventures.
Since 1995, Mr. Aranoff has specialized in the marketing and distribution of Digital Imaging products, with emphasis on marketplace convergence brought about by the use of powerful off-the-shelf components.
Mr. Aranoff also holds a Masters Degrees in Systems Engineering and an MBA Degree, with Distinction, in Sales/Marketing. He often serves as a speaker and forum moderator and for many years, has done so at NAGASA's Forums. He is also a frequent guest writer for digital imaging publications.
Contact Stephen Aranoff at: 25 Canyon Shadows Drive, Sedona, AZ 86336 USA, Tel: (928)282-4173, Cell: (928)300-8757, Fax: (775)254-5768, email: Steve@arttex.com
Robert L. FitzPatrick, president of FitzPatrick Management Inc., is an industrial relations consultant, writer, speaker, facilitator, and trade association advisor. He is a nationally recognized analyst of mature industries. His work involves grasping the fundamental economic needs of all parties in the supply chain as well as understanding the dynamics and life cycles of products.
Since 1981, Robert FitzPatrick has continuously published THE EAGLE, a unique and influential journal that analyzes technology, manufacturer/ dealer relations and trends in analog and digital product distribution. His articles on the dynamics of mature industries have appeared in trade journals for graphic arts, sanitation supply, automobile parts, office automation, wholesale florist and food processing industries, among others.
He has been a featured speaker at dealer conferences for Hewlett Packard, FujiFilm, among other major companies and he has organized international dealer/manufacturer conferences in Antwerp, Belgium and in Guadalajara, Mexico. Consultancy clients of FitzPatrick Management include Fuji Photo, DuPont, Lastra S.p.a., Anchor Chemistry, AB Dick, #1 Network, London Litho, Heartland Imaging, VieNet.com, among others.
He was a consultant and featured speaker at the meetings of Food Industries Suppliers Association (FISA) four consecutive years. In 1997, Robert FitzPatrick co-authored and published the first book to expose and critique the multi-level marketing model of sales and distribution. Entitled, False Profits, this book is available in bookstores nationwide or from the publisher at web site www.falseprofits.com. He has served as Expert Witness in various cases involving pyramid scheme fraud perpetrated against independent distributors.
Contact Robert FitzPatrick at 1522 Lilac Rd., Charlotte, NC 28209 USA. Tel.: (704) 334-2047, Fax: (704) 334-0220, Email: email@example.com.