The Industry Needed This
To say the opening of PRINTING United Expo was a relief is surely an understatement. To describe it as a sound, it might be the rising crescendo of a jet engine, in the middle of a stadium, at the very moment thousands of voices express an exuberant, relieved sigh. The energy could be seen — and felt — in the throngs of motivated people who streamed into the building and onto both massive expo floors, filled with urgency and enthusiasm.
The PRINTING United Expo finally happened. The industry needed this.
“There is no other place in the US where you can see it all and have all the vendors,” said Dave Leskusky, president at PRINTING United Alliance and NAPCO Media. “What we have been working to accomplish for the industry is to help them connect the dots, to understand their strategic next steps. The Expo is a playground for that — a place to walk around and see all the opportunities.” He says he has witnessed industry convergence and opportunity expansion on The Expo floor, talking with an apparel decorator who is investigating label printing technologies; with a commercial printer exploring options in apparel decoration.
The Expo has also brought Leskusky excitement: “There’s an energy. People are making investments in their businesses. What I hear on the show floor is the sound of doing business … and we have people here from 120 countries. Amazing.”
Within the two exhibit halls and among more than 600 exhibitors, Expo attendees saw the familiar — those technologies that serve as the “bread and butter” for their businesses. During their explorations, they also saw the unfamiliar — the novel — myriad technologies that represent potential directions and future opportunities. Their definition of “printing” surely expanded, along with their sense of its opportunity. Equipment, materials, services, software, strategies — the tools of business growth.
Brisk and Strong
As The Expo progressed, word of brisk sales and strong interest on The Expo floor demonstrated the industry’s need for technology, and the desire of printing companies to expand, diversify, and converge. Over the roar of the crowd and the hum of machinery, deals were struck. Plans were made.
In one deal, W+D North America sold two W+D BB1000 envelope converter/inserter units to Moore. The purchase will expand capacity and efficiency for the direct mail business. Of the purchase, owner Jim Moore said, “We’ve invested heavily in technology, seeking equipment that’s more and more efficient.”
Offset press manufacturer Komori announced that Nosco, a full-service packaging solutions provider, has purchased a nine-color Lithrone GX40RP advance dedicated two-sided press, with coater and LED-UV curing. Investment in the new press is part of Nosco’s bold growth plans, which involve scaling up folding carton production by 125 million units in 2023.
EFI announced that Orbus Exhibit & Display Group purchased an EFI VUTEk FabriVU 340+ soft signage printer to meet its surging demand for dye-sublimation soft signage. The new printer is the 300th EFI VUTEk FabriVU printer installed worldwide. “We have four FabriVU printers overall, so we must be happy with the technology!” said Orbus VP of Print Operations Aaron Kozar.
Landa Digital Printing announced that Southern Champion Tray (SCT), one of North America’s largest independent packaging companies, is acquiring a Landa S10 Nanographic Printing press. While the speed of the press is a primary factor in the decision, “We also need our presses to be robust, as we have to work them hard … we knew that the S10 would meet our expectations,” said SCT COO Roy Hibbs.
Kornit Digital, manufacturer of digital printing equipment for the apparel industry, announced the sale of its Presto S Max White printer to BrandTextil, located in São Paulo, Brazil. BrandTextil focuses on the digital printing of sustainable fabrics for major Brazilian brands, including FARM Rio.
And the positive, robust vibe of The Expo’s first day wasn’t reserved only for companies large enough to distribute press releases on their sales. Vendor feedback was strong. “Very good. Excellent. Very busy!,” was how Maureen Damato of Colex Finishing Inc., a manufacturer of cutting solutions described The Expo. Geoff Baxter of Advanced Inkjet Technology said, “It was great. We’ve had great foot traffic and sold some equipment. They were interested in buying.” Brian Richards of ROQ US, a manufacturer of equipment for apparel decoration, said, “Yesterday was awesome. There were a lot of apparel printers here.” He said interest in the company’s solutions was very strong. James Burns of Inkcups, a manufacturer of solutions for imaging containers and other objects said, “It was great. We were straight out from 9-5. We were very busy. Great activity.”
And while this event — twice delayed — has finally come to the fore, the reality is that the printing industry itself largely stayed busy. Companies pivoted, priorities shifted, alliances formed. For some businesses, COVID was a time of famine; for others, a time of feast. For all, it was time for reflection.
The industry has changed: those who entered this hall arrived leaner than they were three years ago, more deeply aware of supply chains and labor challenges, more focused on the possibilities of new technologies, and newly inspired to invest in automation. Preparing themselves for what is next.
“We were looking at some finishing equipment,” said Donna Horbelt, director, Repro Graphics at the University of California, Davis. “I’m also looking at inkjet, so I’ve looked at some [systems]. I’ve had a pretty intense [sales] session on that.” She says staying on top of new technology is essential: “we have to offer the latest and greatest.” To her, attending The Expo means being able to see everything that’s available.
Aneli Muzquiz of Compro, a wide-format/POP producer located in Monterrey, Mexico, says the motivation to attend The Expo is to see and consider different processes. “We’re seeking new technology,” she said, “we’re looking to diversify and find new solutions.” About her Expo experience, she said, simply, “It’s impressive, it’s big.”
“I’m here to catch what’s new,” said Dexter Schiller of Schiller Reed, Denver, Colorado, “to try to stay on the cutting edge. And this is the show to get the edge on people.” Schiller’s company is a wholesaler for print for the graphics and sign segment, producing elements including ADA signage and décor. His focus here in Las Vegas is on media and substrates. “With supply chain issues, some things are not available, so I’m looking for alternatives,” he said.
About his Expo experience, Scott Kinniburgh of Bitterroot Screen Printers, a company that started in the apparel space but now also produces vehicle graphics, said, “We’re going to be lacking time to do everything.” He says that for his business, he is seeking equipment that will increase efficiency. “We’re always looking for new solutions,” he says, “and seeing what’s new. That’s why this is great.”
By attending this event, as either an attendee or exhibitor, you have played a role in the resurgence of the printing industry. You have reconnected your business with the zeitgeist. This reconnection, while focused on business, is also emotional — friendship is the glue that connects us. Relationships and partnerships were rekindled here.
Today, this final day of The Expo, may be the most important of all. This is the time for printers sourcing equipment, materials, or production tools to narrow their choices. This is the time for motivated buyers to take action and complete their purchases. This is the time for vendors to take stock of their leads and do what they can do to ultimately secure the sale.
For printing businesses, the year ahead looms large. “I think what’s evident here is an emphasis on production and automation. The reality is that those systems will also help us attract new talent into the industry,” says Michael Marcian, CEO of Corporate Communications Group, who is the newly appointed chair of PRINTING United Alliance. He says there is much to consider this year and moving forward. “Our lives are back to normal, but we still need to be mindful of it. The economy appears fragile, and we don’t need additional setbacks.”
But the excitement of The Expo and all that has happened here does not stay here — despite what Las Vegas might tell you. It will guide us into next year and beyond. The PRINTING United Expo, in addition to being one of the world’s biggest and most diverse marketplaces for printing technology, is also an incubator for new directions, for convergence, for seeking the right fit for your printing business. What you learned here — and what you saw — will stay.