Print 09: Big Crowds and Actual Big Iron!

By: Mark Fitzgerald Wandering through Print '09, the big equipment show in Chicago that winds up on Wednesday, makes an old newspaper hand nostalgic for the old Nexpo and ANPAtec shows the industry once hosted. It has actual crowds, sprawling booths, and working big iron wherever you look.

Print holds its show every four years with GraphExpo exhibiting in Chicago in the years between. Though both are fundamentally shows for the commercial print industry, there's been a push to include more newspaper-oriented equipment with the disappearance of Nexpo. Monday, the show held a free seminar on newspaper topics and hosted a "networking" luncheon for newspaper operations people. And the brands exhibiting at Print -- from Goss International to KBA to manroland to GMI and on and on -- could be found in old Nexpo directories.


I asked every newspaper press vendor I ran into how the glut of idled presses are affecting sales, and prices. Surprisingly, a few maintained that while sales are certainly slow, prices are holding up. Vince Lapinski, CEO of manroland North America, said his company's presses are retaining value, though he also told of a recent West Coast auction where printing presses that went for $10 million to $11 million new sold for $200,000.

Another executive from a big press manufacturer said the pressure from all that used iron is unrelenting. He related the story of cold-calling a newspaper operations executive the other day. You're too late, the newspaper man told him, we already bought a press -- for $100,000. "He told me, 'We haven't even installed it. It's worth just keeping around for parts,'" the executive said. "How do you compete with that?"


Goss International may have had the first printing press sales announcement of the show Friday when it announced the Church of Scientology is buying a color web offset press for its new print facility in Los Angeles.

Appropriately, the organization that insists it is a religion is buying a Goss Sunday 2000 press.


The big buzzword for commercial printers at Print '09 was "differentiation." Stand out from competitors by offering larger formats (printing images of 43 inches or more) or foiling or embossing. For newspapers the pitch was, step up your quality to commercial printing levels.

All the big printing press makers were showing UV or heatset color for magazine-quality production on newsprint. The idea is not only to improve the quality of the newspaper, but to diversify into other products.

At KBA's booth, for instance, Ulrich Wicke, vice president of sales and service for the web press division, was showing off a thick Avon catalog with impressive color quality. "The woman looking at this would never guess that this came off the same press that printed her newspaper," he said.

AVT/GMI -- the newly merged company that combines AVT's commercial printing-oriented inspection and quality monitoring with the GMI color and press controls more familiar to newspapers -- expects that newspapers will adopt more commercial practices as it takes on new work, Advanced Vision Technologies Inc. President Gal Shamri said Monday.

"As newspapers with hybrid presses take on more semi-commercial and even commercial work, color quality becomes a major factor," he said. Newspapers will also need to become more efficient as they adjust to the reality of commercial print jobs these days: short runs, a necessity to cut make-ready times, and cost pressures.


JDF is back, baby! The communications protocol that was launched in 2000 and hyped as the savior of printing at Print and Graph Expo shows for the next few years pretty much faded into the background in the face of indifference in many quarters of the industry. Newspapers never spent much time even thinking about JDF, or Job Definition Format, let alone buying JDF-capable equipment because it was JDF-capable.

But now JDF is spinning upwards in the "cycle of hype," Deborah Hutcheson, senior marketing manager of commercial / wide format, suggested at Agfa Graphics booth. "Printers are seeing the real benefits of JDF," she said.

Maybe. The more interesting news for newspapers to come out of Agfa at Print '09 likely was the announcement of its first chemistry-free plate for the newspaper industry, the N92 VCF.


Ask manroland's Lapinski anything -- just don't ask him anything about those buzzing rumors that manroland and Heidelberg are talking merger. He, like his Heidelberg counterparts, aren't commenting. But just as Print '09 was kicking off Friday, he was quoted, or rather paraphrased, by one trade as saying that manroland believes that some form of consolidation among equipment manufacturers probably will occur. "It was accurate," but not intended as a comment on manroland and Heidelberg, Lapinski said at a press conference.


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here