The Russians are Coming
And more news from the SGIA expo.
In December of 1991, when the Soviet Union dissolved, many felt it was only a matter of time until capitalism and a free-market economy would take off in Russia and the other former Soviet republics.
Skip ahead 16 years to October 2007, and the Specialty Printing and Imaging Technology Expo-aka SGIA show-in Orlando, Florida. As you make your way through all the vehicle wraps and the women dressed up as mermaids, you find in the far back of the hall the first example of Russian capitalism in the wide-format graphics marketplace: the Sun Company. And even though it was tucked so far back into the expo’s 243,500 square feet, it was constantly surrounded by show attendees as well as other exhibitors eager to get a glimpse of the company’s products.
First formed in 1998, Sun started out as a reseller of machines and inks, serving what is now called the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). Today, the up-and-coming company is selling its line of Neo UV printers (see page 14 for full details), which made its world debut at the FESPA show in Berlin in early 2007. This was the company’s first US showing, and Sergey Belokurov, Sun’s development director, reports that he was approached by several US companies interested in distributing the printers in the States, but the company is still evaluating its options as of this writing.
Will Sun find success here in the US? As other international companies have discovered, the answer can be yes-if the machines exhibit solid engineering and performance and if these qualities are then backed up with stateside representation and customer service as well as a marketplace integration of consumables and compatible software.
UV, MEMS, and green
Of course, there was much more going on at SGIA. In all, more than 580 exhibitors plied their wares at the show, which also boasted nearly 21,000 attendees this year. Those on the expo floor were able to see new as well as modified technologies in action, while also upgrading their digital knowledge in an array of seminars and networking.
Let’s hit on just a few of the highlights here, and see pages 10-19 for in-depth information on various new printers that made their debut at SGIA:
* New players: At least three companies showcased their first badged machines for the wide-format arena. Screen USA showcased its Truepress Jet2500UV 98.4-in. hybrid flatbed/roll-to-roll printer, extending the company’s presence beyond on-demand and transactional printing; Triangle unveiled its new badged solvent-based San Francisco and UV-curable Milano printers (sourced from Anteprima SRL, its European wide-format division); and US Sublimation introduced its first wide-format machine-the Velotex direct-to-textile inkjet printer.
* Old players: Meanwhile, DuPont reported that it is getting out of the heavy-metal end of the market. It will continue to sell Artistri and Cromaprint equipment only until early 2008, but will continue to provide service to the machine’s installed customer base and provide digital inks for textiles and UV graphics.
* UV-curable continues its roll forward: A majority of the new printers introduced at this year’s SGIA were UV printers, and that’s a trend that’s sure to continue as UV technology continues to be modified for specific systems. Gerber introduced its Solara ionx, which uses Cold Fire Cure UV lamps to cold-cure its GerberCat cationic UV inks; the aforementioned Sun printers use LED lamps that produce a unique curing wavelength.
* MEMS: Surely the acronym of the show, MEMS technology-silicon-based Micro Electro Mechanical System-was introduced in conjunction with two manufacturers’ machines: the HP Scitex XL2200 and the L&P Virtu HD8. MEMS is designed to enable high-tolerance manufacturing for uniformity and performance, as well as micron-scale mechanical and electrical components built on a silicon chip. HP first began talking up its MEMS technology in 2006, and it’s likely that MEMS will continue to make fast inroads into wide-format print machines.
* Going green: This trend was in evidence at Chicago’s Graph Expo in September and continued at SGIA, as manufacturers and suppliers move to ensure print providers understand how their products fit into a socially responsible construct. Don’t look for this trend to abate any time soon-at least until interest slows from print providers’ customers or the general public.
While heavy metal developments were hot and heavy in Orlando, the attention to consumables seemed considerably lighter-certainly less so than in recent years. But don’t expect media and inks to remain so static. In fact, by the time the 2008 Specialty Printing and Imaging Expo rolls around-October 15-18, 2008 in Atlanta-it’s a safe bet that consumables will once again be sparking interest as well.