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Diversification of the Print Shop

At OnDemand Expo, print providers move toward a blended workflow.

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By Stephen Beals

The OnDemand Conference & Expo was held on new turf this year, moving to the Boston Convention and Exposition Center in Massachusetts after 2 years in Philadelphia. More than 200 exhibitors shared the OnDemand floor space with such regulars as Adobe, Kodak, Canon, Fuji, and others. The expo, devoted to the on-demand/high-speed print space, shares floor space with the AIIM show, devoted to enterprise content-management, and the co-joined event was the largest held so far at the facility, with more than 25,000 attendees from 77 countries, and 425 total exhibiting companies utilizing about 180,000 square feet of floor space.

One of the underlying themes at this year's OnDemand event: diversifying the print shop. Those shops in the commercial print segment are looking at inkjet-based digital solutions to supplement their existing production equipment, while digital print providers are seeing what other value-added services they can bring in-house. In addition, many shops-those in the digital arena as well as those outside of it-are very interested in increasing the efficiency of their binding and fulfillment operations, with a particularly noticeable interest in coating and laminating.

I have no doubt that this trend toward blended workflow will increase, with more and more companies integrating various digital technologies into their print output. Automation and production efficiency were important bywords at this year's OnDemand Expo, and manufacturers came through with numerous innovative approaches to help print-providers make that happen-from the front end to the printing device to binding and fulfillment. It’s a trend that's certain to continue.

OnDemand will return to Boston in 2008 (March 3-6) with a host of new announcements. Meanwhile, here are a few highlights from this year's show.

PAT Technology Systems (, perhaps best known in the wide-format market for its CaptivAir products, showcased enhancements to its innovative VarstarTM sheet-fed digital UV Coater finishing system. The device uses the 1001 printhead developed by Xaar to create "the world’s first true commercial digital varnishing coater producing ‘on the fly’ flood and spot coating, textures and special effects in a single pass from just a digital graphics file." It is, the company reports, the first system to implement Xaar’s 1001 printhead, the initial offering from that company's hybrid side-shooter (HSS) inkjet platform.