The Print Show Marks Its Debut with a Celebration of Print Culture



Priya Gohil

UK’s First National Commercial Print Industry Event Staged

No need to ride the coattails of its louder, brasher cousin London, Birmingham is firing up imaginations and businesses are flocking to the navel of the country. Not only has HSBC chosen the city to relocate its personal and business operation there from the capital, but it has attracted the second highest number of digital startups in the UK for the last two years running. Little wonder then that Birmingham—once famed as the ‘City of a Thousand Trades’—staged the inaugural event of The Print Show in its hangar-sized National Exhibition Centre. With a focus squarely on the UK print industry, exhibitors rolled in from all sides, which made for a richly divergent event—we saw beautiful letterpress art, spellbinding book binding craft and bold futuristic 3D printed sculptures. Konica Minolta and Ricoh were in attendance, both with some production hardware on show, ready to attract bystanders. It was a chance for us to get a glimpse into what the future is likely to deliver in terms of technology and commercial direction.

Ricoh Showcases the Latest Mid-Volume Production Range
The Ricoh Pro C7110SX was on the show floor, showcasing notable features of the Pro C7100 series. This high-speed, five-colour production printer is a new addition to the Ricoh production print portfolio. With the ability to print at speeds up to 90 ppm and supporting media weights up to 300gsm, it gives commercial printers the ability to broaden their portfolios. A great feature, one that is a key differentiator in this class, is its ability to add either clear gloss or white toner as a fifth colour option. This provides an expanded range of creative possibilities that will enable customers to work with designs that could not be adequately reproduced on a four-colour press. Other expanded capabilities of the device include the ability to use a much wider variety of substrates, from paper to synthetics and envelopes, plus an optional banner printing function. It also features new vacuum feed units to enable better handling of heavier coated media. Ricoh was quick to point out that the build and design is based on past models, which eliminates the learning curve for users and service and sales teams, thereby allowing for faster implementations. Already offered by the Pro C9100 series (and shortly to be introduced on the monochrome Pro 8100 series), the optional Watkiss Powersquare 224 booklet-maker extends the Pro C7110SX’s capabilities by enabling the production of square bound saddle-stitched booklets up to 224 pages (based on 70 gsm); this is a direct benefit to corporate print rooms looking to move away from outsourcing and bring print in house. Up to six stitches in variable positions (to avoid stitching over spine text) can be used.

Much was made of the Ricoh device’s hot-foil capabilities for cover printing. We were shown a children’s publication which had inkjet-printed text pages bound with a hot-foil cover; it was an impeccable specimen of what can be achieved on a colour digital production press. Indeed, when it was shown to a major book publishing house, it was warmly received with a comment that the digital print quality was more than acceptable. It seems traditional offset printing may need to defend its corner; certainly, digital printing is wielding a double-edged sword with its affordability and improved quality, and offers a compelling case for publishers. Ricoh believes that digital print systems take away a certain amount of risk for publishers and is a perfect match to contend with the peaks and troughs in book sales. Shorter print runs and even print-on-demand are more feasible and cost-effective—there’s no need to stockpile 18 months’ worth of books and hope that they shift. Similarly, if a book takes off unexpectedly, as seen with the recent fad for colouring books for adults, ramping up production, is vital—something that is easily achievable with digital printing.

“The Art of the Possible”
At the Konica Minolta stand, we saw plenty of examples of what can be done using the manufacturer’s technology, including spot-laminated SRA3 posters and square-bound notebooks and 1.2-metre long printed banners. Also on display was the EFI 1625 UV flatbed inkjet press, which Konica Minolta was presenting under a new distribution agreement penned in February; it offers a modular table design which enables scalability when printing on a range of rigid substrates, such as metal, plastic and wood up to two inches in height.

Heading up Konica Minolta’s ever-increasing colour production print portfolio is the rock-solid bizhub PRESS C1100, on display with a Watkiss Power Square model. With a top speed of 100 ppm and no slowdown across its entire range of supported media, the unit is a strong competitor in the mid-volume production space, scoring very good marks across the board in BLI’s forthcoming rigorous field test evaluation. The fruits of Konica Minolta’s acquisition of a 10 percent stake in the French company MGI Digital Graphic Technology came to the forefront as pre-printed posters were run on MGI’s JETvarnish 3DS unit. The JETvarnish 3DS (which utilises Konica Minolta printhead technology) applies a UV spot coating that highlights defined areas, and creates 3D textured effects as well. Posters emerging out of the unit were, indeed, impressively shiny, vivid and tactile. Both companies view the investment as a way to drive future growth and establish a stronger presence in the commercial print market.

Dotted around the large digital production stands were numerous smaller exhibitors showcasing applications in packaging, direct mail, web-to-print, variable data printing, finishing and production workflows, as well as three graphic design software training zones and a Traditional Print Masterclass area. As we walked around the hall, there was a definite feeling of goodwill in the air. For any fledgling trade event, trying to get a strong foothold in the exhibition calendar is a challenge but, with Konica Minolta already committed to attending next year, The Print Show can certainly build on a positive foundation.