This article is written by Mark Bohan, Vice President, Technology and Research at Printing Industries of America.

As has been true for some time, the printing industry is in the throes of changes. The business models are changing with transition of content between different media, while technology innovations are positively impacting the manner in which printed material is produced. It is critical to be aware of these technology changes and the ways in which they will impact your business. Here are my top picks on what technologies you need to be aware of: (watch for this year’s InterTechTM Technology Awards to highlight advances in these areas)

Automated workflows

Automated workflows are going through a new renaissance with the introduction of new specifications so files can handle complex variable data and then process them through the facility in the most efficient manner possible. This applies irrespective of the printing process. Increasingly, companies will try to “touch” a file as few times as possible.

Production inkjet technology

This technology is taking inkjet printing to a whole new marketplace, and we are seeing new capabilities monthly, if not weekly. Because this is so new, there will be many business and technical questions and challenges in its implementation.

Wide format inkjet

Wide format inkjet printing continues to expand in use, and is gradually eroding the use of screen printing for signage, point-of-purchase displays, and other uses. Single-pass ink jet is the most exciting development in this area, promising to revolutionize the speed and cost of producing wide-format graphics.

Marketing metrics

Marketing dollars are continually being challenged, and there is push to show value for the spend that occurs. To help with this there are many new technologies that can link print to other media, such as Web or mobile, including technologies such as QR codes and augmented reality. These can then be used to engage the consumer and provide hard analytics back about the effectiveness and touch points in campaigns.

Paper and board packaging

There will always be the need to have packaging material for the merchandise we buy! It continues to be a strong area in lithographic and flexo printing, both from the printer’s perspective, as well as those of the suppliers. There is also an increase in inkjet technologies for packaging.

Color measurement and management

Color science is continually developing to more accurately reflect what humans see. This is leading to the introduction of new color measurement instrumentation and management solutions to meet reproduction challenges. Solutions are continually made easier to use in order to broaden their application, and we are seeing the increased use of RGB workflows and Device Link Profiles to help with color management.

Digital technologies

The use of digital technologies is one of the growth areas of the printing industry, with higher margins available in these areas as it is not a commodity sale. These are producing more cost-effective solutions to the user with greater control and predictability of the print. The integration of different messaging and communication means is important, as is being able to provide metrics on the effectiveness of such campaigns.

Non-print technologies

There is an increase in the amount of information that is communicated in digital media, through tablets, computers, mobile devices, etc. New and innovative technologies are being developed to optimize the manner in which existing data can be utilized to this media, how it can be integrated into print media solutions, and how it can open up new business opportunities.

Functional printing — Inks that do things other than graphics!

This is an emerging technology and one that a number of printers are becoming interested in. It encompasses items such as RFID, security, batteries, lighting, displays, and bio-sensors. This area is one which is highly specialized but can offer a very high value add to the printed material.

Finishing automation

The bindery is one of the most important operations in a facility, as we are handling some of the most valuable assets and with some of the least skilled staff. Printers should be evaluating the different solutions that are available for automating and increasing their effectiveness in this area.

Integrated print solutions

Many presses and providers are integrating a number of different processes into a single production run such as lithographic, inkjet, flexography, and foiling to name but a few. These solutions allow print to be differentiated and provide added value, utilizing the best features of the different processes.

Flexible Packaging

Packaging is never going to go away; there will always be the need to have packaging material and much of this is moving toward flexible packaging. This has traditionally been produced using flexo and gravure, although an increasing number of solutions are available using either digital or offset. Flexible packaging often has challenging requirements, such as complex inks and varnishes, material handling, image requirements, component compatibility, and finishing.

Since 1978, the annual InterTechTM Technology Awards competition has highlighted many of the technology innovations that have propelled the industry to be more efficient, sustainable, and branch into new products and services. This is an invaluable source in identifying technologies and solutions that will change and positively impact the industry– look for the announcement of the recipients in July this year. I strongly encourage manufacturers and suppliers to enter their new technologies in the 2012 competition. Visit for more information.



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